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Breaking Out of the Perl Echo Chamber: A Call to Action

by Aristotle (Chancellor)
on Sep 18, 2008 at 15:23 UTC ( #712309=perlnews: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

I just picked up yet another useless distraction, and I am going to ask you to do the same. Bear with me here:

StackOverflow just opened for business. It’s essentially an advanced form of Perl Monks’ Q&A section, except open to questions for any language – in fact, any programming and programmer topic at all. (Joel Spolksy explains the concept; take a look at that post if this is the first time you are hearing about StackOverflow.)

The site does not have a concept of forums; questions can simply be tagged, and you can filter by tag.

Each tag also has a feed.

You can see where I am going with this.

Here’s the thing: the site has pretty solid traffic already. If it really takes off, a large community of programmers from all walks of coding will wind up there. The Perl community core can either be present there, representing Perl as the excellent language we know it to be, or we can leave Perl’s image to the typical mix of novices, too-clever-by-half coders and CPAN non-users – likely also managing to let Perl look moribund in the same stroke, thus single-handedly reinforcing every common preconception about the language.

This would be an effort along the same lines as PerlBuzz, the claim-your-journal-on-Technorati meme, doing something about the low usefulness of Google searches for [perl blogs] and so on: letting our enthusiasm ring outside the echo chamber.

So let’s do it. Please subscribe to the questions tagged “perl” at StackOverflow and take a peek whenever the fancy strikes you and you have a few minutes to spare. Thank you to everyone who responds.

Makeshifts last the longest.

Comment on Breaking Out of the Perl Echo Chamber: A Call to Action
Re: Breaking Out of the Perl Echo Chamber: A Call to Action
by moritz (Cardinal) on Sep 18, 2008 at 15:36 UTC
    I agree with Aristotle. Sign up there, and give useful answers if you want and can. If you have an OpenID account, signing up is a matter of seconds

    If you fear that this will draw traffic from our beloved perlmonks site - don't. To quote from the FAQ:

    What kind of questions should I not ask here?
    Avoid asking questions that are subjective, argumentative, or require extended discussion.

    This is very different from here, and the fact that by default only the question and the first level of the answer thread are shown actually make in-depth discussions very hard.

      I personally believe that I agree with you both. Actually, one may adopt a technique which I sort of regularly use when I have very long comments in answer to some blog posts: mimicking a behaviour that's automatic in some platforms (Wordpress, I believe) I insert only a brief excerpt of my comment there, complete of link(s) to the full one, posted in my own blog. Without going this exact route, and following the very recommendations of Stack Overflow, one may write: "I suggest you the same technique I adopted in ***" where *** is a link to a PerlMonks node where additional details that would be irrelevant there are included.

      Now... to the OpenID's vexata quaestio: following Aristotle's recommendation, I would like to answer some question at SO. Thus, I need an OpenID: a friend of mine told me I already have, due to having e.g. a Technorati or a Flickr account - indeed that's what the SO's login form itself says. But then, I'm maybe just too dense: can I use e.g. "my flickr url" out of the box? It says I must "enable OpenID support with my preferred provider" and I think I can manage to do so... but is there any particular advantage choosing one provider over another?

      --
      If you can't understand the incipit, then please check the IPB Campaign.
        but is there any particular advantage choosing one provider over another?

        Most importantly you should trust your OpenID provider. He can track your logins to SO, and if he decides to go evil he can log with your ID (without you ever noticing), and if he stops to provide his services, you're locked out.

        So if you equally trust both OpenID providers, I don't see why you should chose one over the other - just go with the one you like better.

Re: Breaking Out of the Perl Echo Chamber: A Call to Action
by zentara (Archbishop) on Sep 18, 2008 at 17:05 UTC
    <please don't clobber me Aristotle>

    :-)

    Oooh..... Badges instead of XP. Reminds me of boy scouts. My first impression of the site is "information overload"...... remember the old adage about the man who read so many books he ended up knowing nothing?

    Honestly I think there are adequate places already to find answers to Perl questions: here, comp.lang.perl.misc, perl.beginners, etc. This would only serve to dilute the time gurus already spend answering Perl questions. And it would further confuse newbies, as to where they should look for answers.

    It's great for other languages though.

    </please don't clobber me Aristotle>


    I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth Remember How Lucky You Are
      Badges don't substitute XP, stackoverflow.com uses both.

        So now we have to XP whore over there too? This internet is srs bsns...;D

        I'm so adjective, I verb nouns!

        chomp; # nom nom nom

      Honestly I think there are adequate places already to find answers to Perl questions...

      Sure, but there are plenty of people asking questions in "unapproved" places. Look at Unix Questions or various other web programming forae sometime to see how awful some of the answers are.

      here, comp.lang.perl.misc, perl.beginners, etc

      I asked for an effort to break out of the echo chamber, not reinforce it… :-)

      Perl should have a voice in places where people from many languages come together. If the Perl community keeps to itself, how is anyone else to know that a Perl community even exists any more? (Answer: they don’t.)

      And you aren’t going to get people who have no idea that there is a Perl community to come to the Perl community when they have questions. So they will ask where they will get worse answers than they could have gotten. The amount of people who have contact with Perl but not its community or any of the things the community has achieved and learned is staggering, and their (sometimes indifferent, sometimes inevitable) ignorance is self-reinforcing and ultimately results in a much worse reputation for Perl than it deserves.

      The onus is on us to break that cycle. If we want Perl’s name to be widely associated with the things that Perl stands for, we need to represent it out there in the wider community where the others go to, not stay facing inwards.

      Makeshifts last the longest.

        If the Perl community fragments into people answering questions in several different places, none of them will be good places to go to get information. The correct solution to get to the thing you want (i.e. more people know where to go to get Perl information), you need to speak with the people running StackOverflow and ask them to direct non-trivial questions about Perl to perlmonks.org.

