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The Q&A section: Teach a man to fish.

by davido (Archbishop)
on Oct 26, 2003 at 04:21 UTC ( #302162=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

The purpose of this node is to renew the Monastery's attention to the Catagorized Questions and Answers section. While it might be accurately described as a dusty corner, I believe it is a great resource, and has potential to be even better. Certanly posts along this line have appeared before, but there's nothing wrong with an occasional nudge.

The old saying goes, "Give a man a fish; you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime."

Every day Seekers of Perl Wisdom logs a dozen or two new questions from those who hunger for answers. I myself really like the SoPW section: It inspires me to think about topics I might not otherwise have considered. A large portion of what gets posted there is fresh and new, at least to me. However, while I am happy to see that monks here are generally consciencious about remembering to link to the PODs or CPAN, as well as other nodes within the Monastery, we still manage to do a lot of feeding and re-feeding.

I don't intend to get into a discussion about how some people won't take the time to read documentation even if it smacks them in the face and falls open to the right page. And I don't really want to get into discussing those who come under the guise of "seeking wisdom" when they're really "seeking someone to think for them." They will always be with us. But what I do want to discuss is our very own Monastery Perl FAQ.

The main page of Categorized Questions and Answers says this:

This area is for frequently asked and answered questions. It'll allow people looking for the most often asked questions to find answers quickly and easily. The cool thing about this is that it will be our own, ever-growing FAQ. There will also be places for multiple answers to each question as proof that there's more than one way to do things.

Let's get the most out of this resource. Here are a few thoughts that I have mulled over recently, that may be helpful.

  • Become familiar with the Q&A section so you know what's there.
  • When responding to a SoPW post, when possible, in addition to just linking to a Q&A answer, gently make specific mention of that section. Something to the effect of, "You can find a good series of answers to that question here: [link to Q&A Answer set], and in fact, answers to many other similar CGI questions may be found in the Monastery's [link to Q&A] section."
  • Monks who actively post answers to Seekers of Perl Wisdom should consider posting at least one Categorized Questions and Answers answer each week. I'm not suggesting posting rubbish just to post something, but find a Q&A that needs your special touch and add an answer to one of the questions. Any monk (including Anonymous Monk) may post answers.
  • Monks who actively participate in the Monastery should consider posting at least one Categorized Questions and Answers Question each month. When you do so, follow the question up immediately with a well-thought-out answer.
  • If you see a Seekers of Perl Wisdom question that you find particularly valuable, boil it down to a Q&A that you can post to the Catagorized Questions and Answers section. Then it will be there for all to find the next time its' asked.
  • Help the QandAEditors keep the section tidy by sending them a /msg when you find Q&A posts that are seriously flawed, or in need of some touchup.
  • Try to link to (and mention where to find) Q&A answers often. I said this already, but it's important. Any time you consider mentioning the Monastery's Super Search and Tutorials, consider also mentioning the Catagorized Questions and Answers section.

Now for some technical information:

  • When posting answers, try not to use the multi-line text box unless it's absolutely necessary to help in defining the question. The most important thing is that the "Question" (the single-line text box) be as clear and complete as possible while remaining concise. The multiline box is generally not the place to post the answer.
  • Answers belong as followups to the parent question.
  • Followups to answers will NOT be seen on the answers page. So if you have a better way to do it than some other answer, post that as an answer too. From the answer page, there is no way to easily determine that a particular answer has a child-node followups; hense, your followups to the answers are almost goners. If the purpose of your followup to an answer is to point out a technical error, you might consider alerting QandAEditors to the error so that they can work on cleaning it up.
  • Anybody can post answers.
  • Scribes (Level 4) and above can post Questions.
  • Q&A should not be used interchangeably with SoPW. If you post a question, follow it up with an answer. If you don't have the answer, your question probably belongs in SoPW.
  • Categorized Questions and Answers is not a part of the normal "Consideration" process. If you spot an issue that you want to "consider" a Q&A post for, you'll have to alert the QandAEditors. You can do that by /msg to QandAEditors (it goes in their inbox), or by talking to one of them that you recognize in the CB.

