[Published in the OSALL newsletter of August 2007]
The purpose of this article is to highlight the potential of Google Groups to meet some of the requirements of our listserv, to make it more user-friendly and a more effective tool in our workplace. These factors are simply up for discussion and this is not intended as official listserv policy.
One of the problems that regularly comes up for discussion is the duplication of requests. This unnecessarily adds to the volume of traffic through our already crowded Inboxes. We now have the ability to quickly and easily search past queries before posting a request.
Needless to say, any service powered by Google is going to have a comprehensive search feature.
Use of subject line to create categories
Regular users of the listserv will be aware that in June we were asked to start the subject line of messages with a category in round brackets. The suggested list is :
(Legislation) – for all acts, regulations, rules, ordinances and by-laws both in SA and elsewhere
(Judgment) – recent judgments not yet reported or unreported
(Case) – cases reported in a law report series
(Article) – journal articles
The category is not intended to form the entire subject line but just to precede a concise description of the request.
Apart from identifying the nature of a request at a glance, this is to narrow the search parameters for any particular word or phrase.
For example, instead of searching for “evictions”, one could reduce the number of results by using “evictions” and “legislation”, or “evictions” and “cases”.
Please be aware of the search options “Search this group” and “Search Groups”. The former is the default and the option to which your attention is drawn for the purpose of this article.
Another matter that is raised quite regularly is the posting of answers to questions. Merely confirming that a query has already been made on the subject that interests one is of no use if there is not an associated answer.
Subject lines create threads
This feature has the ability to link questions and answers. In order to make use of this, we as individuals need to be aware of posting comprehensive answers once we have them (a small price to pay in comparison to the benefits we receive from this community and the factor that is going to make our repository an invaluable information resource in future) and to use the same subject line when posting the answer.
A current example of this is the message “(Case)” posted by Noni Makhathini on 30 August 2007.
The line immediately at the end of the paragraph reads “By Noni Makhathini – Aug 30 – 2 messages ”. Clicking on the “two messages” hyperlink opens a copy of Noni’s initial request followed by the answer including a hyperlink to the requested case.
Identifying firms/companies/individuals who are able to assist by supplying copies of journal articles would also significantly reduce the volume of traffic on the general listserv.
“Pages” could be used as indexes to sources
With input from all of us who are able to assist, we would be able to create an alphabetical list of journal titles to identify contact persons rather than having requests for journal articles circulated to the entire listserv, the majority of whom are not in a position to assist.
This would depend largely on our willingness to give back to the community and the goodwill of our colleagues.
Are you aware that the Listserv Policy requests us not to send messages with attachments? The matter of making documents available to others could be facilitated on the listserv by using the Files feature.
Two documents, the listserv Code of Conduct and Advertising Policy, have been posted to “Files” as an example of how this area works.
It may be necessary to ask the Listserv Administrator (***@*** in our case) to post documents on behalf of subscribers to the listserv.
Thereafter a message to the group would draw attention to the availability of the information to those who need it without creating an additional email burden for those who don’t.
Having highlighted some of the features that could be used to our advantage, please let us have feedback for discussion by the OSALL Committee.
Please familiarise yourself with the guidelines in the Code of Conduct (http://www.osall.org.za/docs/listserv_code_of_conduct.pdf) and the Advertising Policy (http://www.osall.org.za/docs/listserv_advertising_policy.pdf), the latter particularly in respect to advertising vacancies.
Opinions expressed in this column are my own and not necessarily those of my employer