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Chapter 714: The Long Chapter

by neshura (Chaplain)
on Dec 01, 2000 at 13:37 UTC ( #44315=monkdiscuss: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

The Evolution of Perl Monks: Chapter 714

(of an ongoing saga)

Primary Points

  1. That personality conflicts are an inescapable element of a community, and
  2. That a community needs rules before it is justified in punishing its unpopular or seditious elements, and
  3. That princepawn's departure is a failure on the part of the Perl Monks community, not on the part of princepawn

Point One: Where are you, Solomon?

Communities are constructed from the complex relationships of people with, in the case of Perl Monks, shared interests. A community of one person is unlikely to have "politics", a word with dirty connotations. A community with two or more people experiences politics in short order. The holier-than-thou often openly disdain politicking. But community politics are, at the basic level, nothing more than the resolution of conflicts between individuals.

It is most often the case that individuals will aggregate into factions weighing in on either side of an issue. This creates the advantage of numbers -- in an era or place without formalized government, a larger faction will have more success in whacking other factions upside the head with sticks. Under a formalized government, a large and powerful faction can wield their sticks against a dictator (a revolution) or a ruling faction (a different kind of revolution).

The second order effect is that it is unlikely that all members of a faction will agree wholly on anything, including whatever issue is at hand (providing they even remember the issue, what with all the smacking and bonking people about the head). A faction is a community within a community, and differs somewhat in that the members of a faction usually agree to present a united front during the conflict over a particular issue. Factions tend to be unsustainable unless there is a mechanism in place such that members are willing to give up several degrees of freedom over the long term.

Perl Monks is more of a community than a faction itself, but has suffered from personal conflicts and conflicts between loosely knit groups over a number of issues. The latest source of friction has been between princepawn and a number of monks acting out their individual consciences. It would be entirely acceptable to dismiss princepawn as chaotic element who refuses to conform to what is commonly accepted as proper conduct. It is more appropriate though to examine the existing practices, the roles of different members of the community, and the aforementioned codes of conduct.

Question 1: Is Perl Monks a strong community in its own right, a faction of the Perl community at large, or both?
Points to consider:

  • Perl Monks provides an alternative resource to places like #perl, with a higher level of tolerance for ignorant questions (or so the story goes).
  • Perl Monks uses the metaphor of a monastery as a model for behavior, etiquette, preservation of knowledge. Monasteries are often hierarchical organizations with strict rules for membership and protocol enforcement mechanisms.
  • The Perl community has no qualifications for membership, no particular goals (just the shared interest of using and bettering perl), and no overarching metaphor or behavioral protocol enforcement.
  • Perl Monks the group does not have a great deal of influence over the development of Perl the language (or does it?), which is the only power in the Perl community worth having (or is it?).
Question 2: Does Perl Monks have its own internal factions of people easily swayed by emotion or awe or demagoguery, or is every member an individual who forms fluid alliances based on his/her ethical stances and ability to reason?
Points to consider: An Innocent Post degenerates

Point Two: Perl Monks Municipal Code HC344-b: Thou shalt not refer to Perl as PERL

The codes of conduct and community roles have been shaped so far with a powerful concept, the concept of metaphor. But the Perl Monks community cannot grow and evolve forever fueled only by the monastery metaphor.

The first problem with using a metaphor as a means of framing a community is that it is difficult to find a really effective metaphor that does not break down on close examination. The second is the danger that the line between metaphor and reality will start to blur in the minds of community members. Examples of both these points are easy to find.

In the case of the first point, for instance, the hierarchical organization of a Christian monastery follows naturally from the proposition one, that its residents are all in service of God's will, and proposition two, that God is in the monastery and everywhere else as well. Thus, the need for at least two levels of authority (God and !God) in the monastery makes sense. But Perl is not God, Larry is not God, and vroom is not God (neither of the latter ever having made the claim). One can argue that we must have many levels of monks at PM, instead of equality for all, but we do not find God when we reduce the argument here.

In the second case, one doesn't need to read very many posts to realize that a few members have lost track of the fact that Perl Monks is not actually a monastery*. All of the preconceptions that one has about monasteries are not necessarily correct or applicable. They are useful for conveying a great deal of community philosophy in a single word to a new user. The word is pregnant with thousands of years of history and precedent, and acts as a marvelous clue-stick for supplicants and applicants alike. The metaphor should be retained because of its power. The power of connotation though is such that the rules of actual monasteries are taken to be the case in Perl Monks. (For example, exhibiting humility before God because God is greater than the individual does not translate to exhibiting humility before Perl.) Unlike physical monasteries, Perl Monks does not yet have formalized protocols with an accompanying set of enforcement mechanisms.

