October 5th, 2004


electronic background noise

Many years ago, my dad (who is a mathematics professor) said that he once tried to read some Usenet newsgroups such as sci.math, but that there really wasn't any serious discussion taking place. It was mostly people who didn't know what they were talking about, posting for the sake of discussion. This was long before the public Internet, at a time when everybody with access to Usenet was posting from an educational institution of some kind.

I've seen this phenomenon in several places since then, as I've been involved in electronic communications for something like 15 years. Well, it just hit home again. I was reading a post in mathematics and the first two responses started out like this:

  • I've never done number theory, so I can't quite get the precise words out, but...
  • i'm just thinking out loud here, so this could be way off, but...

Now, I mean no disrespect to the participants involved, but it might be time for me to stop reading that community. The question was regarding square roots of integers, and once upon a time I probably knew how to answer the question, and I would be curious to find out the answer now, but an LJ community is probably not the right place to find that. Most likely somebody will post a definitive answer to the question, but to find that I will have to pay attention to that post and come back later to see if there are any more answers. This is probably not an effective use of my time.

This post might seem a bit grouchy, but really I'm just looking for ways to eliminate some of the noise from my online time. I find that I can easily blow a whole weekend afternoon surfing around reading stuff and chatting with people and that sort of thing. I've already unsubscribed from some mailing lists that I never read. Another place to look is my livejournal friends page.

I just hit Reload again and somebody posted a simple, correct answer to the problem. But I'm still going to unsubscribe.