Softly, Softly

Sometimes when confronted by a setback, people lose their cool.

It happens. You have spent hours, perhaps days going over something in your head. You do research, can’t quite get to the answer you want to you post on a QA site, thinking “these guys really know what they’re talking about, I’ll get an answer real quick”.

But the process goes wrong. Instead of seeing your post and congratulating your for your witty and well-chosen phrasing, they take issue with terminology, ask questions that seem obvious, or irrelevant, or both! Then the question is put on hold until such time as your can ‘improve’ it.

Being told to improve isn’t the end of the world, but it’s a definite poke in the ego. The tribe has circled, they won’t let you in. As a result, some choose to express their frustrations in a non-constructive manner. This is unfortunate, because it evokes less consideration and feelings of altruism, not more.

In the example above, I’ve tried to pull things back from that brink:

Hi Raven, welcome to Super User. It seems you are a bit frustrated by the QA process here. Questions are sometimes put “on hold” so that they can be more easily answered- this has the benefit of making it more likely for you to get an answer. While it may be clear what you mean and intend, some of our experienced members find the specifics of what you are asking unclear.

However, I’m afraid you cannot ‘require’ that we take a post from being “on hold”, the best option for this to happen is to clarify or add detail as requested. Furthermore, your comments come across as quite aggressive; that’s hopefully not what you intended (since that would not be okay); you should consider removing those before a moderator does.

Futhermore, as your edit does not contain information pertinent to answering your question, I am going to ‘rollback’ to your original version. You are welcome to make further edits to add information to make answering the question easier.

(typos mine)

There’s two things that need to be done, as I see it: 1) let the person know what their approach won’t work and is not acceptable; 2) try to get things back on track.

The first, if done right, is doable; in fact it’s very satisfying when it happens. You can go from someone insulting you and being aggressive, to having a laugh with them (in the best case!). That said, in this case getting the tone back to being civil would be enough. Being nice when someone expects hostility can be incredibly disarming. It has to be sincere though; phoney friendliness backfires.

The second is important form a QA point of view. Interactions are hazardous and sometimes go wrong and the wrong things are said sometimes but those are all a distraction. Ideally, a question would be improved so that it can be answered (some cannot). A reasonable response from the community side is more likely to engender a helpful clarification or vital detail. It’s not easy to keep that up though, especially seeing the same thing day after day.

Post-scriptum: in this case the user characterised the on-hold review process and comments as ‘nefarious’ and declared that what they had written was ‘ALREADY 100% CLARIFIED’, amongst other things. It doesn’t always work.


This post is retroactively posted as there’s no wifi at the place I’m staying. It’s 2242 local time (so 2142 UK time), and by now I’ve arrived, checked in (kinda, more on that later) and eaten. Getting here was, well, interesting.

Firstly, I saw Eddie Izzard at the MEN arena last night. He was pretty damn funny from where I was sitting anyway – and I was in a pretty good seat. Some good jokes, although a lot of callbacks to his old material. Not too much I suppose, but a couple of them felt more for the audience’s sake than because it was funny in and of itself. Anyway, I hold Eddie to impeccably high standards, so it’s natural that I find a small fault which probably only existed in my mind. If you can, go and see him.

Getting to Manchester Airport was a dawdle, thanks to the airport rail link. I really do hope Glasgow does get it’s airport link, it makes so much sense.

Checking in, etc, was fine. Although I think airports generate ‘stupid fields’ as my IQ definitely slipped a few points going through there. The flight itself was fine, at a short 1 hr 40 min. I fall asleep so easily on flights. Like, there’s something about the engine droning that just sends my brain straight into delta waves. Or something. i’m going to try to recreate that when I go to sleep at the end of this post.

The temperature was 12°C on touchdown, which is a very pleasant temperature. Once I got off the plane, things started to get interesting.

