"The Internet as Crutch" or "How the Internet breeds laziness and just plain poor manners"
I suppose its no great revelation to anyone that the Internet is now THE source for information gathering and information dissemination in our society. And its well documented how folks have been able to use the Internet for all sorts of good things, like learning more about their medical conditions or finding old friends. And, of course, the excesses of the Internet age are well documented--the fact that because the Internet is so widely accessible, there is little, if any, real vetting of material that appears online. Good and bad are equally represented. What I haven't seen as widely written about is how access to all this information and to the purveyors of the information has resulted in a certain laziness and just plain lack of good manners when it comes to communicating across this medium. I suppose that the anonymity that the Internet allows us all to have (or perceived anonymity anyway) helps to contribute to the sense that you can really say or do whatever you want online without fear of any real reprisal. That part of it, is really just too bad, and I got to experience first hand this last weekend.
It should come as no surprise that I get a lot of questions about Group Policy. After working with the technology for almost 10 years and having been answering questions in one form or another online since the bad old days of NT 3.50 and the International Windows NT User Group mailing list (IWNTUG) where I first encountered folks like Sean Daily and Mark Russinovich, I try to answer as many of the questions as I get. But these days, especially, that is pretty tough. Its why I created my GPTalk mailing list so that folks with questions about Group Policy can get them answered by other smart folks (there are lots out there!). But if I am able to answer questions directly, I usually expect that the questioner has done at least the minimum amount of work to determine whether or not what they're asking has already been accomplished and documented elsewhere. I think we all know how to use Google and can get a lot of information out of it that can answer many of the questions out there.
Unfortunately, I've seen that on a lot of lists that I post or lurk on, many folks don't even bother to take that basic step of trying to find the answer themselves first--instead opting to take the easier path and just ask someone else to do the search work for them. Some questions are legitimately hard and require some collective brainpower to solve. Others are pretty much "Google-made" and really just end up wasting bandwidth asking again.
It was with that background that I got an email directly to my email address (Gotta love that) asking what I thought was a very basic question. It wasn't even necessarily a GP question, but had to do with determining how to shutdown a PC at a given time. Now, this guy, I'll call him "Skippy", because he was from Australia , prefaced his question by saying that he knew a lot about PCs but not much about Group Policy and that he had a problem with his kid, who was playing some computer game 50 hours a week. Well, I did manage to find the time to respond to him by suggesting that Task Scheduler was the way to go and that all bets were off, using any method, if his son were administrator-equiv. on the box.
So, then about 10 days go by and I get the following email from Skippy, again out of the blue after I had sent my initial response to him a day after his question:
"Thanks for not replying to my email pri*k"
There were several things about this response that irked me. The first was that he didn't bother to assume that maybe I did respond and he simply missed it. The second was that old lazy Skippy felt that I somehow owed him a response. I guess that means I can send him a bill for my time now ! Truly, this kind of guy really bums me out, because it underscores how the Internet can sometimes bring out the laziest and nastiest in people. Too bad. I really do like answering folks' questions and will continue to do it, but this guy has reduced my enthusiasm for it by just a little...