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the answer

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14159
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Today I received a LOT of questions via email so I thought I would start a thread to help these folks make sure they get an excellent answer.

I used to get about 80 questions per day via email. About 78 of those questions, on any given day, were questions that I had been asked before. So I started these forums and that has been a huge help. Now, somebody asks a question on these forums, they get an excellent answer and then thousands of others learn this stuff too!

The really cool thing is that a lot of these questions get answers from a dozen different people. Including lots of points I probably would not have thought of in my answer. There are lots of people here that know exactly what I would say, and they convey that. And those same people don't agree with me, so they convey that too. And then others chime in with lots of different perspectives.

If 48 hours goes by and you have not received an excellent answer, please post a note in the tinkering forum with a link to the thread and I will put in my answer. It probably won't be excellent, but I'll try.

Here is a cool new feature in our forum software: for every new post, an algorithm is run comparing all of the text of your post with all other threads in all of the forums. And the five best matching threads are shown at the bottom of the new thread. Maybe one of these will help a small bit while you are waiting for a response to your question.

Once in a long while, somebody says they are not comfortable with forums or they really need an immediate answer from me. That's cool. Please see this page about my rates on one-on-one consultation. And keep in mind, using the forums is always free.


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John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 5824
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
  86
In the past, I have received emails/PMs asking for more details on a post.
In my opinion, that is the wrong way to do it. If the request had been made in the thread, rather than a PM, hundreds of people would have benefited from the reply, vs one person in a PM exchange.

PMs, or emails should be restricted to personal matters, rather than general matters. For instance, "I need your address so I can mail these to you", rather than "After you processed the chicken bones, how did you apply them?"

What makes these forums great (and the entire www, for that matter) is the free exchange of information and ideas. A lot of that value is lost when it breaks down into a one-on-one exchange, vs an open forum exchange. As individuals, we can accomplish only so much, but as a group, we can all learn and expand our successes.
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 960
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  11
The funny thing about questions are if you can ask an appropriate one of an expert, rarely do you need the expert. Do all your own homework first, read various books, articles, this forum, etc and if you still can't find the answer, then the question would be appropriate. But, you will get a better answer from posting on the forums.

For example, imagine if you were to ask Paul regarding forestry in the tropics. Unless I am mistaken, Paul wouldn't have much knowledge on that, but I am probably willing to give you a little information on that without charge. (of course my advice generally is, don't start unless you have nearly a half million dollars...)


Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 960
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  11
Paul, a suggestion. You could have an automatic response on your email that basically tells people to first search the forum for their answers, etc. Then, if they pass your filter (i.e. pay you or are friends), their email gets through. Might take some tweaking, but it is a way to cut down on how many emails that you have to read just to decide that most of them you shouldn't respond to.

Either that, or you need an intern to review your emails for you.

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14159
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Here is another thing I am willing to do: If you ask a question and my answer is lame, and you get no good answers, but it is a permaculture question, I am willing to check with some experts. There are some limits to this - like: if your question is stupid or not worthy of the expert, I'm not gonna do it. I suspect that there are lots of other limitations I can't think of yet. But I know about once a month I encounter a good question and I go track down an expert to try and answer.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14159
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I'm getting a LOT of people asking questions via email again. And today it is even harder because I'm in the middle of a tour.

I did get one email that was funny. Actually it was two emails in a row from the same person. The first email was a question and the second email said "nevermind! I just figured out how much you do and that asking you is like calling Obama to explain Obamacare. I will go post in the forums."

Jocelyn Campbell
steward

Joined: Nov 09, 2008
Posts: 2217
Location: Missoula, MT
    
  37
Some of our permies guests and instructors were receiving too many e-mail questions (in addition to Paul), so this is a reminder to please ask on the forums first. That's the best way to keep building the empire of free knowledge and keep things more efficient for everyone.

Paul asked that I remind folks about this 48-hour thing at the same time that I posted about the consultation idea (which is not free).


Hands-on workshops in all shades of green - Cascadia & Seattle Eco Events Calendar | QuickBooks Consulting and Accounting Services - www.jocelyncampbell.com
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14159
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Somebody sent me an email about a rocket mass heater. I looked at the email and came to the conclusion that answering the email, and going through the email exchange that would follow would probably take several hours, maybe much more. I ended up taking on lower hanging fruit that day, and as usual, a lot of important emails went unanswered as is the case every day.

They brought up my non-answer in a public forum and somebody else wrote a rather rude response. I deleted the rude bit, and wrote the following:

From something I deleted was a suggestion that some people were ignorant of the latest and greatest in rocket mass heaters. I would like to offer the other perspective: there are hundreds of people submitting their designs for freakshows of flaming death and calling them "rocket mass heaters" and demanding a blessing on the design. Some of them even have fire running through them. Some of them even roughly resemble a rocket mass heater. The shear volume is unnerving. And, naturally, each "innovator" is sure that their design is "THE latest and greatest in rocket mass heaters." Naturally, these folks want to have a private discussion and they have no idea that there is a parade of folks also wanting a similar private discussion.

I don't know about E&E, but for a lot of these, I see several hours going into a discussion about their designs, and then after I have conveyed my thoughts, the other party comes to the conclusion that we are now best friends and should talk every day on all topics, plus work through some more "design improvements."

I spend about 8% of my life on rocket mass heater stuff. I think E&E spend about 55% of their life on rocket mass heater stuff. And a lot of time is spent on "how to do the most good with the limited amount of time." And a lot of that comes down to trying leverage four hours to reach thousands of people instead of using that same four hours to help one person (who is utterly certain that they are really helping us).
 
 
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