Public service announcement for United States taxpayers: In tax year 2006, you can claim a $30 refund if you owned a telephone


The United States government authorized a one-time refund of long-distance excise taxes paid between March 2003 and July 2006, but early returns suggest that many taxpayers are unaware of this refund. (Here's the IRS press release that goes into more detail and includes a list of most common mistakes people have been making.) The easy way to claim this is merely to take the standard deduction of $refund; the hard way is to collect all your telephone bills from that period and compute how much long distance excise tax you actually paid.

This entry also illustrates how all the nitpicking from commenters over the years has altered the way I write, forcing me to put all sorts of clarifying information into the subject line—making it rather unwieldy—so that people won't carp about how the entry applies only to United States income taxes. Remember when blogs were an informal communication mechanism? Where you could leave mathematical precision behind, relying on your readers to fill in the gaps? When you could toss together a sample program without people obsessing over the grayscale algorithm you used? Or use phrases like "regular people like you and me" without being taken to task for implying that other people aren't regular? I miss those days. Blogging isn't all that much fun now; it's more of a chore.

(And I predict that somebody is going to nitpick my article and lambaste me for missing the fact that the exact amount of the refund varies depending on how many exemptions you claim. So here's the disclaimer: This entry is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing tax advice. Consult with an attorney or tax professonal regarding any specific legal or tax situation.)

Comments (75)
  1. gkdada says:

    Raymond,

    You can put the fun back into Blogging by writing what you exactly wanted to in the first place, and enjoying the comments as you would (learn to) enjoy the bumps in those accupressure sandals.

    -Gops.

  2. TKW says:

    Well I certainly still enjoy reading your blog as much as ever.

    Thank you.

  3. Peter Ritchie says:

    "forcing me to put all sorts of clarifying information into the subject line—making it rather unwieldy—so that people won’t carp"

    It doesn’t matter what you do, people will complain.  It’s still politically correct to bash anything coming out of Microsoft regardless of the bashers are completely ignorant.  You’re still doing the community a service regardless of the comments of some people, keep up the good work.

  4. NBC says:

    maybe you should have another blog not on msdn :)

    when people comme to entreprise blogs, they expect useful and accurate information :p (at least for me).

    [This is not an official Microsoft blog. There is no support, no guarantee of accuracy or utility. Use at your own risk. I thought those were the ground rules for all blogs. It sounds like what you want is the SDK, not a blog. -Raymond]
  5. codingsanity says:

    Speaking as a long-term South African reader, I’m bright enough to figure out that tax advice from an American blogger probably doesn’t have much of an impact on me ;-D

    I say stuff the nitpickers, write the way you want. I don’t subscribe to your blog to read the comments, I subscribe for YOUR content, not some fussy types carping from the sidelines.

  6. Tom Jackson says:

    I hereby declare that Raymond write whatever the heck he wants, and leave the comments to be largely self-regulating. Raymond, keep up the fantastic work.

    On a side note, it’s a lot more respectful to suggest such nitpickings as additional reading for the visitor, not corrections for the author.

    -tjackson

  7. Michael says:

    Well if you do your blog in a way you don’t like, I’m going to carp about it myself! Reconcile that.

    You can’t please everyone, therefore do it the way you feel is best.

    [But that won’t stop the pointless carping. -Raymond]
  8. Steve says:

    Why do nitpickers bother you so much?  Can’t you just ignore them?

    You could even disable comments.

    [Would it be right to delete the comments that I want to ignore? Or do I have to leave them up so people who visit the site in the future can see all the nitpickers’ complaints go unanswered? -Raymond]
  9. Weiguo says:

    I enjoy your articles and I don’t need the disclaimers.

    I think if you deleted nitpicking comments, you’d just get more, forcing more work onto yourself.

    I think ignoring them unless you’re going to link to them in future articles is a good policy.

  10. Gabe says:

    While I don’t think you need to use the post titles to fulfill this requirement, context is very important on the web. It’s very frustrating to find something as a result of a search and not be able to find any context (like country or city) to see if it even remotely applies to me. Usually this is a result of the author assuming that the reader wouldn’t be at their site if they didn’t know that context.

    For example, you might do a search for plumbers and find a web site claiming to have the best plumbers in the "tri-county area", as if everybody knows that there’s only a single thing called the "tri-county area". In reality it could apply to any place where three counties meet, in any country that happens to name regions "counties" (US, UK, Ireland, etc.).

    I frequently see stories linked to local newspaper and TV station web sites where there’s no indication of what city/county/state/country the event took place in.

