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What is PerlMonks anyway?

by jdtoronto (Prior)
on Oct 01, 2003 at 16:05 UTC ( #295666=monkdiscuss: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

A newish monk ponders

I have been moved by Run your own perlmonks! to write this missive which had actually been in my mind for some time before I read that node.

As those who have read some of my posts, or looked at my homenode will realise, I am not your average Monk. At 49 years of age and with an education that does not include computers but is steeped in engineering (electronics and communications), mathematics and physics starting in 1970 I think in fact I am anything but typical. I am only a recent enrollee in our order. When I first saw the site I thought, wow, this is neat. But I worried that it would be like so many other "user communities" I have looked at, tried out, and ultimately abandoned. Then I had some troubles with Perl and Tk. So I thought, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

And how my attitude has changed. in the Monastery I see evidence of a true user community with a genuine spirit of affability and generosity. You cannot consider a USENET group or an IRC channel a community, unless you would gladly welcome a seemingly limitless band of hecklers and unrepentant spammers into your midst.

Every question I have asked here has been answered. The answers have not always been 100% accurate, but generally they have sent my in the right direction. In response, I now try to answer questions where I think I have something genuine to contribute.

Perlmonks came to me in the shape it is. It has already proven itself to be a wonderful resource, but why would I want to change it? And why would I want to be wanting to change it willy-nilly? The Run your own perlmonks! originator seems to want a wider, more open access to the codebase so things could be changed more easily. If you will pardon the age-realted remark - Hippy communes didn't really survive you know!

A community will survive when it has a goal for itself, when it has leadership sensitive to that/those goa./s and when their is a co-operative spirit to move towards the established and agreed upon result. If vroom and the other gods were to sit back and keep oly a gentle hand on the tiller then I suspect that perlmonks would rapidly become unrecognisable to most of us as incremental change would drive it in the direction each developer chose.

It seems to me that vroom et al have a clear vision for perlmonks. At this point I am happy with that vision, because it offers us a place where we can discuss our chosen subject without the noise and clamour of the world outside. Okay, some monks get a little bitter every now and again. Darn it, I used to be like that when I was lecturing at University! "Why can't they just RTFM!!!!" (or RTFTB in that case!) then they wouldn't ask such stupid questions! But hey, we are all human. When did YOU last read the manual on the latest gadget you acquired before you tried using it? And when could you find the manual when you needed it a week later? Go on! Own up :)

Sure I can think of enhancements to perlmonks. Here's a few:

  • An off topic question section - Say SORW (seekers of random wisdom) where monks can ask non-perl questions without 'polluting' SOPW.
  • Do away with anonymous monks. If something is worth saying, identify yourself with the remarks! Many anonymous posts seem to be critical (thus avoiding a -- for the writer) and often unwarranted. But if you want to make a critical remark just own up to it and take the judgement.
  • Don't even THINK about taking away the CB! It is almost as useful as the rest of the site.
  • Keep doing what we have been, it is very obviously working.

Finally just a word to all who read this, thank you for helping Perlmonks to be what it is. I enjoy the experience here immensely and I hope it continues to be passed on for generations to come!

jdtoronto

Comment on What is PerlMonks anyway?
•Re: What is PerlMonks anyway?
by merlyn (Sage) on Oct 01, 2003 at 16:49 UTC
    An off topic question section - Say SORW (seekers of random wisdom) where monks can ask non-perl questions without 'polluting' SOPW.
    Uh, no. That's like me going in to a movie theatre and yelling "car for sale", to use the old Usenet analogy.

    There's no reason to reincorporate all of Usenet into the monastery. If you want Usenet, you know where to find it, and so do I when I want to read about non-Perl things. Let's stay focussed on Perl-related issues here.

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

      Randal,

      In large measure I would have to agree! BUT where else do you see a community like PM? I have looked and I haven't foundone. If we branch it off and make some rules for it - like say no SORW on the Front Page, no anonymous sign-in the user must be a registered Monk, even limit the archive life of SPRW questions - make it a side room in the cloisters if you will. Would it make all that much difference to have one more choice in the navigation block?

