Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(December 1992)

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Subject: Re: For your amusement
From: Dave Hayes <dave @ elxr . jpl . Nasa . Gov>
Date: Mon, 28 Dec 92 11:24:29 -0800
To: list-managers @ GreatCircle . COM

> Hand-holding obviously doesn't work; I've had the same 'clueless users' do
> the same stupid things over and over again, despite my politely correcting
> them (usually in person). They just assume that I'm going to continue to
> hold their hands, and never learn. The clueless messages were very polite; I
> don't see anything wrong there.

That's probably because it's not a "gross" wrongness. The subtley here is that
the message accomplishes the following:

1) "There is nobody of worth reading this mailing list." This communicates
that the person reading this is "nobody of worth". Now this might be funny
to the right person, but you have to expect some people to choose to take
offense at being implicitly regarded as worthless.

"Welcome to the Clueless Users Network Test System, an intelligence test for
the ignorant and impolite." isn't very polite either. In general, it's impolite
to rub someone's nose in their own noviceness. 

2) "If, on the other hand, you simply have no clue how to deal with mailing
lists, you'd better start reading up on the subject before you go blundering
around again.  Your attention is cordially drawn to the newsgroups
news.announce.newusers, news.newusers.questions, and news.answers."

This, instead of saying "The proper way to do this is <blah>"? If it's so easy to
do that a novice can do it, then why can't the person who wrote this nice bit
of cordiality include the simple "send mail to <list>-request" on it? Generally,
friendly rebukes contain information for making things right, not pointers. 

And certainly not obvious trick questions like:

"Hint: the mailing list address is clueless @
 mantis .
 co .
 uk .

Final hint: most mail servers understand the "help" command."

> I expect a certain level of competence from people on The Net (tm); it's
> still required to participate. Quite honestly, someone who a) can't figure
> out how to subscribe/unsubscribe from a list, despite all the documentation

How does a first time mailing list user find out that there exists documentation 
about mailing lists? Someone who's good at particle physics may not be good at
ferreting out documentation through his randomly configured Sun workstation. 
Maybe there's a firewall that only email can get through. 

> Maybe you think I'm being heavy handed; go wade through the comp.sys.*
> hierarchy sometime for examples of the drivel that we're subjected to
> nowadays.

Well, one man's drivel is another man's wisdom. And vice versa. 
Dave Hayes - Network & Communications Engineering - JPL / NASA - Pasadena CA
dave @
 elxr .
 jpl .
 nasa .
 gov       dave @
 jato .
 jpl .
 nasa .
 gov         ...usc!elroy!dxh

The difference between a moral man and a man of honour is that the latter 
regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been 

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