[conspire] (forw) Re: I get mail

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Apr 29 13:01:49 PDT 2005

Eric suggested I post his inadvertantly-private mail back to this 
list, since he didn't retain a copy.  Alas, I didn't, either -- but can 
send to the list my reply to his mail, quoting parts of it.

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2005 11:41:55 -0700
From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
To: Eric De Mund <ead at ixian.com>
Subject: Re: I get mail

[I note without objection that you've gone off-list into private mail.
It's generally a good idea to mention when you do this, and perhaps say
why:  People don't, in general, participate in public discussions in
order to generate private side-discussions.]

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

> This is a style question, but, again, keeping things exceptionally
> short and formal works for me. Tailor this to your own style/needs.

Noted.  Thanks.

> However, personally, I would never have "gone meta" on him, i.e. spoken
> at all about him or his asking of the question; my experience is that
> that invites further interaction.

Sure, but I don't object to further interaction; I just wanted to try to
get to the bottom of why the man was taking that approach at all, and
why he had the gall to consider himself mistreated.  It's the novelist
in me; I want to understand motivations.

> Instead, I would have (a) kept things very, very short, (b) kept things
> focused on me, e.g. "No, I'm not at all familiar with open NNTP servers.
> I'm sorry," and (c) thrown in an apology for social lubrication.

I often would.  

The disadvantage of portion (b) is that it subtly implies that
buttonholing a stranger in private mail to ask him that question was
appropriate, and that the asker just happened to suffer rotten luck 
in that his interlocutor didn't know the answer.

My attitude was:  Since I'm already chewing up time answering this guy, 
I might as well give him a clue that it's _not_ reasonable to just
barrage strangers with private technical questions, without any
explanation or introduction.

> p.s. One last point on teaching/educating: In my view, perhaps the thing
> one must accept before anything else is that there are some people who
> just can't be enlightened/educated.

Indeed.  In a globe where maybe half a billion people have the ability
to send e-mail, and where my name's (for good or bad) prominent
regarding Linux and Internet matters, it's hardly surprising to get half
a dozen clueless, impertinent mails a day in response to _How to Ask
Questions the Smart Way_.  I'm just flabbergasted about the irony of
them doing _exactly_ what the essay exists to tell them to avoid doing
-- and then feeling they've been personally abused when I (very mildly) 

> I wonder if, as in recursion where one begins with the terminating
> condition, this idea or a similar one, namely, that the questioner just
> might not get any answer at all, *through no fault of his own*, even if
> he faithfully adheres to all the points, should be made a little more
> clear and also moved up, further towards the front, into the Introduc-
> tion. 

I'm generally not really satisfied with how Eric has edited and expanded
his version of our essay -- nor with how he gives the public no access
to his SGML source -- so I've actually re-forked my own version, and
have been slowly fixing it up:  "Smart Questions FAQ" on

But anyhow, I really don't think the _introduction_ would be the right
place for that.  The introduction logically should be the place
explaining the purpose and larger context.

At some point, I'm very likely to refactor and (probably) rewrite the
entire thing.  It's gotten way too long, and needs a dose of pithiness.

----- End forwarded message -----

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