    If I were from some other country that uses $ as its currency symbol, I would want some reasonably immediate way to know whether today’s post applies to me. Mentioning it in the first sentence is more than sufficient. Even having an "about me" link that says something like "I’m a Microsoft employee based in the US; I work on Windows Explorer and related technologies" would be fine.

    It might seem obvious that anybody with a blog on msdn.com would be a Microsoft employee, but it’s only obvious to those already in that context. And even if you know that MSDN is a part of MS, there’s no way to know whether only employees may have blogs, or MVPs are allowed, or even any MSDN member can have one.

  11. JenK says:

    Thanks for the reminder on the phone tax thing. I don’t remember doing that so I probably haven’t yet.

    Re: pointless carping, I haven’t got the exact equation nailed down, but some of the variables are:

    • The total number of readers.
    • Ratio of readers who actually like to read what you write to those who are here because they’ve heard you can "solve their problems" or other reasons.

    • What I call "The Microsoft Factor". This has subfactors:

    — Big Company Factor. There are things about working in a company of > 10,000 people that you can only learn by doing so. I could always peg someone who had never worked in a company of more than 100 people when they asked me what Bill Gates was like, or how often the Windows and Office teams would "get together".

    — Professional Software Factor. If you haven’t written code, there’s a LOT of stuff about softare that you don’t know. If you have written code, but haven’t written code in a professional environment (including multiple developers on the same project, professional testers (not a secretary or dev who’s "slumming"), bug tracking, et cetera) then you may not know as much as you think.  And if you haven’t written AND SUPPORTED a programming environment, service, or API for other devs then there’s still more you don’t know.  (And no, contributing one fix to Linux does NOT compare to working on Windows.)

    — Insanity Factor. Simply put, some will dislike anything you say simply because you work at Microsoft. In a rational world, such people would probably not bother to read. But it’s not a rational world.

    • Anonymity of comments. On LiveJournal there’s a higher % of users who also blog on the same medium, so you’re less anonymous than here, where most people don’t have accounts.

    • Use of comment filtering/moderation. I don’t know if you can do that here, other than complete moderation of all comments or disabling comments.  LJ has a couple other options, largely having to do with LJ IDs and your "friends list".

    • Use of post filtering. My understanding is that anything you post is public. There’s stuff that I post so anyone can read it. But there’s the stuff I post so that only people on my list can read it, and they have to be signed in.  

  12. Jeffrey says:

    I think the number of happy readers is huge compared to the number of nitpickers.  The nitpickers will never be happy.  Please ignore them.  Your blog is a great source of technical wisdom I can apply everyday, and as a bonus, your writing style is entertaining!

  13. ad says:

    Let the nitwits go unanswered. Every time you respond to a troll, you lend them credibility and attention and encourage them to do it again. If there’s something really egregious, one would hope another reader will step up. In any case I think most people who read blog comments have a decent anti-troll filter the same way  most experienced internet surfers don’t notice banner ads.

    Instead of highlighting stupid comments with your replies, you could even consider responding only to insightful comments to reward good behaviour. Perhaps  include an abbreviated version of the "ground rules" next to the comment form?

    No one expects you to take on the world in a giant argument, nor should anyone expect your content to be tailored to them alone. Well-reasoned arguments are just wasted breath on an annoying loud minority, and the quiet majority knows it.  

    I sincerely hope you cut out the ‘chore’ aspects of your writing and find ways to enjoy it again. It’ll make for a better blog anyway.

  14. JenK says:

    Also, Usenet Nod Syndrome has transferred to blogs.

  15. Jay B says:

    It’s your blog, bro.  Do whatever you have to do to make it fun again.

    I think it would be entertaining to see things like this on deserving posts:

    [Shut up -Love Raymond]

    [This person doesn’t know wtf -Raymond]

    [___________

    | clue bus _

    |____________|

    —O——O— -Sincerely, Raymond]

  16. Miles Archer says:

    Perhaps you should ignore the comments from now on to make your writing more enjoyable.

    I like it either way.

  17. C Gomez says:

    What would happen if you just deleted stupid comments?

    Well, I think it would be great.  Being so off-topic or grating as to be a jerk isn’t fun to read.

    But we all know what would happen.  You and MSFT would be accused of censorship, and being unwilling to answer to criticism.  "This is just so typical of MSFT".  We’d hear about freedom of speech, and eventually that the United States is a police state for not cracking down on bloggers like you.

    It’s too bad it feels like a chore for you.  I sympathize.  I completely understand.  I also hope you continue your fine work.  I have learned so much about Windows and coding merely by reading your blog.  There is a vast education in your archive, and I hope it continues.

  18. boxmonkey says:

    One suggestion: black on black.

