I apologize in advance for the rambling "question".

We get far too many really bad questions on SO. One of them ("GRR ISSUE DUE TO LOOP") reminded me of a recent discussion I had with a colleague of mine, who works in a company that does a lot of their work through outsourcing.

He was remarking on the difference he sees between developers from India who come to work in the US and developers from the exact same parts of India who work from India. These are people who went to the same schools, have similar fluency in English, and yet their performance differs wildly. Among other things, he noticed that the developers in India do not like to say when there's something they don't understand - they will not ask for help, or do anything else that might make it seem they don't understand.

I've noticed similar behavior patterns in answering questions on forums other than SO. There's a set of developers from India who will not ask their clients for clarification. The common symptom is developers who ask about sending XML files to web services.

Recently, I tried an experiment that worked. I badgered, prodded, and insulted a particular developer into asking his client for a clarification. Once he did that, it became clear to him that he had misunderstood the request from the client, and everything cleared up rapidly from there.

Today, I was going through closed questions, looking for some to delete, when I found GRR ISSUE DUE TO LOOP. I decided to take a wild chance, and try insult again to see if it's possible to get this drive-by user to engage with us. I'd like to try that in this case, and perhaps in a couple of others.

This "question" is meant as a warning: Vicious Experiment in Progress, not a matter of rudeness or racism. If this hadn't worked once already, then I wouldn't be trying it here.

I had expected more universal acclaim for this idea.


A little bit more explanation of my reasoning may be in order. This technique is addressed at users who do not engage in the process of getting their questions answered. Wether this is due to cultural reasons (questioning their supervisors equating to disrespect, for instance), or language reasons (they just barely felt their English was good enough to ask the question, but not to engage in the process), or something else, I don't know.

But assuming that such a user even comes back to see if an answer was provided, the question is what can be done to get the user to respond to comments? My thought was that, given that I don't know the reason they do not respond, it would be necessary to apply some stimulus that is independent of their reason for not responding. I felt that insult might be enough to solicit a response.

As I said, it worked once. If I try it twice more, and it doesn't work, then that's one out of four, and clearly time to end the experiment.

  • 3
    So if I understand correctly, your point is "I'm going to make offensive posts, but don't flag them as such, since they will be useful." – Daniel Daranas Aug 9 '09 at 3:54
  • status-blogfodder – random Aug 9 '09 at 4:05
  • 7
    I've heard this philosophy, but only with women. You know, insult them, then they do what you want. Really, an amazing concept. I'm intrigued that this can extend across gender borders and cultural ones. You actually may be onto something brilliant, even if this is a long rant. – Eric Aug 9 '09 at 4:20
  • @Daniel: It's meant to be an experiment. If it fails, there will be no need to continue. – John Saunders Aug 9 '09 at 18:42
  • @Eric: If it's a philosophy, I've never heard of it. What's it called? – John Saunders Aug 9 '09 at 18:43
  • What should we expect if it succeeds? – akf Aug 9 '09 at 19:19
  • A response of some kind, possibly leading to a dialog. – John Saunders Aug 10 '09 at 3:07

That question can't be salvaged. I'm just going to delete it. (it was already closed when I got to it)

  • Thanks, Jeff, for deleting my offensive comment along with it. Now I'll have to try again. – John Saunders Aug 9 '09 at 18:50
  • I don't think I did, because I never saw it. I think enough users flagged it offensive that the comment was deleted before I even got there. – Jeff Atwood Aug 9 '09 at 18:53

Can this classify as a question if the rant/ramble has no question marks in it?

If I am to interpret this correctly, you plan on being extra rude and insulting towards users to try and make them 'see the light'.

The success rate of this type of thing (especially over the internet) is quite low and should best be left to the experts.

  • 5
    There are experts in insulting people over the internet? Whoa. – Joey Aug 9 '09 at 9:56
  • We have a mafia of them running around SO already. – TheTXI Aug 9 '09 at 16:18
  • I used to be an expert at being rude to people. I was going to try to get back to that. – John Saunders Aug 9 '09 at 18:41

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