As a writer, I get lots of email from readers, most of which is interesting and enjoyable to receive, but some of which is, well, daft might be the best word for it.
My favorite message of the last few weeks was from the young man who wrote “I bought your book Creating Cool HTML Web Pages and found it really great, except I still don’t understand how to have a page point to another page.” I responded by suggesting that he read chapter 6 of the book in its entirety, since that was the entire topic of the chapter. He didn’t respond.
This is an example of what I call “instead-of research”: what this guy was most likely doing was trying to answer a (quite rudimentary) HTML question by finding an HTML expert and asking them instead of doing his own research. I’ll bet $100 that he doesn’t have a copy of my book at all.
Sometimes I get email that just baffles me too, like this: “When I make a form on a web page when someone click on the submit button where does it go? If it is a username and password how do I check it against a list of valid entries to ensure it is valid? Every source I have checked including the official 4.01 specifictaion has failed to answer this question.”
The official HTML specification does indeed talk about the attributes of the FORM tag, as does my book, in great detail. The answer: it goes to whatever you specify as the ACTION for the form.
Then there are the fun ones: “on my last vacation I read your book Teach Yourself Unix in 24 Hours“. I couldn’t resist. I responded “Okay, first off: you really need a *vacation*, don’t you? :-)” The rest of the message was a bit more typical of my normal reader email: “I’ve installed linux Mandrake 9.0 but don’t know how I gonna practice what I learned, perhaps this OS is not the one I wanted. I’m eager to be a unix expert.” The answer: Though bankrupt, Mandrake is still an excellent Linux distribution and quite acceptable for learning Unix.
Then there’s another fellow who asks: “I am also interested in UNIX and
Linux Platforms and liked your book very much. Please tell me if I have Windows 2000 and Windows 98 already installed and then I install Linux on it, without backup, will my earlier Windows installations cease to work?” These are the most interesting questions because I have to do some research to identify good reference sites. The answer, this time: If you have the partitions set up properly and configure grub/lilo correctly, you can most certainly boot Linux or either Windows version on the same system.
There are also the messages that remind me of errors and gaffes, in particular IDG Books messed up a batch of included CDROMs for my Creating Cool HTML 4.01 Web Pages book and I often get queries about it. The universal answer: send a note to email@example.com asking for a replacement.
Don’t misunderstand me: I love getting email from readers. it’s incredibly rewarding and a pleasure to communicate and help people. Except, perhaps, for people are are seeking shortcuts on homework assignments… 🙂
Oh, and I answer every single reader email I receive! Even the occasionally daft ones.