This brings us to the question of Perl Monks rules and enforcements thereof. Nowhere is it written that monks must be polite, have a sense of humor, and like Perl. There are implicit mores and written "suggestions", and sure it would be silly for someone who didn't like Perl to want to be a Perl Monk, but the fact remains that there is no formalized code of conduct.

Instead, we have the accompanying half in place: an enforcement mechanism (voting) for monks to use, and without rules, to abuse with impunity. Rules must have teeth and teeth must have rules. Certainly voting was not originally envisioned as a mechanism to punish the unpopular. But it is tremendously naive to think that no one would ever be influenced to vote based on the writer of the post rather than the content. Perl Monks has several thousand enforcers running around with the ability to enforce completely arbitrary rules at the whim of their individual motivations. Even the most thoughtful person rarely takes the time to face their own motivations in enforcing rules, such as "Am I following my principles?" or "Have I ever questioned my own principles to make sure they weren't blindly inherited?".

Expand these questions about individual motivations to a vast web of community motivations and you will encounter weaknesses. One weakness is that if there are no formalized rules and we rely on the good judgment of the average monk, there is room then for the demagogue who can influence monks (through words, prowess, or other means) to subjugate their internal sense of principle. S/he can then control their collective enforcement power to either shape their vision of the rules, or merely punish threats as they arise in a chaotic system. A community may, as a whole, prefer to risk this possibility rather than implement written rules.

If there are formalized rules, an altogether different but common system failure occurs: the failure of most communities to recognize that the seditious and unpopular element that merely questions the existing rules is not, in fact, dangerous. These are the people who prevent the fossilization and institutionalization of codes that over time lose meaning or relevance to a community.

Question 3: Would you say that Perl Monks actually is a monastery?
Point to consider: Languages and words evolve to fit their times...

Question 4: Would retaining voting on nodes but getting rid of XP negate the opportunity for the power-hungry to make up the rules by putting together factions of votes?
Points to consider:

  • XP whoring would be harder
  • Group-shunning would have to be done verbally, not with mass downvoting
  • People might stop voting completely if there is no "reward"

Question 5: How did the practice of banning white shoes after Labor day finally go out of practice, and why did it exist in the first place?
People to consult: a certain master of trivia


Point Three: What Do You Call a Group of Camels?

Princepawn is unpopular. That is not really up for debate. Personality perhaps comes into play, but also the content of his posts and the danger that is perceived in them. He has questioned informal community practices (mass downvoting), arbitrary actions by people with power (refusing a request for a picture in the monk rotation), and the very center of the community's existence: Perl. As an outsider and a person who will say out loud what others do not, his actions are not just valuable but are an ongoing necessity.

Without a gadfly type of element who forces the community to defend its reasoning, the reasons may themselves be forgotten, though the rules go on. A gadfly has a difficult path, because s/he must be part of and apart from a community. It is not for the author of this post to say that princepawn is the "right" person to take on this role, or that any one person should do so. But the role itself is valuable, and though princepawn's personality may grate, many of his questions deserve abundant respect.

Though it may be the decision of the community to do otherwise, it is the opinion of the author that a formal set of rules is necessary. Why? the number of new users registering every day leads to a conclusion based on practicality -- that the popularity of the site and the need for its services will overwhelm a delicate unwritten system based on deep personal respect, graciousness, humility, and learning. One doesn't need to look far to see a formerly close-knit community of the smart and computer-literate overwhelmed by popularity. The most resilient community will be the one that embraces the seditious voice and allows it to prune away the dead or useless bits. Whether it is just one lone voice or a occasional note in every monk's voice does not matter. Perl Monks is not any different from any other community -- its denizens will herd instinctively to protect the interests of the community. The question that matters is not whether it is resilient enough to withstand attacks on Perl, but whether it is resilient enough to understand its own best interests, to transform itself as necessary, and to thrive as a result.

Question 6: Is Slashdot a grand failure or a notable success as an online community of self-described nerds?