      I know this one will be contentious. And maybe keeping the monastery pure would be a better way. But the suggestion is out there now, as I am sure it has been before and will be again, so let's at least see where it goes.

      I understand your concern about integrating Usenet into the monastery and I did not make myself clear originally that I would never advocate that. If something like this were to be done it would get my support if it were limited, controlled and hidden away in the corner where the inferior grade coffee is served!

      jdtoronto

        I have to agree with Randal wrt OT posts. IMHO I think the reason PM is successful is because of some of the very things you wish to change. For example, the OT stuff is generally weeded out and the folks who are not serious about Perl in general tend to leave since they don't get fame by posting trash. (See Slashdot for examples of this kind of thing :-)

        If something dubious is posted to the front page for example, it can be quickly removed (e.g. voted out of existance). Notice that OT stuff is still allowed -- just discouraged in general unless the "community" thinks it's worthy. If you peruse Slashdot, you have to take the good articles with the bad and you have to surf at a high enough level to avoid all of the trash since a large number of bottom feeders there are quite vocal -- even ones with monikers.

        As for Anonymous Monk, I agree that folks should pick a moniker, but not so they are somehow showing backbone, but so that their messages can be attributed to a common source (i.e. If I'm short on time, I focus reading messages from folks with a low SNL ratio.) If they don't want a message to be attributed to them, what do I care -- they could just pick another random moniker and login and post with that.

        bluto

        BUT where else do you see a community like PM?

        Oh, please. Thank god, nowhere else. To tell you a secret, a lot of Perl people absolutely hate PM because of this so-called "PM community". They are seen as pompous pricks (and that's one of the less insulting terms I've heard), who aren't much better than the slashdot crowd. And each time I see posts like this, gloating about the nirvana of "the perlmonk community", I've to agree with them.

        I post here. But I'm not part of a "PM community". I don't like being called a Perlmonk. I only post here because I like to talk about Perl. But I don't consider PM to be anything else than Usenet with the poorest and slowest interface I've ever seen.

        Abigail
        --
        How long will it take before this is in the worst nodes of the week?

      Well, you may then just as well banish all bars from the theaters.

      I mostly agree on what you're saying here, but I do think that a section might be welcome, where only remotely perl-related subjects, like zombie processes, security, webservers, and SQL, could be discussed. A place where this post wouldn't be reaped.

        Even in an OT section I'd've considered that one for deletion. It wasn't a security related question, the poster was essentially asking how to evade a ban. His being banned means either or both of two things. First, the ops in that channel could be extraordinary jerks. In that case the effort to spite them is really not worth it. Or he is the jerk. In my experience, this is by far the more likely reason. Maybe both are true. Now do the math, then guess what I think of honouring or even tolerating a request such as his.

        Makeshifts last the longest.

        Yes bart and you leave the way open because I think I considered that one originally.

        It is a perfectly valid question, useful even. And I pondered it for a few minutes before I hit submit on it because I thought that maybe someone here would be able to offer this monk some advice. BUT - taking the whole picture into account I think it could have been kept, but in another place. Hence my reason for suggesting an OT section.

        jdtoronto

Re: What is PerlMonks anyway?
by Aristotle (Chancellor) on Oct 01, 2003 at 18:10 UTC
    why would I want to change it? And why would I want to be wanting to change it willy-nilly? The Run your own perlmonks! originator seems to want a wider, more open access to the codebase so things could be changed more easily.

    Why not? If you have an idea about how to improve the performance of the site and confidence that you can implement it, why shouldn't you be able to try your hand at it?

    You seem to have misunderstood the sentiment completely. The question is not about changing the scope and focus of the community served by the site, but the gears and wiring that make the site run (or rather crawl, which would currently be a more appropriate term).

