October 31, 2006


All generalizations are bad...

All generalizations are bad including this one. Nevertheless here is one. Indians (exclusive of NRIs living abroad) form a poor netizen lot. Two data points will support my conjecture.

Few months back, I had written about how my oh-so-exclusive email address became a source of annoyance and occasional fun. Since then, I have received approximately such 100 mails. I have replied as many of them as possible with exception of frivolous forwards. Each reply was a simple request to verify the email address. Generally, one would expect a small reply as a matter of courtesy. But many of them go unanswered. On last two Sundays, an matrimonial ad was published in Hindustan Times and Times of India seeking groom. The storm of response again set in. My mailbox has 15-odd such mails. Since matrimony is a serious matter, I again sent the templatized responses. In response, I received exactly two mails apologizing for wrong address and thanking for letting them know about it. This ratio was much on the expected lines. As matrimonial responses are large part of these 100-mails (refer above) I decided to find out the root cause. And here is the ad which elicited this response. Click here if you can't see in your reader.

Now, I don't think there is something wrong with the ad. The address clearly is "gupta.shashikant" and not just "shashikant"; and "girl.gupta.shashikant" doesn't exactly sound like a respectable email address. The wrong interpretation is completely owned by the readers. But, nevertheless, none of them want to apologize or thank for my gracious act.

Then, a mail was sent "gupta.shashikant" requesting to provide some other e-mail address to avoid confusion. I also offered to forward all the mail I mistakenly received. Even this mail went unanswered! [Update: Mr S K Gupta replied asking me to forward all the mails.] Coming back to this data point, there are some other mails sent by Indians in India. Most of them well educated, which included a professor at premier institute and officer at large organization. These people also didn't respond to me. They would have experienced some tense moments had I just pressed "Delete" button.

Contrast this with the set of responses which admitted their inadvertent mistake. These included a foreigner and few Indians living abroad. Sample this.
Dear Mr. Shashikant,
Thank you very much for letting me know about my mistake.
It was very thoughtful.

And this.
Thanks Shashi,

Sorry for inconvenience, by mistake it was wrong id. Please ignore.


What's so embarrassing in admitting a minor mistake? Why can't we laugh at ourselves?

Data point 2. I have subscribed to bunch of technical mailing lists. Few of them are generic technical stuff, like say MySQL. Other include a very niche vi editor list. General observation suggests that Indians (from India) on lists like MySQL ask questions of the type "How do I do X?" where "X" is something simple. And many of these worship Hanumaan as they send that question to as many lists as possible in a single mail. Most of the time these are trivial questions tell only one thing - this person is poor netizen committing several mistakes in one go. Not reading FAQ and not going through discussion archives are two glaring mistakes. On a good day, such questions receive detailed baby-sit answers. On bad day, the poster will be verbally molested with replies such as RTFM or STFW or other variations (which are listed on Wikipedia link), a polite version being GIFY. Many people subscribe such lists to genuinely help others or improve their gyaan. So obviously people are furious with such noise making it to their mailbox.

Again make no mistake, the posters are lazy software engineers from companies of all sizes and shapes. (Such people are never found on lists which require effort, say developers mailing list.) Almost never I come across an Indian from say Berlin or Washington DC asking such question.

Obviously, you will point me to lots of examples where exactly opposite is true. They are the exceptions who prove my rule. So tell me how off-the-mark I am.

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