Subject: Re: explanation
From: (Rob Warnock)
Date: Sun, 29 Sep 2002 10:10:15 -0000
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>
Erik Naggum <> replied:
| Any given individual you ask will require a personal rapport with
| your prior understanding before he can provide you with useful and
| contextually relevant and correct answers. You need to be aware of
| this process when you ask questions and receive answers to them.

Amen! In fact, this is *so* true that for the last several years I
have made it an absolute requirement that before agreeing to assist
someone on a project via email that we have at least one lengthy
face-to-face meeting -- or if that is not possible (e.g., the person is
in a distant country) at the *very* least a lengthy telephone call --
during which we mutually introduce ourselves, go into some considerable
detail on our backgrounds, technical histories, skills, technical
preferences/prejudices (e.g., we {love,hate} {C,C++,Perl,PHP,Lisp,etc.}),
so that we have enough (or at least a bare minimum of) context about
each other to be able to at least ask the right *questions*!!

With such an intro, the subsequent email exchanges tend to be crisp,
to the point, and fruitful. (Though every so often, another, much-shorter
phone call my be required to "get back in sync".)

But without such a mutual "core dump" intro, almost invariably *enormous*
amounts of time get wasted in an increasingly lengthy and frustrating
series of email exchanges as we attempt resolve a growing cloud of
confusion and misunderstanding and try to hammer out some common ground
for cooperation.

Now how does one apply that to coming to a new newsgroup? It doesn't
seem to offer any hope! Well, actually, it does, though the process
just takes a *lot* longer. Instead of single dinner meeting or one
several-hour phone call, when coming to a newsgroup new to you
(technical or not), for the first several weeks (yes, I said *weeks*!),
just "lurk" -- that is, only read what others write; don't post anything
of your own.

First, you will almost surely find the answers to most of your initial
questions (e.g., "Is there an FAQ for this group?", "Are there some
resource web sites?"), but much more importantly, you will (1) learn
the style of interaction which is practiced in that group, and (2) learn
who the main players are, and who generally gives good advice (or at
least well-reasoned answers) and who just flames & trolls.

But you also need to go *read* the various off-newsgroup references
you see mentioned -- for comp.lang.lisp, that means exploring most of
<URL:> for starters, as well learning how to use

Then, and only then, you might (actually, probably *will*) have enough
context to pose "reasonable" newbie questions...


Rob Warnock, PP-ASEL-IA		<>
627 26th Avenue			<URL:>
San Mateo, CA 94403		(650)572-2607