Questions and Answers on the Python lists

Over the years of my involvement with the Python community, I have seen many questions asked and answered on the Python lists. I’m a fairly regular watcher on python-list, python-win32 and python-tutor and an occasional on a couple of other lists, including python-dev. For my part, I nearly always access them via their email interface. But other people view them through gmane, Usenet, Google Groups and a handful of web-style mirror sites.

Many people have commented on the generally friendly and helpful atmosphere which prevails on all the Python lists, and justifiably. You get the occasional ding-dong thread or a see-sawing to-and-fro between opposing parties, neither of whom can bring himself to relinquish his own position or to accept the other’s. But even that rarely ends in bloodshed.

But my entirely anecdotal impression is that there is a class of questioner who asks a question and fails to respond when an answer is given. And, as someone who’s provided one or two answers in his time, I’m moved to wonder: why? Is it because the OP feels that no thanks or response is necessary — that the list has done its duty and the matter is closed? Is it because the response took more than a few minutes to come back, and the OP wanted a quick answer or none at all? Is it because the answer doesn’t help but the OP doesn’t feel entitled to come back and ask for more? Is it because the OP expects any response to come to him personally and not to the list as a whole, and so doesn’t keep checking back?

I’ve no idea, and I doubt that one case meets all. As it happens, in answer to help I have offered, I have had many responses on and off-list thanking me, or asking for more information, occasionally offering to buy me a drink! And for all those I am very grateful: this is a friendly community built around the creative art of programming, and it’s nice to know that someone’s benefitted from your help and is grateful in turn.

But it would be a shame if there were a class of user who came, not as a potential contributor to the wider community, but as a mercenary who wants merely to get something from Python and walk away.

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