[sf-lug] Private mail support

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Sep 28 11:25:33 PDT 2007

Offlist private mail resulting from my being on a Linux mailing list

(Hey, I should consider forwarding these observations to those two guys
who co-wrote "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way".)

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

Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2007 11:21:48 -0700
From: Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>
To: [snipped]

Hi, [name].  If you're writing to me just to chat or to reach a
sympathetic ear, that's gladly granted.  ;->

If you're seeking technical help in any way, that's just not going to
work.  Here's why:

o  Wrong recipient.  You need to post diagnostic information about
   your problems consistently into public technical forums, if you're
   seeking free-of-charge technical help from the committee.  Seeking
   help via private e-mail, especially sent to strangers, is considered
   to be unclear on the importance of that process remaining _public_.

   If that is actually unclear, consider for a moment what's in it for
   the people helping you, as opposed to just for yourself.  We assist
   people as part of the Linux and open source community in order to 
   build a body of public knowledge and understanding.  Solving common
   technical problems in public ends up helping vast numbers of people,
   present and future, especially when you consider others searching
   Web search engines for answers to problems similar to yours.  
   Solving those same problems in private mail, by contrast, helps only
   one person, ever -- and is indistiguishable from you, a stranger, 
   getting free-of-charge personal technical support from professional
   technonogists.  And most of us just aren't into doing thankless
   work in private for strangers and not even getting paid.  ;->

o  Vague.  You didn't say what distro release number, nor did you 
   says which disk (desktop or alternate) you were using.  Also, the
   entirety of your account was extremely non-specific.

o  Consisted of a recounting of your interpretations, rather than the 
   raw diagnostic data.  This was actually the most serious problem, 
   and is also the most common reason why people fail to get their 
   problems solved.  The syndrome is notorious among diagnosticians
   forced to deal with the public, as it is _the_ key problem with 
   bug reports / trouble tickets that prevents them from doing their jobs.  

   E.g., you claim "it failed when creating the partition",
   but you say nothing at all about _what you observed_ that lead you
   to that conclusion.  Your observation that "it failed when creating
   the partition" is utterly useless to diagnosticians, because it 
   gives them absolutely no idea what _really_ happened.  They know
   only your interpretation of the outcome, and, to be blunt, if you
   were that good at interpretation of diagnostic data, wouldn't the
   technical community be seeking help from you, rather than the 
   other way around?

Most often, the latter problem happens because people encounter problems
while _not_ thinking to take notes -- which is perfectly understandable,
of course -- and then are obliged to describe what happened after the 
fact, from memory.  It's then inevitable that your account will end
up being fuzzy and interpretive rather than specific and descriptive.
Again, that's understandable and not blameworthy.  _But_, when that 
happens, it's in your interest not to rush immediately to your e-mail 
client, but rather go back and try again, _this_ time taking
contemporaneous, specific notes so you can say _specifically_ what 
happened in chronological order.

I hope this helps you.

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

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