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

Christopher Faylor
Mon Jun 25 11:49:00 GMT 2001

On Mon, Jun 25, 2001 at 01:35:36PM -0400, Ken Collins wrote:
>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.

I prefer to teach people how to think rather than doing the thinking for
them.  I think that repeatedly telling people to use the resources
available to them (google, mail archives, FAQ) is a method for doing
that.  Repetition is an important method for getting this point across.
So, we have to keep hammering this point to make it effective.

Doing the research yourself and answering every single repeated question
with elaborate detail IMO 1) doesn't scale and 2) doesn't really teach.

However, if this is something that you want to do, then you are welcome to
do so.  No one will "flame" you for answering the 5000th newbie "Where do
I find cygwin1.dll" question.

I really really do not view the act of telling other people how to help
themselves as "shaming" them.  I actually find that attitude both naive
and frightening.  Maybe that is just my conservative political leanings
showing through.

>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.

I'm wondering why you are involved in this discussion, then?  What about
it makes you think that it will not degenerate into some kind of rude

In my experience, philosophical discussions like this are more likely to
result in harsh interchanges than questions about code.  I suppose,

Anyway, the reality is that very very few people actually bother to look
at the code.  Most people here prefer to speculate on a program's behavior
rather than actually invest in figuring it out for themselves.  I call
it the "I wonder if it's raining out" syndrome.

>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

No one has suggested that people should not ask questions.  You are
apparently objecting to the "search google" responses but Chuck and
others have indicated that, given the volume (among other things), there
is only a limited amount of time that the old-timers can provide.  So, I
don't see how setting up a newbie mailing list would help.  Are you
expecting new people to step forward to answer questions in exhaustive

I would expect that if I set up a cygwin-newbies mailing list we'd just
see a lot of cross posting between the two lists and it would actually
end up just adding to the confusion.

Actually, the "here's what you should do" attitude is also something
about this list that bothers me.  You very very rarely see that turned
around to either "What can *I* do?" or even "Here's what I can do".
That's too bad.

There are always a vast number of things that the handful of people who
contribute to the project can do, but if you divide a large number into
a small number, what you get is a fraction.  That's what we can provide.

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

There is little "strictness" here.  We try to curb off-topic posts given
the high volume of traffic.  Other than that, pretty much anything goes.

The bottom line is that you *are* using the software.  You've gotten it
for free.  It is providing value.  You can try to justify your
non-contribution (whether it is in answering questions or contributing
code) by thinking "They are all too rude.  I'm not contributing" but
that's really an ethical issue that is probably outside of the scope of
this mailing list.

I got started as a net contributor.  I asked a few questions and figured
out how to build cygwin myself.  When I had problems with cygwin, I
provided patches.  Eventually someone suggested that I fill out the
assignment form that would allow me to directly contribute and then
eventually some poor misguided fool decided that Cygnus should hire me.

I don't remember what the tone of the mailing list was like in 1997.
All I know is that if I am using and enjoying something that I've gotten
for free, I like to see if I can somehow return the favor in a sort of
"pay it forward" type of scenario.  I know that all of the actual
contributors here are probably similarly motivated.  And, nearly all
of them are probably feeling the strain of the success that cygwin
has been "suffering".


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