[conspire] I get mail

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Apr 28 17:56:44 PDT 2005

On reflection....

 Date: Thu, 28 Apr 2005 17:55:19 -0700
 From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
 To: [a guy]
 Subject: Re: News servers
 User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.6+20040907i

Quoting [a guy]:

> I read your and Eric S. Raymond's document "How to ask smart
> questions", so I didn't expect the friendliest answer. I tried to state my
> question in the best possible way (I'm not God you know) but still you
> handled my e-mail as if it was a piece of rubbish.

I was just refreshing my memory about that essay.  Near the top:

   The first step, therefore, is to find the right forum. [...]

   Shooting off an email to a person or forum which you are not familiar
   with is risky at best. For example, do not assume that the author of
   an informative web page wants to be your free consultant. Do not make
   optimistic guesses about whether your question will be welcome -- if
   you are unsure, send it elsewhere, or refrain from sending it at all.

And you know what's _immediately under the table of contents_?  This:


   Many project websites link to this document in their sections on how
   to get help. That's fine, it's the use we intended -- but if you are a
   webmaster creating such a link for your project page, please display
   prominently near the link notice that WE ARE NOT A HELP DESK FOR YOUR

   We have learned the hard way that without such a notice, we will
   repeatedly be pestered by idiots who think that our having published
   this document makes it our job to solve all the world's technical

   If you are reading this document because you need help, and you walk
   away with the impression you can get it directly from the authors, 
   _you_ are one of the idiots in question. Don't ask _us_ questions. 
   We'll just ignore you. We are here to show you how to get help from 
   people who actually know about the software or hardware you are 
   dealing with, but 99% of the time that will not be us. Unless you 
   know for _certain_ that one of the authors is an expert on what you 
   are dealing with, leave us alone and everybody will be happier.

That "Disclaimer" wording happens to be 100% Eric's wording, not mine,
but I certainly concur with the underlying sentiment.

[Name snipped], I get about a half-dozen or more personal, unexplained requests 
for personal technical asstance for free, from _utter strangers_, each 
and every day without fail.  I can't imagine why you think it helps to 
cite Eric's and my essay, since it says about as plainly as I could 
imagine to _please not do that_.

I nonetheless wish you the best of luck with your problem, and hope you
consider my advice about whom to ask.

Rick Moen                      "vi is my shepherd; I shall not font."
rick at linuxmafia.com                               -- Psalm 0.1 beta

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