I might get turned off by this too.

There's some sort of estimation out there (who knows, maybe I made it up and am being quoted), that 50% of the people who roam cyberspace are actually researches who are asking other researchers questions. And even if that's not the case, lots of people are sticking their noses into what people do on the internet.

But that doesn't mean that I'm not going to stick my nose in as well. I'm more than willing to jump ito the fray, and if an opportunity to ask some questions arises, I'll take it. The problem is, of course, that it's not really all that easy to pinpoint what it is that I want to ask. Here are a few that were sent by e-mail to someone with wom I'd "talked jazz" over a couple of very enjoyable conversations:

Do you develop mental pictures of the people with whom you're in contact? If yes, do you ever try to verify them?

Is the communication aspect of a tool like WinMX important to you, or is getting the music the important point?

If you establish contact with someone via WinMX, and that contact is terminated, do you wonder about why this happened? (i.e., is that person no longer interested in contact, or perhaps it's due to network problems?)
From these questions even I get the impression that I was hoping that someone else might agree to write this column. After all, if I can't find my own answers to these questions, why should I assume that someone else might. But what's perhaps most interesting is the fact that I got a pleasant e-mail response from the person to whom I sent these questions, but not answers.

With someone else (who was very gracious about the music I took from him) I chatted for quite a while (late at night my time, of course). It was a very pleasant chat, that covered numerous topics, and even saved a transcript of it. But when I returned to it to learn something from my correspondent's answers I discovered that we hardly dealt with the questions that most interested me. And although we exchanged e-mail addresses, I never received an answer to my e-mail query that had similar questions to those I've already listed here.

Other than a couple of short messages here and there, one other correspondent was the extent of my deeper involvement with people I met in this way. This time, the contact wasn't initiated by me. As I was downloading a piece of music I received a message from someone who had obviously browsed the contents of my hard drive. He remarked that I had a rather strange collection of material. I responded that I have an eleven year old son whose taste in music still hasn't inherited much from me. As we continued to chat we realized that we both live in Israel, and I realized that this was what he was trying to find out from the outset. We exchanged e-mail addresses, and then spoke on the phone when he agreed to try to answer some of my questions. But though we had a nice time talking to each other, what I learned from him regarding my questions was that no, he wasn't particularly concerned with learning anything about the person on the other side of the download - something I found strange since when we met he was clearly trying to learn something about me.

These contacts lead me to think that perhaps I wouldn't have answered queries of this sort either. At the very least, they were much more than my correspondents had bargained for when they sought out, or offered for the taking, music on a P2P network.

Go to: Strangers on a network.