    If vroom and the other gods were to sit back and keep oly a gentle hand on the tiller then I suspect that perlmonks would rapidly become unrecognisable to most of us as incremental change would drive it in the direction each developer chose.
    You're aware that you're saying that the developers would not be interested in preserving what the site is, right? I'm not willing to accept they'll all be quite as naive, mindless or egoistical.
    When did YOU last read the manual on the latest gadget you acquired before you tried using it?
    Right after I tried it, whether I was successful or not. And long before I proceeded to ask a question, even if not.
    Sure I can think of enhancements to perlmonks. Here's a few:
    • An off topic question section - Say SORW (seekers of random wisdom) where monks can ask non-perl questions without 'polluting' SOPW.
    • Do away with anonymous monks. If something is worth saying, identify yourself with the remarks! Many anonymous posts seem to be critical (thus avoiding a -- for the writer) and often unwarranted. But if you want to make a critical remark just own up to it and take the judgement.
    • Don't even THINK about taking away the CB! It is almost as useful as the rest of the site.
    • Keep doing what we have been, it is very obviously working.

    Now it is you yourself who is suggesting changes to the scope and focus of the site. And I'm afraid I have to say you don't seem to have understood the spirit of the site (or the mechanics of online communities) as well as you'd like to think.

    Off-topic sections are the prime ingredient in the deterioriation of communities. Experience shows they tend to acquire a life of their own, and will eventually attract by people who don't have anything to contribute to the community's main focus, but liked the atmosphere in the offtopic section.

    Doing away with Anonymonk is a pretty snobbish attitude. It would deprive newly arrived people from an inviting opportunity to ask a question, or outside visitors who've been made aware of a thread that's relevant to them from an opportunity to communicate their stance. (We have had various cases where a comment on some project was posted and the project leader was subsequently contacted and added their quip.) We have also had tilly (representing many others who might face repercussions if their posts here were identified) wander among us as Anonymonk while his work contract prevented him from participating openly.

    For these reasons, I'm strongly opposed to both suggestions.

    Makeshifts last the longest.

      Aristotle and the other contributors make some very valid points.

      Why not? If you have an idea about how to improve the performance of the site and confidence that you can implement it, why shouldn't you be able to try your hand at it?

      Sure, but isn't that the way it works now? Ask to join pmdev, see what you think can improve things, then submit it for consideration? But we must always be mindful of the remarks made by Nathan Torkington about the internals of Perl - They're ugly and resemble nothing so much as a Lovecraftian horror (perl.com interview July 2001) and those of Chip Salzenberg when he cited Nathans remoarks in his response as to why he wanted to devise a new language entirely - where he ascribed the state of the Perl internals to the sheer number of people who had worked on them.

      I may not have run big software projects, but I do know what happens when things go slightly awry in multi-billion dollar projects. I have also been the engineer responsible for projects where two people working on code is enough to turn it inot something resembling a mad dog's brekfast bowl.

      As to OT discussion sections. Yes, after what everybody has said so far, maybe they are not such a good idea. Maybe the simple reason that Perlmonks is unique is because the only thing we deal in is Perl. Maybe their very existence will cause too much damage.

      I also take your point on anonymous monks. Hmm, a difficult one! OK, maybe my ideas were not so clever after all.

      But I stand by my remarks about opening up the development process. Having been involved far too many times in 'spoiled broth' projects I can understand why vroom and the Gods don't even want others doing the patching. If it was under my control I would feel the same.

      This raises another issue that I do have some difficulty with, why isn't the code for PM freely available? That why if someone wanted to rebuild part of the code for efficiency (and I agree we could use some more speed around here right now!) then why couldn't he do it on another server such that he could demonstrate his code and then have it considered for inclusion in PM?

      Seems that everyone is mute about the possibility of losing CB! I must admit it is one of my favourite features. In fact, it was watching CB over a period that enticed me to join up.

      jdtoronto

        Oh, I know that letting everyone in on the development process is no panacea. Lest there be any misunderstandings, by "try your hand at it", I meant you should be able to come up with a patch for review. Whether it should be applied or not should definitely remain the decisions of gods who have a (probably) better understanding of the ins and outs of the site.

        The code is currently not currently open due to a concert of reasons that it make it unwise to do so. Let me explain.

