RANT ALERT: WTF Is wrong with you people?

I’ve noticed a disquieting, nay, alarming, trend on this mailing list in
the last year or so.

Software Defined Radio has become “cool”, it has become the “chic” thing
to do in graduate school, or
as the foundation for the start up of a new business. Everybody wants
to do it.

People get on to this list, empty vessels that they are, and determine
that they can become “filled up”.

Now, when I say “empty vessel”, I’m talking about the poly-dimensionally
clueless here. One would expect,
given the “newness” of SDR, that the preponderance of persons on this
mailing list would be relatively
experienced persons in a related engineering discipline–software,
embedded systems, real-time programming,
and of course radio. It would be reasonable to expect a list like
this to offer support to experienced folks
who are mostly self-starters, become familiar with Gnu Radio and SDR,
to get a few tips here and there
about things specifically related to Gnu Radio, publish bugs and
“oddnesses”, etc.

But what has happened is that large numbers of people without any
experience in any of the related
disciplines come here, expecting a “free” substitute for a 4-year
engineering degree (or equivalent).
They pin the success/failure of their project (assigned by their
academic advisor, or their manager
in commercial situations) on the ability of this list to provide what
amounts to free consulting and training.

The people on this list who are providing assistance are doing so as
volunteers
. They don’t owe anybody
anything here. It’s a community effort, and the abuse of the
good-will of this community is harmful to
the community as a whole. I’m not targetting anybody in particular.
You know who you are. Knock it off.

Now, does anybody know where the power switch on my computer is? :slight_smile:


Marcus L.
Principal Investigator
Shirleys Bay Radio Astronomy Consortium
http://www.sbrac.org

In my time here, I’ve learned that SDRs bring together two worlds…
those
in EE, and those in CS. Those from the CS world don’t understand a lot
of
the RF world, but would like to leverage SDRs to achieve something at
the
higher level and are thrown in to the RF world. Those in the EE world,
understand the low-level details and the RF side of things, but have a
hard
time grasping how it all comes together in the software architecture.
Of
course, there are people who have mastered both worlds, and those are
the
ones helping others on the list.

I come from a CS background, and I started working on GNU Radio to have
a
highly versatile radio to implement the MAC layer, which standard NICs
prevent you from doing. So, it was GNU Radio + USRP, or no project. In
the
process, I was thrown into the RF world. Wait, what is decimation?
Sampling rate? What the heck does the PLL do? GMSK? I just want bits.
It
sounds naive, but I’m sure the default CS track at a lot of schools does
will not expose most to any of this. I got done what I needed to do,
but
the path it took to get there was no where near what I thought it might
be.
I learned a ton along the way, and now I like to think I happily sit
with an
understanding of RF and its practical application to achieve the higher
layers.

I completely understand your concern, and I’ve seen it on the list over
several years now. I think it stems from the differences I’ve
mentioned,
getting deep in to: GNU Radio + USRP can do so much, and what everyone
wants
to use it for is so different, and on top of that their backgrounds are
unique. Different background, different programming practices, those
from
the Linux land (emacs+gdb), and those from the IDE land (Eclipse/VS).
Those
from the prior land have a relatively easier time, and those form the
latter
have an even steeper learning curve. Aside from that, I don’t think a
single
person on this list (including Eric) would disagree that GNU Radio and
the
USRP have a steep learning curve. It takes time, patience, and a
willingness to tackle problems on your own. Unfortunately, I think
those of
us who sit on a mailing list don’t interact with those who have the time
and
patience and have gotten past their problems, and instead naturally see
posts from those looking for fast, quick, help with little devotion. Of
course, there is plenty of legitimate discussion on the mailing list
from
experienced people, but you get a lot of first-comers bypassing the vast
sea
of documentation trying to cover a complex system.

Marcus-

Your sentiments are understandable. I know the feeling. But please
allow me to give an a different perspective.

I’ve posted for years (since 1999) 1000s of times on DSP, audio, speech,
MATLAB and FPGA groups – on voluntary basis,
because I want to. I can’t count the number of times I’ve answered
totally clueless newbie posts, mostly by students
or start-up wannabe’s. I’ve developed my own methodology to minimize my
time and “qualify” the newb (ask a couple of
quick questions about their problem, see if they respond, see if they’re
willing to follow instructions, do some debug
work, etc).

Did I waste my time? Yes in many cases. But in other those newbs did
good. They were persistent, followed advice,
started getting results… sometimes I eventually got to see the “It
Works!” post with thanks to all the group members
who helped them – which never fails to remind me of my own excitement
so many years ago when I studied engineering in
school and got my first design job. You can tell who will become the
real engineers, the ones who enjoy the process,
who are willing to fight the bug in hand-to-hand combat, the ones who
reply at 2:00 a.m. because they’re still in the
lab duking it out… I like to believe that through a group /
collaborative effort, they came in as newbs and then
gained confidence and maybe even some validation of their career choice.

Yes I know such positive results are a minority of the posts you’re
thinking about. And yes it takes patience and can
be exasperating, but isn’t that generally true of raising kids? They
have to learn the hard way, and someone has to
help them, before they can join the community and make their own
contributions. For me overall, the good has
outweighed the bad and I don’t think my time has been wasted.

-Jeff

On 04/25/2010 02:04 PM, Jeff B. wrote:

I guess that what’s going on with me is that my tolerance level for the
clue-resistant is going down as I
get older. Turning into a right-ol curmudgeon.

But I want to make clear that I have nothing against newbies on this
list. We all start out that way
in a new endeavour (that’s what makes it new instead of “old hat”).
But the wilfully clue-resistant,
the “entitled”–that’s what drives me bonkers. To be clear, I enjoy
mentoring the enthusiastic ones,
the ones who “know” that they’re without clue, but actually seek to
learn.

It’s the ones who believe that the success/failure of their project
rests not on their own experience and
and competence, but on the willingness of others to give them a free
ride.


Marcus L.
Principal Investigator
Shirleys Bay Radio Astronomy Consortium
http://www.sbrac.org

Marcus-

the “entitled”–that’s what drives me bonkers. To be clear, I enjoy
mentoring the enthusiastic ones,
the ones who “know” that they’re without clue, but actually seek to learn.

It’s the ones who believe that the success/failure of their project
rests not on their own experience and
and competence, but on the willingness of others to give them a free ride.

Really a good comment, spot-on. I’m always fighting the “dang am I
really such a curmudgeon” feeling.

-Jeff

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