  19. Sean W. says:

    Raymond, I think you should just write what you want to write:  I’ll keep reading this blog whether you’re spreading unfounded gossip on Paris Hilton or quoting exacting mathematical formalisms, because I know that regardless of what you’re writing, it’s probably going to be useful to me, and even if it isn’t, it’ll still be worth reading.  So while I may occasionally be critical of your company, that doesn’t mean that I don’t think your blog is anything but invaluable service to just about every developer in the industry, no matter how you write it.  Write what you want, and ignore the complaints:  Some of us will keep reading anyway :-)

  20. ::Wendy:: says:

    the decisions about raymonds blog are Raymond,  ha can choose to find the way he has developed his writing technique as lacking fun.  he can also choose to change his writing technique bach and try a different tack for tackling what he has perceived to be problems.  

    Blogging per se hasn’t changed….  Raymond has choice,  sound’s like he’s not overly comfortable making some of those choices,  e.g.

    • information up-front in title or omitted based on his assumptions about readers
    • moderate comments based on misunderstandings of leave the misunderstandings without a moderated clarfication

    etc

    Raymond should make the decisions that put fun back into blogging for him,  otherwise his blog may just well stop being fun to read.

  21. TL says:

    Just "out" the nitpicky pinheads every once and a while with a post like todays to point them out for what they are.  Other than that don’t worry about ’em and keep up the good work!

  22. Nik says:

    Raymond, I’ve been wondering for a while it it would be a good idea for you to auto-generate the first response to every one of your posts.  It would say "This is yet another example of Microsoft’s arrogance and incompetence, they should be fixing bugs instead of wasting time on <insert title here>.  Furthermore, the information is incomplete and misleading".  No matter what you write, someone will invariably feel the need to say that.  Maybe that would shut up the chronic complainers.  Then you could also delete the nit-picking comments without inviting an endless torrent of identical comments.  Once a week you could throw in an auto-generated "Norman Diamond" comment which says "Microsoft forces me to pay them to report bugs, and they reject all bugs as ‘won’t fix’ !  Waahhh !’.  On the other hand, maybe "Norman Diamond" is someone else’s blog-comment bot.

  23. Nick says:

    [It sounds like what you want is the SDK, not a blog. -Raymond]

    Hey, I’d go for that! Where can I download the Raymond SDK? Does it come with a psychic debugger? :)

  24. J.Marsch says:

    For what it’s worth, I really appreciate all of the time an energy that you have put into writing your blog; your information is invaluable.

    P.S. keep your informal writing style and refer to use as "regular people"

    P.P.S Make politically incorrect comments if you want, and use it to express your opinions.

    P.P.P.S. Global Warming is bad, and we contribute to it.  Promote emission control legislation.

  25. Erisian23 says:

    Like many readers I suspect, I’d assumed you actually enjoyed sparring with morons (though presumably less than you enjoy sharing information).  The pattern is:  1) write an interesting and intelligent article interlaced with wry humor, then 2) respond to idiotic comments with acerbic witticisms.  It’s a pattern we’ve all come to know and love.

    In this case, it might be helpful to bring a sense of balance to the issue of nitpickers.  Based on a pretend survey I just conducted, I found that for every 1 nitpicker, you have 16 appreciative but silent lurkers and 3 vocal readers who would gladly throw parties to celebrate We Love Raymond Day, if it existed.

    You bring a tremendous amount of value to the community, Raymond.  Please do any and every thing you need to in order to not fall silent on us.

  26. Igor says:

    Have you considered that your "skills of a thermonuclear device" expressed through your writing are perhaps the main reason why people love to read your blog?

    Go wild, bash ignorant people sometimes, it will make you feel better for sure.

  27. J says:

    I don’t agree that the grayscale thing was a nitpick.  I think the most interesting thing about blogs is that there’s sometimes a gem in the comments that provides more insight.  And in this case, the gem was that you could avoid losing half a percent of luminance by adding 50.  Maybe this comment opened doors for newbies on the subject.

  28. richard says:

    Going heavy on qualifiers, caveats, and clarifications can add flair to a blog post. So can short sentences. Variety is preferred.

    Writing is a contract between the author and the reader. The author tries to be clear and the reader tries not to be dense.

  29. Eric TF Bat says:

    If you had neglected to mention that you were talking about the USian tax system, it’s certainly possible that one could construe that you were being americocentric and forgetting that the rest of the world exists.  I mean, it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that a man with the surname Chen, who speaks German and Danish and Gibberian and gods know what other languages, and who regularly discusses matters of internationalisation in software, might have forgotten that the rest of the world exists.  Perfectly, perfectly reasonable…

    And in other news: Pope Benedict XVI accused of riding his skateboard through the Sistine Chapel and deafening nuns with his boombox playing Eminem at full volume.  Film at eleven.

