[conspire] I get mail

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Wed Aug 9 13:06:09 PDT 2006

I guess, to be philosophical about this, the fact that I _still_ get
several personal e-mails like this, every day of the year, means that
the essay "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way" has been very successful
-- or at least popular.

I used to chat with Eric Raymond about "topic killer" answers to
technical questions.  That's where you post something to an ongoing
thread that's so definitive that you (accidentally) terminate discussion
by leaving nothing to say.  Related to that are the answers where you 
advocate a position on a subject of controversy and do such an expert
job defusing all reasonable objections that informed, rational critics
then make no comment -- leaving a large silence that oftentimes is
filled by cranks and loons.  Thus, I told Eric, encountering a chorus of
irrational objections can be a sign of success, not failure -- on
occasions when all reasonable people are silent because they agree.

Anyway, back to "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way":  Some months ago,
I got Eric to finally change my author e-mail address on the canonical
Web copy to that of an e-mail autoresponder at linuxmafia.com -- a
pretty simple thing to set up in Perl, if you run your own SMTP server.  
This cut the incoming _personal_ mail roughly in half.  Half the people
seem to "get" (understand) this autoresponse:

:r /usr/share/procmail-lib/response-auto.txt

  Thanks for your mail about "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way".
  As a reminder, that essay suggests (generic) ways to ensure 
  you're asking technical questions in the right way, in the right place.

  People write back for one of two _very_ different reasons:

  o  Good reason:  Sending feedback/suggestions to help improve the essay.
  o  VERY BAD reason:  Asking essay co-author Rick Moen for technical help.

  Guess what?  99% of such mails are for the VERY BAD type of reason.  
  If you're about to do that, STOP.  Do something else.  Anything.
  Don't act like a moron:  Rick Moen is _not_ your personal, private helpdesk.

  The other 1% of you who want to discuss ways to improve "How to Ask Questions 
  the Smart Way", thank you!  Please reach Rick at "rick at linuxmafia.com".

  This is an automated e-mail.  (Your mail has not reached a human.)
  All replies to this mail will be auto-discarded.

  Thanks! Mr. Autoresponder 

Then there are the other half, such as Mr. Christopher Dyer (below), who 
wrote to both co-authors shown on the essay, IGNORING the prominent
notice to not do that, receiving the above-cited autoresponder text,
ignoring _its_ substance, picking my direct e-mail address out of it,
and manually re-sending to me personally the same confused idiocy he 
had mailed to the autoresponder.

I'm guessing the bottom line is that, with about nine billion humans and
many of them having e-mail access, there's just a whole lot of morons.

----- Forwarded message from Christopher Dyer <cdyer75 at hotmail.com> -----

From: Christopher Dyer <cdyer75 at hotmail.com>
To: rick at linuxmafia.com
Date: Wed, 09 Aug 2006 11:34:33 -0500
Subject: Question/

How in the hell do someone obtain all my info by just having my damn CC#?

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

More information about the conspire mailing list