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Frustrations with newbie questions

by hieronymus (Scribe)
on Nov 11, 2002 at 20:23 UTC ( #212072=perlmeditation: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

Maybe this is just a rant, but...

I started *seriously* teaching myself Perl about a two years ago and I immediately signed up for as many Perl user lists as possible in hopes that I would learn by osmosis...this of course did not happen. So I picked up The Camel and read it cover to cover. Ok, so I knew more than when I started, but I was by no means a Perl Coder. So then I decided maybe a book that was geared more towards teaching beginners was in order so I picked up The Llama and I finally felt like I was on my way to becoming a real Perl Coder!

Soon I was writing Perl code that was meaningful and worked! I was soon eager for more. I wanted to become a better coder, write cleaner, more efficeint code, so the quest to build an extensive Perl library continued. While I was nose deep in my studies I was still paying attention to the various Perl email lists that I was/am subscribed to and began to notice a pattern. There was an alarming large number of people posting to the various lists that were basically asking the people to write their programs for them.

My first instinct was to answer the various posters with *attempted* solutions to their problems, but most of the time more experienced coders would submit solutions ahead of me. No big deal. Yet something kept nagging at me. I began to wonder why these people thought they could post to an email list and receive a complete, functioning program without doing any of their own work. Espcically when I've taken the time to read and work through the various books and examples that are easily accessible to anyone who cares to look. I kept thinking "what the H#!* are they thinking??" Most of the answers to these questions are answered and covered in detail in any number to the O'Reily books.

Anyway, like I said this is mostly just a rant, but I was wondering what you Perl coders thought about this and if I am just imagining this *pattern*.


-hieronymus

Comment on Frustrations with newbie questions
Re: Frustrations with newbie questions
by fruiture (Curate) on Nov 11, 2002 at 20:49 UTC

    This is a known problem. It even occurs on PerlMonks sometimes, although a lot of "these" feel that they won't be successfull with homework on this site and don't post such "questions". It is already different on the Usenet, sometimes i am able to read everything on c.l.p.misc for a week, but usually a great amount of the threads are just to be skipped and you don't see too much "interesting" discussion within 150 new messages a day, where 75 are dealing with homework and 30 dealing with "Purl Gurl" :)

    But worst it is on the web, because you have all these AOL-quys in it. Usenet at least is not that popular (it's not mentioned in "TOMORROW", so "these" don't know it, that's the sad reason), but the Web is. In a public forum, nearly every second question is "How can i do X? Please give me explicit syntax".

    My reaction to this: "Read `perldoc XXX`" with no further explanation. I've translated Eric Raymond's Standard Document to put it in my signature, because i have hope to convince at least 1% of "these" people that they really can do it differently.

    My recommendation for those, who are willing to work and think in order to learn is primarily to join PerlMonks. Considering the usenet-problems and the too-public-web-forums it is an important ressource to my eyes.

    Im sure, the problem about this homework-thing will nearly disappear in the future, when 15-year old students are told that it is as hard to find a job in IT as in any other area, which is starting to become truth.

    --
    http://fruiture.de
Re: Frustrations with newbie questions
by Ovid (Cardinal) on Nov 11, 2002 at 23:16 UTC

    I suspect that much of this is the result of the Internet. I was reading an article recently which claimed that the rise in popularity of dynamically typed languages (such as Perl and Python) coincided with the rise in popularity of the Web. People wanted everything now. I want a program that works now. I want to see results now. I want someone to answer my question now. Unfortunately, many people receive this gratification and are less likely to think the problem through for themselves. The 'net is a terrible thing to waste.

    I also recall reading another article which talked about the "good ol' days" of computer programming when programmers often had to wait weeks for computer time. As a result, they struggled, toiled, and poured over their programs very carefully. Everything was checked and double-checked as a single bug could mean weeks of waiting for anther try. Since I suspect it's impossible to correct for our improved knowledge of computer science, I doubt the following question is answerable, but I'm curious to know how quality has been affected by the seemingly conflicting needs of "get it right" and "get it now".

    Cheers,
    Ovid

    New address of my CGI Course.
    Silence is Evil

      I can see it now!
      A new country song entitled "Got It Right" (sung to the tune of "Mr. Right" by Garth Brooks).

      And it'll go something like this:

      I can tell by the way you've been voting nodes down Not your ordinary code is gonna do You've been waitin' for that one That can spin your head around Well now honey, I've got that special code for you There must be a million lines of code in my programs So you must find the one that's right for you somehow Well, it's up to you, they're here for years Or 'till the last backup disappears I've got it right and I've got it right now

      Okay, okay! I'll say it! I need professional help!

      updated many moons later: fixed a typo.

      I totally agree with you Ovid! I get the now, now, now! attitude all the time. It's not just the Perl community either... More and more often I am seeing it on other forums, on IRC, in email from people that have no right to expect anything now. I love helping people when I can but what if I don't want to right now?

