The myth of dynamic crowdsourced help (or, why we’re all well and truly FAQ’d)
Posted by r on January 13, 2014
The Internet is now approaching its third decade of mainstream acceptance. Available dynamic resources for the self-taught and continually curious have, in an on-paper sense, never been better. But in 2014, God help the thoughtful, rational individual who, having lurked endlessly in relevant places and having Googled / site-queried appropriately and having read FAQ upon FAQ, still has a question that falls between the cracks, and requires an intelligent answer from someone more well-versed in the topic.
The regulars in discussion groups and forums dedicated to specialized topics nearly always automatically assume anyone who self-identifies as “inexperienced” in a given matter, or who simply has a low post count, hasn’t done the reading.
The comic irony is that the responses from the regulars could nearly always be used as examples in a textbook on reading comprehension fail.
PRIMA: Hi, I’m new to Hobby X, and I have a question involving Plausible Condition Y. I’ve read the linked community-respected FAQs 1, 2, 3, and 4 on Subinterest Z of Hobby X, but while Situation That Could Very Easily Involve Plausible Condition Y is addressed in detail in FAQs 1 and 3, Plausible Condition Y itself is outright ignored in all four documents. Can anyone clarify?
SECUNDA: In addition to an obvious-n00b question, I see you have a zero post count and thusly I am certain that you have not read the FAQ. Read the FAQ.
[Before PRIMA has a chance to respond politely, the post has already been downvoted into oblivion and/or moved to the forum graveyard by a mod.]
PRIMA: I have read 900 posts on Topic A at this very forum over the last four months of daily lurking and constant forum refreshing. I have learned a lot, namely that everyone on this forum seems to believe that the optimal solution to Topic A is either Solution 1 or Solution 2. However, this seems to be a subjective matter of debate.
It seems to me that if someone performed Very Rudimentary Quasi-Empirical Check Z on both Solutions 1 or 2, the matter could be settled (for my own purposes at least). I have searched this very forum many times over the last few weeks and can find no evidence of Very Rudimentary Quasi-Empirical Check Z in any discussion. Has anyone ever performed Very Rudimentary Quasi-Empirical Check Z with Solutions 1 and 2, and if so, could you please report back with your results?
SECUNDA: This topic has been discussed a million times before and still comes up weekly here. Do a forum search.
TERTIA: Solution 1 is the solution. Everyone who has tried it knows it, including me. If you look at my forum sig, you’ll see I’m a professional. I should know.
PRIMA: Right, Secunda, well, what I’m asking is if anyone has ever done any kind of valid measurements on Solutions 1 and 2, instead of just going back and forth about how their Solution of choice is the best one. I know this is a hot and tired topic, but I’m pretty sure it would take 30 seconds of add’l effort from any given Solution-user to settle it for me, if not many others. However, I have yet to see anyone try such a measurement before despite, again, many efforts to find something of the like here. You seem like you are quite well-versed in the history of this topic here… do you happen to know of a thread where such measurements were presented?
QUARTA: Tertia is talking out of his ass. Solution 1 is only favored by the old and clueless. The world’s gone to Solution 2 now.
QUINTA: Oh, man, this question again. (headslap emoji) (popcorn-eating .gif)
TERTIA: The “old and clueless?” Quarta, this “old and clueless” ~PROFESSIONAL~ made dozens of referrals and mid-six figures last year using Solution 1. Care to share your new-fangled 1040, you hipster fuck?
PRIMA: Secunda / Quinta, yes, again, I know the question itself is tired, but I’m asking for specific information / tests relating to this topic that might help settle it for good. Or maybe Tertia or Quarta could help, since they both have Solution 1 and 2 on hand respectively, and the Quasi-Empirical Check Z I have in mind is really very fast and simple. How about it, guys?
QUARTA: Fuck you and your predictable condescension, Tertia. I’m tired of your constant shitting on Solution 2 in these threads. No one cares how much you made last year. Besides, I talked to four guys that hired you last year who all said you sucked.
[eight more thread-pages of ad hominem follow; neither Secunda nor Quinta ever return to thread]
PRIMA: I already know from extensive reading / lurking / searching that the usually-recommended approach to Problem X is Solution A, but for Good And Inflexible Reasons 1 / 2 / 3 / 4, I cannot use Solution A. Is there something I could use in place of Solution A to solve Problem X?
SECUNDA: Sounds like Solution A is what you need. (link to promotional literature for Solution A)
PRIMA: Sorry, Secunda, as I said, I know about Solution A but it won’t work for me due to Good And Inflexible Reasons 1 / 2 / 3 / 4. Is there any current alternative to Solution A?
TERTIA: Man, if I ever had to work in a place that enforced Good And Inflexible Reasons 3 and 4, I’d be looking for a job elsewhere.
PRIMA: That’s as may be, Tertia, but unfortunately I don’t have that luxury right now, and Problem X really needs to be solved. Are there any alternatives to Solution A? Has anyone here personally tried Possible Solution B, for instance?
QUARTA: Have you ever heard of Solution A? I’ve used that and I think it would work great for your application.
TERTIA: Here is a site that might help you solve your REAL problem. (link to monster.com)
QUINTA: I don’t know why anyone would want to try anything other than Solution A. We use it here and it works fine. No point reinventing the wheel.
PRIMA: Well, Quinta, except for Good And Inflexible Reasons 1 / 2 / 3 / 4.
QUINTA: Oh, jeez, you should have said those were part of your solution requirements upfront, then. (rolleyes.gif)
SECUNDA: C’mon, everyone’s telling you the answer is Solution A, but it seems you just don’t want to hear it. Why post a question in a forum if you already know you have another specific answer in mind? Mod, please close thread.
World, let’s all make it our 2014 resolution (if a couple weeks late) to actually read the questions posed to us, particularly if we’re the ones taking some kind of “personal responsibility” for educating or helping others in a public forum. The road we’re going down, have been going down for years now – that of valuing upvotes over actual answers, and even the smart among us allowing ourselves to have attention spans shorter than the max length of tweets – is a very frightening one indeed.
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