This isn't your question to answer.

by @edent | # | Read ~235 times.

Just because I ask a question – doesn’t mean I’m asking you a question!

There’s a certain class of Internet user who troubles me. He – and it is usually a he – will strive to answer any technical question he sees asked, no matter his lack of expertise.

Here are the symptoms:

  • Sometimes he responds with the first Google link for the question – as though I haven’t thought of doing a basic search.
  • Sharing a link even though it’s dated from 2006 and specifically notes that it doesn’t work any more.
  • Saying “here’s the manual.” When you ask “have you tried it?” you’ll get a “well… no… but…!”
  • Asking a pointless clarifying question, like “is it related to the frotzbottle?” When asked if that’s a common source of the problem, he’ll reply “Well, I’ve never had the problem before but…”
  • Literally repling “No, sorry, haven’t a clue.” WHAT’S THE FUCKING POINT IN THAT?!

Let me be clear, when I ask a technical question along the lines of “Does anyone know how/why/where/what….” the emphasis is firmly on the “know“. I’m not asking for guesswork or detective work or divine inspiration – I’m putting out a plaintive call to those with knowledge.

But on and on and on it goes. Blokes who see a question mark on the Internet and assume it is directed solely at them. Even if they’ve zero knowledge of the subject at hand, they somehow feel that just by chipping in they’re making a positive contribution.

It doesn’t help. It’s bloody annoying. And I’m also guilty of it. GAH!

Question Marks - Dennis Brekke

The point is, of course, empathy. It’s appropriate in some situations – but when I want to know how to reconfigure my wotsit so that it can refangle my thingumies, I don’t really want to hear “that’s rough – sorry you’re having a hard time.”

I know, I know. You can’t decide how people should feel. And their feelings have intrinsic validity. But sometimes I want answers, not sympathy. Of course, sometimes I just want to know people are listening. Humans are messy and complicated.

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