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On identifying cargo cult items...

by merlyn (Sage)
on Oct 25, 2000 at 07:48 UTC ( #38285=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to RE: Regarding style
in thread Regarding style

Here's one quick way.

I see a lot of Perl code, and have been around Perl since before the Web, which makes me an old-timer now.

There's a lot of cargo-cult crap being passed around, and I've seen lots of very scary things, not so much because they are really all that dangerous, but because they keep getting passed around as a bad meme pretending to be a good meme, so scary in the amount of brain cells this mildly bad virus now occupies pushing out actual knowledge or research.

When I see the same scary thing for the 47th time in my timeline, even if it's just the first time here in the Monestary, I let loose and rail on the poor soul who happens to be the incoming infecting vector, not the source of the plague.

And then I get downvoted. Down and down and down. How dare I, someone to whom much respect is given, hurt a poor innocent only slightly lost soul?, they scream.

So, the way to know that something has reached "high cargo cult" status in the real world is to watch what I get downvoted for. It's the things that I'm tired of seeing, and don't care how I try to stop it, because it's reached epidemic proportions in the real world, even if the newbies here don't know that, and therefore don't understand why I'd be so hard on the original poster.

One clue, from me to you. Hope this helps! Have a nice day!

-- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
(jcwren) RE: On identifying cargo cult items...
by jcwren (Prior) on Oct 25, 2000 at 17:05 UTC
    How about this, then? Why not add page to your site that explains cargo-cult memes, a correct solution, and why it's correct. As you encounter people who are either victims of bad memes ("This doesn't work, why?"), or people propogating bad memes ("Your problem is this, here's how to fix it."), you can add these to your web page, with well-worded explanations that explain why the meme is bad, what the risks are, and the correct way to do it, and *why*. And perhaps, if you know the original source of the meme, a little history ("The original module required this work around, later version do not, this is not longer required, and in fact, exposes this vulnerability").

    Then, instead of whacking them between the eyes, and leaving many of them stunned, senseless, confused, and annoyed, you can link to your page, and specific article, and re-educate them (and perhaps gain XP, instead of losing it...)

    The reality is this: Just because you say it loudly, or repeat it 4 times, doesn't necessarily mean it's right. If I don't know who merlyn is, you're just another user. And I'm not about to go to research on each and every person who gives me an answer to determine if suddenly they're someone who's opinion I should respect. Lots of people know who you are, but a lot more don't.

    I imagine that the time you would spend writing each rant would be far less than inserting a link to a page that could be re-used each time. Heck, you might could even get your own section in FAQ, or something.


    e-mail jcwren
      Because sometimes, all you have time to say "PULL YOUR HAND AWAY FROM THAT HOT STOVE". And then they get to go figure out later why it was hot, and why that was a bad thing. Why should it be my responsibility to complete the process?

      In an ideal world, yes, I'd write a few more paragraphs. But this isn't that kind of world.

      -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker

RE: RE: RE: Regarding style
by footpad (Monsignor) on Oct 25, 2000 at 07:58 UTC

    fwiw, I take your warnings very seriously. I read them and re-read them until they start to make sense. I am not a groupie, nor a hero-worshipper. I'm just an experienced programmer who recognizes someone with far more experience with a language. You know what you're talking about wrt perl. I don't. Tread into my territory and we can trade roles. Nevertheless, please do not get discouraged because of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes. Take a note from Harlan Ellison, do what you feel is right ahd the rest will follow (as someone just reminded me in CB). Those that matter will recognize the basic integrity and appreciate it.

    ftr, I am, in many ways, a newbie (dare I say, "tyro") in this language. I have been asked by my bosses to produce production ready CGI scripts and it scares me to see just how insecure they are. Not because I'm an idiot, but because I didn't know. Given your earlier warnings, I understand things a little better. But there are many issues that are not completely straight-forward, obvious or clear for the novice. this is a frustratingly subtle language and managers do not appreciate that.

    Please don't stop trying to help.

    -- f

RE: On identifying cargo cult items...
by runrig (Abbot) on Oct 25, 2000 at 21:03 UTC
    And if perl had a 'cat' command (or if usenet had XP), you'd probably get downvoted for a UUOC post too :-) Really though, I don't understand people defending bad programming practices, and I'm always open to good advice. I almost always learn something from your posts, and your replies to my posts have almost always fallen into one of three categories:
    • Hey! I wish I thought of that!
    • Hey! I didn't know that!
    • Oops! why did I do that :-)

    So please keep it up, and don't sweat the downvotes; its human nature, which for some reason reminds me of the Simpson's episode where the family is hooked up to electrodes and they repeatedly give each other shocks in a parody(re-enactment?) of that psychology experiment...
RE: On identifying cargo cult items...
by princepawn (Parson) on Oct 25, 2000 at 16:18 UTC
    Well, some of us aren't familar with what Cargo-Cult programming is.I did find a YAPC abstract that mentioned it, even though I could not get the entire paper.

        For what it's worth, the Jargon file is located on a server that cannot be accessed from behind the firewall at my day job. The hosting site is classified as a "Hacking" site and the company believes its associates should not be viewing information in that category.

        Mind you, I'm not saying that it's right, fair, or even reasonable. But, the decision can be defended from their point of view.

        The point being that, if we want to make the information available to PM'ers, perhaps it might be worth mirroring in the Library.

        -- f

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