SUMMARY: Opinions on the mechanics of this group wanted

From: Rich Kulawiec (
Date: Wed Dec 04 1996 - 08:49:03 CST

A *lot* of you responded to my query about the mechanics and operation
of this mailing list. It's taken me several days to turn all those
responses into this summary, because while there was a general consensus,
there were a lot of diverse points of view expressed.

The consensus seems to work out to something like this:

Don't ask for help if you're not willing to give it. That doesn't
mean that junior people are expected to try to answer complex
questions that challenge senior people; it means:

        - that anyone asking a question should "play by the rules"
        as expressed in the FAQ and be sure to summarize the responses
        for everyone's mutual benefit.

        - that in a few years, when those people are more experienced,
        they should return the help they were given by helping those
        who are just starting out.

        - that nobody should be bothering the list until they've exhausted
        other resources. Resources frequently cited are:
                (1) the manuals (RTFM!)
                (2) the Sun-Manager's FAQ
                (3) the various Usenet FAQ's
                (4) the README file that came with the software package
                (5) the AnswerBooks
                (6) browsing/searching the Sun-Manager's archive
                (7) searching the SunSolve web site
                (8) using a web searching engine like Alta Vista and
                        a couple of relevant keywords.

        - that anybody who *doesn't want to "play by the rules"
        as expressed in the FAQ is on their own -- of course,
        they're free to start their own Sun-Manager's mailing list
        with their own rules.

        - that, judging from the responses I received, open-ended queries
        like "How do I set up NIS?" are the least likely to receive
        answers, because they indicate no effort on the part of the
        person posing the question. Specific questions ("I have done
        X and Y and Z, I am observing A and B when I think I should be
        observing C, what might be wrong?") are much more likely
        to receive friendly answers.

        - that incomplete questions (don't mention which version of
        the OS, which hardware platform, which version of a 3rd-party
        package, etc.) usually cause at least one extra round of email
        -- or -- cause people to ignore the question.

        - that people in a position to answer questions don't seem
        to have a problem with inexperience (on the part of the people
        asking the questions) but they do have a problem with laziness.
        (This ties in to the list of resources above, but it was mentioned
        often enough that I figured it deserved its own listing.)

        - that opinions were split on how to respond to queries such
        as that posed by Mr. Glass. There were roughly three viewpoints:
        (a) ignore them (b) don't answer them and point them at the FAQ
        or (c) answer them and point them at the FAQ. Most of the
        folks thought (a) or (b) were the right options. Many people
        commented that they noticed which folks didn't "play by the rules"
        and were in the habit of (a).

        - that the more experienced people are, the less tolerant they
        are of folks' infractions of the "rules". (I can understand
        this; back in the Olde Days, running Unix meant you got a tape,
        a 2-inch stack of manuals, and Bell Lab's best wishes. No
        FAQs, no mailing lists, no books, no newsgroups, no web, nothing.
        Many of us are completely delighted to have a resource like
        this and don't want to see it become non-useful.) (And we had
        to run our machines with coal. And we were shackled in dark,
        damp cellars with only the burning of old RSTS and VMS manuals
        for heat and light... ;-) )

Anyway, I'd like to thank *almost* everybody for responding, especially
the people who disagreed with my initial opinion and took the time to
make cogent arguments for other points of view. You've given me plenty
to think about.

I say "almost", because I'd like to extend special recognition to the
person who decided that it would be appropriate to avoid answering
the question and instead take a few potshots at my religious and
ethical values, or lack thereof. Not a good idea, especially when
you're dealing with someone who survived the Mark Ethan Smith flame wars
on Usenet back about a decade ago. :-) In an attempt to adopt some
of the "kinder, gentler" suggestions which arrived, I declined to
respond, and just ignored it. This time. Now you all owe me a cookie
(raisin-oatmeal, please) for being so patient. ;-)

Rich Kulawiec

Folks who contributed (in alphabetical order):
Bill Reed <>
Bob Woodward <>
CO Thomas Esser(101) <>
Claus Assmann <>
Dan Pritts <>
Daniel Lorenzini <>
Gary Lee <>
Herbert Wengatz <>
James Cayz <>
Jim Harmon <>
John D Groenveld <> (Keith Willenson)
Kevin P. Inscoe <> (Kevin Sheehan {Consulting Poster Child})
Marcus Pless <>
Mark Belanger <>
Michael R. Zika <>
Mick Morgan <>
Rachel Polanskis <>
Ray Brownrigg <>
Wanda Perrier <> (Alan Hill)
applix!cobra! (Charles Homan [ext 422]) (Brett Lymn) (Brian Desmond) (Celeste Stokely) (Dave McFerren) (Edgar Der-Danieliantz) (Frank Pardo) (Gary Carr) (Glenn Carver) (Colin Melville) (Jack Reiner) (John) (John W. Funk) (James Kwong)
manderso (Mark S. Anderson) (Mark S. Anderson) (Martin Achilli) (Nina) (Kerry O'Bryhim) (Jerry Springer) (Syed Zaeem Hosain)

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