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What's a fair thing?

by tachyon (Chancellor)
on Jul 23, 2001 at 13:37 UTC ( #98947=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Juat recently I found myself answering a Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re question from a new Monk. The thread started here Faster Search Engine. As the Re's wore on the desire to say RTFM/Get a book increased. I love Perl and as a relative newbie myself (to Perl anyway) who has benefited from the benevolance of others feel there is something of a debt of honour to be repaid. My question is "How much is too much?" Where do you draw the line between being a homework troll and trying to offer help? Is it as simple as whatever I feel like at the time and more importantly have time for? Just interested to hear some other views.




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Re: What's a fair thing?
by Masem (Monsignor) on Jul 23, 2001 at 15:05 UTC
    My personal opinion, by no means fixed, is that you get 3 (tightly-related) questions, then after that, it's time to point them to different resources; not that I can't answer more questions, but if it doesn't seem that the asker is learning as opposed to just following ("teaching a man to fish" as opposed to "giving a man a fish"), then answering any more is going to have no effect.

    However, others might stop it at fewer questions, others might let it run on longer. But the key thing to note is that when you end such a line of questioning, try to be as friendly as possible and provide as many reasonable resources where the asker should go.

    And of course, if after one or two questions, you quick realize it's a homework troll ("My teacher said that we..."), then definitely get out of the line of questioning earlier, but again, try to back out as friendly as possible.

    Dr. Michael K. Neylon - || "You've left the lens cap of your mind on again, Pinky" - The Brain
(crazyinsomniac) Re: What's a fair thing?
by crazyinsomniac (Prior) on Jul 23, 2001 at 15:53 UTC
    It's been a while since I posted an honestly legit meditation.
    Before I answer your questions, a recurring thought(feeling):

    Unless a question is on a topic so broad, it requires a book to begin comprehension, don't reccomend a book. I absolutely love to RTFM and really really hate it when people suggest "acquire a copy of *insert perl book here*". Learning about "free" things should be free. Learning "advanced topics" about free things, should also be free, but a book'd be fine;)

    "How much is too much?" Where do you draw the line between being a homework troll and trying to offer help? Is it as simple as whatever I feel like at the time and more importantly have time for?
    Very little is too much.
    Try to judge the effort being put in (be as loose as possible), and the sincerity.
    If it seems trolish then, don't reply.
    If you don't have time, don't reply.
    If you're not in the mood, don't reply.
    If all you have to say is "add code tags", don't reply.

    If the person, like drewboy, lacks basic comprehension, like what to do with code to get it to run, kindly instruct him to RTFM, and more importantly, point him to the FManual, otherwise, don't reply.

    There are a lot of people out there who don't have a clue, and that is fine, but this is not the place to learn everything. If you're that lost, get a dummies book. There are a lot of resources out there, and you can't always have a monk hold your hand to guide you. If by some chance you do get a monk to guide you, don't do it in SOPW (seek alternate communication method like the F chatter box).

    Disclaimer: Don't blame. It came from inside the void

    perl -e "$q=$_;map({chr unpack qq;H*;,$_}split(q;;,q*H*));print;$q/$q;"

Re: What's a fair thing?
by Malkavian (Friar) on Jul 23, 2001 at 15:16 UTC
    Fair is pretty much a subjective thing..
    And I guess a lot of it is how much time you actually have to spare with a problem, and the willingness of the person you're helping to go and do the legwork themselves.
    If someone latches onto your words, and has a go, then all is fine.
    If they need a little clarification, and bounce a few intelligent questions back and forth, it's still enough to keep me posting, or helping.
    Where I tend to draw the line is when I've explained something in simple terms how to do something, perhaps going over it several times, and people saying they still don't get it, and it would be so much easier if I did the work for them.
    The time factor also comes into play too.. If I'm rushed off my feet, I'm usually pretty curt with people asking me for things (as helping them would likely cause more problems for me and the people who rely on my work getting completed, than would be experienced by the people needing a bit of help from me.. My usual response to them (if they're at the same location as me) is to hand them the right manual, and point them at a section to read).
    But really, I guess it all comes down to what you feel about it all.. If you feel that enough is enough, then it is.
    For you at least.
    The more you get disenchanted, and have bad experiences pushing yourself past what you feel is enough, the less likely you are to help deserving cases in future, or to stay with places like the Monastery.
    I don't think anyone expects you to give more than you have to offer, and everyone appreciates what you do have to give..
    And when enough is really enough, a polite reply to say that you've got pressing things that need attending to, and a small list of references that someone can read through to gain the relevant info helps.
    If you do what you feel to be right, you don't often go wrong.

Re: What's a fair thing?
by petral (Curate) on Jul 23, 2001 at 15:05 UTC
    I guess the basic rule with all helping is "you can't help anybody if you burn out".  If you do it when you enjoy it, you'll last longer.  (No, this is not a complete answer.)