Question 7: Would you question everything? Or do you believe that some questions go too far and it should be incorporated into the rules that certain things should be left unsaid?
Consider the following:

  • Is it acceptable to be harsh with new users? Is it acceptable to be harsh with people who are harsh? It is acceptable to set any rules at all?
  • Should a democratic society such as the United States do away with the anonymous vote completely? Should Perl Monks?
  • Is vroom's demonstrated bias against princepawn warranted?
  • Do merlyn, gnat, Dominus etc. deserve to be worshipped as heroes? Does it damage the community at large to have Saints with power and influence, or does it give new users a valuable goal to strive for?
  • When one person persecutes four entirely different people to the point that it is a persisten pattern, should it be noticed and acted on or swept under the rug?
  • Will the use of Perl die out in the near future as it becomes bogged down with bureaucracy at the top levels? Should Perl die out if there is an as-yet-unspecified language that is more intuitive, more efficient, and faster to write in? Does that language already exist?

this post brought to you by neshura, faction of one, with the fine editorial input of jlp, Macphisto, and vroom

Comment on Chapter 714: The Long Chapter
Re: Chapter 714: The Long Chapter
by Macphisto (Hermit) on Dec 01, 2000 at 13:49 UTC

    The Evolution of Pie: Chapter 715


    Just kidding! They don't call Me Springfield's fattest because I'm morbidly obese and I don't call neshura the calamity jane of perlmonks.org because she makes bad posts or goes off half cocked. This post took a lot of thought, and probably a case of Yoohoo. So listen up folks, and listen well.



    Everyone has their demons....
Re: Chapter 714: The Long Chapter
by Corion (Pope) on Dec 01, 2000 at 14:15 UTC

    Well spoken !

    I've stayed out of the princepawn discussion for a long time since I saw no good coming out of the personal arguments flinging back and forth (and I only saw worse coming if I'd entered the discussion). But I've always found princepawn, together with mt2k, a bit annoying but still a part of the monastery. t0mas compared princepawn to Don Quixote, and I guess it's what I admired, the ability to always come back and try again (and even gain XP in the process).

    Every time somebody leaves the monastery in a spectacular way (Abigail, mt2k and now princepawn), this should be a warning sign, as "we" (as the community) have proven unable to integrate/tolerate them. And I want to see the Monastery as a community (and not a faction), so my goal still is to provide help (and not salvation) even for the heathen - of course, some heathen get easier help from me than others, but I'm no saint (yet), so I'm allowed to have stains on my halo.

    I always remember the rules of the Fidonet programming forum asmx86 (x86 assembly language), which help me stay calm in the face of ignorance everywhere :

    • Nobody in this forum is required to give answers to questions.
    • Nobody in this forum is required to believe anything answered to him.

Re: Chapter 714: The Long Chapter
by neophyte (Curate) on Dec 01, 2000 at 15:49 UTC
    Thank you, neshura
    That was really excellent, I'd multiple++ it if I could.
    I've seen some online-communities grow and break up in personal feuds. If I can help it I try not to become involved in any personal quibbles.
    I'm with Corion:
    • Nobody in this forum is required to give answers to questions.
    • Nobody in this forum is required to believe anything answered to him.

    With a good amount of calm and sang froid one can actually read a provocative question and refrain from answering it. If you can't, be prepared that your tone will be echoed. (This also goes for asking: most likely the tone will be echoed, so if you can't stomach provocation, don't provoke.)

    neophyte

Re (tilly) 1: Chapter 714: The Long Chapter
by tilly (Archbishop) on Dec 01, 2000 at 18:04 UTC
    My answers:
    1. Is Perl Monks a strong community in its own right, a faction of the Perl community at large, or both?

      I think both. It is a strong community which is fed into by the larger Perl community. It does not itself influence the direction of Perl but includes some people who have an influence on that. Incidentally people who think that there is just one Perl community should reflect on why Larry Wall calls his talk the annual State of the Onion.

    2. Does Perl Monks have its own internal factions of people easily swayed by emotion or awe or demagoguery, or is every member an individual who forms fluid alliances based on his/her ethical stances and ability to reason?

      Obviously Perl Monks has internal factions. Any group this size does. However on the whole it seems to do better than most groups. And I say that despite having encountered some problems rather early on.

    3. Would you say that Perl Monks actually is a monastery?

      No. But if it were I think that a Buddhist monastery would be a better mindset for reasons I explained elsewhere. Those who don't know much about Buddhism may also find this to be interesting. (I am not a Buddhist.)

