Internet Answers

Reasonably often, when you ask a question on a mailing list or newsgroup, nobody answers. Only a few people take the time to answer questions, and often nobody will bother. However, if you make an incorrect assertion, many people will take the time to correct you. Of course it does depend on the forum.

In general, though, if you want to find something out from a public list, it is more effective to simply make a bald assertion that is likely to be wrong, and it is less effective to simply ask. The bald assertion will get you the right answer, at the cost of possibly making you look stupid.

In other words, for best results, you should pose your questions in the form of an answer.


  1. ianw said,

    February 1, 2008 @ 2:23 am

    I have long been a proponent of this approach since I heard Alan Cox say at a “the quickest way to get anything fixed in the kernel is to send an obviously incorrect patch. People can’t resist telling you what’s wrong”. I’ve been sending obviously incorrect patches all over the place since!

  2. tromey said,

    February 1, 2008 @ 7:20 am

    I wonder if this post is a question phrased as an answer. Nice try!

  3. fche said,

    February 1, 2008 @ 8:09 am

    Boss Lady (if you remember her) had long practiced this approach.

  4. Ian Lance Taylor said,

    February 1, 2008 @ 6:19 pm

    Ah, a well-known technique, I see.

  5. martindorey said,

    June 22, 2008 @ 7:55 am

    I’ve been calling this “Morton’s Gambit” after Andrew Morton’s description of his technique of suggesting a deliberately botched fix in an interview that I think would be at if that server were responding. I can’t but imagine that the prior art goes back further. Is it just an internet phenomenon?

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