To: Philippine Linux Users' Group Mailing List
Cc: PH Linux Newbie Mailing List
Subject: Re: [plug] Re: Eternal Vigilance
User-Agent: Mutt/1.4i
From: Rick Moen
Date: Sat, 21 Sep 2002 21:51:08 -0700

Jijo wrote:

> Do we not have fairly adequate supply of these in the form of
> mini-HOWTOs, HOWTOs, guides, online books, and deadtree books?

Yes and no. No and yes.

There will always be silly, pointless, or mistaken/malformed/unanswerable
questions, for a few reasons:

1. Asking useful, focussed questions, and otherwise participating
intelligently and considerately in the technical community, is
a learned skill.
2. Ignoring available information resources and instead abusing the
rest of the community is much easier.
3. ...and often is rewarded with success.
4. ...and has a certain number of noisy apologists.
5. Besides which, there will always be a small percentage of people
who can't or won't learn from documentation, and go around
seeking someone to spoon-feed them.
6. This includes a segment of the population who resent needing to
understand anything, and maintain an unshakeable conviction that
their inability to make things happen must be someone else's
7. Also, a large portion of the population have been trained to value
everything at cost. If you help them for free, they will therefore
not respect your effort, and (for example) won't hesitate to be
inattentive and ask the same question again two days later.
(After all, if your assistance were valuable, why would you be
giving it away for free?)

Nothwithstanding this, FAQs and similar things have _great_ value.
The fruit of the clue tree has hanged ever lower to the ground, over the
past decade. I'm sure it can, should, and will hang lower still. The
fact that some people refuse to eat the hanging clues, and would rather
go yelling around about how hungry they are, is not a sign of failure.

eric pareja wrote:

> To be fair, not everyone on the lists has "unlimited" access to the
> Internet, nor unfettered access to someone else who has more
> experience and knowledge about our beloved OS.

Life is not fair. I have the dot-com stock options to prove it. ;->

> There's also much to be learned from interacting with PEOPLE, not
> TEXT, when learning about anything.

That's nice. Psychotherapists' time can be rented by the half-hour. ;->
Here in the technical community, though, it improves the payoff ratio
of _everyone_ for the simple answer to be accessible via concise,
findable documentation, so _people's_ time can be spent instead
addressing _interesting_ problems, instead of the n+1st iteration of
"How do I remove LILO from the Master Boot Record?"

Since these topics invariably elicit really dumb objections (see point
#4, above), I'll now hastily stress what I did _not_ say: I did _not_
say that people should be rude to those who ask elementary questions, or
questions easily solved with a blatantly-obvious 10-second Google
search. I did _not_ say that someone who really enjoys answering the
100th asking of "How do I remove LILO from the Master Boot Record?"
shouldn't knock himself out handling the question the _next_ 100 times.
I did _not_ say that the asking of such questions should be banned from
anywhere at all.

I don't know about anyone else, but one of the things I'm doing is
paying back my obligation to the people who helped _me_ learn, by
doing the same for others. The most-valuable part of their assistance
to me was where they showed me how to analyse problems, troubleshoot,
and articulate to others what my issue is so as to make it easy for them
to help me. Accordingly, I try to concentrate on teaching those skills,
as opposed to merely "helping people" in the sense many (mistakenly, in
my view) think benefits them (making their technical problems go away
without comprehension).

This means that my help is frequently directed towards those willing to
participate and help themselves, and that those who aren't get driven to
whine piteously about how I'm "not helping them". This means it's
working as designed. ;->

"Michael E. Peligro" wrote:

> Thanks Eric for pointing out that the internet is a haystack of
> information (and misinformation).

The misinformation is yet _another_ reason why "helping people" without
conveying understanding is worse than useless. Thanks for reminding me
about that.

When I was editor for the San Francisco PC Luser Group's 40-page monthly
newsletter, many of the sheep-like members thereof frequently became
very upset at the fact that I kept expressing views differing from those
of the resident Microsoft shill. I asked them why this upset them:
They said that the fact that he and I disagreed meant they couldn't tell
what the truth is. I said I found this very peculiar: Did they judge
truth solely by finding out what everyone agreed to? Well, yes, they
said. I replied: Suppose the Microsoft-lover and I were _both_ wrong?
How would they know? They became even more upset, and basically didn't
want to discuss the matter further.

> That's what I meant by "providing guidance to newbies". Guidance before (or
> after) doing the search on the net to learn how to weed-out unecessary
> information (and misinformation) from the "haystack".

Begs the question of how the information-seeker knows his guru isn't
talking through his hat. I submit that the aim should be to convey an
understanding of the technology sufficient (at least) to be able to
detect misinformation. _Surely_ we can do better than the lusers at
SFpcUG. I _know_ we can.

> I'd like to add. One reason why it's more reasonable to ask questions
> on a local mailing list is that you get conceptual answers.

Excellent point! Some of the greatest value the community can offer
newcomers is to try to convey _understanding_ as opposed to mere

Cheers, Higgledy-Piggledy / Kibo Ubiquitous,
Rick Moen Greps for his name in the / Happynet spool. Interdimensional / Cyberspace deity:
Didaktyliaios / Dada is cool. -- Lewis Stiller