  30. Mack says:

    Yes the greyscale thing was a nitpick. Sometimes the picked nit actually matters, but not in this case.

    It’s pointless to correct a half-percent rounding error in a formula whose coefficients are  arbitrary (within a few percent) to begin with.

  31. Turner Martin says:

    All authors have critics…why not just respond to the ones who deliver valid criticism, and ignore the ones who pick nits?  You lose much more face by calling attention to the nit picking than you would by ignoring it, IMHO.

  32. Merus says:

    You could always tell the pedants to get lost. It’s very satisfying. You shouldn’t have to qualify things to satisfy all those people who felt like they’re owed content relevant to them.

  33. Bec says:

    Mm, I don’t know what it is, but any blog that appeals to computer people (examples I’ve noticed – slashdot, Dilbert blog, Daily WTF, this blog) always seems to attract a high percentage of nitpicking, dismissive and/or kneejerk responses where the poster wants to prove how superior they are. Maybe you could do a Scott Adams and see how much enjoyment you can get from mocking such people :)

  34. <i>Blogging isn’t all that much fun now; it’s more of a chore.</i>

    So, do you write this blog at work, or in your free time?

    If you are getting paid for this, and dealing with a few complaints is the worst part, it’s still a pretty sweet gig.

    [I write the entries on my own time. It’s not part of my job. I just keep doing it because it’s expected of me now. -Raymond]
  35. Shog9 says:

    Bah. You get to ignore fun comments calling down damnation on your head as punishment typos and omissions. I get to delete spam advertising russian goat porn.

    But look who’s complaining…

    Ain’t no-one forcin’ you to do it, Chen. Vast multitudes of us out here appreciatin’ it though.

    [No point complaining about the spam comments since the people posting them don’t read the web site anyway. -Raymond]
  36. kokorozashi says:

    It’s your blog and it’s up to you to choose whether to give the nit-pickers the power to bother you. From my perspective, they don’t deserve that power, especially when the value of "they" includes me. :-)

  37. Dom says:

    100 bonus points for ‘$refund’. Clever.

  38. James Schend says:

    NBC, if you read the links, the information Raymond provided was useful and accurate. What you and the other nitpickers were missing is that they were *examples.*

    The location of the Windows directory IS NOT THE POINT OF THE EXAMPLE.

    The specific way color is translated into gray is NOT THE POINT.

    People who miss (and/or ignore) the POINT of a sentence to complain about some minor detail piss me off to no end. Take the following example sentence (specifically designed as a Godwin): "Hitler is an evil man because he killed 8 million people in concentration camp."  The nitpicker will read this sentence and respond, "wait! 8 million isn’t accurate! It’s currently estimated at 9.2 million yet some estimates go as high as 10.5 million! Yada!" Of course with this petty and pointless correction, they entirely miss the POINT of the sentence "Hitler is an evil man."

    Microsoft bashing is part of it, but I think a greater part is the "I want to look smarter than you" factor. As in, "I’ve read more about the holocaust and know more about the concentration camp numbers, therefore I’m smarter than you."

  39. John C. Kirk says:

    Lots of blogs are two-way, but not all.

    I’m thinking in particular of Neil Gaiman’s blog:

    http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/

    Basically, he posts things, but there’s no "Comments" link attached to each entry. There is a page where people can submit questions to him (e.g. "Will you be doing any book signings in my town this year?"), and he’ll sometimes pick out comments from his inbox to address in his blog, but the vast majority of them go unanswered.

    Meanwhile, since there’s an RSS feed to LiveJournal:

    http://syndicated.livejournal.com/officialgaiman/

    each post tends to attract a discussion, although Neil doesn’t (usually) follow it himself, and comments to LJ feeds all evaporate after about two weeks. Basically, it’s a way for fans to go "squee!" at each other, which is why I now just use the RSS feed in IE rather than the LJ version.

    In this case, if Raymond is getting fed up of the comments, maybe it would make sense to shift over to that approach, at least on a trial basis? I’d personally be sorry to see the dialogue go, but I’d prefer that to the whole blog grinding to a halt.

  40. Nathan says:

    Raymond, you complain about your readers seemingly every second or third article in some way or other.

    I assume you originally started a blog so that people could enjoy reading it, so please leave the complaining out of it as it detracts from otherwise interesting posts.

    There are stupid people all over the internet: either turn off comments, delete comments that annoy you, or grow a thicker skin.