      Another point. Real monasteries under the surface have tremendous amounts of politicking going on. Therefore if Perl Monks has that, then it is true to the original.

    4. Would retaining voting on nodes but getting rid of XP negate the opportunity for the power-hungry to make up the rules by putting together factions of votes?

      I don't think we currently have problems with such power-hungry people. We have people concerned that they may exist, but I don't see them.

      The one tendancy that does exist is to vote on the person, not the post. The current system encourages that pretty directly. However I think that enough (starting with me) complain about the practice that most are aware of why voting on the post is preferable.

    5. How did the practice of banning white shoes after Labor day finally go out of practice, and why did it exist in the first place?

      Ya got me with that one! I am looking forward to hearing the answer...

    6. Is Slashdot a grand failure or a notable success as an online community of self-described nerds?

      As Yogi Berra said about a restaurant, "Nobody goes there any more, it is too popular."

    7. Would you question everything? Or do you believe that some questions go too far and it should be incorporated into the rules that certain things should be left unsaid?

      I suggest that there are some things, the saying of which is unwarranted. However people shouldn't shy away from questions just because they are hard. You present an interesting list. Some are real problems, as the Red Queen told Alice, "Sometimes you have to keep running just to stand still." Perl is definitely in that position.

      However about princepawn. Personally I have never seen anyone who so consistently misses the point. This was merely irritating for me. However the reason why I am personally going to weep no tears was his behaviour in the CB. Excuse me, but we don't need someone saying that he thought there are no decent female programmers. And when requested to not have the sexist remarks, there was no need for him to come back with graphic sexual imagery...

Re: Chapter 714: The Long Chapter
by swiftone (Curate) on Dec 01, 2000 at 20:26 UTC
    1.That personality conflicts are an inescapable element of a community, and

    Agreed...

    2.That a community needs rules before it is justified in punishing its unpopular or seditious elements, and

    That depends on what you mean by "rules". Communities work by social rules, which are more fluid and variable than systematic rules.

    3.That princepawn's departure is a failure on the part of the Perl Monks community, not on the part of princepawn

    I disagree, for the most part. First, I suspect princepawn has not departed, merely stopped using either the princepawn and metaperl accounts. Read his "conclusion" carefully: he never says he's leaving, only that those accounts will be inactive.

    But getting to your central point: Perlmonks is in many ways not new. Online communities have been forming since the early days of Usenet (and I can't say anything about earlier). These communities develop their own customs, traditions, and styles. The constant flow of new members joining and old members leaving allows this community to evolve. Traditionally, a new arrival will show up, and broadly display ignorance of the customs. They will be chastised, and the rules explained. Over the course of further communication, the new arrival will adjust to the community, and the community will adjust to the arrival. A quick glance at the list of saints, pontiffs, and bishops shows many users in our community that followed this example here, and I'm sure many of us have done so elsewhere.

    Obviously, this didn't happen in the case of princepawn. Why? Certainly some people developed a grudge against him. He had to fight an uphill battle. This became worse when he continued his unliked behavior beyond the normal "incubation" period for new users. Were we too harsh?

    We certainly could have been better, but looking over the threads, I see monks patiently explaining again and again the unwritten rules of social conduct here. It makes me proud to see how patient everyone has been, far more so than other online communities. (We all know some that flame the newbie mercilessly) princepawn did not face troubles because he questioned...he faced troubles because he refused to comprimise.

    In any merit-based community, you have to first learn exactly how muhc merit you do or do not have. princepawn did not learn that.

    When he returns, as I think he shall, the same rules will apply to him. If he uses his princepawn persona, he'll have the baggage he created, if he uses another, he can start tabula rasa. Either way, if he learns to work towards a goal rather than against something, if he learns to not assume the failure is always elsewhere, and if he learns that others don't spend their days plotting to drop his XP, he can still become a respected member of the site.

(d4vis)Re: Chapter 714: The Long Chapter
by d4vis (Chaplain) on Dec 02, 2000 at 00:34 UTC
    That princepawn's departure is a failure on the part of the Perl Monks community, not on the part of princepawn

    I have to disagree on that one. While a community like perlmonks (or any other) does indeed need members to serve as devil's advocate, or gadfly's as you call them, that role can certainly be filled in a way that is not offensive or unduly annoying.
    I think princepawn's situation is not an indication of a community that can't tolerate dissent but of one that refuses to allow one strident, shouting voice to drown out an ongoing reasoned discussion.
    Varying points of view are tolerated, even encouraged, here. What should not be tolerated is allowing any one person to drown out or dominate the conversation by strength of opinion rather than strength of reason. It seems to me that princepawn largely ignored the (reasonable) wishes of his fellow community members and was therefore ostracized.
    We surely must have the right, as a community, to have some say in what the standards of discourse amongst us will be.

