Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Help Vampires

I spend a portion of each day on various technical forums, mailing lists and USENET news groups, such as sci.op-research. (Yes, USENET lives on.) The denizens of these forums are generally quite polite to and patient with newbies, as one might hope. Some of the newbies hang around and answer as well as ask questions, and some ask, receive answers and move on.

Unfortunately, some people treat the forums as a replacement for one lobe of their brain. They're usually quite polite in their phrasing, express their gratitude periodically, but (probably without meaning to) they treat the other members of the forum the way an executive might treat an intern: "Please look this up for me."  "Please find this out for me."  "Please help me to avoid actually having to confront my own problems."

Someone on one of the mailing lists recently circulated a link to an old blog entry by Amy Hoy titled "Help Vampires: A Spotter’s Guide". It's both amusing and insightful.  If, like me, you occasionally find yourself wishing some questioner would just f**king google it, Hoy's post will resonate with you.

1 comment:

  1. I set a new vampire record recently. A graduate student from China e-mailed me out of the cold to say that he was working on an algorithm or heuristic and needed to benchmark it against existing software (either CPLEX or AMPL/CPLEX, I forget which) -- except he didn't know the software and didn't really have time to learn it. So would I please write his code for him (uncompensated, of course)?


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