[time-nuts] Faster than light of a different type

Bill Hawkins bill at iaxs.net
Tue May 8 18:01:37 UTC 2012


Excellent comment!

"In some sense, success is related to the number of people signed up."
Yes, in the same sense that happiness is related to the money you have.
It is possible to have too many or too much.

Human nature includes "Look at me, Ma. Look at me!" Most pros can
stifle that. People grow out of behaviors at different times, or not
ever. The bigger the list, the more people under the skirts of the
bell curve.

Seems like many lists where members are acquainted with Ohm's law
will fall into audiophile bashing at the drop of an extravagantly
priced widget. Possibly to show the group "I'm smarter than that!"

A possible way to select messages that stay on topic is to filter
out those that don't have "time" in the text. If you believe your
message is on-topic but time isn't mentioned, add "Ob time-nuts:"
(Obligatory) and some words about time. It won't get them all
because the word is common, but it might slow them down.

I have wondered if part of the problem is that the list is set to
only reply to the list. You have to work to get an individual
address for an individual reply. Every list seems to have people
who don't or can't edit their replies.

I get the whole list first and skim it to find the interesting
bits, then read them and let the rest go to an Outlook archive.
I have trouble throwing away things that might be useful some day.

Bill Hawkins

-----Original Message-----
From: Hal Murray
Sent: Monday, May 07, 2012 10:45 PM
To: Discussion of precise time and frequency measurement
Subject: Re: [time-nuts] Faster than light of a different type

cls at employees.org said:
> one more thing, people need to learn to hit the "delete" key if they
> like a particular email.  get over it. 

I don't think that's a reasonable approach.  Yes, of course, we should all
more tolerant.  But that's only half the story.

There is an interesting problem with technical discussion lists, bboards, 
usenet groups, web forums, whatevers.  In some sense, success is related to 
the number of people signed up.  On the other hand, once you get enough 
people, the signal to noise ratio often falls off a cliff.  A (strong) hint 
of the problem is bursts of noise like the recent events here.

The problem with saying just-hit-delete is that many of the people with 
technical skills/opinions/ideas that I want to hear from are not very 
tolerant of low signal/noise.  So they leave the group rather than pound on 
their delete key.

I think there is a fundamental truth for this area.  It may be a physical 
constant.  It's at least a good PhD topic.  For any large list there will be

some amount of traffic (like this message) that is grumbling about the "bad"

traffic on the list.  At best, it's the list operator/moderator occasionally

(preemptively?) reminding people to stay on topic.

It's something like 1/e for the max throughput of an Aloha network.  If you 
beat up on the noisy people so they are less noisy, the list will grow to 
include enough new people to fill in the spots that were previously quiet.  
It would be interesting to study the timing of the noise bursts and/or the 
relation to people signing up or leaving a list.

I've seen similar problems in standards groups.  Initially, the group is
of smart geeks with good ideas.  They are cooperating to try to solve an 
interesting problem.  Then some not-so-sharp guy gets sent to make sure his 
company's products are blessed.  As the group turns to politics, the smart 
guys leave, their company sends a lawyer to replace them, and things spiral 


One thing that might help is if everybody would get in the habit of scanning

all their mail before responding to anything.  The idea is that if a 
discussion explodes while you are sleeping (or away from your mail for 
whatever reason), you will learn that a topic has exploded before you 
contribute your wise-ass or me-too comment.  Even if your answer is
and valuable, you might notice that somebody has already said exactly what 
you were about to say.

These are my opinions, not necessarily my employer's.  I hate spam.

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