    ~monk d4vis
    #!/usr/bin/fnord

Re: Chapter 714: The Long Chapter
by AgentM (Curate) on Dec 02, 2000 at 01:03 UTC
    A very thorough and long post, but I what I have disagreed with, from the beginning, is that the perlmonks are represented by their voting systems and experience points. Sure, when I get advice, I read it differently if the person has 3 XP or 300 XP, but inarguably, this shouldn't matter. I, princepawn, merlyn, and everyone else started with zero XP- even though merlyn wrote a book about Perl. To me, XP is fun game, but otherwise meaningless. If everyone is obsessed with XP ("XP whoring"), then, of course, there will be angry people demanding that their points were wrongfully taken away. But, honestly, your XP, whether -18 or a million, has no bearing on your person. Not everyone has spectacular social skills (especially in the field of computer science :), so a few annoying people can be expected. When these people get the feeling that XP is important in the upkeep of their character here (which I believe is wrong but emanates obviously from some unknown source), then, of course, they will become defensive with it, which I hold to be rather irrational. If you know about XP, then you know that it is about as interesting as the date that the monk was created, since XP increases "naturally" with time (over 48 hour periods). Dominus, a very new monk, has rapidly accelerated the hierarchy with his valuable insights into perl internals, regexes, and more. Is it all that interesting how many points he has? I don't think so. The end result is that XP reflects very little about the character, but I doubt that the newbies catch on since some are quick to becomes "XP whores". I know, because I was one and I worried until my stomach cramped whether or not I would get voted up. I've made several casual friends since and I even met a monk and hope to meet more! It is simply not worth even fighting over points- no matter how many.

    Your article focuses alot on this voting issue connected with a monk, and I would like to bring it to your attention that at least one monk, namely AgentM, is not so subjective as to think that this holds anything against the person. bravismore was almost certainly not a bad person- just a monk who became a sort of joke after he copied his homework into a node verbatim. I imagine he's wandering around under a different alias now- perhaps as tye, or Petruchio, or any other monk of arbitrary name. I believe that above all, the votes are irrelevant and I'm sure that you would at agree that one should consider the person (as opposed to XP). Sure, it's exciting to become abbott or saint, but what I'm really here for is to learn more about Perl while at the same time helping others (did anyone else come for a different reason?). I myself, as was mentioned in previous nodes, was the obvious target of similar attacks. I was confronted via /msg by several people telling me they voted my nodes up simply because it was voted down for no particularly obvious reason. While I consider that friendly and I'm certainly not unthankful to these people, I really wouldn't have cared if no one came to me and said that there was a problem- because I didn't see a problem. If someone wants to waste his time downvoting my nodes- then feel free to- because I realize that it has NO impact on me (yes- NO impact).

    But I also realize that i did not make friends by condemning Perl, using name-calling, and other annoyances. If a monk cannot conform to a level of decency where he can be respected, then it's fine with me if he leaves or is even removed. I consider the loss princepawn no biggie, even though he left with a big fireworks display. However cult-like we may be, nothing any monk says to me will have such a profound impact on me. princepawn was quick to take everything very personally and it seemed to drop like a hammer on him. Why? Insecurity, I imagine, but I certainly don't know. The preservation of my anonymity is one of the most valued things I hold at PM. When I'm bored, I'm guaranteed some wasteful space in the CB and possibly some responses. I come to PM to be with other folks that I could not normally be with. I find it an excellent medium for learning. There is no school that would hesitate to punish one for bad behavior.

    In short, I'd really like to keep PM as friendly as can be, but realistically, this will change as the influx of new monks changes the tide and culture of PM- maybe even in the future, some rules. But am I not afraid of change. I guess my final question is: what's the big deal? Why even bother to respond to stupid comments obviously aimed to provoke? While I think it's important to discuss, most of the attacks from princepawn warranted little attention- certainly less attention than he has received- like this enormous node above.