  41. JenK says:

    JohnCKirk –

    If you want to read Raymond via LJ, check out http://syndicated.livejournal.com/oldnewthingmsdn/

  42. JenK says:

    Nathan said: "I assume you originally started a blog so that people could enjoy reading it"

    I assumed he started it because he enjoyed writing it.  Funny difference, eh?

  43. denis bider says:

    Raymond,

    if you’re only writing this blog because you think you’re expected to, and you’re not doing it because you really want to any more, then you should definitely stop, or at least take a long vacation.

    The daily frequency of your posts and the diligence with which you write them are definitely something that has helped you build a large community of readers. But lately you seem to be seeing yourself more as a victim of this community than one who enjoys it, and that’s definitely not a good situation to find yourself in.

    Perhaps you should start to care less about what others might expect, and start to care more about what you want. When you start to do this, that might affect the size and structure of your readership, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. It certainly looks like you’re not exactly satisfied with what you have right now; but it is up to you to change it.

    denis

  44. It would be nice if you could delete comments, but Weiguo is right: you’ll have even more dissension.  Maybe a quick label — instead of your usual yellow-backgrounded commentary, how about a different color box that simply says: "This comment has been categorized as a pointless nitpick that I choose not to respond to." :-)

    I’m an infrequent commenter here and I suspect I’m with a *vast majority* of readers who enjoy your blog and don’t want to see the nitpickers leech all the enjoyment of the blog away from you.  Try not to let them bring you down.  (I also have to confess that I get a small measure of enjoyment from seeing your rebuttals to some comments.)

  45. Slaven says:

    I find it hilarious when you break down the minutia of an obvious statement to make it even more obvious to the nit-pickers – would it make it easier if you knew the sarcasm was very entertaining to many of us? :)

  46. Jeff says:

    Raymond –  If regular blogging is becoming a chore, what are you getting out of it?  I enjoy your writing too much to want to yoke you to the wheel…  Take a break, and come back refreshed.  (But come back soon, as I will miss it.)

    [It the fact that I have to edit my own writing as I’m writing it to anticipate the nitpicking and pre-empt it. And dealing with wild accusations. And responding to all the entries in the Suggestion Box (most of which are uninteresting). But I can’t delete the comments that drain my energy; I have to leave them there or people will accuse me of censorship. It’s just tiring. -Raymond]
  47. Wombat says:

    I think part of the attraction of blogs, as opposed to the "old media", is the fact that the conversations are two-way, that blogs actually ARE conversations as opposed to just broadcasts.

    Having said that, you’re not obligated as a writer to respond to EVERY comment, especially the ones that you know are just nit-picking, trolling, or otherwise trying to stir up trouble.  Those are the ones that are hardest NOT to respond to, I understand that; but as others have pointed out, you have to resist the urge, otherwise it (a) lends them credibility in the eyes of the other readers, and (b) completely kills your enjoyment of writing in the first place, turning everything into a debate.

    Don’t let ’em wear you down, Raymond.  You talk about the good old days, but I think the only thing that’s changed is the thickness of your skin.

    Recent studies from reliable sources (of which I can’t recall the names or any other identifying information) indicate that 40% or more of the world’s population is stupid, and at least half of that 40% can never resist an opportunity to bash Microsoft, no matter how petty or irrelevant their concerns are.

    You’re an easy target because you talk about real problems (or should I say… quirks) with Windows, as opposed to certain other Microsoft bloggers who are essentially just doing free (or perhaps not so free) marketing for the company.  So the ignorant ones, like all of our friends who think that as professional software developers we’d just *love* to spend several hours cleaning the spyware off their computer, think that they’ll have a better chance at getting their grievances addressed by barking at you instead of the tech support automatons and Technical Evangelists.  It’s for precisely that reason you MUST ignore them, otherwise you reward their behaviour and will only see more of it in the future.

    Or maybe I’m full of crap.  But I don’t care, and neither should you!

  48. Igor says:

    I have a suggestion for the suggestion box:

    Make it so it requires a random 10 question quiz eact time someone wants to post. Anyone who passes with 7-10 can post. Those who pass with 5-7 can retry next day. Those between 3-5 get weekly ban and 1-3 get permanent IP ban. Easy, eh?

    Questions should be general knowledge like those IQ tests, it shouldn’t require specific knowledge like math, physics, art, etc.

    Test it for a while, and if it turns out ok, you can implement it for the post comments too.