Barcelona airport is member of the “Brotherhood of Airports that Generate ‘stupid fields'”. I say this as I went and stood in the non-EU citizen line at first, and wondered why it wasn’t moving. D’oh. Sorted myself in the right line, got trhough and started looking for baggage claim. Well, it wasn’t by the place we came out of. Apparently we had to go out of the exit and get it from another part of the airport. Another terminal, in fact. So, confused me went a-wandering through the airport, through more security (where the ‘stupid field’ intensifies and is compounded by the language barrier), and eventually found the correct baggage claim, partly through luck. Got my bag whchi by now had a broken strap – thankfully non-critical.

So I went to find some transport. My initial plan had been to find a taxi, but having looked at a map, I found that the place I was staying in was pretty central, probably a 5 or 10 minute walk from where the bus terminated. What’s more, the bus probably costs about a tenth of what the taxi does. So, getting a bus was now my plan. Then I met an Irishman with a Scouse accent.

Yes, an Irish man with an accent that wouldn’t sound a bit out of place in an episode of Brookside. He was ranting and raving about Ryanair buggering him about (i’ll spare you the grisly details) but he recommended I get the train into the city, reasoning that a T10 card works on both the train and the metro and is fairly cheap. Fair enough said I. So I wandered back through the airport to find the train station, which I did eventually. The trains left every half hour, so of course I arrived 5 minutes after one had left. Sigh.

I eventually got on the train, and as it pulled away at the station at high speed (Spanish trains don’t run on electricity, they run on pure WIN) I realised I hadn’t the foggiest idea which station I was meant to get off at. Oh dear. So I sat on my seat, alternating between vaguely terrified and a Twoflower-esque calmness as I reasoned that I could sort it out eventually, even if I did end up in Valencia. This was a real worry, as there are trains to Manchester airport from Glasgow, so there was a real possibility I’d end up in another city hundreds of miles away.

I got off at a station that had metro signs up (phew). I wandered upstairs and found a map and realised that the place where I wanted to be was only 4 or 5 (or somewhere up to 8, the map was imprecise) blocks away. Did I decide to walk it? For a change I was sensible and decided not to, reasoning I had nealy 17kg on my bag and another bag that was around 10 kilos. So I got a metro train instead. The Barcelona metro is a wondderful thing. I’ve always supported the simple Glasgow circle, but seriously we could learna thing or two from these guys. Oddly enough, it was curiously reminiscent of the Newcastle metro, and I mean no disrespect by that.

I got off at Place Catalunya, which seems to be the Barcelona equivalent of Times Square. On reaching ground level the first person I encountered tried to sell me drugs (told you it was like Times Square). Anyway, after a quick look around I realised that although this place was undoubtedly close to where I wanted to be, I didn’t actually know where that was. Bugger. I set off in what seemed like an appropriate direction until I came to a map. I would say that it wasn’t a very clear or helpful map, but it did get me going in the general direction I wanted to go, although I claim some of the credit. I walked up the big road which I forget the name of (big, wide, apparently famous street), and after a block or two another realisation hit me. I was on the right road (hurray), but I had no idea if I was going in the right direction. I decided to hedge my bets and kept going in the direction I was already heading in, hoping I’d find the street that crossed it soonish.

After a couple of crossroads of not recognising street names I must confess my hope was dwindling (and my back and shoulders were killing me) and I stopped and asked for directions in a smallish hotel. The rather nice chap informed me that iwas indeed going the right way and had only another block to go till I hit the correct street! So I found the street (hurrah!), and then promptly failed to find the guest house (horroo.). I found the correct number, but there was no facade, and no sign to indicate there was a guest house there. In fact it just looked like a residential block.

It is hard to convey the sinking feeling I had at that moment, without involving the Titanic or quicksand or other things of that nature. I could see things unravelling, spiralling out of control… But wait! First I decided to get a damn good grip on myself and make a quick enquiry in the restaurant beside the place. The buy at the bar knew what I wanted to ask before I had asked it, bless him. Apparently the guest house was where I was trying, I just had to puch the right buzzer. Hmm. I got it on the second try and after some strainedshoew conversation I was buzzed in.