    AgentM Systems nor Nasca Enterprises nor Bone::Easy nor Macperl is responsible for the comments made by AgentM. Remember, you can build any logical system with NOR.
      I, princepawn, merlyn, and everyone else started with zero XP- even though merlyn wrote a book about Perl

      Not to nitpick an excellent discussion, but your example is actually not a good one - merlyn began with 1,000,000 XP. However, he thereafter requested the 1,000,000 be removed, and earned the rest of his points (excluding the voting bonuses while an instant saint) the hard way - namely, by providing good answers to questions and getting voted up for it.

      Vroom still has his million XP bonus, but I'm catching up: only 997,328 more points to go! :)

A Judas Among Us?
by tedv (Pilgrim) on Dec 02, 2000 at 04:44 UTC
    You seem to imply that Princepawn's relentless discourses have an important harrowing effect, by constantly forcing us to reevaluate our position. The implication is that he's a Judas figure-- someone who does something despicable that is nontheless necessary.

    For another Biblical example, consider the story of David and Bathsheba. If you don't know the story, King David of Israel has an affair with another man's wife, gets her pregnant, indirectly murders her husband, and then marries her. A prophet brings this fact to life and tells him God will judge him for these things, by taking away David's wife, killing the child, and plaguing him with war. It also turns that Solomon, David's successor and son, was a child of Bathsheba. Clearly God did not approve of David's actions, and still used the results to good ends.

    The moral is that good things can still come from the actions of Judas figures, not that Judas figures are necessary for good things to occur.

    -Ted

      You seem to imply that Princepawn's relentless discourses have an important harrowing effect, by constantly forcing us to reevaluate our position.

      Yes.

      The implication is that he's a Judas figure-- someone who does something despicable that is nontheless {sic} necessary.

      Absolutely not. To my knowledge, Perl Monks has zero need for despicable yet necessary actions. You may find princepawn personally despicable, but I would be aghast if you or anyone else found it despicable that he persistently questions such things as inconsistencies in a language that is undeniably imperfect. Let me rephrase that actually -- I have been aghast.

      My original point, as you stated very succinctly in the first sentence, was that much of what princepawn has written has been valuable and necessary, because languages (and for different reasons, communities) ought to be kept on the defensive. Any offensive comments against individuals are a different matter entirely, and I have no problem whatsoever with verbal condemnation of monks who personally attack other monks (or classes of monks).

      I understand the moral lesson behind the two Bible stories you presented, but I don't think they apply very well in this case, because it is not necessary for one to be morally bankrupt or personally distasteful in order to bring criticism to bear.

      Update: Good point below by KM. But frankly, I would have no problem going to a mousetrap community and suggesting a better one. Use of a hammer analogy instead of a mousetrap analogy implies that Perl is a fully evolved tool. This I cannot agree with.

      e-mail neshura

        My original point, as you stated very succinctly in the first sentence, was that much of what princepawn has written has been valuable and necessary, because languages (and for different reasons, communities) ought to be kept on the defensive.

        Why? I mean, maybe at a corporate level, but why here? Why do you have to come to a community of Perl people to then defend Perl? Perl is a tool. Not a religion, not a politcal faction, not a moral, not a lifestyle (except that some of us make a living doing it). Why would/should I need to defend why a hammer is good for hammering, versus a wrench which is good for tightening? I shouldn't, and don't expect to go to hammers.com, join a community of hammer lovers/users and defend the hammer. So, I do disagree here.

        Perl is a tool. It isn't the be-all-end-all. If someone doesn't like it, they can use another tool.

        I have kept out of the whole princepawn thing until now. Personally, I don't care that he is gone. Most of his nodes, IMO, were a waste. But hey, that's me. I think it was moronic for him to use a second userid to trick us, and to carry on two personas. But, those are my feelings on that, in a nutshell.

        PerlMonks has continued to evolve, and will continue to. It has become a good resource, and a fun place. For the most part, it seems that the concensus of the people here create unwritten rules, and people tend to abide by them. Spats happen, as they will, and people will leave. We just have to keep truckin along, be ourselves, and share our knowledge of Perl.

        Cheers,
        KM

        My original point, as you stated very succinctly in the first sentence, was that much of what princepawn has written has been valuable and necessary, because languages (and for different reasons, communities) ought to be kept on the defensive. Any offensive comments against individuals are a different matter entirely, and I have no problem whatsoever with verbal condemnation of monks who personally attack other monks (or classes of monks).

