Quora and Fora

I often get snarky on this blog, it’s fair to say it’s not the only place.

For example, real life. I’m quite snarky there.

Another fine example is when the site Quora.com sends me an email letting me know that someone thinks I should answer a particular question.

As an example, I got this one this week: “Whats the effects of green tea”.

My first thoughts, of course, were uncomplimentary:

Where’s the apostrophe? Maybe you should be asking questions about English, not tea.

What do you mean, “green tea”? You must be one of the ignorant 99.5 or more percent of the population who doesn’t realise that green tea is a category, not a single product.

What do you mean “effects”? Full marks for not being ignorant enough to type “affects”, but the whole question makes it look like you’ve been reading too much in the “tiny columns in mainstream newspapers and outrageous blogs by stupid people” category.


So,. let’s start with my answer:

You drink it, and you aren’t thirsty any more. There’s 99.99997% of the correct answer.
The other bit is, it’s much better for you than sugary drinks, it tastes a damn sight better than water and like all Camellia Sinensis tea, it has virtually insignificant traces of various things are have been shown to be good for you if you concentrate them and take them via a pill or extract, particularly if you are a rat.

So, that just about covers it.

I then wonder “Do I have to explain the “Japanese Research Colour Bias” again?”. You know, the fact that a substantial amount of tea health research comes from Japan, where they overwhelmingly drink green tea, so when they do experiments with tea, they just use a common type. Then when the results are translated from scientific report to popular media, a specifier of ‘green’ is used which implies that blacks, oolongs and the rest are somehow not possessed of whatever fantabulous benefit was detected in 8 out of 10 rats who were lucky enough to get a syringe-full of sencha extract in their rump prior to being euthanised and dissected.

Anyway, where was I?

It should come as no surprise that as a kid, I loved Mad Magazine’s “Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions” cartoons. Looking back on them now, I don’t think they are snarky enough, but it was good foundation.

But then we come to the existential crisis inevitable in these things. Am I doing the right thing with snarky answers? Have I become inured to my self-appointed role as a promoter and educator on tea? Let me quote Roger Waters’ Late Home Tonight

The kid from Cleveland
In the comfort of routine
Scans his dials and smiles
Secure in the beauty of military life
There is no right or wrong

In other words, Waters is describing the way the protagonist, a jet pilot, is trained so repetitively that the acts he must commit in his F-4 fighter/bomber become automatic, with no thought about what he is actually doing.

Have I become so used to snarking at ignorance that I put the snark ahead of the chance to educate?


I was lucky enough to ask my stupid questions pre-internet, where one person might answer in real life, not where I might have displayed to the world the crime of not knowing about a topic that I have gone to a forum to learn about.

I think the key to a good snarky answer is it attacks the reasons for ignorance or the forces of ignorance, or the people who should know better (I’m looking at you, Dr. Oz).

One must take some personal responsibility. For example, if you’ve read the literature on oats – and I can’t see why you shouldn’t have – you’ll see that any cholesterol-lowering properties rely on an intake of at least 600 grams of oats per day – that’s 20 30-gram serves – and that to work the oats must make up over half the calories you take in per day.

Yet porridge companies are happy to put “proven to be cholesterol-lowering” on the packs without the “only if you are a porridge-obsessed hermit” qualifier, and people are willing to buy it and eat it, telling themselves that a good healthy breakfast of porridge will sort out any possible cholesterol effects of the bacon and brie burger and chocolate eclair the are wolfing down at lunch.

Who was it that said “it takes two people to lie, one to lie and one to listen”? I think it was Homer Simpson. But in this case, it’s right.

So as long as I hit the right target, I’m happy to snark. More than happy, really.

This makes me the self-appointed arbiter of whether the questioner is innocently ignorant or ignorant with intent.

I’m comfortable with that.


5 thoughts on “Quora and Fora

  1. So I’m assuming you don’t eat two servings of porridge every hour that you’re awake? Your cholesterol must be horrible!

    Personally, I think a smidge of snark can help with the educational process, as it makes the article/post more entertaining and readable.

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