I showed the nice-if-rather-confused lad my booking confirmation. You see, the proprietor (Vincent, if memory serves) was not there and so they didn’t know I was meant to be staying there. He and the person helping him out (who seems to be English, but hasn’t said “God bless the Queen” yet to confirm) agreed that I had thew right place, and I should probably come in. I was shown to a rather small room and asked if I wanted it. I answered yes, of course, as I figured my alternative was to say no and leave, and my neck and shoulders would just not have put up with that by then.

I gave myself a rinse and a change of t-shirt (walking while burdened is hot work) and went out to get some food. I must confess that I opted for a Burger King that I espied on Placa Catalunya> I was not in the mood for adventure. Also, I figured if language was a problem I could grunt and point at the pictures. I wasn’t lowering myself to McDonalds though (I passed two on the way to BK). I do have *some* standards. After a BK Doble Cheese Bacon (with chips and water) I felt a lot better and headed back to the guest house. I had to buzz twice to be let in (they had no spare keys to furnish me with). I was on my way in when the buzzer was answered (the street door was ajar and I figured I could hammer on the internal door) which was momentarily confusing.

So anyway I went for a wash of the face and to put some aqueous cream on my face. My skin has been quite dry and itchy lately; I have removed part of one of my eyebrows with scratching. It’ll regrow. I know this from experience, sadly. All I’m saying is don’t eat a LOT of vodka jelly in the company of some poeople you do not know. My aqueous cream seemed to have been opened by inspectors (joy). I don’t know what they did, but it seems to have been diluted. It’s now a proper sloshing liquid instead of a viscous cream. Most peculiar.

Right. Bedtime. First I must go ask for some water (I’m hilariously thirsty… no, deliriously thirsty) from one of the other residents. I know they’re awake as I can hear music playing. So goes my first night.

ADDENDUM: I’m told the tap water in this place isn’t good to drink. It has cement in it (?!). Fuckery.

Night Light

Back from hiatus again, really only to comment on how light it is here tonight. I went outside at half past one because I looked out the window and thought someone was shining a ight on my garden. It was really that light.

It must just be a reflection of the city lights off the clouds, but normally it doesn’t get quite so light. I mean I checked – I could read outside in the ambient light. And this isn’t me bragging about my super-duper night vision either – I’d had lights on in various rooms before I went outside.

I tried to take some photos to illustrate what I mean but if my camera’s screen is any indication they failed horribly, even on night setting. I mean, my camera is a wee PAS number; this is another of the times I’d like a decent camera. A dSLR with a full range of options on exposure and lenses would be nice, but that way lies madness and spending armfuls of cash.

Spanish Adventure

So, having just celebrated by 22nd birthday, I have come to a decision that will have profound implications for my life. Well, I say I have decided, but I am being especially indecisive about it. Just call me Harvey Twoface.

The decision? Whether or not to defer entry to medical school for a year. My choice amounts to:

  • Start my medical degree in September, coming straight from a pharmacology degree from the same university
  • Take a year out to travel, probably to Spain for 6 months, then possibly elsewhere, like Italy, Germany or Morocco (if I am feeling particularly adventurous)

Part of my reason for thinking about this is that I have lived in Glasgow all my life, and so my experience is somewhat limited. Don’t get me wrong, this is a wonderful city filled with great things; but it can be very insular, to the extent of some small villages even. And while I love it here, I do feel I should have some experience of life elsewhere. There’s a whole world outside the city walls! Or so they tell me.

Another big part of the reason is that I desperately want to learn another language, and my attempts while residing in this country are abortive at best. While you may point to this as a lack of commitment, I do feel that actually residing somewhere that the language is spoken will significantly bolster my flagging efforts to learn it. It’s either that or not speak for 6 months.

So where would I go to? In Spain, probably one of Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia. Madrid I have seen already to a tiny extent; and I have heard wonderful things about Barcelona. The agony of choice…

Anyway, you would be right in saying that I would appear to be leaning towards the defer option. It’s intimidating, as I’ll have to go off alone leaving family, friends and significant other behind, to a country where I don’t speak the language and I won’t have a steady job. And my brain has a decent chance of (further) atrophying and being unable to recommence academic pursuit some September 2010. And I might cock it all up or wind up dying in some Catalan separatist attack, but hey ho, I’ll give it a go!