  49. Anonymous says:

    I am sorry to hear how weary you are.  You are a bright spot in my day, and many other techies I am sure.  Unfortunately, this area attracts many pedantic, argumentative techies who want to try to match wits with the greatest: our golden idol Raymond.  Please don’t retire — take a long vacation, and ignore us for a while.  The lazy nay-sayers may move on, but the true acolytes will remain.

  50. Anonymous says:

    I am sorry to hear how weary you are.  You are a bright spot in my day, and many other techies I am sure.  Unfortunately, this area attracts many pedantic, argumentative techies who want to try to match wits with the greatest: our golden idol Raymond.  Please don’t retire — take a long vacation, and ignore us for a while.  The lazy nay-sayers may move on, but the true acolytes will remain.

  51. sergio says:

    In my opinion, Microsoft should really give (and pay) you, for example, 3 hours a day for what you’re doing here. Or just pay you to do only this. And more, to assign you somebody who would only take care that no stupid comments appear (so that you don’t have to check the comments more than once a day).

    The quality of entries and competence about the given subjects had, at least for me, amazing impact. In my opinion, this blog did more for MSFT than ten heavy funded marketing/public campaigns. I’m sure your other readers can confirm that.

  52. Blogging should be fun. I blog because I enjoy it and I don’t actually expect anyone to read it. I do it FOR ME and if someone doesn’t like it then they don’t have to read it.

    Raymond, I don’t understand all the technical details you go into in some of your blog articles but they always interest me. Please blog how YOU feel comfortable blogging and enjoy it.

  53. S says:

    I thought this was Norman Diamond’s blog and Raymond just moderated it now and again.

  54. Harry says:

    Well, I have to say: I’ve been enjoying your blog for a long time. I think it might be the oldest one on my blogroll!

    I say: ignore the nit-pickers. Screw them and their comments. Just don’t allow it to take up any of your time or energy. I strongly suspect that the vast majority of your readers have nothing in common with them, and will not think ill of you for refusing to engage with their tedium.

    I’d be sad if ONT disappeared.

  55. Aaron says:

    Raymond, you keep saying that you “have” to do this and you “can’t” do that, but the one group of people you aren’t responding to here is the group that’s asking you WHY.  I’m just not seeing the necessity or urgency you imply.

    Why do you have to edit and anticipate?  Just to please the people who intentionally try to find fault, and will no doubt find it regardless?

    We read your blog because we enjoy it (most of us, anyway).  You should write it because you enjoy it, not because it feels like an obligation.

    [Suppose you gave a speech and somebody shouted, “No, you’re wrong because of X,” but their argument was flawed. Do you let it slide and let people believe that the heckler was right? Maybe you do. Do you leave the remarks in the recording of the speech or do you edit it out? What if the person stood up and just shouted insults? Even if the correct thing to do is to ignore them, it still hurts. What if the person shouted stuff that could get you fired? Should you leave those in as well? (Right now I leave them in and hope the lawyers don’t find this blog.) -Raymond]
  56. Luci Sandor says:

    I am afraid this will not apply to my yearly Skype phone bill of about $50. :)

  57. required says:

    What if the person stood up and just shouted insults?

  58. If the comments are a net loss to you, just shut them off.

    People complaining about censorship can go screw themselves. When they get their own floating riot mob of kvetchers, they’ll understand. (Which they never will, of course.)

    Do what it takes to make it fun and reclaim your blog/life. If that means stopping, then stop. If not, then don’t. I don’t generally advocate dehumanizing people, but allowing random internet commenters to tap into the social part of your brain and claim "human" status is asking for trouble; we’re literally not made to be this close to this many people, especially people who, thanks to the anonymous nature of Internet, often leave all social lubrication ("manners") at home.

    We’re not real people. We’re just commenters in the wind.

  59. Mihai says:

    It is difficult to solve social problems with technical means (well, I would say it is not possible to do it).

    But here are some possible improvements, if you feel that ignoring the trolls is not good:

    1. add some community moderation system, Slashdot like (I know this is work to be done in the blog’s software, that you don’t control, and sorry for mentioning S*dot on your blog :-)
    2. do your own moderation-lite. Don’t moderate every post, just the ones that deserve your time. Add a score and a keyword: [-3 Troll], or [+1 Good point]. It might take some of the stress, because you do something about trolls, but you don’t put so much heart into it.

    And listen to the comments here! Many people love what you do, and some would even give up your blog if this is for your good. They should matter for you more than the trolls!

    Be happy for the 20 that love what you do, not stressed by the 2 seeking attention.

  60. DuncanS says:

    +1 to turn off comments. It’s forever full of idiots having a willy-waving contest.

