Overly brief answers (was Re: Terminal Server)

Kevin Stevens freebsd at pursued-with.net
Mon Jun 21 10:59:09 PDT 2004

> On Mon, 21 Jun 2004 09:27:44 -0400
> Bill Moran <wmoran at potentialtech.com> wrote:
> > Nico Meijer <nico.meijer at zonnet.nl> wrote:
> >
> > > Hi Mike,
> > >
> > > > Can FreeBSD act like Windows Terminal Server, i.e. remote access,
> > > > multiple sessions?
> > >
> > > Yes.
> >
> > I wanted to start a brief discussion about these kinds of answers to
> > questions.
> >
> > I've been seeing this quite a bit lately.  I don't know if it's just one
> > person, of if multiple folks have picked up on it.
> >
> > <opinion>
> > This is not an answer to the question.  It does not answer the question
> > and does not contribute to the OPs knowledge of FreeBSD, nor does it
> > contribute to the list archives.  It's also a violation of the rule
> > against "me too" answers as laid out in "How to Get the Best Results from
> > FreeBSD-Questions".  It doesn't even serve to educate the OP on how to
> > ask better questins.

With it understood that opinions vary, I disagree with yours in this case.
The question was posed as a "yes or no" question, with no followup.
Therefore, "yes" or "no" *precisely* answers it.

For all we know, the OP was merely asking to get a quick determination of
what the solution set was.  I ask such questions of colleagues often, and
am not interested in the particulars at that point.

> > First off, there are actually two questions hidden in the post: "Can
> > FreeBSD act as a WTS?", and "can FreeBSD provide the same services as
> > WTS?"  Is "yes" your answer to both of them?  Because, if it is, I'd like
> > to know which software allows it to function as a WTS, since my searches
> > have not found any such software.

The OP didn't say "as", s/he said "like", and then went on to list the
criteria for "like".

> > This leads to the implied question of "what software provides the
> > capability" which (despite not being voice, directly) is pretty obvious.
> > You've totally ignored that question.  You could say that "technically,
> > he didn't ask" but it boils down to just being rude.
> > </opinion>

I don't generally answer implicit questions, and I don't believe that
behavior is rude.  Quite the contrary - I believe it is *respectful* to
grant the assumption that people mean what they say/ask.  To do otherwise
scans to me as "I don't think you know what you're saying, so I'm going to
assume I know better than you and treat you like an idiot.".

My favorite example is trying to extract a simple answer on how to enable
telnetd on a given system, which is guaranteed to produce a firestorm of
"don't use telnet" responses which have nothing to do with the question,
overtly assume the OP is an idiot, and show little or no understanding
about security postures in general or the OPs situation in specific.  But
I digress ;).

In this case, I see nothing wrong with the response.  If the OP
deliberately chose to frame a yes/no question, then s/he has their
response.  If they then want to frame followup questions, there's nothing
in the response to discourage them from doing so.  If we have to make an
assumption, let's make the assumption that they know how to ask a
question, rather than the dual assumption that they DON'T know how to ask
a question, and that we can guess what their intent actually was.


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