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Uber-newbie section

by gryphon (Abbot)
on Sep 09, 2002 at 16:04 UTC ( #196321=monkdiscuss: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

Greetings fellow monks,

I must confess that I have not finished my first cup of coffee this Monday morning, so the following idea may be quite stupid. In case it's not: This morning as I was reading through some of the newest nodes, I came acrosss a newbie asking a newbie question. I was tempted to write something like an RTFM response, but I paused for a moment of meditation.

It wasn't so long ago that I would have asked the same type of question. At the time, it is true that I would have benefitted extremely by R(ing)TFM, but any suggestions to do such void of any code or specific help would have just annoyed me, turning me away from Perl and the Perl communities. Rather, if someone had posted a reply with examples, a little theory, and links to certain manuals for more information, I would have eagerly gone into "read mode."

The problem as I see it, though, is that posts to Seekers of Perl Wisdom ought to be from folks with at least some basic knowledge and who have at least thumbed through the llama. True "uber-newbies" won't have a clue.

So do you think it would be benefitial to have an "uber-newbies" section on PM? Some place where posts are expected to be from the realm of the theoretical with little or no reading or research attached? Or should the current style of "RTFMing" uber-newbies and pointing them to the docs and tutorials remain?

With the former option, I can see some strong negative impact because many posts will be from folks who don't want to put in even the most minimum effort by using the site search features. However, the latter option potentially alienates uber-newbies who don't know where to begin and really need a helping hand for the first day or two of learning.

Am I in need of more coffee?

code('Perl') || die;

Edited: ~Wed Sep 11 23:14:01 2002 (GMT) by footpad: Moved from Meditations to PDM, per Consideration.

Comment on Uber-newbie section
Re: Uber-newbie section
by FoxtrotUniform (Prior) on Sep 09, 2002 at 16:22 UTC
      So do you think it would be benefitial to have an "uber-newbies" section on PM? Some place where posts are expected to be from the realm of the theoretical with little or no reading or research attached? Or should the current style of "RTFMing" uber-newbies and pointing them to the docs and tutorials remain?

    I think that Seekers of Perl Wisdom is suitable for "uber-newbie" posts, and that the best all-around response to those posts is a pointer to some appropriate resources ( comes immediately to mind). As you say, though, sometimes a little more than just a link to CPAN would help.

    (And you are in need of more coffee. Caffeine is a sacrament. :-)

    F o x t r o t U n i f o r m
    Found a typo in this node? /msg me
    The hell with paco, vote for Erudil!

Re: Uber-newbie section
by erikharrison (Deacon) on Sep 09, 2002 at 16:38 UTC

    Well done for not writing RTFM. I've been guilty of it myself, and while it's useful for part of a larger post, it doesn't stand well on it's own. See 1st Monasterians.

    I don't think a new section is a good idea, not because it doesn't have value, but because how are we going to get a true newbie (as opposed to a newbie who seems knowledgable, like me) to distinguish. Since moving the Discussion section up to the top of Newest Nodes, there have been a few misdirected posts there which belonged on SOPW.

    And really, these services already exist. When coming across such a post, it's probably a good idea to direct them to the apropriate docs and send them over to's Perl begginers mailing list.


    Light a man a fire, he's warm for a day. Catch a man on fire, and he's warm for the rest of his life. - Terry Pratchet

(kudra: no newbie section) Re: Uber-newbie section
by kudra (Vicar) on Sep 09, 2002 at 16:47 UTC
    I don't think the problem is the lack of a newbie section. Newbies are already confused, and don't know if they should post in Q&A, Seekers, or even Perl News sometimes. Adding another section won't help at all. SOPW doesn't have a minimal "should at least have read the llama book" bar any more than it has a maximum level. It's intended to be a place for any question, no matter how advanced or simple. (Whether it is or not is open to debate; I believe the perl beginner's list was started because casey was not satisfied with the answers given on perlmonks to newbies, but I might be remembering incorrectly).

    I think the same guidelines of post answering apply to any question, regardless of its level. You might point the person to RTFM or supersearch, but it's always nicer to add a personal note such as some example code or an explanation on how this manual relates to the problem.

    Of course, that's not always going to happen. Some people believe that since you have to do something yourself to learn, you may as well start with reading when pointed to the appropriate documentation. Or someone might not have time to fill in a longer answer, but still want to leave a starting point. There are probably other reasons for terse answers.

    If you don't like an answer, the best thing you can do is to encourage the kind of answers you do like. Upvote the people who go to extra effort to provide personal answers. Give detailed answers yourself, and take a break from questions when you feel yourself getting too burned out to give those kind of answers. There are lots of people eager to answer questions, and the advantage of low-level questions is that more people can answer them (not always correctly, but there was already a thread on that recently).

    In my experience, a lot of people do put in work answering even very basic questions. A really vague post about how to make a program that does X (where X is a large task no newbie could accomplish, which isn't even suitable for Perl) tends to get answers from people who have tried very hard to determine what the person actually wants, often reading through horrible formatting to do so.

Re: Uber-newbie section
by Aristotle (Chancellor) on Sep 09, 2002 at 17:13 UTC

    I don't know how others handle things, but when simple questions get asked, I tend to answer with an example and a pointer to related docs as in "here's how you do it, and here's where what happens is explained". If I deem the example likely too much for the beginner to understand I add a comment or two about what the obscure parts mean.

    If someone posts a plain "RTFM" with absolutely no pointers at all I'll probably downvote. If someone posts a pointer to a specific doc that's at least somewhat worthwhile. I try to give people enough information so they have a something to start with and a place to look. If the same person repeatedly displays obvious lack of motivation to learn for themselves I simply ignore them from some point on. That only happens very rarely though.

    Makeshifts last the longest.

We have that section (Re: Uber-newbie section)
by Rex(Wrecks) (Curate) on Sep 09, 2002 at 17:44 UTC
    at the risk of sounding obvious, Getting Started with Perl would be a great place to point many of these folks. Infact most of the Tutorials are a good place for Uber-Newbies to start.

    If they still have questions, that should have at least given them enough that they could be posting rudimentary code in thier questions. And once that happens, well, it is much easier to help someone who has posted code. Even if eventually that code is completely rewritten through the answers in the node, the Newbie will go away much more enriched at having gone through the process.

    Just my $0.02 ($0.032 CDN)

    "Nothing is sure but death and taxes" I say combine the two and its death to all taxes!
Re: Uber-newbie section
by zentara (Archbishop) on Sep 10, 2002 at 15:24 UTC
    From my experience, the perl.beginners newsgroup at is just right for beginners to ask questions. How about some gateway, where beginner's questions like "how do I put variables into an array", get sent to thru the mail interface, then post the responses when they come in? Have a check box-- "Is this a newbie question?" to mark it.

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