I am a relatively smart and popular guy with a sizable presence on the web. There are lots of people who know who I am via this blog, my podcast, conventions and comments I post on various sites. These people also know that I am very knowledgeable when it comes to topics such as anime, video games, manga and especially technology. It is no surprise that many of these people seek my advice when it comes to matters such as these. Usually this makes me happy, but sometimes it makes me sad. I like to help people, and I believe I am giving them good advice. However, I don’t have time to waste helping someone who has not tried to help themselves.
I have no problem if someone asks me for a professional opinion of what type of hardware I would purchase under specific circumstances. I am fine with someone asking me if I think it is worth their time to watch every episode of an anime, or if they should just watch the compilation movies. Those are the types of questions that I am more than happy to answer. If someone asks about the difference between DVD+R and DVD-R, that’s not cool. I have a big problem if someone asks me what Linux is. Asking what video games are coming out soon for the Nintendo DS is not cool. These are the types of questions that make me sad, but why do I get upset at the latter and not at the former?
The first type of question is something that requires analysis of multiple factors. Few people have the problem solving or risk analysis skills to make an informed decision. When a problem requires a complete understanding of a larger body of knowledge, then I have no problem giving my knowledgeable bodies a workout. In fact, I am eager to provide those services because I believe that it helps me in some small way when other humans make better decisions.
The second type of question is simply a request for data. That data is not secret, and it is not hard to come by. I may or may not have that data stored in my fleshy memory banks, but hether I do or not does not matter. The fact is that the information is publicly available and distributed widely. If some guy shouts into a megaphone that the show starts at five o’clock, ask me a minute later what time the show starts, and I will hit you upside the head.
The Internet is a worldwide megaphone. Millions of people are constantly shouting into it while simultaneously listening to everything that comes out of it. If you want to know who directed a movie, IMDB has the answer. If you want to know the capital of a country in Africa, Wikipedia has the answer. Want to know how many episodes there are of that anime you just saw? Anime News Network Encyclopedia has the answer. And of course, no matter what your problem, Google has the answer 99% of the time. If you ask me a question that is easily answered by any of these sources, it makes me want to hit you upside the head.
I am about to let you all in on a secret. I actually don’t know much. I’m a smart guy, at least I think I am, and I know that I am more knowledgeable about certain things than most other people on the planet. However, most of the time people ask me questions on the web, I just look the answers up. I appear to be much more well-informed on the web than I really am because I have the instinct to look up the answers to any question I encounter. The fact is that I don’t have more information in my brain than idiot savants do. I mostly know just one thing. That one thing is how to use a search engine efficiently. If you need help learning to use a search engine, I will be happy to oblige. If you want me to do the searching for you, suck it.
I like to help people a lot. It is very fun and rewarding for me, and I hope it is equally rewarding for the people I help. When someone asks me for help I want to be nice to them. If someone asks me for something, they obviously think highly of me, and I am not interested in changing that. However, sometimes I just have to give you the big ol’ RTFM. I have so little free time and so many things on my plate, there is just no room for doing simple research for other people. Sorry, but you’re going to have to do something for yourself. No, don’t give me that business about being too lazy. Writing me an e-mail requires a lot less effort than using a search engine. From now on whenever someone asks me this type of question, I’m not going to send them the answer. I’m going to send them the search results.
I am in the business of teaching people to fish. If you depend on me to do the fishing for you, you’re probably going to starve. The next time you want to know something, have the common courtesy to at least ask Google before you ask me. Most of the time that’s all I would have done for you anyway.