...making Linux just a little more fun!

The Answer Gang FAQ

Updated Oct 30 2006
Please send any corrections and additions to Ben Okopnik

I enjoy very much being on the list; I learn a great many things, burst 
out laughing well more than often and sometimes have an opportunity to 
contribute to the best of my ability.
 -- Didier Heyden in TAG

Table of Contents

  • About The Answer Gang
  • How do I join The Answer Gang?
  • TAG Members' Reference
  • Guidelines For Answering Questions
  • The TAG E-mail Markup Language
  • "What Do You Mean, This Is A List? I Want A Private Answer!"
  • The Answer Gang Knowledge Base

    About The Answer Gang

    The Answer Gang actually started as The Answer Guy - Jim Dennis did this job all by himself starting with issue #13 (the lucky issue for the Linux community, I suppose...) At a certain point, Jim found himself writing the equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica once a month; even with the Answer Gal (his wife, Heather Stern) putting her shoulder to the wheel, it was still too much work. So, right around issue #55, Jim decided to share some of the load - and thus, The Answer Gang was born.

    (The serious flaw in their plan was revealed, however, when the colorful cast of characters that they let in immediately put their feet up on the furniture, drank all the beer, and went digging around in the refrigerator. Many of us are still around - after all, the snacks and the beer still keep coming - and the whole shebang keeps somehow rolling along.)

    How Do I join The Answer Gang?

    Start by notifying the Editor-in-Chief; if you don't already have an author's bio, you'll need to send one to the above email address (see http://linuxgazette.net/authors for examples.) These will be listed on the 'TAG Bios' page, which is how TAG members get credited for their participation. To join the list itself, subscribe at http://lists.linuxgazette.net/mailman/listinfo/tag.

    TAG members' reference

    Guidelines For Answering Questions

    As a member, you will receive questions from the querents, and answers and discussion from other TAG members. Feel free to jump in with your own answer at any time, or to add to an answer if you feel something is incorrect or missing.

    Be warned that a certain (very small, these days) amount of spam comes through. We have a spamfilter, but it's set more lenient than most because we don't want to take the chance that a desperate querent with a clueless ISP might not be able to get a question through. Never reply to spam. Replying just encourages them to send more since they know somebody's reading it. Do feel free to ridicule spammers on the list, though; the funniest spams and responses are published on The Back Page.

    Web archives of TAG mail are at http://lists.linuxgazette.net/mailman/private/tag/. The archives are password protected for the sake of querents who wish to remain anonymous (use your list-membership password.)

    Always check the To: and Cc: addresses when you reply. Always reply to both the querent and tag@lists.linuxgazette.net. It's easy to accidentally drop off one or the other. Dropping off the querent means they'll have to wait up to a month for their answer, IF it gets published and IF they can find it among the three columns. Dropping off TAG means it won't be published — we can't publish what we don't receive. It doesn't matter whether you put both addresses in To: or put one in Cc:, just make sure you include both somehow.

    It's OK to answer something that you don't know all that well, as long as you mention the fact and have some good information. Your answer will still be useful if you can tell the reader how to search for more answers and give some juicy links where our readers can learn more about the subject at hand.

    Try to stick to answering Linux questions. We don't bother to publish non-Linux questions unless they are a lot of fun. (After all, LG's goal is to make Linux a bit more fun.)

    We're real people here, just answer conversationally, like you are right there with them.

    Remember, you're not just answering the querent, you're composing a message that will help thousands of others. So go ahead and throw in related information that somebody in that situation would want to know, even if the querent doesn't need it directly.

    It's perfectly fine to trim the original message down to only the fragments which you have an answer for. Definitely snip off any HTML attachment they might have accidentally provided. But it is okay and even desirable to leave the ">" quoting marks intact.

    The TAG E-mail Markup Language

    When the TAG output is processed for publication, we auto-convert some very basic markup - actually, it would be highly appreciated if everyone would use it, since it will save us hand-hacking a large file at the end of the month! Most of it is just common email markup, anyway.

    "What Do You Mean, This Is A List? I Want A Private Answer!"

    If a querent writes in and has a "private message" block in their email, don't bother answering it - we can't publish it as it stands, and your answer will not help anyone besides the querent. If you wish, you can reply by directing them to "Asking Questions of The Answer Gang" at http://linuxgazette.net/faq/ask-the-gang.html, which deals with that problem - or you can tell them to remove that block or cancel it explicitly.

    If a querent writes to you and demands "private service" - as some will - respond to them and Cc: tag@lists.linuxgazette.net. You can say that we are volunteers who answer Linux questions so that a large number of people can benefit from the answers. We will withhold their name and/or e-mail address if they request anonymity, but we will not help them if they refuse to allow us to publish the text of their message. Allowing us to publish the thread is our "payment" for giving them advice.

    If they want a private consultant, several of the folks on the list qualify and will happily take their money. They can also try LinuxPorts' Consultant Guide (http://www.linuxports.com/guide/consultants/), the Linux Documentation Project's Consultants Guide (http://www.tldp.org/LDP/lcg/html/), or possibly seek paid technical support from the commercial Linux vendors related to their software. Red Hat, Linuxcare, and many others offer business-level professional services, as well.

    If they complain that they didn't know it was going to be published, you can tell them we have made every effort to make this clear in "Asking Questions of The Answer Gang" and in the replies themselves, and if they didn't read this or got our address from somebody that didn't tell them our policy, we're not responsible for that. Tell them we are very interested in knowing how they heard about the Gazette, so that we can follow up with the person or webmaster who gave them an erroneous impression of what the TAG address is for.

  • Tux