Smart questions and bikeshedding

Peter Flynn peter at silmaril.ie
Fri Aug 24 11:03:33 UTC 2018


On 24/08/18 11:38, Ralf Mardorf wrote:
> On Fri, 24 Aug 2018 11:04:40 +0100, Peter Flynn wrote: 
>>>>> Ralf Mardorf wrote:  
>>>>>> Please read http://www.catb.org/esr/faqs/smart-questions.html .  
>> It needs condensing (tl;dr) or we need a more concise and
>> up-to-date page to refer users to.
> 
> I agree on Nils's as well as on your opinion. The link is
> "intimidating" and way too long, containing a lot of irrelevant
> information and a few insults. 

It was fashionable in the days of the BOfH to belittle the user as a
method of education. Experts used understandably to resent the waste of
their time answering every one of each day's 32,786 queries with "RTFM"
and as someone who went through that route, I had a certain sympathy
with them.

Unfortunately the separation of concerns which led to the rise of the
"help desk" (in order to give the experts and developers some
breathing-space) meant that questions are now answered by people with
very little knowledge and even less understanding. This is fine for
Level 1 questions ("my printer doesn't work") but it doesn't educate the
user in how to ask better questions when they get to Level 2 or Level 3.
*That's* where we are missing out.

Outside that kind of structured corporate or institutional system, we
value the open-source field as one where users can ask the experts
directly, but the users have still not been taught how to do this
efficiently. *That's* why we need a better "HOWTO" page.

> However, it's a link much used, since
> it's not easy to find a better explanation.

Indeed it's not, and I should probably get off my hobbyhorse and
re-write the damn thing :-)

///Peter




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