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

Larry Hall (RFK Partners, Inc)
Mon Jun 25 11:36:00 GMT 2001

At 01:35 PM 6/25/2001, Ken Collins wrote:
> > <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.
>For what it's worth, I've been using cygwin off-and-on since about '98, and
>I've only now decided to delurk :)
>If the tone of the list sours, it discourages people from contributing and
>easing the load. I'm certainly reluctant to ask questions or get involved
>in discussions that would involve me further in the code.  

That's a shame.  Still, everyone should keep in mind that tone is not
always conveyed well in email and allot is left to the reader to fill in.
You always want to err on the side of caution when it comes to the 
interpretation of the tone.  Doing so helps keep one from reading too 
much (negative) into a message being read.

>If it's really that bad, the core should set up a moderated low-traffic
>list. Newbies and people getting up to speed like myself need a place to
>ask stupid questions. The 3133+ could drop in when they're in the mood.

And who would be answering questions on a list full of newbies? ;-)  

As far as I can see, the only questions being "discouraged" are those 
that are clearly something one can answer for themselves.  This 
"discouragement" only comes in the form of a message that suggests 
where a user can go to find the information their looking for.  To me,
this seems to be pretty mild "discouragement" and helps the user 
understand the resources available to make the most of Cygwin.  I'd be
hard-pressed to find allot of negativity in this type of response but,
like I said, everyone interprets things differently and you can't please
everybody all the time.

>I was surprised that the general cygwin list is this "strict", given that
>there are the developers and apps lists for the more dedicated.

Personally, I think you're reading too much into the "strict"ness of the
list.  Given the number of posts and the number of responses containing
real information that address the posted queries, I'm not sure what 
constitutes this "strict" nature you refer to.  

> > 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.
>I find the non-answers annoying, personally. It's like taking a class where
>the prof answers every question with "look it up in the book." I don't
>enjoy seeing other people shamed. I just want to learn about cygwin.

What constitutes a "non-answer" for you?  Is a pointer to the place where
the answer is a "non-answer"?  I've seen very few global pointers on this
list.  Most point to specific email archive messages, FAQ entries, or
user guide chapters.  If you're referring, the "search google" responses,
then I am still confused by your comment.  How is it that pointing the 
original poster to the method of finding the answer a bad thing?  Are you
assuming that the responder has the answer at their finger-tips and is
just punishing the original poster for not being in the same boat?  I 
think you're assuming too much here.  People direct folks to the search 
engine for two very good reasons:

   1. They don't recall the specifics of the answer to the poster's 
      question but know its in the archives.  Its not the responders
      responsibility to look up the actual message for the original 
      poster, although that is always an option.

   2. Getting to know how to use the archives and even of its existence
      is a very good thing.  Its a powerful resource which gets real time
      responses and provides allot of background.  Its important for 
      everyone to know about it and to use it to make the community a
      productive one.

These are the reasons that people are pointed to searches.  It's not 
some patronizing response meant to make the poster feel stupid.  It's the
responders best effort to help the poster find that which has been 

> > Personally, I'm in favor of shunning: if somebody continually wastes 
>I'm in favor of that as well. It cuts down on traffic, there aren't public
>lashings, and bad threads die fast. It also cuts back on the "pardon my
>ignorance" preambles necessary when posting to a hostile list. 

Actually, I find preambles like "Sorry for this newbie question but I 
looked at the FAQ and mail archives and didn't find the answer" pretty
useful.  At least for me, I then know whether the person has made an 
attempt to find any existing information on the topic of question.  Even
if they've clearly missed an obvious pointer (like in the FAQ), I
personally am more likely to prod them more directly to the information
they'd find there.  In other words, if I know someone has tried to help
themselves and failed for some reason, I can then be more specific with 
the suggestions I have, because I know what they've tried and what didn't
work for them.  But to each his own...

Larry Hall                    
RFK Partners, Inc.            
118 Washington Street                   (508) 893-9779 - RFK Office
Holliston, MA 01746                     (508) 893-9889 - FAX

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