  61. Rick C says:

    Raymond, we know the nitpickers get you down, but I’ll add my voice to the chorus of people who hope you don’t let them get you so far down you quit–this blog is very useful.  Please don’t feel you need to do it, however; ideally you’d be doing it because you are hoping to show people something useful not just about programming per se; it’s pretty clear to me that your focus is beyond that.

    It might make sense to write up some kind of disclaimer to be put automatically at the bottom of each post, however, to the effect that certain things (like the occasional lack of error checking et al) are not the point of the post, and that nitpicking comments about half-percent roundoffs in algorithims which are not the point of the example will be cheerfully ignored.

  62. Eric TF Bat says:

    Raymond, I’d miss reading this blog if you took time off, Dave Barry style, to "spend time with your family" or whatever — but I’d miss it more if the stress got so bad that you went mad and had to be locked up in the padded room along with the guy who picked yucky brown as the ideal colour for the Zune.  I’m speaking as your psychiatrist here (which I’m not, but that’s OK because I’m a well-known liar): you need a break.  It’s showing more and more often.  Take a rest, a hiatus, whatever.  Come back when the thought of blog comments no longer makes you twitch.  We care about you, not just about your writing — even though we only know you through the writing — and we don’t want you to get hurt.  Have mercy on yourself!

  63. Matt says:

    Long time lurker here. As with most others, I’ve come here for a variety of reasons… mostly because I found it fascinating to get a behind the scenes view of why things are the way they are with MS products. Although I’m a programmer, I don’t come here for tech answers. 999% of the stuff Raymond posts (technically) may as well be written in Latin –  as I simply don’t “get it”. Way too deep. But I never cared about the technical stuff – really, it’s the stories that facinate. Anyway, for about 3 months, it’s been somewhat obvious to me that you are getting a bit burnt out, Raymond, if I may say so.

    One post/anology you made in this thread was particulary revealaing, and I’d like to poke at it a bit.

    Suppose you gave a speech and somebody shouted, “No, you’re wrong because of X,” but their argument was flawed. Do you let it slide and let people believe that the heckler was right?

    …IMO, you let it slide, thank the person, ask the person to please be seated so that the show can go on, and then… just move on. You’ll just have to trust that the audience has the good sense to know the heckler was wrong, or at the very least a rude, inconsiderate ass whose opion or beliefs matter little. Mapping it to the blog world, you ignore them and let your other readers correct the individual, if they feel like it.

    Do you leave the remarks in the recording of the speech or do you edit it out?

    …Edit them out. You are in control now, and it’s you who get to decide how you want your presentation to be recorded for history. Or if you gave the person a particulary good smackdown, then leave em in.

    Mapping to the blog, leave them or edit them out, as you decide fit. But make a choice and go with it. Don’t agonize about it. It’s your blog, do as you wish.

    What if the person stood up and just shouted insults?

    …Then have security escort them out. In a blog, delete their comments.

    Even if the correct thing to do is to ignore them, it still hurts.

    …Ahhh….. and that’s where we come to the crux of this deal. It hurts….. And it does … hurt. But that’s all part of being out in the public. Especially the internet. You are just going to have to get over the hurt, or disable comments, or shut down the blog. Just keep in mind that hurting you is usually what is desired by these people, driven by envy, ignorance and immaturity on the part of the heckler. Troll is the word, I believe.

    What if the person shouted stuff that could get you fired?

    Then you send that over to the legal team for advice. In any event I wouldn’t think anything anyone says here can get you fired, but your responses just might.

    Should you leave those in as well?

    If the lawyers say so.

    (Right now I leave them in and hope the lawyers don’t find this blog.)

    I’m guessing you are joking here…. at least I hope so.

    Anyway, best of luck with the blog, and your life. One suggestion I would like to make: Shut this down for a month and take a break. If you decide to resurrect it later, everyone will still be here. If not, then that’s fine too. I just don’t think you can ever gain any enjoyment out of something you feel you are compelled to do by people you don’t know, and for reasons you don’t agree with.

    Life’s too short, and I think you are burnt out. Move on to something new.

    This concludes my armchair psychiatrist session for the day.

    Best of luck, Raymond.

    Matt

    [“Then you send that over to the legal team for advice.” No, I don’t want the legal team to find out! The legal team might find what I wrote and decide to reprimand or even fire me. This is not a groundless fear. I will not elaborate. -Raymond]
  64. Matt says:

    Then you send that over to the legal team for advice." No, I don’t want the legal team to find out! The legal team might find what I wrote and decide to reprimand or even fire me. This is not an empty fear. I will not elaborate.

    … And I wouldn’t ask you to. Ever. But Raymond… I think you might not be aware how far your name has spread, and the enjoyment people get here. I can almost guarantee there are people from your legal team who read this blog every day to get the same enjoyment everyone else does.

