|Don't ask to ask, just ask|
RFC: Policies WRT the Obfuscated Perl Contestby mwp (Hermit)
|on Aug 11, 2000 at 02:25 UTC||Need Help??|
As (many|most|all) of you have probably heard by now, the 5th Annual Obfuscated Perl Contest (OPC) has been announced. Posts have been made at slashdot.org and all of the usual locations.
Looking over user records, it's very apparent that perlmonks.org has grown somewhat (hah!) since the last OPC. I think we can expect (many|tons|a flood of) questions regarding obfuscated Perl. I would like to propose a series of (not that many, really) policies to take in approach to these people coming in for the (first|second|umteenth) time and making posts regarding the OPC.
The 5th Annual Obfuscated Perl Contest
Provisions, Policies, and Protection for PerlMonks.org
1. The Potential
It is clear to me that PerlMonks.org has a great potential here to accomplish several things. Or, for that matter, fail and get trounced. If we welcome newcomers from the OPC into our ranks and aid them with any questions they may have, we have the potential to expand our user base and increase the already existing talent pool. This would be a Good Thing. However, if we scare away visitors, or phrase our welcoming in an inappropriate fashion, we may attract the "wrong kind" of users and none of the "right kind."
The right kind of perl monks are A) any newbie who lurks, asks intelligent questions, and eventually begins to contribute answers and code, or B) a talented and motivated individual with a desire to answer questions and become a contributor to the site. The "wrong kind" is subject to interpretation, but I think we can all agree on certain things, like A) spamming, B) refusing to RTFM, and C) disrespect and general rudeness.
Another potential we have here is the generation of name recognition and boku banner ad traffic. This is obviously a boon to our saints, for they may increase the maximum load of the network with the aid of a little funding. At the same time, however, we may just be slashdotted and tossed aside like a used tissue. This would obviously be a Bad Thing.
The potentials need to be carefully weighed (not here) and approaches should be evaluated and acted upon quickly.
2. Existing Obfuscated Perl on PerlMonks.org
We have a wide variety of contributions here that need to be preserved and even protected. It is unclear what legal rights the originators of the obfuscated Perl have, other than they created it and therefore it is copyright protected. Under the terms of United States Law. However, as we have seen, copyright protection is poor and misguided when it comes to the Internet. Some options we have are:
Each of these options should also be carefully weighed and considered. A path, if any, should be chosen only if we determine an existing threat.
Each of the following three items assumes the following: The 5th Annual Obfuscated Perl Contest is sanctioned. Submissions to the contest should be creations of the submitter, him or herself, and not created by or with the assistance of a member of PerlMonks. Down that road lies madness... and possible legal complications. :-)
3. Questions Regarding Posted OPC Entries
Ocassionally a user will wander in and ask us a question regarding an OPC entry, as has already happened. I believe that any questions should be verified (by opening up a web browser and checking a list of current OPC entries) before being answered. Perhaps this should fall upon the moderators, perhaps not. The problem with this is that a technique, carefully and painstakingly developed by another obfuscated Perl contestant, can be easily manipulated and duplicated, once understood. Hopefully the moderators of the OPC will see this, but can we depend on that?
Another option, that will be discussed more in depth later, is a strict refusal to answer any and all questions regarding obfuscated perl.
4. Questions Regarding as-of-yet Unposted OPC Entries
My buddy just showed me a piece of obfuscated Perl that he is planning on submitting to the OPC, and I was wondering...
Under the terms of the assumption listed above, this and any similar posts should be dismissed flat-out as fradulent and abusive.
5. Questions Regarding Obfuscated Perl In General
Obfuscated Perl is fun to write, and is hubris-oriented in that it provides a challenging problem: how to write something SO horrible that it's actually DIFFICULT to understand. Some Perl programmers write like this naturally, but for most of us it's something new. Thus the contest.
Thus, in a similar thread as above, if someone trundles along and asks us something about obfuscated Perl, do we answer it? Do we ask if it's for the contest, and THEN answer it? This is probably the most debateable topic, I'm sure everyone is going to have a different opinion...
6. Front Page (Welcome|Notice|Warning) and Advertisements
I propose a sort of "splash page" as the default page for PerlMonks, perhaps at the top of the Monastery Gates. This would consist of quick information about getting started with the site, and also a quick blurb about obfuscated Perl, which should reflect the outcome of this node. In the spirit of CYA, but I hate that acronym so we won't go there. :-P
Based on our discussion here, this will either be a broad welcome, a notice of our policies, or a warning.
I had hoped to pontificate a bit more, and a bit more coherently, unfortunately I am at work and had to rush through this a bit. I've raised some (what I feel are) important issues that need to be discussed. The potential for greatness is there, but the potential for an embarassing legal or communal situation is also there. Please consider our options carefully, as well as the fact that this is an RFC, or REQUEST FOR COMMENTS, and nothing is even water and dirt, let alone concrete, at the time of this writing.
Your humble monk,