[erlang-questions] Apology

Sashan Govender <>
Tue Sep 20 03:46:38 CEST 2016


One of the things I've learned when writing responses to questions is
not to use rhetorical questions. For example 'what do you think?' can
come across as condescending, depending on the reader, and especially
if you have spent 4 hours at home thinking about this after working 8
hours in your day job. Personally mailing lists and forums are the
last place I go to find and answer and I only use them when I've
exhausted my will to find the answer elsewhere, either by reading
documentation, writing some test code, or reading someone else's code.
Almost all those options are preferable to me. Additionally people on
this list are not the type of people to have not tried. They are on
this list out of curiosity and interest in Erlang, so by default you
should assume that they have thought about the problem before posting
to the list. Rhetorical questions work better in a face to face
dialogue when trying to employ the Socratic method (for example see
here: http://www.garlikov.com/Soc_Meth.html) to elicit from the other
person what they might already know but haven't realized, however, in
a face to face dialogue the tone in the voice also carries meaning and
a question like 'what do you think?' in that context comes with a tone
that is lost in a written email. Asked in person, a question like
'what do you think?' conveys that you value that person's opinion. In
an email, the tone of voice isn't there and the question can be
misconstrued.

Avoid subjective statements like 'the documentation is very clear'. It
doesn't add anything and doesn't serve any purpose. The person asking
the question wouldn't have asked if it was 'very clear'. To be honest,
it's pretty similar to RTFM.

'That would require us to read your mind' is contradictory given that
you engaged in mind reading a few sentences above with "Why would you
ever have thought that S *might* be an integer?" It's also reminiscent
of something similar to what the alpha geeks at school would have said
behind a snigger, but that's just my perception, biased by my personal
life experience. Phrases that work as jokes in real life amongst
friends lose their meaning on mailing lists with strangers.


On Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 3:05 PM,  <> wrote:
> I have been taken to task in private e-mail by someone
> who detected in my response to the "list comprehension puzzle"
> both "aggressive sarcasm" and "undisguised contempt".
>
> In all honesty, no sarcasm was intended. (A sarcastic response
> would not have pointed to the Erlang reference manual.) Nor
> was any contempt whatsoever involved.  I should not have to
> reassure long-term readers of this mailing list that these
> attitudes my critic claimed to detect were entirely imaginary.
>
> However, it shows that it was possible for people to misread
> what I wrote.  If anyone took offence at the message I
> *meant* to be helpful, please accept my assurance that no
> offence was intended and my unreserved apology for the offence.
>
>
>
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> 
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