Re: What's a fair thing?
by Wookie (Beadle) on Jul 23, 2001 at 17:07 UTC
    I'm not long here - but I have had similar experiences elsewhere with needing to know how much help to give.

    Ultimately, I'm agreeing with crazyinsomniac - anwser what you can - when you can, when you want. It's time to take a break when you don't want to answer questions - but feel you must. Again, this is my general perspective on this topic - and not too specific to this site.

    Personally, the most help I've been able to offer anyone as far as I can see to date has been with non-perl questions.

    Which brings me to something else - how much should non-perl questions should be answered on this site? Just cause it's sql surrounded by perl - doesn't stop a question about sql being a question about sql. Should these questions be considered more valid then "How do I run a script?" style questions?

    Just my $0.02.
    game(Wookie,opponent) eq 'Wookie' ? undef $problem : remove_limbs(arms,opponent);
Re: What's a fair thing?
by aquacade (Scribe) on Jul 23, 2001 at 23:25 UTC

    As a neophyte myself, may I first say THANK YOU to all the dedicated Monks out here! I want to relate my recent neophyte experiences so the Friars to Saints among you can re:remember (pun intended;) their first days learning Perl.

    My biggest problem learning Perl has been trying to "think" in Perl when programming in Perl. Sure I can write C-like code all day in Perl and TMTOWTDI it works! For me, it's taken almost eight months of daily Perl coding (with weekly or monthly epiphany points and mind bending snaps) to now see more Perlish ways to code something. My "baby talking" in Perl as Larry has called it, has served me (and my client) well. I'm EXCITED, JAZZED, EXHUBERENT about understanding the Perlish way, the most efficient way to do something in Perl!

    My progress has been greatly accelerated by the patience and kindness of others especially the Perl Monks! I've invested six re-readings of the first seven chapters of the third Camel book AND I started reading "Effective Perl Programming" based upon Nate O's recommendation at YAPC. I joined the Perl Monks after attending YAPC in June -- when I first heard about the site! Only now am I feeling like a Perl programmer, but I realize I have a long way to go still. Not everyone has the desire or time or money (to buy books) or daily coding in Perl to go faster than they are going. Some are very impatient (with themselves esp.) and want or need to go faster than they can run by themselves.

    It's easy to lose yourself in service to others -- Don't go that far, unless it gives you joy! Even then, take time out for yourself! Your efforts are greatly appreciated and vital to building a stronger Perl Community.

    Summation: Keep tending the Perl Monks vineyard: planting, pruning, grafting, and burning (but only when diseased and not bearing fruit). Please hear my humble plea my fellow Monks?

Re: What's a fair thing?
by hsmyers (Canon) on Jul 23, 2001 at 18:00 UTC
    I'm not sure that 'fair' has much to do with it, but from my experience the important part is that at least someone responds to the question. And RTFM is a legitimate reply (although I usually refer to page number etc). The worst possible answer to 'Is there anybody out there' is silence...
Re: What's a fair thing?
by shotgunefx (Parson) on Jul 24, 2001 at 02:10 UTC
    My personal take is this.

    If the person makes a sincere (even if misguided) effort I am inclined to help if I can. (Except when you explain it in nice, simple terms and then they proceed to tell you their misguided understanding of Perl/technology/Life is absolutely correct and talk to you like you don't know what your doing.)

    If it's a buggy, obscure problem that I've slammed into before, I'll share my experience.

    If a user has helped my in the past. I'll return the favor if I can.

    If a quick scan of the persons previous postings look somewhat intelligent or they have been helpful to others I'll try and help.

    If a person doesn't know anything about perl but wants to make a script that does x, y and z so they can sell it, I laugh. :P

    I also won't write a program to do X, I'll give a snippet. When Prometheus was given fire, it wasn't in the form of a Zippo. I think others newbies learn a lot more if they have to work out at least some of the issues.

    My two cents anyway,


    "To be civilized is to deny one's nature."
Re: What's a fair thing?
by fmogavero (Monk) on Jul 24, 2001 at 00:01 UTC
    There is a line that can be drawn for fair in this case.

    Where do you stop helping them and start doing the work for them?

    I believe that there are always greater and lesser than you and if you help the lesser the greater will help you.

Re: What's a fair thing?
by toma (Vicar) on Jul 24, 2001 at 12:11 UTC
    I like to think about the long-term value of a response to a question. My favorite answers demonstrate a technique with a short, complete, working example program. These programs have general-purpose value, enhance the future of Perl, and please the creator.

    If I'm in the chatterbox I might answer almost any type of query. CB is a great place for a more relaxed "no worries" conversation. You also get to ask pointed questions like "why do you ask?" and "Where do you go to school?"

    It should work perfectly the first time! - toma

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