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For being dead, Doug's sure active on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dougmccune You may have missed the date on that blog post...
I have been having an ongoing conversation with a friend about dealing with requests from strangers. We both run somewhat popular open-source libraries, so we have to deal with a steady stream of requests for help and bug reports. We both welcome this, it's great to have a community around your work, but as we're doing this as volunteers we only have a limited amount of time to spend on the project and sometimes we get requests that would take a long time to fulfill. The best method I've found of dealing with this is 'reciprocity'. If someone sends me a hard-to-decipher or too-brief bug report, then I'll ask them to send me more details, run a test case, or some other relatively trivial task that will help me make progress, before I burn a lot of time investigating. If they get back to me, then I will make their bug a top priority, because they've demonstrated they're willing to work on the problem too. If not, I don't feel bad about moving on to other issues. I've found that this principle works well as a general filter to weed out 'unreasonable' people, that tiny minority who don't value your time. Just ask for something relatively minor in return, and most people will actually feel better about the exchange becoming more equal. In contrast those who feel entitled to your help will either ignore you or act affronted.
I've spent some time hanging out with wildland firefighters and ecologists in SoCal arguing what to do about this problem. Here's some of what I learnt: - We spent the last half of the 20th century suppressing fires, which increased the tree density - That increased density left each tree competing for a limited water supply, leaving them weaker and prone to parasites, eg a plague of beetles Careful logging definitely helps, but: - Standard commercial practice leaves a lot of 'litter', branches, smaller trees, etc at ground level, which means big hot fires - A lot of the back-country is inaccessible and hard to log, unlike ski areas with good roads - It's a lot more straightforward and profitable to clear-cut than do more nuanced and scenic management - Dead or diseased wood isn't all that profitable either This makes it surprisingly tough to deal with the problem using commercial logging. It's definitely part of the solution, but unless we're willing to pay a hell of a lot of money* to clear all the sections that don't make commercial sense, we'll need managed fires too. That's a pretty scary proposition, but like you both say the status quo is going to lead to some massive unmanaged fires. This is a pretty emotional topic - I know Brad's been at the sharp end of a couple of fires and my closest call in LA was about 200 yards from our house, but there's some tough tradeoffs involved. It's not just a bunch of dirty hippies blocking the logging. :) (*) I remember quotes of $10,000 an acre for selective logging, but I don't have a reference