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Context Indication

by benn (Priest)
on Sep 06, 2003 at 14:24 UTC ( #289464=monkdiscuss: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

Following the amusing exchanges recently between The Seeker Of Regex Wisdom and various monks (particularily jeffa and dragonchild, it stuck me that here was a classic case of where the context of the questions were more important than the individual questions themselves.

A single question of "What regex do I use to strip <x> out of $my_html" is going to receive all the usual answers, and spark the usual arguments of HTML::CoolSplitter vs s/<x>//g;...regex when you know exactly what's in the markup, module if not etc. By the time somebody's asked a variant of the same question 3 times though, and code has been posted that obviously comes from the same project, one is able to state with greater certainty "in this case you should be using X".

In this particular case, it was rather obvious (due to the frequency of posts and CB discussion etc.) that there was a link between the questions, allowing alert monks to realise that posts about general strategy were more applicable than specific answers. My suspicion though is that there are often cases where that is missed.

We've all seen SOPW where we suspect that the root of the problem lies elsewhere - not in the question that is asked, but maybe in the understanding of the general principle, or in another unposted piece of code. And indeed, when we can be bothered to do the research (click on user, read their homenode, click on 'Writeups', search for questions, read a few, read the given answers...), we often find that this is the case...the same person asked a similar question 3 months ago and has been 'cargo-culting' the best of the answers for all this time, without understanding *why*.

What would be useful is some way of automating that research. I hesitate to offer specific suggestions for all the usual reasons ("The DB'll cannae take it Cap'n - she's gonna bloowww!.."), but it seems that possibilities range from an (optional?) single 'see user writeups' link next to all "posted by" links, through to some kind of fully-fledged-topic-tracking-thread-linking-project-indication mechanism. But knowing nothing about The Engine, I'm keeping my mouth shut. :)

Just a thought.

Ben.

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Re: Context Indication
by Limbic~Region (Chancellor) on Sep 06, 2003 at 16:08 UTC
    benn,
    While I fully appreciate your comments in regards to context, I disagree with your proposal. I believe the responsibility should be directed towards the posting monk.

  • I have asked similar questions here and here, but have failed to understand what was being said. Here is what I thought I knew.
  • I tried the solution provided here, but I didn't understand it and am not able to apply it to this general situation here
  • I admit, originally I didn't want to understand why, just how. I have seen the error of my ways, please enlighten me.
  • I may be wrong, but I don't believe this question deserves the generic answers because my situation is different. This is why I think it is different. If I am wrong and one of the general solutions will work, please explain it keeping in mind I am rather new at this.
  • etc, etc, etc

    Now this isn't to say that the monks at the Monastery are not willing to do the "problem profiling". I have done all the same things you are talking about. I have looked at previous writeups by the same monk, applied my knowledge of CB conversations when answering questions, etc. In fact, I learned quite a bit about OIDs recently trying to reply to a post using The Oracle and CPAN since the AM assumed all OIDs were created equal and didn't provide enough context to help.

    So while I feel context is very important and believe it should be the poster's responsibility for giving it, there will always be monks that go the extra mile. I feel that spending the time and effort in making the changes to PM will not help, but rather, re-inforce the idea that it is ok to post questions and just expect others will know what you are talking about.
    I can see it now:

    Anonymous Monk - how do I do X?
    Limbic~Region - it depends, in what context are you doing X?
    Anonymous Monk - What! You didn't profile the problem? It is obviously Y context.

    Just my thoughts - L~R

      Amen, brother! God, wouldn't it be sweet if we saw more SoPW posts that asked questions in the manner of your bullet-list examples... I think if more people really tried opening their posts with statements like that, some of them might figure out the answers before they hit the submit button.
      I must say I agree with you, and the bulleted list is really great. But it is only the first step to the real solution to the problem. The next is to ask how do we ancourage this kind of behaviour. You could add this to the site FAQ, but I believe the FAQ is not very effective. It is the 'one click away' and that is enough for people to not look there. Perhaps there the most important excerpts from the FAQ should be presented above the SOPW input page? Or maybe the link to SOPW input should go through the FAQ?
•Re: Context Indication
by merlyn (Sage) on Sep 06, 2003 at 16:15 UTC
    I realized many moons ago that every problem exists because it's a partial solution to a larger problem. I also realized that if I answer a question without really understanding the larger problem, I might be doing a disservice to the person asking. So I spend a lot of time asking about context when people ask me questions, especially when the answer to a specific question is difficult or impossible.

    I'm not sure there's any way to automate that. Maybe we just need to continue to promote a general awareness of this nested hierarchy of problems and solutions, and to be like Perl—context sensitive!

    -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker
    Be sure to read my standard disclaimer if this is a reply.


    update: I said this another time as well.

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