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Put some of the posting guidelines directly above the posting form:

by TJPride (Pilgrim)
on Dec 04, 2011 at 12:57 UTC ( #941646=monkdiscuss: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

I know there's a link to the posting guidelines, but I'm guessing a significant percentage of people don't bother reading them, since many posts lack examples of input and/or output data, thus making it much more difficult to suggest useful solutions. I would like to see that particular guideline at minimum added above the SoPW submission form, or maybe checkboxes for "I have supplied examples of input / output data for my problem" and "This is a theoretical problem", with an error being generated if posters don't click one. This will significantly cut down on the amount of back-and-forth needed before a good solution can be suggested.

I'm just tired of having to spend as much time trying to figure out what the OP wants as coding a solution. I'm sure many of you are as well.

Comment on Put some of the posting guidelines directly above the posting form:
Re: Put some of the posting guidelines directly above the posting form:
by Anonymous Monk on Dec 04, 2011 at 13:33 UTC

    :) I already thought of that

    What would probably happen, is the traffic (amount of posts) would drop by half, but the quality would only increase 2%

      Nah, very few people wouldn't post as a result - the people coming here are doing so because they have no other way to get the information - and I'm betting the quality of initial posts would improve by a significant percentage.
Re: Put some of the posting guidelines directly above the posting form:
by educated_foo (Vicar) on Dec 04, 2011 at 13:44 UTC
    If some clueless person won't click on the link, they also won't read a giant blob of boilerplate text above the text box, or obey the commands next to some BS checkbox. The voting system, helped along by tireless scolds, does about the best job possible in dealing with the clueless.
      Not asking for a giant blob of boilerplate, just a couple lines reminding them to supply input data. Judging by what a lot of people post, it's fairly obvious they don't have a clue they're supposed to give us examples of input / output, and it's probably because the reminder is on a separate page rather than right above the submission box.
        It will grow. You just want input/output. Next, someone will want the code to start with "use strict;\nuse warnings;\n\n". Then someone will want a high-level problem description, or a list of what the OP has tried, or the output of perl -V, or some other random thing. What if input/output is superfluous or unhelpful?

        If you want to help someone, then help them. If not, then don't. Aggressive pestering wastes your time, and doesn't help anyone.

      The voting system, helped along by tireless scolds, does about the best job possible in dealing with the clueless.
      I don't think the intersection of the set of the "clueless" people with the set of people that care about their XP is a very big set.

      Besides, all that will happen is that people will select a radio button. It doesn't *mean* anything.

      Now, if you want something to change, don't reward people who violate the guidelines. How do you do that? Don't answer the questions. How do you enforce not answering the question? Well, luckely, the intersection of the set of people answering with the set of people caring about their XP is much higher. So, penalize people who answer posts that violate posting guidelines. Remove 50% of their XP. Remove 50% of the XP of anyone who has upvoted such a post.

Re: Put some of the posting guidelines directly above the posting form:
by ww (Bishop) on Dec 04, 2011 at 14:04 UTC
    ++ for a proposal that might accomplish its goal. Certainly we see far too many posts with inadquate information.

    An earlier proposal that Monks be encouraged to WITHHOLD approval of incomplete nodes -- SOPW in particular -- drew favorable response but fell short of general adoption.

    Noted, too, that it's obviously not part of the mindset of at least some (and one might even argue, "many") newcomers, to read the existing notes re markup, and to ignore the note warning that a badly formatted preview probably means they failed to follow the markup suggestions.

    IMO, your proposal's major shortcoming is that it doesn't provide a mechanism to cope with those who will blindly click any radio button or check any box to accomplish their goal... be that installing software without reading a license agreement, or posting a question here without ensuring that it contains the required information.

    Still, I would be interested in seeing a more detailed sketch of your proposal; specifically, what questions do you suggest as essential and how would you implement them without creating impediments for those who routinely post clear, complete questions. (It occurs to me that redirecting all AnonyMonk and noobie (defined as those with XP less than some nn to be established) attempts to seek wisdom through an intermediate page with guidelines and checkboxes might have merit... but it might also have a major downside, in that it might drive novices away) and could be bypassed with the same mechanism for experienced as the preview page.

    One last thing... and far more than a minor quibble: the mindset reflected in the last para of the op does NOT reflect my understanding of the Monastery's guiding principal: we're here to learn and to help others learn ... not to "cod(e) a solution." Sure, sometimes offering a solution is the "right" answer, but too often we see a SOPW with responses that provide the needed "how to fish" information, followed by a "here's a fish" solution ... and a 'thank you' for the solution, followed by a new question already answered in the 'how to fish' nodes. IOW, /methinks the OP in those cases picked the easy, job-done-by-someone-else answer and ignored those requiring effort, such as reading the references provided.

      Instead of checkboxes, a simple heuristic, EffectivnessDetective

      If not qualified as spam
      If user is below level 3 and
      title has stop words

      or

      content longer than two line, but no code tags

      Then , refuse to create node, warn the user, until code tags are added, title is fixed...

        sounds suspiciously like effort to me.
      but too often we see a SOPW with responses that provide the needed "how to fish" information, followed by a "here's a fish" solution ... and a 'thank you' for the solution,

      Teaching newbies how to fish is laudable, but teaching them how to learn, more so.

      This site is littered with threads from newbies asking often fairly basic questions where the only response (or responses) are long lists of links to prior art, or "what have you tried", or RTFM (with or without a link); that end exactly there. No follow-on discussion of the possible approaches and their merits. No challenges to received wisdom. No benchmarks or innovations.