        To make sure patches don't break the site, they have to be tested before they are applied. Unfortunately, since Everything stores the code in the same database as the posts, and stores as nodes just like any other, it is hard to provide a functional mock up of the site for people to work with. The gods have one, but it simply runs off of a backup of the live database, which means whoever has access to it can read other people's /msg's, mail addresses and so on. So the only ones who can effectively test patches right now are the gods. We already have too few of them, and even those we have don't have much spare time. So regardless how many volunteers we do get, we're not going to get any added development speed out of it.

        On the other hand, the site is known to have likely security problems. There has never (to my knowledge) been an extensive audit of the codebase.

        So if the codebase were competely open, it'd be easier for some people to break things, while it wouldn't be any easier for others to fix them.

        I agree with perrin nowadays that storing the code right in the database is not a wise decision. If that weren't the case, everything would be much simpler. I'm not sure how this situation will eventually be addressed and maybe resolved. None of the decisions involved are simle, unfortunately.

        Makeshifts last the longest.

Re: What is PerlMonks anyway?
by Anonymous Monk on Oct 01, 2003 at 18:26 UTC
Re: What is PerlMonks anyway?
by cLive ;-) (Parson) on Oct 01, 2003 at 19:42 UTC
    I don't think we need SORW. There are times when you want to ask a non-Perl question, and I have done a few times, because I know it's so related to what a lot of other Perl developers have to deal with. Eg, things to do with Apache, Javascript, HTML rendering, odd quirks of *nix commands. These are things that, although OT, they *are* on topic for a lot of people here and are useful peripheral questions to have answered here.

    But there's nothing wrong with posting them in the current system, just as long as you mark it "OT", and don't ask them too often.

    I think the Monastery has fuzzy borders, and that's part of its charm. I think we just need to provide a rough guideline for "When is OT OK?".

    .02

    cLive ;-)

      I think the Monastery has fuzzy borders, and that's part of its charm. I think we just need to provide a rough guideline for "When is OT OK?".
      Here here.. well put, a hot debate succinctly observed, inc other items like Dbs (MySQL, PG, Oracle...), not to mention Java, C, C++, or different OS questions covering M$, Mac, *nix and a host of other related but non 'pure' perl subjects. Lets keep it together people, perl is a part of the whole, people enjoy and have need of a forum to answer peripheral questions related to the larger problem in hand. I think as long as it has some relevance to perl we shouldn't persecute out of hand.
Re: What is PerlMonks anyway?
by Moriarty (Abbot) on Oct 02, 2003 at 00:23 UTC

    Being almost as old as yourself, jdtoronto, and having a similar background (without the engineering & physics) I find myself agreeing with most of what you say here.

    I got into computers via a 'backdoor' and have only just recently acquired an interest in Perl. I find Perlmonks to be quite informative and well laidout, although I spend most of my time here observing the CB (it can be quite entertaining and somewhat distracting :-).

    Personally, I wouldn't want anything changed ATM.

      I got into computers via a 'backdoor'

      I find this interesting. I've heard similar comments from many people. Often they're used as a reason why someone believes they know less about computers than people who have used computers all their lives. The odd thing here is that these people are using computers for a reason. Whether it's modeling physical events, analyzing biological data, or whatever, they have a purpose for their computer use. Given this, I find it strange that they so often seem to rate their skills secondary to people who use computers for the sake of using them.

      This can often be seen in various college graduates as well. What does a computer science degree really teach you? A few fundamentals, but to what end? Perhaps in some better programs you'll be able to competently work on an operating system, or compiler but encryption? Not really, that's just using computers for math. Bioinformatics? Not really, that's just using computers for analyzing biological data. Economic modeling? Economists using computers for their purposes.

      I think you would be surprised to learn how much more you can accomplish when viewing computers as tools rather than end results.

        I think you have the wrong end of the stick here :-). Although I describe myself as have got into computers via a backdoor, I never used a computer in the course of my work prior to being employed as an operator about 15 years ago. I then moved to programming them about 10.5 years ago.

        Prior to that my only use for computers was playing games, looking after personal databases and the odd bit of programming.

        The 'backdoor' was, in fact, a couple of friends who got talking about my ability with computers, and one of those was willing to take me on, and I haven't looked back :-).

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