Racer’s post that we should answer every post made me think. He is similar to many others, in that people tend to think that, “Since I know of/have access to an expert, and since I can contact this expert, he or she must e-mail me.” I’ve seen this argument made implicitly in many feedback letters. People get angry when Brock, Bill, TC, etc. don’t reply promptly.
We could argue about whether they have a duty to answer. Let us not, though. Instead, we should take a step back from our computers.
The internet gives us access to instant communication. I can reply to an e-mail in a matter of seconds much as I can talk on the phone. But instead of thinking “e-mail as phone,” maybe we should think of it as a letter. When you get a letter from a friend, do you drop everything to write a reply? If you’re like most people, you put the letter aside; think about a reply - then write later.
Now, what if you got a letter from a complete stranger? Would you drop everything to answer his or her letter? Odds are, you'd look at letter with a strange look on your face, as you pondered how this person got your address. You might, for fun, answer the letter. Or you might not. But would you feel bad if you threw the letter away?
While I realize that Brock et. al. have made their e-mail addresses public, I do not remember their saying, “We will now answer anything and everything.”
One final note: Remember the great Dan Duchaine (I get a tear in my eye - literally)? He used to answer private e-mails. He had only one condition. He would answer the e-mail IF and ONLY IF the question were something new, innovative, or otherwise interesting.
So maybe before a person posts, he should ask himself, “Is this post interesting? Has it been covered before?” If it is one of the aforementioned, then odds are somebody will answer it.