LINGUIST List 16.862

Tue Mar 22 2005

Why: does it take so many grad students to run LINGUIST?

Editor for this issue: Neil Salmond <>

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        1.     linguist, LINGUIST Co-founder and moderator HELEN ARISTAR-DRY explains all
        2.     linguist, How to donate...
        3.     linguist, Contributors so far...

Message 1: LINGUIST Co-founder and moderator HELEN ARISTAR-DRY explains all

Date: 22-Mar-2005
From: linguist <>
Subject: LINGUIST Co-founder and moderator HELEN ARISTAR-DRY explains all

Dear Subscribers,

Last year some of our supporters asked us why it takes so many graduate students
to run LINGUIST. This made me realize that many users probably imagine that all
each student does is post a few email messages a day, perhaps by hitting one
ortwo computer keys and letting the software do all the work.

Alas, this is far from the truth - although, on bad days, I sometimes fantasize
about letting users send their messages directly to the Listserv and hence out
to you. If we did, however, those messages would be full of content that is
irrelevant to, or significantly more naive than, professional linguistic
discussion. They would also be full of bad links, little blank squares where
characters should be, subtle insults to hapless colleagues and institutions, and
bogus requests for your bank account number or offers to increase the size of
selected body parts.

Instead, LINGUIST requires, and relies on, the hard work of 15-20 graduate
students. In part, we need so many because students are not full-time
employees - graduate assistants work only 10 or 20 hours a week, and only during
the 8-month school year. But LINGUIST operations continue 24-hours a day, 340
days a year. Also, we must compensate for a rapid staff turnover. Training to
run our complex database and website takes a semester, but the students graduate
within 2 years, since all are M.A. candidates. Thus we have to have ongoing
cross-training, with one person doing a job and another person learning it.

But the primary reason we need so many students is that over the years we've
made a number of decisions that require human care and tending of the email
list and website.

Now, some of these decisions were probably misguided - a result of our
inexperience running a big operation (in airports I still look hopefully at
books that promise to teach me how to be a 'one-minute manager'); but all were
taken with what we thought were users' best interests in mind. For example:

1) We decided that - as far as possible - we would keep the site free of
non-linguistic material, flames, spam, bad links, and display problems. This
means that every user submission has to be approved before posting.

2) We decided that any user should be able to conduct a site-wide search for
material relevant to his/her linguistic subfield and language specialty. This
means that every submission has to be classified as relevant to one of 27
linguistic subfields and/or 7300 languages (with 47,000 alternate names).
Although we ask users to classify their own postings via web forms, this works
well only for some types of submission. Fortunately, dissertation writers
usually know what language their abstract treats; but often the person who
submits a book, conference, job, or program announcement does not have any
linguistic training. Therefore graduate student editors must re-classify about
half of these postings.

3) We decided that we wanted a multi-functional website but one that could serve
linguists who did not own the most up-to-date software. This means that every
page on our 30,000-page website must be checked against a long list of browsers
and operating systems. (Only recently did we drop Netscape 4.7 on Windows 98
from the browser-checking list.)

4) We decided that, as a linguistic site, we should be Unicode-compliant.
And - after a lot of struggle with recalcitrant software - we are. You can enter
Chinese or Devanageri characters, in their Unicode encodings, into any web
form on the LINGUIST site. However, what many users want to do is to enter
control characters generated by outdated word processors, or multinational
characters that use local encodings. This means that students - particularly
the conferences editor - have to do a good deal of character conversion.

5) We decided that every message directed to LINGUIST staff should receive an
answer. But now, with over 20,000 subscribers, this means that each of the
three people who answers general questions from subscribers gets approximately
100 messages a day. The jobs, conferences, and publications editors get about
20 messages a day, over and above the postings submitted.

6) We decided that the LINGUIST site should offer free archiving and hosting of
any linguistics-related mailing list. So we currently have 129 other mailing
lists on our site, along with a multi-list search facility. But maintaining
the software needed to distribute, archive, and search these lists itself
requires one full-time graduate student.

7) We decided that we needed to respond to, rather than just delete, all the
language questions we were getting from the general public and all the messages
from linguists about semi-personal concerns like conference housing. So we
established NoticeBoard and Ask-a-Linguist. But each of these facilities
requires a graduate student to maintain it.

8) We decided that we couldn't ask subscribers to fund the whole site, so we
needed to ask employers and commercial publishers to make a donation in return
for our posting their announcements. But this means that we need students to
handle the 'business side' of the operation. The 3-person publications team,
for example, must prepare and distribute informational material, send out
invoices, track payments, and negotiate fees and fee reductions, as well as
producing custom web pages and software in response to publisher needs.

9) And our biggest - perhaps most questionable - decision: when we moved over
to a database architecture, we decided not to simply abandon the data collected in
the prior 12 years of operation. At that time, we had about 3000 html pages
on the site, most of which contained 300-400 web links to linguistics
resources. We also had about 4000 book announcements, 500 dissertation
abstracts, numerous journal TOCs, and other types of content housed on site.
Students have had to verify the currency of each web link or piece of data,
classify it by language and linguistic subfield, and enter it into the
appropriate database table. They have also had to write web pages to support
database calls, display, input, and editor approval of all this material. This
has been an enormous job, one which has occupied most of the 'free' time of 4
years of student crews. Thankfully, this job is almost finished; and that is
why we've been able to reduce the Fund Drive goal from $60,000 to $48,000 this

As I reread this mammoth message, I see that I have listed only about 2/3 of the
jobs the students do. But we've instituted a 4000-character limit on postings!

