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Temporal Lobes

Dag Stenberg stenberg at cc.Helsinki.FI
Sat May 3 03:59:16 EST 1997


This a comment about how to and how not to ask questions in this type 
of newsgroup.

In bionet.neuroscience Scott Graeme Payne <sgp01 at uow.edu.au> wrote:
> flefever at ix.netcom.com(F. Frank LeFever) writes:
> >I don't mean to pick on you especially; the same reply is appropriate
> >for the dozens of others who post "tell me something" or "tell me
> >everything" about--whatever.  Usually the topic is so broad as to make
> >any reply absurd.

Frank Lefever is entirely right here, because Scott Payne's original
message was:
	> I'm just after any info on the temporal lobes of the brain.
	> You can post it here or email it to me at sgp01 at uow.edu.au.
	> Anything at all will interest me...articles...research...etc
and this does not imply that the person asking knows anything at all. 
"Any reply absurd" covers it. 

Payne then comments:
> WEll I have looked in the libraries and as such i do know quite a bit.
> I was just using the vast knowledge of the people that use the internet
> for a little extra information. 

The fact is, if you pose a question the way you did, you are "using"
the vast knowledge of people on this expert newsgroup in the sense
"misusing". Nobody except perhaps a student would start posting a 
thesis on the temporal lobes in order to benefit you. You did not even
indicate whether you are able to use a literature reference.

Payne goes on:
> Some people say "If you have nothing postive to say DON'T SAY IT"
> I think this applies to you!!!!!
and 	> Goodbye

If one of you was impolite here, it was not Lefever.

> If you hadn't realised some of the most recent 
> information about certain topics can be found on the internet. So bascially 
> I am useing the news servers and other resources of the internet to greater
>  extend my knowledge of the subject at hand.

Very well, but your approach was improductive in the sense that you can
hardly extend your knowledge using an expert panel, if you do not give
an accurate impression of where to start the extension.
  Your inappropriate remark about "if you hadn't realized" does not take
into account the fact that most of the "recent" information on the net 
is extremely superficial and often unreferenced and thus impossible to 
evaluate for validity. More reliable information can be found by 
browsing refereed scientific journals. 

> I do wish to thank the people that did reply and the informtion 
> i received was put to good use in my research.

This illustrates a basic flaw with answering by reply instead of
posting. The large number of readers has no idea what has already been
said and from where to continue. It is fine if Payne is satisfied with
the answers, because we others have no way of knowing even whether the
information he received was valid. Fortunately, we will probably not
have to review his research, and he is happy as is.

I am not attempting to start a flame war here, but wish to point out that
1) Lefever was right about how to ask questions, and his criticism lenient
2) the method Payne used to gain information was both improductive and
impolite, and should be avoided by everybody
3) if somebody does get answers by letter to a well-posed question of
general interest, it would be polite to post a summary to the newsgroup.
In this particular case, this would be superfluous.

Dag Stenberg
Acting Professor of Physiology
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