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Editorial: The Times (and Helvetica) they are a’changing

by Geoff Hart

Previously published as: Hart, G.J. 2003. Editorial: The Times (and Helvetica) they are a'changing. the Exchange 10(2):2,4.

Most of you already know that STC was hit fairly hard by the dotcom meltdown and economic slowdown of the past couple years. Membership is down significantly, and Head Office has been looking for a means of reducing costs wherever possible. One option they recommended was moving all SIG newsletters to an online format rather than continuing to print and mail the newsletters.

I’m a big fan of printed material, since I already spend far too much time staring at a computer screen, but since STC has the option of imposing decisions upon us and generally doesn’t exercise this power, I felt it was only fair to follow their example. Rather than deciding how to proceed based on my feeling that everyone shared my preferences and would refuse to accept an online newsletter, I chose to poll SIG members. The results of the poll surprised me: more than 300 respondents were in favor of distributing the newsletter in PDF format versus only 20 who insisted on a printed version. (Incidentally, that’s a response rate of more than 50%, which is an excellent response rate for a poll.)

So it looks like we’ll be going online for future issues. At the same time, I don't want to alienate SIG members who aren't comfortable with a purely online solution. Fortunately, Peter Herbst, STC’s point man for SIGs, accepted my recommendation that we continue to publish a printed version of the newsletter for those who cannot use or would prefer not to receive an online version of the newsletter. This is one of those rare and pleasant situations in which everyone wins, even though it will mean a bit more work for me each issue, and I hope everyone will be happy with the results.

I plan to post the current and future issues online on our Web site (currently being developed by our Webmaster, Alane) in two formats: a standard HTML page designed to be easily read online, and a downloadable PDF file formatted for print that will also be used to generate printed copies for those who still want them. (Me, for instance.) All SIG members with an e-mail address on file with STC will receive a notification that the newsletter is now available, and can go to the Web site to choose whichever version suits them best. Please let me know if this approach fails to meet your needs so I can look for a solution. Compliments are also welcome!

Please note: If you receive only the e-mail notification despite having requested a printed version, my apologies. I sorted the responses to the poll manually, and it’s certainly possible that I missed one or two "print please" responses. I’ll be happy to put you on the print mailing list as soon as I receive your request.

Speaking of the newsletter, I discovered during the course of the poll that several long-time SIG members have never received copies of the newsletter and weren’t even aware that one was being published. If you’re one of these people, you probably won’t be reading this unless someone passed along a copy of the newsletter. A plea to my readers: If you know someone who’s a member but who doesn’t seem to be aware of the newsletter, please ask them to ask Head Office to update their contact information. And please direct them to our Web site so they can obtain copies of all the back issues that I’ve produced as newsletter editor.

I'll be posting older issues online as time permits, but I've only been editing the newsletter for going on three years. If you have electronic copies of older newsletters, please send them along; I’ll try to get them up on the Web site over the next few months.


My essays on scientific communication have now been collected in the following book:

Hart, G. 2011. Exchanges: 10 years of essays on scientific communication. Diaskeuasis Publishing, Pointe-Claire, Que. Printed version, 242 p.; eBook in PDF format, 327 p.


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