[svlug] yum extender

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Fri Jul 8 13:00:29 PDT 2005

Quoting Dan Martinez (steeljack at gmail.com):

> I highly recommend "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way" as a tutorial
> in interacting with geeks. (Rick may have refrained from mentioning it
> because he's not the sort to toot his own horn; I am happy to toot it
> for him.)
> http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

Dan, your cheque's in the mail.  ;->

(I should hasten to mention Bill Hubbard is most definitely a longtime
"one of us" in the techie sense; he's merely new to _Unixey_ stuff.)

I've been considering writing a candidate replacement for "How to Ask
Questions the Smart Way", mostly because it's become too _lengthy_ --
and because of my lingering suspicion that its content is organised
suboptimally.  Which interferes with reaching the target audience.  (See:

That's not too surprising, given how the piece came together:  Eric and
I found out that we'd both been trying to write nearly the same essay,
independently, so I e-mailed Eric the portions I have, and he dropped
them into the patchwork.  Then, it started growing, as we and others
thought of new sub-topics to graft onto the draft essay.  So, not
surprisingly, the result is a bit disorganised and long-winded.

[1] A subtle and difficult question:  How _does_ one determine whether a
piece of public documentation is reaching the target audience properly
and doing its intended job?  "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way" has
been massively popular with techies -- witness the hyperlinks to it from
untold thousands of technical Web sites as a "please read this first" 
link -- but they're not the target audience, and gaining favour with
them is kind of like preaching to the choir.  If the techies like it and
refer everyone to it, but the target audience either doesn't bother or 
doesn't benefit, then it's a failure, not a success.

Every day of the year, I get about a half-dozen personal e-mails from
strangers who obviously found a link to that essay and mistakenly
assumed that my co-author mailto link in it proves I'm a free-of-charge
private help resource for J. Random Technical Project.   

About 20% of those are courtesy of http://faq.javaranch.com/ (JavaRanch
being "A Friendly Place for Java Greenhorns") which used to link
directly to the essay, but recently put a folksy, ultra-friendly-worded
paraphrased version of it as the first link, and people _still_ e-mail
me and Eric their Java problems.  Which means that a lot of people just
aren't reading the essay at all, because it _says_ right near the top
(section "Disclaimer") to please not do that.

It's difficult to know whether this is because the essay isn't
effectively enough written, or whether the correspondents are... past
help.  One tries not to be cynical -- and is lead to wonder how the essay
might be rewritten to make it more effective.

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