        I agree completely, except that I think princepawn did a poor job in the role of the Questioner. He attacked over agressively and without enough thought. The result was, then when he actually DID uncover an error, it almost went unnoticed. I did some experimenting and formulated the error into defined terms, and tye went through the code to uncover it. Dominus reported the error to p5p, and it will be fixed in 5.6.1. All good, right?

        Sure, except that it almost didn't happen. Princepawn has become the boy who cried wolf.

        I agree that we need to be questioned if we're going to improve, but there are valuable attacks, and there are random attacks.

        neshura: I understand why you would not necessarily approve of the post I made in response to princepawn's post. But I did not do that to attack him. I did that to question his behavior. Personally, I have sent messages to princepawn apologizing for "jumping the gun" in judgment. I have also apologized for my role in this entire affair. I'm not happy that I added fuel to the fire. But let's step back and see how princepawn views this:
        the very first part of the attack I launched on the discrepancy between ...
        He made the above comment in this post. Even princepawn seems to view some of his own comments as "attacks."

        He has cried wolf many times. He didn't do this deliberately, but at times he failed to read the documentation and other times the code he used to illustrate a point had bugs. The point that many tried to impress upon him was that he should be more rigorous in his analysis of what he's doing.

        The question, then, is what we view as acceptable behavior in the monestary. If someone attacks another monk, that's wrong. Personally, I can see how my own comments have tread close enough to that line that I have erred. However, while I am not happy with how I chose to word my posts, I stand by my intentions. If someone wants to constantly criticize the Perl language and say how bad it is, I don't feel that Perlmonks is an appropriate forum for that, particularly if that someone keeps getting their facts wrong. I realize that you may disagree with me over that and that's okay. Discussions like this are good.

        Cheers,
        Ovid

        Join the Perlmonks Setiathome Group or just click on the the link and check out our stats.

About white shoes
by tilly (Archbishop) on Dec 02, 2000 at 08:09 UTC
    After talking with neshura, she didn't know the answer to the question about why white shoes were banned after Labour day, and why the rule disappeared. She just wanted people to think about rules that continue existing long after the reason had been lost.

    Well I don't definitively know the answer, but I have a theory.

    After wandering around for a while (hitting some odd places) I found enough mentions that the original rule was not just white shoes, but white (or light colored) clothing in summer to keep the heat off. Therefore your shoes were white to match your summer clothes. And the reason for saying that you only wore them from Victoria Day to Labour Day was that that was a traditional definition of summer.

    So wearing white shoes outside of that period was admitting that you either couldn't recognize summer clothes, or you didn't know what time of year it was!

    Well then why was the rule lost? I don't think that there was any particular reason. Rather, over the last century, the rules on garb have been relaxing. All sorts of little rules have been lost, and this is but one of the casualities. I believe that the first was the spread of women wearing male pants from riding to general wear. This was a sight that originally was regarded much as we might regard men today wearing dresses. But it isn't just women's clothing that has changed. For instance shirts used to be underwear. Then it became acceptable to take your jacket off. Then the undershirt evolved into today's t-shirt. Anyone who wants some interesting tidbits and quotes about fashion should take a peek here.

    But enough about shoes. Here are some more rules to show how things survive long after everyone has forgotten the point:

