[Tutor] help ;-) [How to Ask Good Questions]

Danny Yoo dyoo@hkn.eecs.berkeley.edu
Wed, 17 Oct 2001 01:08:29 -0700 (PDT)

[Warning: no programming content again.  This is more of a meta-question
thing.  We'll probably stop this thread soon.]

On Tue, 16 Oct 2001, Sean 'Shaleh' Perry wrote:

> > Let's try to make sure people know that they are welcome here, and
> > that we will do what we can to make it less intimidating.
> My apology if anyone saw this as intimidating.  I really was aiming
> this at the people who answer questions on this list, hopefully one of
> them has control over the actual list.  Several of my emails have been
> held beause the length was not sufficient or for other reasons.  Some
> magic person has ok'ed them.

That magic person would either be Deirdre, Wesley, or me.  *grin* I
haven't hear from Deirdre or Wesley for a while, so it looks like I'm
holding down the fort.  I must apologize as well for being preachy in the
last message.

About getting your messages held: Mailman has some rules about filtering
messages that are sometimes a little oversensitive.  At the same time,
they do appear to work most of the time: Spam flies at Tutor every day,
but the manager intercepts before it hits the rest of the list.  I try to
laugh it off, but it's a little depressing to see how much automation goes
into attacking a community of volunteers.

> Would it be that much harder to deny messages with a subject of only
> 'help'?  The mail from the bot could tell them to please add a better
> subject and resend.  Even point them to ESR's great essay.

Actually, the first time that anyone posts on Tutor, he or she will get an
autoresponse from the mailing list manager with the following:

Your message for tutor@python.org, the Python programming tutor list,
has been received and is being delivered.  This automated response is
sent to those of you new to the Tutor list, to point out a few
resources that can help with answering your own questions, or improve
the chances of getting a useful answer from the other subscribers.
... [message cut]

I'd be happy to add a link here to ESR's essay, but I should wait for a
consensus from the other tutor-admins before making the change to the
welcome text.

ESR's "How to Ask Questions The Smart Way" essay is a funny and
informative guide for newcomers to read before posting to a newsgroup or
mailing list.


I do agree with many of his points.  The biggest qualm I have about it,
though, is that its language is really blunt.  For example, calling people
"losers" for not knowing about the customs and habits of a community is
not the way I'd prefer to welcome people.  *grin*

However, I know he's using his language flamboyantly as a sort of "ha ha
only serious" thing --- his writing wouldn't be so compelling if it wasn't
so colorful.  Also, I'm a bit hypersensitive about language and the
connotations of words, so perhaps I'm worrying about nothing.

About rejecting headers with the word "help" in them... er, I don't know
about that one.  What do other people think about this?

As a disclaimer: I must admit bias about frowning about filtering "help"
messages: I am trying to avoid unnecessary work as an admin.  *grin* But
seriously, every message that gets filtered hits me and the other admins
for manual verification.  I also don't feel too comfortable about this
because the same configuration option is used to filter spammers...

In the terms of Lawrence Lessig's book "Code", I'd personally prefer that
making good message headers (and making good questions) be something
encouraged by community norms and not enforced by code.  Just my thoughts
on that.

Talk to you later!