Far too many posters are trying to do things that are stupid, dangerous
> or illegal - sometimes all three.
Then let them. No one here is anyone's wet nurse or nanny. Neither can anyone be expected to play the cop. There is no "duty of care" to anyone else posting here, in contract or tort. I wouldn't be surprised if 'they' try to introduce one at some future time, though; state interference knows no bounds. :(
If you think there?s a better answer to his question, then a) ANSWER HIS QUESTION-- as posed, then b) add ?But it might be easier to...?
If you think he might be hair-brained and hurt himself, a) ANSWER HIS QUESTION, then b) add ?But you should be careful because...?
If you think not enough information is given to let you know what he is trying to do, a) ANSWER HIS QUESTION, then b) add ?But if you give us some more information maybe we could...?
If you think he might be up to something criminal, likely not. Of the billions of messages that flow through USENET, how many times have you heard of someone gaining knowledge for dastardly purpose? Your fear does not constitute a need to launch a vigilante effort, no matter how humble. He just wants to know how to do something.
If in doubt: a) ANSWER HIS QUESTION. Unless explicitly asked, he probably doesn?t want your help with the overall plan, just help finding the right fastener, or such. b) Just because you want to know what he?s doing doesn?t make it your business.
I, personally, try to keep threads I begin with a question from wandering too much (how easy do threads get hijacked or just segued into the big USENET Void?). I have ended some posts with ?If you are not going to answer the question, please don?t respond.? Not that kept some from doing so...
Of course it is. The question is, "Would you like to work on his problem?"
The thing that the super-entitled folks appear to be missing is that we're all free men and equals here, and can say what we like.
Generally I like helping people, but I'm not giving advice on a project that might involve me in liability (or even possibly criminality). We've had people here who really sounded like they were trying to make IEDs. Answer their questions? Suuuuuuurrrrrre.
No, of course not: it is a valid response to a DEMAND. The normal way communication happens is with feedback, including questions and clarifications. But, this wasn't in response to a question. It was in response to a demand, and pointed out that the demand was unreasonable. WHOOSH.
I'm 100% with you on that point, Dave. I too find this exasperating. As soon as you explain the background, any focus you had hoped to maintain gets instantly swept away in a plethora of vaguely related anecdotes and funny stories. After that happens you only rarely get back on track.
I have had someone ask me (on IRC, from behind 7 proxies) about demodulating data from a magnetic tape head. After the regulars asked him for some background information it turns out he was building a skimmer for credit cards or ATM cards. He said it was alright because he wasn't going to do anything bad with them himself, he was just selling the skimmers to other people! Maybe one day your card will pass through a skimmer that he built. I don't know whether he ever got the demodulation working.
If the OP of a specific thread specifies at the time that they only want answers to the exact question that they wrote and nothing else, then I might comply (i.e. not answer at all, if I think there is a better solution to their problem). Even then I would consider replying for the benefit of other readers with a similar problem to solve. In general I think it is presumptuous for anyone but the OP of that thread to decide whether the OP will be interested in alternative solutions to their problem, and anyway the OP is not the only person reading most threads and others may find digressions interesting.
Fine, if you invariably expect something in return for your precious time, like Phil Hobbs. But the spurious chatter could just as easily be kept for *after* the OP has got the answer he/she requested.