You know you don't have to reply, right?

In writing this, there’s a strong chance that I’m going to come across as ungrateful.

Heck, there’s a strong chance that I am ungrateful.

But I can’t think of a more sensitive way of putting this:

If someone asks a question online that isn’t directed at you, and you don’t know the answer, You Don’t Have To Reply.

Why am I saying this?

Because of conversations which go along these lines:

Me: Does anyone have a personal recommendation for a tool for Debian which will help me do X with Y, please?

Internet Man: Have you tried using $foo?

Me: No! Thank you - but on a quick look, it is doesn’t seem to do X. How did you get it to do that?

Internet Man: Oh, no idea, I’ve never used it. Just saw it on Google.


The reason I feel ungrateful is that I think that Internet Man (and, in my experience, it is nearly always a man) is trying to helpful. They do want me to solve my problem.

But they’re actually making it harder.

Their response takes them time and takes me time. It sends me down the wrong rabbit hole. It clutters up the thread.

And, since Internet Man doesn’t know the answer, they’ve just searched online and posted what they found, probably the first thing they found.

If I’ve got to the point of asking something in the fediverse, I’ve already exhausted my own self-service options.

I’ve searched online.

I’ve read all the forum posts that I can find.

I’ve logged in to the project’s Discord okay, so perhaps I haven’t exhausted all options…

So, yes, I know that Internet Man meant well, but not replying would honestly have been the better option.

Now, Internet Man may have better search terms, or understood the problem better than I did - in which case, amazing, please just say that in the reply, to help separate the wheat from the chaff. Just posting a result from Google, without context? No, thank you…

How to communicate this politely?

I’ve tried various permutations of asking, even going as far as asking specifically for “recommendations based on your personal experience” and similar.

“Can anyone recommend a tool that they’ve used to…?”

“If you, yourself, have visited City X in summer, where’s a good place to…?”

But it doesn’t seem to matter.

Someone inevitably pops up with something they’ve found on Google.

Honestly I’m not sure what to do. I think the answer is “just live with it”, because I’m not going to preface every question with “I’m only looking for answers based on your own direct personal experience, so please save your keystrokes if this is not one for you”.

But let’s try it here:

If you have personal experience in solving this, and have a form of words that has worked for you, please do share. I’d genuinely love to hear what has worked for you.

But, for the love of god, don’t reply for the sake of it.