I'm happy and grateful that more people are helping to moderate the site's content. However, I've noticed something regarding Nodes to Consider and, like other observations, it's made me pause.
Specifically, we're seeing a number of older posts (and some new ones) being considered for a number of reasons:
- Frequently (and answered) posted question.
- Incorrectly posted to the wrong area.
While many of these assessments are accurate, it troubles me to see so many older nodes appear and it troubles me to see so many "previously answered" nodes appear.
I wonder if even more discretion shouldn't be exercised when placing nodes into consideration, especially older ones.
I ponder this for a few reasons:
Let's not stir up old feuds. There are many nodes in the archives that, if posted today, would rightly be considered. However, the community responded using the tools available at the time (downvotes, correctional replies, updates, private /msg's, and so on).
If we allow these things to remain in the record, they can illustrate (among other things) the practices and postings we find distasteful. Much can be learned by reading replies to certain notorious nodes. If we purge the archives of the nodes prompting these replies, it removes the context the replies were made in, thereby reducing their effectiveness and value.
In various discussions on topicality, it seems that many are comfortable with some off-topic discussion. After all, Perl is rarely used in a vacuum and I personally find obliquely related discussions very enlightening and educational.
Everyone has had a bad day or post at times, including the most respected. I believe there's certain benefit in allowing those to remain in the record, if only to demonstrate that we're not perfect and that we all make mistakes.
People reveal a lot about themselves when they post and much is revealed about the community in the way it responds to bad posts.
Everyone starts somewhere. Our membership ranges in age, expertise, background, and experience. In an effective community, you share information and you see people grow.
To illustrate: During my brief tenure in hell, I mean technical support, I worked with one caller many times over the course of several weeks. While his first calls were incredibly simple and annoying (I was younger and far more arrogant), they eventually became more interesting. About a month after fielding his first call, I realized that the light had finally gone on and that he was "getting" it. That realization was one of the most rewarding ones I had during that time. I had helped someone. (To be fair, there were about 40 of us on the team, so we'd all helped. Given the number of times that he'd landed in my queue, he'd had to have called many more times and talked with many other techs.)
The point being that one of the rewards of training, in whatever form, is the satisfaction of seeing that spark illuminate even the most difficult student. One of the Monestary's goals is to teach.
Along the same lines, nearly everyone has gone through a learning process with Perl and the Monastery itself. Newer initiates almost always post questions that have already been answered or ideas that have already been discussed. (I know I've made my share of related mistakes; I suspect I'll continue to do so for quite some time.)
Before placing such nodes into consideration, it may be wise to consider the point of view of the poster. For example, a new recruit appeared last night and asked about the site's purpose in CB. He (assumption) confessed that he was 15 and that he was only slightly experienced with Perl. The monks online at the time gave him some pointers and links. It was a good discussion.
Later, he posted some code that could greatly benefit from the wisdom offered here. This morning, that node is being considered. Would it not serve our purposes better to reply and point our new friend to nodes outlining the answers and knowledge he needs? (I suspect the reason he doesn't use CGI.pm is because he doesn't know about it, modules, CPAN, or other bits we take for granted.)
By helping people learn the best practices, we help expand their understanding of and enthusiasm for Perl. We also help them become better programmers.
Let's not develop a tendency to knee-jerk nodes into consideration. Point them to FAQ's or tutorials. If you can't find an appropriate one, reply and then write up (and post) a relevant FAQ or tutorial.
Someone (Vroom, one of the Editors, or other high-level monks) has to finally decide what to do with considered nodes. Each decision takes time. Regardless of the amount of time spent on each individual decision, logic suggests that it adds up as the number of considered nodes increases.
This is time that could be spent responding to legitimate nodes, improving the Monastery, updating FAQ's, and so on. Let's not abuse the kindness of our caretakers by overloading them with work to take care of.
In summary, Consideration is a powerful device. Respond swiftly and firmly to patently offensive or completely off-topic posts. However, please use a light touch when going through the archives. After all, a lot of wisdom, information, and ideas have been expressed since the Monastery's founding. Let's not tinker too heavily with the past or the character of our heritage.
Votes should be your first moderation tool. If you feel strongly about an older post, vote on it to see its reputation. If it's extremely low, see if there are good replies. If there are, I urge you to wait a few days before you place it into consideration. After all, other monks certainly know the post is there. If it's not already been considered, then it's possible someone feels it's worth keeping.
If you're out of votes, then write down the node id and check it out the next day. If it's not yet in consideration, then I would urge you to consider your desire to consider the node. There may be value in leaving it alone. Alternatively, bring it up via CB and see what others think.
If you're not comfortable doing that, then privately /msg a senior monk for their reaction. This won't work in every case, as a few of the most senior don't like to be /msg'd, but I've found most to be very approachable via that device.
Please understand that I'm not speaking of obvious consideration candidates: newly posted personal attacks, improperly formatted nodes, objectionable material, obvious trolling, and so on. These should be immediately and promptly fed to the Reaper.
I'm speaking of the questionable ones. Instead of looking for opportunities to consider, look for opportunities to help, to add value, to teach, and (most importantly) to learn. As I noted earlier, some of the best material on the site has been posted in reply to a duplicate or frequently asked question. Let's not lose that opportunity.