[conspire] Re: oops

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Apr 29 12:58:17 PDT 2005

[Sending this back to the list because I figure a one-line quotation 
of private mail doesn't significantly violate your privacy.]

Quoting Eric De Mund (ead at ixian.com):

> I did? Oops. It was not my intent. Thanks for gently noting this.

Heh.  ;->  

It happens a lot.  Don't worry about it!

The syndrome used to cause me a lot of grief, though, before I configured
procmail and mutt to cleanly separate listmail from private mail, into
separate mboxes:  I'd get what I thought was an on-list response to one
of my list posts, and draft some really long, carefully written,
comprehensive reply intended to document the matter for the public
record.  Then, either just before or just after sending, I'd suddenly
notice that the mail had NOT been listmail.

That then became a problem, because I then could not ethically redirect
my reply back to the mailing list, since it quoted what (unknown to me
during composition) was the other party's private mail:  Posting other
people's private mail to public mailing lists is uncool.  So, at that
point, I would find myself trapped in a situation where I'd been
unwillingly and unconsciously suckered into giving someone unpaid
private tutoring, rather than posting something to benefit a
_community_, which had been my intent.

Having made that realisation, I would then often send slightly annoyed
mail to my correspondent, detailing the problem he/she caused -- who
would then go all I'm-the-victim on me and fall back on the standard 
"I didn't _mean_ to do anything wrong, so I'm not responsible" excuse.

Changing my mail configuration so that private mail _stands out_ has
completely ended that dilemma -- a nice demonstration of my contention
that Edwards's Law is a pack of hooey:

I.e., I contend that you _can_ apply a technological solution to a
sociological problem!  And should.  It's what sysadmining is all about.

More broadly, I learned a psychological trick from being around my old
friend Richard Couture:  Richard had a knack for dealing with problems
by changing the _situations_ in which they recur.  He pointed out that
this is a lot easier and more promising than trying to change _people_.
People tend adapt themselves quite thoroughly (and often unconsciously)
to changed circumstances, in a way that they completely fail to, if you
merely _suggest_ they change their behaviour in order to do the right
thing.  The latter is mostly a recipe for frustration.

Going out of your way to do the right thing is rare:  Most often,
people do what they do because they can.  If you don't want them to do
something antisocial, change the situation in which you encounter them
so being a jerk is no longer their path of least resistance.

As a corollary to that, one of my rules for living is:  If I find myself
being annoyed at someone, I should check to see if my _own_ approach needs
fixing.  More often than not, *I* made an avoidable tactical error that 
placed the other party into a situation where being an annoying git was
his/her path of least resistance.  Next time, I can avoid doing that.

Reconfiguring my mail to make private replies to list threads stand out
has prevented the other party from (either consciously or not)
misleading me into drafting a reply I think will be of public benefit,
and then not being able to post it publicly without violating

(Sometimes, I elect to then send my reply publicly and state that I'm
assuming the off-list query to be inadvertant.  E.g.:  
http://lists.svlug.org/archives/svlug/2005-April/049598.html )

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