On Tuesday 20 March 2007, Simon Budig wrote:
> Hi.
> Shlomi Fish ([EMAIL PROTECTED]) wrote:
> > It took me 10 minutes to write.
> Oh wow. Is it just me or is this really a *lot* of time? Personally I'd
> consider answering 6 "lazy questions" per hour a waste of time.

Well, a few notes:

1. I didn't measure how much time it took me exactly. It was probably less 
than 10 minutes. Something like 5 or 7 minutes. Hard for me to tell.

2. I had to find a URL which more experienced developers would know by heart.

3. 10 minutes is much less time consuming that writing a bug-fix or an 
enhancement patch for the GIMP or for any other program. If it takes me 10 
minutes to answer someone in a polite, friendly and encouraging way and he or 
she later become an active developer, then I may have "wasted" 10 minutes, 
but subsequently got hours and days of voluntary development in return.

Which alternative is better? You decide.

(I'm not saying any people who is friendly will become so, but the fact is 
we've deterred a great deal of potential contributors due to such behaviour.)

4. I believe it can be further reduced by creating an FAQ or a pharsebook of 
canned responses.

5. If you don't want to answer it - just skip to the next message, and let 
someone else answer it.

6. I believe many questions can be eliminated into the future by good human 
factors engineering. See for example:


Reading from it:

Almost every tech support problem has two solutions. The superficial and 
immediate solution is just to solve the customer’s problem. But when you 
think a little harder you can usually find a deeper solution: a way to 
prevent this particular problem from ever happening again.

Sometimes that means adding more intelligence to the software or the SETUP 
program; by now, our SETUP program is loaded with special case checks. 
Sometimes you just need to improve the wording of an error message. Sometimes 
the best you can come up with is a knowledge base article.

We treat each tech support call like the NTSB treats airliner crashes. Every 
time a plane crashes, they send out investigators, figure out what happened, 
and then figure out a new policy to prevent that particular problem from ever 
happening again. It’s worked so well for aviation safety that the very, very 
rare airliner crashes we still get in the US are always very unusual, one-off 

Speaking for experience, I got many emails for Freecell Solver ( 
http://fc-solve.berlios.de ), in which I was asked something along the lines 
of "I unpacked the zip file, double clicked the executable but all I get is 
an empty DOS BOX"). This happened because the executable just expected to 
receive standard input, and people who downloaded the Windows binary expected 
it would start a GUI. As a result, I added a small blurb to the standard 
error saying:

Reading the board from the standard input.
Type "fc-solve --help" for more usage information.
To cancel this message set the FREECELL_SOLVER_QUIET environment variable.

And as a result, I no longer received such messages, and was no longer 
bothered by them.[1] 

If someone asks a question times and again, then we can probably restructure 
the web-site, the program, the online help or whatever to prevent them from 

> (Sorry for not replying to all of your mail - this just stuck out to me)

No problem. Although I would like to receive a reply from you or someone else.


        Shlomi Fish

[1] - It is possible that after reading this message, the people who 
downloaded and run the Windows binary just gave up on the program. But at 
least I was no longer bothered with it. 

Shlomi Fish      [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Homepage:        http://www.shlomifish.org/

Chuck Norris wrote a complete Perl 6 implementation in a day but then
destroyed all evidence with his bare hands, so no one will know his secrets.
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