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    Let us not forget this: http://www.nohello.com/

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      Personally speaking, I say “hi” and “hello” very often on IRC but I never expect an answer to these greetings. I answer to other’s greetings very infrequently. I’m only notified with explicit mentions so I’m not annoyed by short sympathetic messages. I really expect other people to do the same.

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        I agree with the main point of nohello.com, but is this really true?

        Typing is much slower than talking.

        I think I type faster than I talk (when not using a phone).

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            Totally agree, but using Blogger makes this weird on mobile. It relies on the desktop index page to show the full article, but mobile shows a confusing generated summary.

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            This is a bit of a pet peeve at work chat:

            • hi
            • hi
            • Can I ask a question?
            • Sure
            • [actual question]

            So instead of 1 distractions/turn-around times we now have 3. Sigh. It’s gotten even more annoying since I moved to New Zealand, since there the turn-around time is now a lot longer due to TZ differences so asking a simple question can take days.

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              Useful short-circuiting response that I’ve found works quite well:

              • hi
              • Hey, what’s up?
              • [actual question]
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                I kill conversations like that at the earliest stage by not replying to the initial hello/hi/hey. That might sound like a harsh “state your business” approach but undeniably prevents wasting your time with turn-arounds like the one you had. If the person starting the conversation is able to go further than the initial greeting and at least beginns to formulate his question, I reply. Otherwise the conversation ends right there.

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                  That sounds pretty passive-aggressive and unproductive to me. After answering the question (or telling them I don’t know) I usually just follow up with “hey, next time just feel free to ask your question; you should get an answer faster and I get distracted less :-)”

                  Even though it can be annoying, people are just trying to be friendly and considerate. No need to respond with rudeness, IMHO.

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                    For my own productivity it’s anything but unproductive, that’s the only reason I’m doing this. I could give it a try to educate people on how to begin conversations without wasting your opponents time though.

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                      Referring to people in a chat room as “opponents” might be an indication your talents would be more appreciated in a different context. We all want to de-fang Help Vampires; I’ve found arp242’s approach to be effective.

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                Some of us appreciate the attempt at politeness for people asking to ask. Feels really brusque otherwise.

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                  You can be polite while also just asking your question: “Hi there, I’m trying to do X with Y, and I’m stuck with Z. Any helpful tips? Thanks a lot!”

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                    Isn’t that basically what the linked articles in this thread suggest?

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                    If you’re at a gathering in-person, for sure; don’t just start a monologue. Such politeness is useless in async mediums like IRC and mailing lists IMO.

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                      Mailing lists, sure. On IRC or other nominal community centers, though, such adrupt inquiries feed even further into the one-way flow of effort in a lot of these communities.

                      It sucks to put the effort into helping newbies when all they do is show up, treat it like a real-time Stack Overflow, and vanish again until their next question.

                      I get the strong streak of antisocial behavior in programmers, but we’re not doing ourselves any favors by encouraging it.

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                        I find it polite to stick around, maybe help someone with a question I can help with. Trying to give back does get frustrating even when someone opens with a well-formulated question and quits. Maybe people don’t have shells or w/e so this shouldn’t be attributed to bad manners, but still…

                        Nothing is a utopia, because even as a member of the channel community, knowing people are online who can help you better than SO, doesn’t guarantee they give a fsck or have time for you.

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                      I, too, generally feel awkward about asking a question without also somehow indicating ‘I respect you and your time, and I understand you have no obligation to me, and any answer would be kindness and helpfulness on your part’. There is also, of course, the need to actually respect somebody’s time by getting straight to the point / making it as easy as possible for them to answer or decline.

                      I generally combine these needs by asking my question straight away, but putting a polite/humble opening at the start of the same message.

                      Hi, I’m not sure this is the right place to ask this question; please feel free to ignore this if it isn’t. My question is as follows: [summary, what I’m trying to do, details, what I’ve tried, …]

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                        The problem with the kind of tentative open as exampled in the article is that it is indistinguishable from spam. You don’t know if it’s worth your time until they come right out with what they need. One can certainly introduce themselves, and provide thanks in advance–to be polite and appreciative–without requiring your audience to guess at your intention or coax the topic out of you.

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                          It’s not politeness. People do this because they want to know they’ll get an immediate response if they bother to type out their question. They want to know they have a captive audience.

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                            While I do agree that it’s redundant to ask to ask, IRC can be an intimidating place, especially if you’ve never used it before. Add to that the fact that you have no idea how receptive people on the channel will be, asking to ask can be useful to guage what kind of response you’re likely to get when you ask your actual question. Based on the response to your original ask, you may decide that you don’t want to ask a question at all because you’ve found yourself in a non-welcoming space. So, while it does annoy me when people ask to ask, I generally try to be as helpful as I can be, considering that the person on the other end of the line may have zero experience talking with developers or even using IRC.

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                              *sebboh dons his chanop hat* I was a channel operator on #help on EFnet in the late nineties, early aughts.

                              The author of the article has conflated “don’t ask to ask” aka “just ask” with “don’t take polls”.

                              In #help, the topic of which was “General Help”, people would ask questions about everything from their wilted petunias to their thrashing harddrives to their jilted lovers. People would literally ask if they may ask: “Is it ok to ask about engine maintenance in here?”

                              Meanwhile “Does anyone here know anything about hydraulically articulated mechanical bulls?” is a poll. “Yes” and “no” are the only answers that make literal, pedantic sense. (Sometimes Yes followed by /quit was fun, if you were going to quit around then anyway…)

                              But, interpreting questions literally was NOT what you’d want to do as a chanop (aka moderator).

                              Personally, I’d only tell a user how to interact with the channel if they’d been active several days in a row. There’s no point in trying to influence those users who only visit once, unless you can do it before they arrive, which in those days, I surely could not.

                              New users gonna ask to ask and take polls and privmsg with abandon. Some will stick around. …In doing so, they will themselves independently discover that asking to ask is dumb, etc. Culture!

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                                better ask for forgiveness than for permission :)

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                                  This “proverb,” such as it is, uses the word ‘easier’ where you have said ‘better.’ That quibble notwithstanding, I have availed myself of this observation and am fond of it. Better than forgiveness and permission, though, would be due diligence: warranting that you have a good question by being able to attest to what you do know.

                                  It is, with certainty, not easier to anticipate the questions you’ll be asked and to have answers prepared in advance. For that there is forgiveness.


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                                    thanks, I’ve been saying it for years and didn’t know the original was “easier” (wiki). I still prefer the “better” version though.

                                    even so, like anything, if taken to extremes it starts to become wrong.

                                    about questions in particular (especially online), I really appreciate when people put effort into showing what they tried, what is the problem, maybe code + error message + stacktrace, and huge bonus points for good formatting (pretty big problem on reddit).

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                                  Sometimes the politeness is hedging against wasting time typing up a long an lengthy question that it turns out no one is around who can answer.

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                                    Any time spent typing the question generally helps clarify it in the asker’s mind—I’ve often answered my own questions just through the process of thinking hard enough about how to ask them, be it after joining an IRC channel in order to ask the question or going to a colleague. I wouldn’t say it’s ever a waste!

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                                      At least when you type it once, you can copy/paste it around to different places