      And no response from the OPs at all.

      A nearly-but-not-quite code solution, sans comments or discussion, provides far more incentive to OPs to engage than any "what have you tried" reply. They see something they can download and try. They can see that it almost fits their purpose. They are engaged. There is incentive for them to come back and ask questions. To try and understand what they've been given and try and adapt it to their purpose.

      All too often on the internet -- here far less than most other places -- many of the incumbents respond to newbies first attempts to get to grips with new ideas and concepts with the attitude of "How dare you waste my time with your trivial questions". Completely missing that it is not the questioners that are wasting their time; but the incumbents themselves.

      They have the option to simple ignore the questions they feel are below their worth and move on. Instead, they waste their time, and that of the questioners by posting wholly negative what-have-you-tried, can't-you-read, is-this-homework, RTFM flames. And the newbies sense the lie of the land, disengage and disappear back into the ether to seek other more friendly sources of help.

      The moment that this place restricts itself to only answering questions that are of sufficient complexity to stimulate the experts; it will die.


      With the rise and rise of 'Social' network sites: 'Computers are making people easier to use everyday'
      Examine what is said, not who speaks -- Silence betokens consent -- Love the truth but pardon error.
      "Science is about questioning the status quo. Questioning authority".
      In the absence of evidence, opinion is indistinguishable from prejudice.

      The start of some sanity?

        Preach it, brother. See also MJD's views on the subject, from back during Perl's golden age. If you don't want this website to die like Usenet, don't act like a Usenet jerk.
        For me (and I probably should have made this clearer in my prior), your "nearly-but-not-quite code solution" is crucial... and much to be desired! It's a key distinguising difference between teaching how to learn (in the precise manner you discuss) and a complete solution (the site is also littered with these) which -- I fear -- rarely teaches anything other than, perhaps, "Wow, PM's a great place from which to cargo-cult code."

        And, yes, a plague on the houses of those who consider noob questions "trivial" or beneath their dignity.

        But IMO, and as as educated_foo said earlier, the "tireless scolds" who (in many, but not all cases) remind noobs to demonstrate that they've not asked a question without trying to learn by trying to solve their puzzle, themselves. Agreed, "RTFM" without a link is worthless and discourages those new to the site or to Perl. But a (pleasantly phrased) "RTFM type of reply with a link to the relevant site docs or Perl docs seems to me to be at least as likely to instantiate a teachable moment as almost anything we can do to help.

      Coding a solution is in my opinion the right answer most of the time. Given, you do sometimes gets posts to the tune of "I need an entire system to do x and I have no programming experience so would you code it for me", and in those cases it's better to link them to places where they can start learning more on their own, but most people posting here are intermediate-level Perl programmers and will learn more and faster by reading through a finished solution than by being told to go look at x, y, z modules. Sometimes modules by themselves are not easy to wrap your brain around. And it just seems lazy for people who know the answer to reply with module links rather than taking the time to code a short solution to demonstrate how to interface with those modules.
        Please substantiate the two unsupported assertions you make in...
        "but most people posting here are intermediate-level Perl programmers and will learn more and faster by reading through a finished solution than by being told to go look at x, y, z modules
        and, please provide objective support for the value judgment you offer in...
        "it just seems lazy for people who know the answer to reply with module links rather than taking the time to code a short solution...."

        I can't provide any data to support my view, either, but the notion that most of the SOPW are posted by "intermediate-level Perl programmers" seems, at best, questionable. How many intermediate programmers have to post SOPW like "how do I remove a leading space" or ones that are rooted in vast ignorance of the differences among OSen? We certainly see a lot of those.

        Likewise, I lack evidence for my disbelief of your "learn more and faster" proposition, but my own view (based, obviously on far-less-than-rigorous analysis) is that too many times a complete code solution is greeted with a follow-on to the general effect of "please explain how that works" or -- worse -- "wow, thanks; that works perfectly." without any hint that OP has done anything beyond simply adopting the solution provided. For more on this, please see the discussion (the discussion, not the trolls) re BrowserUk's excellent point.

        As to your value judgement ("lazy"), it's my view that providing a reply with good teaching value (ie, with acknowledgement, for example, that a particular solution may be useless in circumstances upon which the OP is ambiguous) is often (usually?) more work than simply providing code.

      ++ for a proposal that might accomplish its goal.

      Ok how about this: There are two forms for posting. The current one (with all that formatting stuff) will be the "advanced" and "reply" forms.

      Anonymous and freshly registered users get a special form for posting new questions. This form does not take formating, but has multiple text fields, labeled "your question", "code", "input data" and "expected output". While none of these except "your question" and the title are required fields (can be left blank), they probably would suggest to most users what we actually need. Then, at submitting, PM would automatically put the fields in their correct formatting.

      More experienced users, from Level (?) onward can change their settings to use the "advanced free formatting form" or something which allows all freedoms as it is now.

      Of course, editing already posted questions would still use the free format textfield, too. Just the initial form for posting a new question would be the new "smarter" form.

      Don't use '#ff0000':
      use Acme::AutoColor; my $redcolor = RED();
      All colors subject to change without notice.

        ++

        That is a good idea.

        I have noticed that the public bug submission forms of many open source projects adopt a similar approach.

        One thing, is that I don't think the advanced form should be restricted to uses above a certain level, instead just bury the option of which submit form should be used in the preferences under a slightly cryptic name, and the documentation about how to change the preference and why you would want to in the guide to the Monastery.

        Any one who reads all those fine manuals, is likely to RTFM before posting, so we don't need to force them to lay out their question in a particular style.

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