"shouted down", "shot down", apologies

Robinow, David drobinow@dayton.adroit.com
Fri Jun 29 06:04:00 GMT 2001

Larry, have you considered just shutting up when you don't know the answer?
> From: Larry Hall (RFK Partners, Inc) [ mailto:lhall@rfk.com ]
> Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2001 12:28 PM
> To: cygwin@cygwin.com
> Subject: Re: "shouted down", "shot down", apologies
> This is exactly my approach as well.  I have to say that I'm a bit 
> dismayed that folks contributing to this and the "blunt tools" thread
> have mentioned dissatisfaction with what seemed to me to be such a 
> straight-forward and logical approach.  When responding to queries on
> this list, I've always followed these simple rules:
>    1. If I know the question is an FAQ, I point to the entry 
> there (*very*
>       rarely do I just point at the FAQ without the exact entry).  
>       Generally I feel there's little benefit to restating 
> what's in the 
>       FAQ.  It just doesn't seem to be a good use of my time.  If its 
>       inadequate in some way, we'll hear about it and make 
> the appropriate 
>       change (which seems to me as it should be).
>    2. If I kn
> ow something specific about the subject, I respond with it.
>       Sometimes this means I have to ask a question or two before I'm 
>       sure what's been tried already and whether the poster 
> is aware of 
>       a previous discussion on the subject.  That all seems 
> like part of
>       the process to me and I don't begrudge people for it.
>    3. If I know that this subject has come up before and has been 
>       discussed but don't remember allot of details, I point to the 
>       email archives.  In this case, I don't point to a 
> specific message,
>       although I do occasionally offer a search key that I think might
>       help find the discussion I recall.  I don't spend my 
> time looking 
>       up the exact archive entry or entries that I'm 
> recalling.  I don't
>       even promise that the stuff I'm remembering is even 
> helpful (though
>       that's my intent and what I'm hoping for!)  I'm just providing 
>       potential source of information that may prove useful.  
> It may not 
>       too.  If it doesn't or its too hard to find, I expect 
> the original 
>       poster will query the list again with an update of the 
> things tried 
>       and the results.  If there's no success at this point, 
> I sometimes
>       see if there's something more specific I can find 
> myself and post 
>       that if so.
>    4. If the question being answered is specific and detailed enough
>       that an inspection of the source is likely to be the 
> only path to
>       a useful answer (barring someone else who has been in 
> the source,
>       knows the answer, and will subsequently offer it), I *suggest* 
>       looking at the source.  I do this when its clear someone is a 
>       developer or has mentioned they are working with some 
> other source.
>       I mention it if I'm not sure whether the person is a 
> developer or 
>       not, usually pointing out that it is an option if they're up to 
>       it.  I tend not to mention it if the person states that 
> they have
>       no experience reading/writing code.  Generally, I don't feel 
>       obli
> gated to go inspect the source to answer someone else's question,
>       although there are exceptions or times I do it anyway.
>    5. If I know nothing about the subject, I keep my mouth shut.
> I've used all five of these modes in the past on this list 
> and seen them
> work, at least on some occasions, exactly as I expected them 
> to.  We've
> heard back from people who've had a hard time with an FAQ 
> entry.  We've
> heard from people who say they've searched the archives but turned up
> nothing.  We've heard back from people saying they're not capable of 
> looking at the source for one reason or another.  To me, all of this 
> seems reasonable dialog in the course of trying to help 
> someone with a 
> problem.  I've always felt that providing some information, 
> be it direct
> or a pointer to something which could be helpful is better 
> than no answer
> at all (indeed, this list has more than once in the past been berated
> for *not* responding in some way to a post!)  However, it troubles me 
> that some in the recent discussions have pointed to the replies with 
> references to previous discussions and the FAQ as "non-answers" (I'm 
> using this term generally now although I know it was a 
> specific member 
> of the previous discussions that first offered it up and it may have 
> applied in that case to a problem with the specific set of 
> tools in use 
> at the time.  I think it categorizes a general sentiment I got from 
> reading these threads though).  The impression I'm left with is that 
> there is at least some people on this list that feel these 
> "non-answers" 
> are offered in spite.  I'm not sure how prevalent this view 
> is or where
> the feeling comes from.  It's certainly not my intent when I 
> provide such
> an answer, as I've clarified above.  I know I don't sit in my chair 
> reading email, jealously holding onto all the answers, and responding
> with pointers (or worse, some obtuse reference), just to throw someone
> off the track or to keep them chasing an answer I know.  I 
> provide the 
> best answer I can at the time and I expec
> t if it doesn't meet the need,
> someone will speak up.  If the poster does follow-up, I or 
> someone else 
> may be able to help home in on the it a little more and 
> provide a better 
> solution or pointer.  Perhaps others have a different agenda when 
> answering, although I've pretty much read every post on this 
> list for the
> last 5+ years and I've never been left with that impression.  YMMV.
> So I guess what I'd like to say is, let's not throw around 
> accusations 
> of this sort.  If you receive a response to your query and 
> its not what
> you want, you're free to use it or not.  Query further if you 
> like too.
> Don't expect others have all the answers or be willing to 
> look into the
> details of all your problems.  I'm not saying that people 
> won't fix your
> problems or help you do so.  But they're going to do it their way, in 
> their time, and at their option.  If that's not what you need 
> or want, you 
> can again query further but keep in mind that you're dealing with 
> volunteers here.  Pushing may have the opposite reaction to 
> your intended 
> goal.  I actually think its a shame for people to be critical in the
> face of someone's sincere intent to help the poster address 
> their issue.
> After all, the responder is only trying to provide useful 
> information or
> be truthful about their level of personal involvement in any 
> implementation of a solution.  That all seems pretty reasonable and 
> professional to me, even if the result is not something the 
> poster wants
> to hear.  However, the impression I'm getting from the 
> discussion is that
> unless someone is willing to provide any and all support for an issue,
> in the form the poster wants it, then no response is 
> preferable to some
> response.  I guess I can live with that, if that's what the list in 
> general wants but I personally feel it would make for a much 
> less helpful
> and active community.  Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe its time for 
> me personally
> to adjust my level of participation in Cygwin, since I see my way of
> contributing could be construed as fitting the pattern of "
> discouragement"
> as defined by others.  Hm, maybe.  I'll have to think a little more 
> about that.  As is always the case, we can all use a little more free 
> time! ;-)  Anyway, since we've all been sharing our thoughts on this 
> matter I thought I'd offer mine, since its a slightly different than
> some of the those posted earlier.  I'm really for the idea of 
> having a 
> Cygwin community.  So far, I believe its been a great 
> success.  I hope it 
> continues to be in some form! :-)  Actually, this is a good 
> time for me
> to say "thanks" to all those who work to provide and improve 
> Cygwin and
> its tools.  I don't do this enough.  This is really top-notch 
> stuff! :-)

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