    1. Men's shirt buttons are on the left. Women's on the right. The reason is that most people are right-handed, and noble men dressed themselves while women were dressed by maids. Even then most women dressed themselves, but everyone likes to think of themselves as being privileged so today women's clothes are still more convenient for someone else to put on.
    2. As children we hear that, London bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down... Well that is kind of old news now. It happened in 1666, during the Great Fire of London. And yes, they built it up with bricks and stones afterwards so it wouldn't fall down again.
    3. You think that is a long time? Well there is some evidence that saying, eenie, meeny, miny, moe.. comes originally from the Picts a couple of thousand years ago! It meant one, two, three, four.
    4. To this day there is an association between Jews and banking. That actually dates back to the Middle Ages. There is a prohibition in the Old Testament about usery, which meant lending money for interest. Jews interpreted the commandment to say that they could not lend money to other Jews. Christians didn't split such hairs. Therefore the moneylenders were all Jews until the Italians figured out the trick of lending money in one currency and arranging a payment at a later date in another. (The interest being hidden in the exchange rate - which might shift.) BTW the curious might want to know what happened to this rule. The answer is that Martin Luther believed that this commandment was, like the rules on eating pork, one that did not apply to Christians. The Catholics agreed as part of the Counter-Reformation. However the rule still shows up from time to time in the oddest of places. For instance it makes doing some kinds of business with Iran more complicated. (Islam grew out of Christianity.)
    5. Most people have no idea why we have an electoral college. Well it is a remnant of the intent of the Founding Fathers that the US should not be a democracy. Here is a truly excellent history for people who may have heard phrases like "Jacksonian democracy" but don't know what it refers to.
    6. In a similar vein, trial by jury was never intended to be fair. Rather it was intended, like a good chunk of the rest of the Constitution, to be another protection against the government since jurors can rule someone innocent regardless of the law and cannot be overruled when they do that. This is called jury nullification
    7. The pagan celebration of Samhain has evolved to today's Halloween. But virtually nobody could tell you why it is called that. Well in their attempt to put a Christian veneer over existing celebrations the Church made November 1 into All Saints Day, making Halloween literally All Hallow's Eve. And they tried to explain away the traditional ceremonies in terms of Satan's hosts trying to spoil the party for the saints. EDIT Meant to mention around here something about Christmas, and how Santa was originally St Nicholas, whose birthday is December 6 for anyone who is curious...
    8. Ever wondered why legal systems descended from the English have a form that looks like two adversaries in a form of ritual combat? (Trust me, compared to many other legal systems it really does.) Well that is what it evolved out of! The legal system grew out of trial by combat, and if need be lawyers would fight to the death! (This last happened in England in the 1800's, a lawyer in a prominent case knew it was lost but invoked the old law for a fight to the death. He showed up the next morning at dawn, the opposing lawyer did not and a bill was passed shortly thereafter revoking the old law.) And where does trial by combat come from? Why from the old Germanic religion, Tiwaz (Tyr to the Norse) was the god of both war and justice, and trial by combat comes out of his cult. (This is parallel to Mars in Roman times, which is why a day named for Mars in all Romance languages is named after Tyr in English. Yes, believe it or not, Odin developed out of a deity much like Mercury.)
    I could go on, but I think that the point is clear. There is a lot that we take for granted without having any clue where it comes from. And often the rules do not, upon examination, make much sense any more. (Witness the electoral combat and a legal system based on trial by combat.)

    The same is true in any human endeavour. Not just in the social rules, but in various other good rules we learn. For instance in programming you will find many rules about things like eliminating needless redundancy, modularity, avoiding goto, so on and so forth. These are generally good rules. But each one is a good rule for a reason, and there are limitations to the rule. For instance if you can find it, Structured Programming with goto Statements by Donald Knuth (Computing Surveys, December 1974) may cause you to question the received wisdom that goto is always harmful.

    Likewise reduced typing is good because maintaining multiple documents is a good way to cause bugs. However Exporter recommends putting things that you want to export into @EXPORT_OK rather than @EXPORT. This is true even though it forces you to type more! Why would they force this? Well because the rule about typing is far less important than the observation that you should strive to put things that logically belong together, together. Most modules should not be by default setting policy for packages that use them, and if in a file you see a function, you shouldn't have to go looking all over to figure out where that function was defined!

    And this is what had been the main thing that I disliked about princepawn's posts. He would consistently take a good rule - such as eliminating redundant typing - and apply it to places where it clearly didn't really fit. Just because a rule is claimed to be good, and good programmers agree that it is, doesn't mean that it is always applicable. But to get a sense for when it is and is not, you need to understand why the rule exists. Else you may find yourself doing something that really makes no sense. (Like trying to volunteer information to a police officer who will then turn the transcript over to a lawyer who in a literal sense will attempt to destroy you in ritual verbal combat. Oops.)

Re: Chapter 714: The Long Chapter
by Anonymous Monk on Dec 03, 2000 at 06:17 UTC
    I think this is the best place on the web to learn about Perl. I've been hanging around, occasionally asking questions and always getting good answers. Someday I may be good enough to post answers, but I doubt I will, or even get a username. I really don't believe that being honest, polite, and helpful will make me a successful member of the community, especially since I sometimes disagree with some of the adolescents on perlmonks who are just as concerned about proving their power as they are about hacking Perl. I don't think this makes perlmonks any different from the rest of the web. In fact, in this respect, perlmonks is a great place. Over 50% of the posts are substantive and about Perl and not personal attacks, which when you compare with other web sites where user content predominates is pretty awesome. Keep up the good work :|

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