Blunt Tools (was: cgf does not want private email about cygwin)

Charles S. Wilson
Mon Jun 25 08:52:00 GMT 2001

Ken Collins wrote:

> Is it just me, or is the tone of this list getting increasingly curt and
> unpleasant? 

No, it's not just you -- I think the tone is changing a bit, but it's 
not "rudeness" -- it's brevity (curtness) -- but it's done in 
self-preservation. (This particular missive is an exception, however) 
The "old-timers" are tired of newbies refusing to search the archives, 
not digging into the source, and just generally refusing to even TRY to 
answer their own questions before running to the list. Oh yeah, and the 
barrage of personally-directed email.  In my case, I would describe it 
as perilously close to total burnout -- e.g. I'm quite close to dropping 
off the list completely and abandoning all things cygwin, including the 
20 packages that I maintain.  Most of the old-timers are probably in the 
same boat.

<crotchety old voice> Back when I first started using cygwin, I *LURKED* 
on the mailing list for six months before my first post, because I 
wanted to understand what I could about cygwin before bothering the 
experts: Mumit, Chris, DJ, Geoff, Earnie, et al with my uninformed 
questions.</crotchety old voice>  In the interim, Mumit took a compete 
year off -- totally dropped cygwin and was completely incommunicado.  He 
eventually returned (hallelujah).  Geoff is gone.  DJ is (almost 
entirely) gone.  Fortunately, others have since stepped up to the plate: 
Corinna, Larry, me, Robert, others.

There are basically only two ways to modify the behavior of a group: 
codified rules or social mores.  It's very difficult to enforce codified 
rules on an open mailing list, so the only way to modify the behavior of 
a group -- in this case, newbies -- is to project disapproval of the 
undesired behavior.  So far, those expressions of disapproval have been 
fairly mild.  Earnie's one-liner "google" responses are classic.  They 
say, "here's the answer to your question, but don't you feel silly now 
in wasting my time and bandwidth when you could've done this simple 
search?"  (And better, it doesn't take him much time to compose those 
responses) Larry has a great way of gently pointing a newbie in the 
right direction (giving a hint as to where the desired information could 
be found -- e.g. "grep the sources for "IPv6")  but not doing ALL of the 
newbies' work for them.

Personally, I'm in favor of shunning: if somebody continually wastes 
time on the list by *continually* expecting others to do basic research 
for them, and *continually* refusing to "use the source", and 
*continually* refusing to search the archives -- just publically 
announce that the individual has been shunned, and stop answering their 

Okay, that was a little over-the-top.  But as I said, personally I'm 
quite close to "shunning" everybody -- by abandoning the list and cygwin 
myself. So sure, the list has (generally) gotten more curt -- but I 
wouldn't characterize that as rude.  The "curtness" is there for good 
reason -- it was provoked.


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