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

Christopher Faylor
Mon Jun 25 18:47:00 GMT 2001

On Mon, Jun 25, 2001 at 07:09:01PM -0400, Mark Keil wrote:
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Christopher Faylor [ ]
>> Sent: Monday, June 25, 2001 2:50 PM
>> To:
>> Subject: Re: Blunt Tools (was: cgf does not want private email about
>> cygwin)
>> 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.
>Hammering might not be as necessary if users could be better helped to
>be more prepared.

Sorry, but it is basic psychology that repetition is important if you
want to learn something.

This thread is a perfect example.  I had to send my "cgf does not want"
message a couple of times before people even noticed.

>> Doing the research yourself and answering every single 
>> repeated question with elaborate detail IMO 1) doesn't
>> scale and 2) doesn't really teach.
>In light of this discussion, I'm curious why you were against
>adding google search examples to the FAQ?

>There I tried to suggest a way get people up to speed faster
>on the learning curve and I was shot down. By cgf no less.
>A bit discouraging.

I suppose that you are referring to this ringing denunciation from Larry Hall:

*>I'm not sure that it makes sense to generally just add a bunch of Q and A'a
*>to the FAQ with search URLs.  Search URLs, IMO, are mechanism to teach folks 
*>the way to search the archives and net for answers to questions they have, 
*>common or not.  To me, this is a complimentary resource to the FAQ, not 
*>fodder for it.  In that light, it might be worthwhile to add an entry in the 
*>FAQ of the form:
*>   Q. This FAQ doesn't answer my question.  Where can I find the answer?
*>   A. The best option is to search the mailing list and/or the net for your
*>      issue.  Search the Cygwin mail archives at
*>      or use your favorite search engine (i.e. to search the
>      net.
*>In terms of the issue about printing and the absence of lp/lpr, I suggest
*>adding a specific entry here that provides some of the alternatives that
*>have been mentioned in the email archives (i.e. bash aliases, script files,
*>DOSisms, batch files).  Just my $.02.

Which was followed by my unbelievably rude response:

*>I agree with this.  The FAQ should contain answers to questions, where possible,
*>not pointers to potential answers for questions.

Or this zinger from me:

*>I hope you are not going to add a "Use google to search for things"
*>entry.  I don't think that such an entry would be useful.
*Let me amend this.  I guess it makes sense to add an entry about using
*google to search.  I don't think that it makes sense to add specific
*google URLs beyond .

I assume that this is the one that has bothered you:

*>Btw, I am against the idea of adding a bunch of search keys to the FAQ.
*>I think it is entirely inappropriate to do this.
*>If people are really that helpless I assume that they will not be able to
*>even get to the FAQ.

If that upset you then I sincerely apologize.

>>In my experience, philosophical discussions like this are more likely
>>to result in harsh interchanges than questions about code.  I suppose,
>Philosophy gets close to values, and value conflicts are the root of
>most harsh interchanges, at least in my observation.

In other words "I agree with what you're saying, cgf."

>> 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.
>I have used cygwin for three years and it has worked so well that I
>havn't really needed to monitor the list.  That is until I tried to get
>inetd to work...  As a relatively new addition to the list it wasn't
>real obvious how to come up to speed fast.  I thrashed a bit, as I
>didn't have the luxury of lurking for months.  When I learned of
>Earnies google search aids that was a big help.  When I thought, I can
>help here and suggest that it be added to the faq (It ceatainly would
>have helped me if it had been in the faq).  It was shot down, by cgf.

You had an opinion.  I disagreed.  I didn't find any other person
agreeing with you and someone else, whose opinion I respect agreed with

So, the end result is that your suggestion was put into effect in a
modified form.  We mentioned in the FAQ.

This is how real life works.  It's a compromise.

>So, what can I do?
>I can't add a line to the sig that suggests that users check the faq,
>and in http form so that it is brain dead easy to check the faq.
>I can't add lines to the welcome to the cygwin first mail that
>recommends that the new member check the faq and user guide,
>and in http form to make it brain dead easy to access these pages.
>I can't modify the cygwin web page to highlight the faq and user
>guide in another section about being prepared to ask questions
>mre effectively, and that that will result in better answers.

These are good ideas.  I've done some of them.

Please post your alternate section (as originally suggested by Egor) and
I'll look into adding it.

Please don't consider yourself "shot down" if I disagree with your wording
or decide that I don't want to include everything that you submit.

>I can give you a modified paragraph for the cygwin web page
>that highlights the resources that would help new seekers:
>For all other questions and observations, please send email to the
>Cygwin Mailing List.  This includes questions about where to find
>things, questions about why things are done a certain way, questions
>about the color preferences of Cygwin developers, questions about the
>meaning of the number 42, etc.  For better answers please check these
>before posting (and you may even find your answer)
> and

I've made some similar changes to the cygwin web page.  Thank you.

>I can observe that a mailing list faq might be helpful, and maybe it
>could contain google search examples that would help teach people to
>make informed querys with less thrashing before they reach
>enlightenment.  Maybe a seperate faq might pass muster?

As I have previously stated, I'm willing to be reasoned with on this.  I
still don't agree that we have to provide that level of hand holding.
As far as I can tell, most people seem to need to be made aware that
there are ways to approach the problem that do not necessarily involve
plaintively asking for help.

You may have noticed that I asked for people to post their mailing list
and google search tricks.  If I see something there that is truly amazing
and beyond "I type the word cygwin and then I click through the responses"
maybe I'll be convinced to add search terms.

For now, I still think that this will just lead to confusion.  It is my
belief that when you provide too precise a level of detail on how to do
things you end up losing the big picture.  I certainly don't want to ever
see a message that has words like:  "I tried the cygwin google search engine
and it didn't work" in an email message.

>Make it easy to succeed.  It will pay the dividend of more informed
>I can be hopeful that this won't be shot down.  :-)

You really have an issue with this don't you?


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