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Re: Supercilious replies and I really do want your help

On Fri, 7 May 2004 09:46:12 +0200
Ken Fish <canfish@telkomsa.net> wrote:
> Will some one please suggest a suitable ALSA sound driver package for
> Linux release 2.4.24.xfs. The card is described as fm801. 
> So far I've recieved one reply. This was both supercilious and
> patronising. I have noticed that I'm not the only one to be on the
> recieving end of such treatment.  Please understand  that some of your
> fellow Debianians are new to the OS and are in need of real help and
> encouragement, not put downs. Please look into your hearts and help us
> new commers to learn about Linux.

I just looked up the reply you got, and I didn't find it either
supercilious or patronising.  I'm sorry you see it that way.

If someone calls you names, that's a put-down.  If someone suggests
to you that before asking the question, you should put some amount
of effort into trying to figure out the answer yourself, and if that
doesn't work then communicating what you tried in your question (so
that we don't waste your time and ours suggesting things you've
already tried), that's not a put-down, it's not supercilious, and
it's not patronising.  It's simply pointing out 1) that often you
can find the answer out for yourself pretty easily, and 2) that
making that effort isn't only good for you, but it also *shows
respect* for the people you're asking to take the time to respond
to you (and thus makes them more likely to *want* to respond).

You may not be the kind of person who simply wants other people
to solve his/her problems for them and isn't willing to put any
effort in him/herself.  You may not be that kind of person at all.
But nobody here knows you.  The only thing anyone here has to go
on is what you do in the messages you post to the list.  If you
seem like someone who's trying hard but has got as far as he
can go, is willing to illustrate what he's tried and where he's
stuck, and just wants a nudge in the right direction, you're
*far* more likely to get interested, helpful responses than if
you seem like someone who wants to put no effort in, and wants
other people (and volunteers, at that) to solve all his problems
for him.  I'm *not* saying you're like the latter person.  I'm
saying that it's in all of our best interests for you to seem
like the former.

To that end, for instance:

> PS To David Clymer I had already seached Google using many combos. Non
> have worked.

What combos did you use?  I googled once on "alsa fm801" and once on
just "fm801", and both times the *very first page* of Google results
contained links to the answer to your question.  Under normal
circumstances, if someone posts a question of "How do I do X?" and
I google on "X" and find the answer promptly, I'm going to conclude
"this is someone who doesn't want to do any work themselves; so my
time is better spent other ways, perhaps by helping people who *are*."
I'm definitely not alone in that regard.  Now, you may be thinking
that my conclusion is incorrect.  OK, fine.  But it's a natural one
to make, given the limited data one gets from this list.  So it's
in your best interest (that is, maximizes your chances of getting a
helpful response) to seem otherwise.  It's also in everyone else's
best interests too.

I'm afraid you're going to interpret this as an insult, when I promise
that I don't mean it as one.  But I strongly suggest taking a look at:


which is often hyped as the canonical document for how to ask questions
on tech-related lists and similar fora.  Some people reflexively find
the content of this guide annoying because it's all about behavior;
people don't like to think their behavior isn't optimal.  But I'm a
pragmatist:  I want an answer to my questions, and so I want to know
the best way to get one.  In that context, this guide is no more
annoying than any other set of instructions or guidelines.  In fact,
sometimes when I'm posting a particularly difficult (for me) question,
I go back and look at it and see if there's any good suggestions in it
that I haven't implemented in the question I'm composing.

I hope this hasn't come across as patronising.  Believe me, I'm not
*that* far removed from a novice myself, so patronising novices isn't
something I want to do.  I honestly think taking this seriously would
be helpful to you.


Chris Metzler			cmetzler@speakeasy.snip-me.net
		(remove "snip-me." to email)

"As a child I understood how to give; I have forgotten this grace since I
have become civilized." - Chief Luther Standing Bear

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