"RFC959 - File Transfer Protocol."   How does the FTP Internet protocol work? You could go to's RFC page to find out. Only problem is, most of the people who show up there just want to be sent Java code to make FTP work in their programs.
From . Filed under: code,information seeking —  Comments (3)

Two comments:

necesito una enciclopedia

i want to know ftp server/client

I like to read the latter as a deep yearning, a cry from the soul. Really, don’t we all want to know ftp server/client more intimately than Fetch lets us? And for that matter, who doesn’t need an encyclopedia when faced with the unfeeling opacity of protocol documentation? (I did. I went to look up RFC on Wikipedia. The acronym is so ambiguated it didn’t even help.)

This comment represents another venture outside the bounds of blogs and their comments. A number of readers have sent in misunderstandings which I think I have to consider as another major theme for my research: the “plz send me teh codez” meme. They’re too many to ignore. On this thread, a number of people ask for java code related to FTP, which is odd considering that people familiar with coding should get a feel for the fact that this is definitely a page full of documentation.

The trouble with the “send mah tehh codeezerx” theme is that it’s really hard for people outside of the beleaguered blog/forum/mailing list/newsgroup to identify what’s going on as a misunderstanding. I don’t usually get it, and I’ve worked at a software company, done a little coding, can work from the command line, etc. The misunderstanding takes place at a high-enough level of technical jargon that you really need to be a working programmer to get irritated at the error. They seem more like faux pas, social-manners blunders, than deep misconceptions of the website’s purpose.

The thread above is one where I’d almost rather show off the comments from the people reacting to the misunderstanding than the comments from the clueless. Actually, I think I will, because they seem out of proportion to the blunder:

OMFG..if people don’t even know how to open a TCP socket, they *should not* be reading IP RFCs, *period*.

Right, because if you don’t know how to open a TCP socket, you’re clearly Internet illiterate, right? If you don’t know what RFC means, even after checking Wikipedia’s disambiguation page and finding that there are two definitions which could really apply to the page you’re reading (Request For Comments or Request For Change), you’re clearly unable to read, right? And you should be banned from trying to do more learning on the Internet? Sorry, Mr. *OMFG*, this in particular is one of those cases where I’m going to have to side with the readers, and call the writers and their “in-crowd” illiterate. They’re just not communicating clearly. (Remember, there’s three periods in an ellipsis.)

Not that I’m rejecting the “send me teh code” theme, mind you; I appreciate the many submissions I’ve gotten along this line (seriously! Thanks to David Reid for sending this one in). Keep ‘em coming. I just want to emphasize that the topic of coding is discussed well outside of vernacular language, and yet these pages are still accessible from the vernacular Internet… Many of them are big, obfuscatory pages, and they’re not easy to understand. Search engines are gonna find ‘em unless you robots.txt ‘em. People won’t understand them, and frankly, small wonder they don’t. And why does it make sense to have a comment thread on RFCs, anyway?


  1. Is there any other kind of specific-ish site that gets requests for simple ‘implementations’ related to its content? Are there people on the Shakespeare and Austen literary blogs asking for help with their last minute homework rush? Or maybe a closer equivalent would be if someone is putting up the text of Shakespeare, leaving a comment thread open and getting ‘please I need an essay!’ responses.

    Again these, should they exist, might not actually be a deep misunderstanding of the website’s purpose. One might sort of appreciate that the hypothetical Shakespeare publishing webmaster is just some person who likes Shakespeare, and just think that one’s odds of having him do your homework are likely higher than usual.

    Comment by Mary — October 6, 2008 @ 12:55 pm

  2. Mary: on my other blog I had posted a maths/accounting question (well, more like “how do I make sense of my funding needs in a formula” and I had someone post a comment asking for help with his math homework. When I said I couldn’t help him, he then asks “then what are you?”

    Comment by Tiara — October 7, 2008 @ 6:32 pm

  3. Actually, some of the best I’ve seen came in a project I did that wasn’t public where I actually tried to create a gumbaby (with a little help from Google AdWords)… I got one request that Tom Stoppard help someone with their book report (somewhere, Stoppard is spontaneously hemorrhaging), and one fan letter to Elie Wiesel which included the fourteen-year-old fan’s mailing address. :P

    And thanks for that tip, Tiara — I might end up looking into more instances of that kind of thread, too. “Help me with my homework” might be a good string to enter into search engines to find more instances of gumbabies!

    Comment by Gus Andrews — October 16, 2008 @ 7:06 am

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