        For reference, I found Perlmonks via Google (searching on "perl forum", I believe, though I do note that "perl help" doesn't seem to find it, which isn't a good thing — maybe someone should tweak the keywords here). It was my second stop, the first being a forum that never answered my question at all.

        Knowledge forking is bad. Experts don't have unlimited hours to try to keep an eye on many different locations at once. I would have been happier if that first forum hadn't existed at all.

        As an aside, I note that "echo chamber" is a derogatory term, typically used to refer to groups of people with few or no individual ideas that just parrot the loudest talking point currently in use. I'm not sure it's helpful to you to be using that term on the very people you're trying to lure away to join your new clubhouse.

        If we want Perl’s name to be widely associated with the things that Perl stands for, we need to represent it out there in the wider community where the others go to, not stay facing inwards.

        I nominate Aristotle to be "Perl Ambassador-at-large" for the world. :-)


        I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth Remember How Lucky You Are
      They have one very clever strategy at StackOverflow - read their ideas around Google searches at the Joel's blog. They plan to attract all the people that google for some random programming problem - they designed a few details of the site so that this should work really smoothly. I think there is a great power in that startegy.
        Yeah, but that sounds like it's a monetary venture and eventually will be cluttered with designer Google ads. Want to know something about this c program, and are on Windows, then you will see ads for the spiffy new Visual C++ , or whatever. At least Perlmonks dosn't give a hoot about being listed first on Google.

        I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth Remember How Lucky You Are
Re: Breaking Out of the Perl Echo Chamber: A Call to Action
by zentara (Archbishop) on Sep 19, 2008 at 16:04 UTC
    Ok, Aristotle you made a good point, so I went over to StackOverflow, and see if I could answer some questions. This was my experience.

    1. I hated that OpenID bullsh*t. Perlmonks is 100% easier to sign in.

    2. I want to look for some gui questions, pertaining to Perl/Tk or Perl/Gtk2. I got some tagged Tk, but they were a mixture of NET, Gtk#, ltk (whatever that is), no Perl.

    So I saw one answer that was wrong in c Gtk+, and I wanted to make a comment about it. I couldn't comment without a 50 rating of some kind, I couldn't post an answer without OpenID...... it essentailly was a hassle to use.

    Sorry..... but Perlmonks is so much easier to use, with it's limited scope of Perl, and it's anonymous monk, and simple cookie login.

    Maybe they need better tag filtering and some janitors to check for spam postings, or something, and dump that stupid OpenID.

    Also, I was tempted to answer questions from other languages, with a Perl script...... that would probably start language wars over there.


    I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth Remember How Lucky You Are
      Also, I was tempted to answer questions from other languages, with a Perl script...... that would probably start language wars over there.

      Actually I would think that it might be a good thing to answer questions that are NOT tagged as Perl with Perl answers. Not when someone asks a question directly about an other language, but questions that are somewhat language neutral. Perl questions are asked by people who already know, and use, the language. Non-Perl questions on the other hand gives us a chance to show-off in front of an unsuspecting audience ;--)

        If the goal is Perl evangelism, this is probably not a bad technique — ignore all the threads tagged with Perl, but use Perl to provide code examples for all non-language-specific implementation questions for which Perl is a good fit. The trouble is finding those questions quickly.

      That is relevant, how?

      First, to address what you said: I still remember, many years later, how confusing I found Perl Monks when I first signed up here. Sure it is much easier for you to use than Stack Overflow – after all, you already have an account and you know how this site works. Stack Overflow is new to you. And if you have never encountered OpenID before, and you need it for just a single site, then it’s a huge hassle compared to a simple login form – but I have 150 passwords already so I am glad that Stack Overflow does not make me keep track of yet another one. (OpenID adoption is growing – more slowly than I would like, but it’s getting traction. Can’t happen a day too soon if you ask me. This might have been the first time you saw OpenID, but it won’t be the last.) Perl Monks is great because of the community and because of the “social design” of the site; the technical implementation is sub par.

      But be that as it may, it doesn’t even matter. See, I’m not trying to talk you into going to Stack Overflow. I’m just pointing out some facts: Perl has an undeservedly terrible reputation among non-Perl programmers. Stack Overflow has attracted a generic crowd of programmers. Some of them will ask Perl questions, and some of them will answer Perl questions – mostly badly, if the rest of the non-core Perl community fora on the web are any indication. We can either accept this as the state of affairs, or we can go there and spread awareness of what we consider good practice. Of course, that means we do not get to choose where to do it – either we do it there, or we don’t, whether we like the site or not.

      You don’t have any obligation, of course. It’s your decision whether you want to do anything about this. And if you decide that you want to, it’s still another decision how you want to do it – posting good Perl answers on Stack Overflow isn’t exactly the only way.

      But Perl Monks vs Stack Overflow comparisons are pointless.

      Makeshifts last the longest.

        But Perl Monks vs Stack Overflow comparisons are pointless.

        Well the real test will be "will StackOverflow start showing ads for google?" , as zby alludes to.

        If they do, then all we are doing by answering questions there, is helping a startup. SlackOverflow may just need to reach that magical hit number where Google ads can be offered. There already are a bunch of "get answers" sites, that are blatantly mercenary...... I hate the ruse they use where they break up a simple answer into multiple pages, so you are forced to look at more ads.

        And w-ber's observations about OpenID, at Re^3: Breaking Out of the Perl Echo Chamber: A Call to Action are enough to dissuade me from it.

        On second thought, maybe I'll get me a fake OpenID, and will post some answers there, with links to Perlmonks as answers. ha ha :-)


        I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth Remember How Lucky You Are

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