So let me end by reminding you that every donation made in Fund Drive goes
directly to the support of these students. None of the faculty associated with
LINGUIST receives any monetary reward - although, of course, we do get the fun
of working with these great young people and the satisfaction of seeing most of
them go on to Ph.D. programs in linguistics.

Please help support them, and LINGUIST, by contributing to the annual fund



Message 2: How to donate...

Date: 22-Mar-2005
From: linguist <>
Subject: How to donate...

This Year the LINGUIST List hope to raise $48,867. This money will go to help
keep the List running, by supporting all of our Student Editors for the coming year.

There are many ways to donate to LINGUIST!

You can donate right now using our secure credit card form.

Alternatively you can also pledge right now and pay later.

For all information on donating and pledging, including information on how to
donate by check, money order, or wire transfer, please visit:

The LINGUIST List is under the umbrella of Eastern Michigan University and as
such can receive donations through the EMU Foundation, which is a registered
501(c) Non Profit organization. Our Federal Tax number is 38-6005986. These
donations can be offset against your federal and sometimes your state tax return
(U.S. tax payers only). For more information visit the IRS Web-Site, or contact
your financial advisor.

Many companies also offer a gift matching program, such that they will match any
gift you make to a non-profit organization. Normally this entails your
contacting your human resources department and sending us a form that the EMU
Foundation fills in and returns to your employer. This is generally a simple
administrative procedure that doubles the value of your gift to LINGUIST,
without costing you an extra penny. Please take a moment to check if your
company operates such a program.

Thank you very much for your support of LINGUIST!

Message 3: Contributors so far...

Date: 22-Mar-2005
From: linguist <>
Subject: Contributors so far...

LINGUIST Contributors

Angels ($1000 and over)

Mainstays ($100 to $1000)
Shanley Allen
Wayles Browne
Laura Callahan
Andrew Carnie
Columbia School Linguistic Society
Arienne M. Dwyer
Jeff Good
Stefan Thomas Gries
Michael Hess
Baden Hughes
John Kingston
D. Terence Langendoen
John M.Lawler
Beth Levin
Gerardo Lorenzino
Monica Macaulay
Ernest McCarus
Line Mikkelsen
Karen Milligan
Margaret Winters and Geoff Nathan
Manuela Noske
Keren Rice
Shirley Silver
Michael Silverstein
Bernard Spolsky
Surrey Morphology Group
Michael Swan
Utilika Foundation
Elly van Gelderen
Catherine Walter
Adam Werle
Larisa Zlatic
Danny R. Moates
Plus 3 anonymous donors

Supporters ($50 to $100)
Joan Baart
Stefano Bertolo
Charlotte Brammer
Katy Carlson
Karen Corrigan
Joseph Eska
Susan Fischer
Janet Fuller
Judith W. Fuller
Lisa Galvin
Jane H Hill
Patrick Honeybone
Grover Hudson
Richard Hudson
Jeff Kaplan
Veronika Koller
Valia Kordoni
Hans Lindquist
Scott McGinnis
Joybrato Mukherjee
Alice Turk & Bert Remijsen
Norvin Richards
Anette Rosenbach
Joana Rossello
Andrea C. Schalley
Keith Slater
Nancy Sullivan
Maite Taboada
Pius ten Hacken
Elena Valenzuela
Wim Vandenbussche
Kathleen M. Ward
Plus 2 anonymous donors

Donors (Up to $50)
Diana Apoussidou
Rosemary Beam de Azcona
Christopher Becker
Mayrene Bentley
Caren Brinckmann
Elisabeth Cottier-Fabian
Peter M Ecke
Susan Fiksdal
Naomi Fox
Raffaella Zanuttini and Bob Frank
Jila Ghomeshi
Theres Grueter
Sara Heitshu
San Hellmuth
Larry LaFond
Leila Lomashvili
Mike Matloff
Marie Nilsenova
Loretta O'Connor
Tomoko Okuno
Tuan PhamVan
Sam Pilato
Bonny Sands
Heather Lee Taylor
Judith Tonhauser
Job van Zuijlen
Nancy Wiegand
Hedde Zeijlstra
Plus 3 anonymous donors

* * * * *

Supporting Publishers


Cascadilla Press
Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd
Edinburgh University Press
Elsevier Ltd.
Equinox Publishing Ltd.
Georgetown University Press
Hodder Arnold
John Benjamins
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Lincom GmbH
MIT Press
Mouton de Gruyter
Oxford University Press


Graduate Linguistic Students' Assoc., Umass
International Pragmatics Assoc.
Kingston Press Ltd
MIT Working Papers in Linguistics
Multilingual Matters
Pacific Linguistics
Palgrave Macmillan
SIL International
St. Jerome Publishing Ltd.
Utrecht Institute of Linguistics / LOT Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistic

* * * * *

Agder University College
City University of Hong Kong
Cymfony, Inc.
East Carolina University
McGill University
McNeil Technologies, Inc.
Meertens Institute
Nstein Technologies inc.
Portland State University
Saarland University, Saarbruecken, Germany
University of Arizona
University of Cologne, Germany
University of Edinburgh
University of Minnesota Duluth
University of Ulster
University of Windsor
Zi Corporation

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