Until yesterday, my approach to get some help with publication of my pet theory had been to ask for advice, as politely as possible, sending only one, rarely two e-mails, and giving a lot of time for response. Basically, the approach that usually gets you results pretty quickly in the software community. Naturally, my questions evolved a lot with time, as the formulation of the TIM matured.
From one polite tactic to the next
Initially, I was wondering about this or that technical point, finding someone who had published on related topics, and asked the question.
I never got an answer.
Later, I simply pointed folks to the draft du jour, sometimes with an abstract, trying to highlight how it related to their own work. I normally did not send the article as attachment but as a link, to avoid polluting mailboxes. Again, normal netiquette.
The vast majority still did not respond, but I got a couple of answers, and they meant I’m too busy
Later still, as someone pointed out that simply downloading each article received would be a full time job, I switched to a third tactic: asking questions about this or that logical problem found in some of their work.
Boy, did that totally fail to evoke any reaction… That was puzzling. You see, if for example you go an tell Linus Torvalds that he’s wrong, here is the kind of answer you get: sharp, precise, deadly. So it is fair to say that a total lack of reaction from any of these big guys to my challenge was a bit of a surprise to me.
Finally, I decided that the only thing left to do was to publish, with the assumption that, at least, someone would read it and give an opinion. It took me a while to find some place to publish: there are many journals, but most are really specialized (e.g. high-energy particle physics), a lot of them also charge for being an author (a bit surprising to those of us used to being paid for writing technical articles), and many have pretty explicit limits on contents, notably regarding the number of pages. In the end, after spending a couple of days looking, I found one match.
As I wrote yesterday, this did not work too well either. Too long, not urgent, rejected.
In conclusion, overall, this was an abject failure. In 2 years, I did not get a single answer, not even on questions like: where can I publish something like this, a question which is totally obvious for a researcher who spent a life writing articles, and rather difficult to answer for me. And the only place I knew of that in theory could accept the paper did not.
Blowing a fuse?
So I tried another strategy. What about simply blowing a fuse, and sending a big long rant to all these people who had never answered any of my questions, and asking basically “Hey, what’s wrong with you guys”?
Guess what: it worked much better than the earlier tactics. Within 24 hours, I had a lot more information. I do not recommend this technique in general, and I publicly apologize for using it. But at least, it finally allowed me to make just a little bit of forward progress.
Let it be said, many of these guys are actually pretty nice. But they are also waaaay too overloaded.