      I agree that Ovid is most probably right about this expectation pattern of "now, now, now". After all, just look at the just-in-time economy, customers don't want to wait and store owners can't have stuff in stock because it is too expensive.

      On the other hand, I don't really see it as a problem in the context of Usenet or PerlMonks in the sense that I'll help whenever I have time. This is a luxury we have here, we can set the pace, there's no-one to tell us how fast an answer should be provided, if any.

      Of course, it's nice to be able to help, even addictive, but I've been a bit too long in tech support to underestimate these effects. (If you talk about "now, now, now", talk about tech support, there it's "yesterday, yesterday, last week"). The most important lesson I learned in that job was how to say "no, I can't do that without consequences for other important matters".

      Nowadays I regularly turn down projects or requests for help I'd like to get my hands in because I just can't guarantee myself that I'll be able to give it the attention it deserves without neglecting other matters.

      Although tech support is very bad for ones health I'd strongly recommend a relatively short exposure to it, one's perspective on a number of issues tends to change ;-)

      Just my little rant, not even worth the costumary 2 cents, -gjb-

      We saw a movie the other day with the phrase "Instant gratification takes way too long", and unfortunately, it seems to be becoming a truism with many of the people on the web today.
Re: Frustrations with newbie questions
by Anonymous Monk on Nov 12, 2002 at 02:49 UTC
    Most of the answers to these questions are answered and covered in detail in any number to the O'Reilly books.

    And in Perl books by many other publishers, and in the excellent perldoc, and on hundreds of webpages listed in google (and other search engines), and most likely even on this very site.

    There's a reason people advise people new to a subject to RTFM. Depending on how you suggest it they may interpret it as rude , but the answers are out there and can be easily found. Answering them again when there's nothing more to add is a huge duplication of effort and accomplishes very little.

Re: Frustrations with newbie questions
by rdfield (Priest) on Nov 12, 2002 at 11:01 UTC
    To my mind there is another aspect to the newbie questions that is as apparent as the 'now','now','now' attitude is the complete lack of comprehension of the basics of programming: specifically 'how to test'.

    They read a problem, write a solution (sometimes!), run it, and if it doesn't work they're lost. No understanding of how to break the problem down, no understanding of any testing or debugging techniques. Grrr.

    Sometimes I think that the IT industry should become a proper profession like accountants or doctors and membership of a professional body is a requirement for employment. Then again, the industry is fast moving and constantly changing, leading to qualifications that are out of date before the ink's dry.

    rdfield

      They read a problem, write a solution (sometimes!), run it, and if it doesn't work they're lost. No understanding of how to break the problem down, no understanding of any testing or debugging techniques. Grrr.

      It's because they're newbies (okay - some of they are arrogant f**kwits - but some of them just don't know how :-)

      I've taught programming, and introducing people to testing and debugging is harder than teaching them how to code. That process of breaking a problem down isn't innate - it has to be learned.

      Sometimes people aren't trying because they don't understand how to try.

        Exactly.

        rdfield

Re: Frustrations with newbie questions
by Abigail-II (Bishop) on Nov 12, 2002 at 16:58 UTC
    This has been happening for quite a while. In fact, September 1993 still hasn't finished.

    (Oh, the irony of people following up asking about September 1993 without doing research themselves....)

    Abigail

      And oh, the irony of people *not* following up asking about September 1993 without doing research themselves because you predicted it!

      Well I'm going to ask if nobody else will: WTF is September 1993? And I want an answer NOW NOW NOW! :)

      Seriously, google (aka The Oracle) has no dice: http://www.google.com/search?q=september+1993.

        Add "usenet" to your Google query, and the very first hit will answer your question.
        --
        Jeff Boes
        Database Engineer
        Nexcerpt, Inc.
        vox 269.226.9550 ext 24
        fax 269.349.9076
         http://www.nexcerpt.com
        ...Nexcerpt...Connecting People With Expertise
Re: Frustrations with newbie questions
by Jenda (Abbot) on Nov 12, 2002 at 18:04 UTC

    There's no point in being frustrated. You are not responsible for their well-being. If you do not feel like answering their question, skip it. If they get no reply they'll either go away or try to find out why and do something about it. Either one is good for us.

    Jenda

Re: Frustrations with newbie questions
by ff (Hermit) on Nov 14, 2002 at 07:17 UTC
    Can't speak for other Perl user lists but within PerlMonks it seems:

    It's okay to ignore newbie questions. (leads to: Newbie question, rhetorical: Is there a way to see the community's rating of a question to "know" to even ignore reading the Title? Answer as far as I can tell: the "front page" presents the interesting questions.)

    Someone who answers such questions has now done the noble deed of adding yet one more ounce of documentation to the collective pile. (For more responsible newbies, but who happen to lack access to the O'Reilly library, to find later.) And since the question itself was interesting enough to answer, the answerer may well have learned something in the process.

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