Ok, that's all I have for now. Let's try to make the Q&A section one of the most useful places in the Monastery.

By the way: Have I practiced all of the thoughts I've preached in this node? No, but I'm considering this node my Haloween Resolution. ;) I hope that my suggestions here are seen as just that; suggestions. Take them as they are, taylor them to fit your own view of how things should be around here, or ignore them altogether. Isn't this a great place?


"If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber." -- Albert Einstein

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: The Q&A section: Teach a man to fish.
by sauoq (Abbot) on Oct 26, 2003 at 05:49 UTC
    Let's try to make the Q&A section one of the most useful places in the Monastery.

    While I appreciate the sentiment, I really don't think that's doable. Yes but... yes... yes... but... hold on. Just let me explain myself.

    The problem with Q & A is that it is essentially static. Most questions are asked repeatedly, and most of the time, we could just link to answers someone else has already posted, but that's not what this site is about.

    Perl Monks is about the conversations. And the conversations primarily occur in Seekers of Perl Wisdom, Meditations, and here in Perl Monks Discussion.

    I think the Q & A is relatively incomplete and rarely used simply because people don't really want to use it. Add to it and point people at it all you like; but it'll probably remain a small and dusty corner of this site because it has all the appeal of a FAQ and people are looking for dialogue.

    "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
      Unfortunately, I agree with sauoq. Most people don't want answers to old questions that have been asked and answered numerous times. They want answers to their new questions. This is hardly a new observation of human nature:
      Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again. -- Andre Gide (Le Traite du Narcisse, 1891)
        It is a monk's challenge to rise above the perils of human nature. *grin*

        Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

        -- George Santayana


        "If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber." -- Albert Einstein
      I agree with what you're saying re: dialogue. I am now participating in Yet Another Dialogue. Dynamic dialog is enjoyable (usually). So I'm not suggesting that Q&A become a replacement for SoPW, but rather, that it receive more use as a source of additional information. If a dialogue dances around an issue that has a parallel to, or even just a contrast with, something in the Q&A section, the Q&A section can stand as "additional reading". And the more questions and answers posted to Q&A, the greater chance that section has at providing additional information that can cast a different light on an ongoing discussion.

      As for its static nature relegating it to life as a dusty corner, the same could be said of the perldocs themselves. And yet I find myself frequently looking at perlfaq (for starters) and the rest of the POD as well. This is a practice that we encourage. My suggestion is that we encourage the use of whatever resource will prove to be helpful. And while we're at it, to not forget about the dusty corners. ;)


      "If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber." -- Albert Einstein
Re: Utilizing the Q&A section: Teach a man to fish.
by pg (Canon) on Oct 26, 2003 at 04:55 UTC

    This is definitely not the first time I saw this kind of good reminder, just as some of the questions are being asked repeatedly ;-) and for sure this will not be the last time... We calmly observe our little society, and respect the principles forced by our human nature, just as it does to all other forms of societies.

    Obviously it would be nice, if one could do a search first before post a question, not just the categorized answer, but also something like a super search.

    However on the other hand, no answer is the best answer, and there might be a better answer pop up tomorrow. Most of the questions are unique, might just be slightly different from the existing ones, but you don't expect everyone to realize the similarity all the time, especially for something new to him/her, as always, no question is a stupid question.

Re: The Q&A section: Teach a man to fish.
by bradcathey (Prior) on Oct 27, 2003 at 03:35 UTC
    As someone who benefits more from answers to questions than actually answering them (I hope someday to change that and be more of a help than helped), I am grateful for both the opportunity to post questions in SoPW and to search Q&A.

    We could all do a better job of utilizing the conventional resources (Google, Super Search, etc.), often finding the answer and negating the reason to post at all, but there are times when our question is SO specific that some of the more generic answers don't address the problem (one of the joys of TMTOWTDI).

    One comment: I wish Super Search had it's own tutorial. What may be second nature or intuitive to more XP'd PMs, as someone relatively new, or just plain dense, I would probably find a 5-minute explanation helpful.

    Many thanks to the patient monks that answer the same questions more than once.

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