    In any event, if legalities are your fear, your best bet is shutting down the blog, issuing a "thanks for the ride" statement, and, as I said earlier, then moving on to something else. Nothing, at any time, for any reason should cause you fear… especially the fear of losing your job at a sweet gig like Microsoft, into which you have obviously poured so much of your soul. This is the kind of thing that will keep you up nights, causing degredation in other areas of your life, which, given enough time, WILL eventually lead to the loss of your job as well as other parts of your life that you value much more. I’ve been there. Many times. Too many times.

    Thanks for your response, I really appreciate it. I won’t take up any more of your time, but

    in closing, I really think it’s time for you to take a break from here, and strongly suggest a blog hiatus for as long as you see fit. IMO, the book is an excellent ending to this chapter of your life.

  65. > I write the entries on my own time. It’s not

    > part of my job.

    That may have been true initially, but then you got a paid book deal.  And it never would have happened, if you had quit after the first negative comment.

    Count your blessings.  You’re more popular now than ever.  Some day you may even be the Paris Hilton of Microsoft.

    [? Non sequitur. The book deal isn’t part of my job either. -Raymond]
  66. codingsanity says:

    Some of these morons appear to believe that they’re doing YOU a favour by reading your blog, and adding to the favour they grant you are the pearls of wisdom they drop out their a**es.

    If they’re such brainiacs, why don’t they have their own damn blogs? My suggestion; implement a comment rating system ala Slashdot. It’s obvious some of the nitickers are only here because even Slashdot won’t put up with their rude and inconsiderate behaviour. As you say, they only way ou can realistically engage with these people accords them more importance than their posturings deserve. A -5 Troll score on the other hand…

  67. Dewi Morgan says:

    I was going to nitpick, then realised after reading the comments "he’s making a point here, he knows full well he could’ve shortened the title".

    If I provided blogs to employees, new posts (but maybe not comments) would be forwarded to my legal/PR teams to cover my ass. If one unintensionally blogged something criminally stupid, then I may have no choice but to fire them. That’s business, no matter how big or small.

    My personal preference would be that Raymond kept his job and didn’t risk it by blogging. But that’s a selfish opinion on my part: it’s important to me that there’s someone deleting historical cruft and navel lint from the OS in the name of elegance.

    But why do people blog? Only journalists do it as a duty. More often, they blog either as a pressure release valve, from a desire to teach, or for the positive feedback to show them that what they are doing with their life is worthwhile. If a cruft-deleter would get bored or annoyed and leave if it weren’t for blogging, then I wouldn’t be so hasty as to advise "Save yourself! Quit blogging!" – but again, that’s purely my own selfinterest, and not care for Raymond’s sanity or anything.

  68. 640k says:

    Yes, you still have a habit of accusing your readers for nitpicking whenever you make a mistake. How convenient. Drop the attitude pal.

    [There’s pointing out relevant mistakes and there’s nitpicking. -Raymond]
  69. boxmonkey says:

    LiveJournal has been mentioned before but it really does provide a great way to manage trolls as well as CYA from the lawyers. You make comments friends only and then un-friend anyone who nitpicks. You make "safe" posts public so everyone can read them, and make "things that could get me fired" posts friends-only. LJ would probably give you a free lifetime paid subscription…at least if they knew who you are. Otherwise I’m sure several of us would chip in to get you a paid account. Assuming you want all the features and no ads.

  70. Colin says:

    I use FatWallet and it allows users to rate other users’ comments (green is good, red is bad/trolling etc.)  Could you do that?

    Plonkers end up very red, and we all have some fun.  With all the smart people reading your blog, there’ll be some really beautiful insults on the list, enough to rejuvenate and re-inspire any jaded blogger :-)

    Do not under any circumstances allow the morons to spoil your fun and our fun.  Please!

    Anyone who wants politically correct garbage can just unsubscribe.  That would be a public service announcement for all your remaining readers.

  71. Anon says:

    Why do you need to prove yourself? Is your reputation really so fragile that you need to defend it against every attacker?

    Often they’ll be wrong, sometimes they’ll be right. Who cares. Obsessing over being *seen* to be right on all occasions is a waste of time and energy.

    The best solution would be to chill out about it, and not bite at every piece of bait dangled before you.

  72. robert babiak says:

    In fact in the USA there is no law requiring you to pay income tax, if you stop paying income taxes the IRS comes after you for other things, but there is nothing that actually illegal about not paying income taxes, as long as you pay all the non income based taxes.

    Look it up in the IRS Tax codes.

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