[conspire] I get mail (Boeing edition)

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Sep 17 19:45:54 PDT 2007

Long time, no hear from these guys.  What a pleasant surprise!

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

Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2007 19:24:54 -0700
From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
To: "Uschold, Michael F" <michael.f.uschold at boeing.com>
Cc: "Eric S. Raymond" <esr at thyrsus.com>
Subject: Re: FW: How to Ask Questions the Smart Way

Quoting Uschold, Michael F (michael.f.uschold at boeing.com):

> Attached please find the message I sent - a suggestion to improve your
> otherwise excellent essay.

Thank you, Michael.  Let's have a look at all places where the essay
uses the word "stupid" or derivatives thereof:

   Beware of asking the wrong question. If you ask one that is based
   on faulty assumptions, J. Random Hacker is quite likely to reply with a
   uselessly literal answer while thinking "Stupid question...",
   and hoping the experience of getting what you asked for rather than what
   you needed will teach you a lesson.

One of the virtues of the essay, in my view, is that it tells the truth.
It's important that people understand that hackers _will_ be thinking
that.  They won't say it, but the thought about the _question_ (not the
asker) being rather stupid will tend to inform their reaction to the
question.  I think it's good for people to know that.  You think they're
better off being ignorant?  OK, that's your privilege, but I do not

   One good convention for subject headers, used by many tech support
   organizations, is "object - deviation". The "object" part specifies 
   what thing or group of things is having a problem, and the "deviation" 
   part describes the deviation from expected behavior.

      HELP! Video doesn't work properly on my laptop!

    X.org 6.8.1 misshapen mouse cursor, Fooware MV1005 vid. chipset

You say:  "What is stupid or not is usually subjective - people may
disagree."  True, but irrelevant.  The point is that the user is seeking
volunteer help from a hacker (Eric's term) or other knowledgeable party
who, inevitably, must allocate his/her time carefully.  Therefore, if
the knowledgeable party is very likely to disregard the question because
he/she sees a really (from his/her perspective) stupid subject header,
that's a problem for the questioner.  We think questioners are better
off knowing that.  You think they shouldn't?

You seem to think we went out of our way to belittle and mock
(figurative, hypothetical) naive users reading our essay.  This is of
course not so:  If we didn't care for them and want to look out for
their interests, we wouldn't have bothered to tell them the plain,
unvarnished truth.

I could go on, but I think it would just reiterate the above point with
different but very similar examples.  

> 2. Your calling things and people stupid all the time....

I'll send you $100 immediately if you can cite even one place in the
current (v. 3.4) text or any prior version where we call anyone stupid.
Anywhere at all.

If you cannot -- and, gosh, what a surprise!  you cannot -- it'd be
appropriate for you to now apologise.

(We do call people who send technical support questions to _us_, in
glorious defiance of the extremely prominent notice, right near the very
top, to not do that, "idiots" as a class.  With good reason.  That's
actually the least strong of the terms that properly apply.)

And, by the way, although I take it as given that you certainly had no
involvement, I'd like a small amount of credit for being not only civil
but downright cordial to a Boeing employee, given that your company's
negligence in the manufacture of commercial jets directly killed my
father, Pan American World Airways Captain Arthur Moen, one fine
Christmas when I was 10 years old, and that Boeing Company then
immediately sent a thug squad of private detectives to try to threaten
my mother into not suing.  (Suggestion to your bosses: Threatening a
Viking widow just pisses her off, and is simply never a good career

Have a good day.

Very Best Regards,
[my full legal name was here]

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

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