The EFA’s primary online forum is its lively members-only Discussion List (DL for short), where members ask questions and exchange ideas and advice with hundreds of their editorial colleagues. The DL was started on February 21, 2000, and in the twenty-three years since, more than 177,000 individual messages have addressed 84,000+ topics. That’s a lot of discussions!

Many participants have said the DL is the most valuable feature of EFA membership. It has often been referred to as our “crown jewel”—I certainly consider it such. It is a place for professional learning, support, collaboration, and brainstorming, and all EFA members are eligible to subscribe and participate.

As of early February 2023 about 1,400 of the EFA’s approximately 3,100 members are signed up for the DL. But that leaves some 1,700 members who are not. Are you one of them? If you are, you’re missing out on an extraordinarily valuable resource. Please come join us!

The DL provides value to its members in many ways. Here are just a few:

’Round-the-clock expertise. Say it’s midnight and you’re stumped on how to handle an editing- or freelancing-related issue. Turn to the DL, whose members have thousands of years of combined editing and freelancing experience. Take advantage of that expertise, and post your question. You’ll have responses within a matter of hours, if not minutes.

Sense of community/social interaction. We freelancers who work from home tend to feel alone and isolated. We don’t have the built-in social network an office setting provides. We can’t pop into a colleague’s office to discuss matters, or gather around the watercooler to chat and vent. The EFA Discussion List is our vehicle to interact with colleagues; it’s our online version of dropping in to a colleague’s office or hanging around the watercooler.

Warnings and scam alerts. Members who receive unsolicited inquiries via email often post to the DL to see if others have received similar emails. Sometimes the replies will lead to the conclusion that the emails are scams; other times, that the inquiry seems legitimate. Either way, it’s great to get opinions from experienced members before deciding whether or not to respond to unsolicited emails. The DL is an indispensable resource for keeping your business safe from scammers (note that this linked article is viewable only by EFA members, so you’ll need to log in to the site to access it).

Organizational impact. A while back, a member wondered on the DL if West Coast EFA members might be disadvantaged by early morning Job List mailings. An email sent at 9 a.m. Eastern time would be in a West Coast member’s in-box at 6 a.m., when the member would not reasonably be expected to be at their desk reading emails. The consensus of the thirty-odd DL participants who responded to the post was that it would be a good idea to delay the release of the morning emails, and the Job List swiftly implemented a “not earlier than 10:30 a.m. Eastern time” policy. Management listened, and the DL got results!

Entertainment. Sometimes there is lighthearted fun (perhaps at the expense of a scammer who would like us to edit their “small piece” on WORLD PEACE), and sometimes there’s high entertainment, as in the 83-response thread “What is your least favorite word?” which climaxed with a message that used all the loathsome words!

Vast archives. Messages posted to the DL over the past twenty-three years are contained in the Message History archive at the site. That’s right—from the first message posted in 2000 by list founder Sheila Buff up through the messages posted today—they’re all there. (The only exceptions are any message that was deleted by the person who posted it and the few that may have been deleted by a DL Community Manager to preserve our high standards of decorum.) Whenever you feel like traveling in Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine, just click on any month/year and read what was on members’ minds 5, 10, 15, even 20 years ago.

Search feature. Chances are, a topic about which you’re curious or a question you may have has already been addressed and the discussion is contained in the archives. The site’s Search feature helps you find these discussions easily.

It’s a safe space. The Code of Conduct (CoC) governs member participation in the DL and mandates respectful and welcoming conversations. In those rare instances where CoC guidelines seem about to be breached, a team of Community Managers—led by Discussion List Chairperson Jean Gazis—steps in to moderate, deftly and gently, thereby assuring that the DL is a place where both new and longtime editorial freelancers feel safe participating.

Instructions for becoming a DL member are contained in the Technical Help section of the Discussion List page of the EFA website. For instructions on navigating the DL and making use of its many features, please view the brief how-to videos posted on YouTube. The helpful videos cover topics such as How to Search the Archives, Navigating the DL, and How to Read and Reply to Messages.

Whether you’re a newish EFA member or a longtime member who hasn’t yet discovered the joys of the EFA Discussion List, now’s the time to join! The DL is not only where you’ll have your business and editing questions answered, but also where we editorial freelancers find a sense of community and share the struggles and rewards of our chosen profession.

Once you’ve joined, maybe you’ll just “lurk” for a while and read messages without responding. Or maybe you’re a bit more gregarious, and you’ll feel comfortable jumping right in with a question or answer. Either way, you’ll learn things that make you a better editor and a better business owner—guaranteed.

Hope to “see” you on the EFA Discussion List!

Andrew Huston, Member at Large
EFA Board of Governors