This post is by sundialsvc4, not Anonymous Monk, just in case somehow I get logged-out prematurely. (I didn’t.) Yes, I have said some of these things before. Place your down-votes here to be sure that I get proper credit.
PerlMonks is kind of like Perl itself ... quirky, hasn’t changed much despite various attempts to change it in a dozen years, and we sort-of like it that way. And, it does serve two fundamental user communities remarkably well:
- N00B1ES: Perl is a hard language to get to know, and newbies don’t get barbequed here. Much. (They’re often so amazed at being treated courteously, that they write nice letters.)
- Esoterica: Perl is a high-performance, yet compact language, with one of the most well-developed contributed software libraries to be found anywhere. So, it winds up being pressed into service in a lot of amazing ways. You can ask a question here, and get an informed answer (and a few not-so informed ones), and some complete blocks of source-code, in a matter of minutes or hours.
I suggest that all of us should always be asking ourselves, how can we serve these two groups better. (And then, if changes to our venerable perlmonks.pl are called for, actually get changes done.) Why do people come here? What do they want to get from it, and what do they not?
They do want to get:
- Answers. Above all. I am (whoever I am ...) “show-stopped” and the clock is ticking. We have all been there.
Peer Review. The best solution is not-obvious. We want to hear the opinions of our peers. We know that the Perl space is actually vast, with all kinds of nooks and crannies, and that someone .. here has already been there.
They do not want to get:
- Participant personalities. The moment a thread “gets personal,” it not only becomes off-topic, but it also gets irrelevant and even annoying to people who have to scroll through back-and-forth exchanges. The rules of debate are formalized, but they’re formalized for a reason. The greatest scene in The Fugitive ends with Tommy Lee Jones’ character shouting back, “I don’t care!” His character had one purpose. So do we. The audience doesn’t come to a movie to see back-office politics.
- XP wars. So far as I know, PerlMonks is the only forum that provides a means of negative feedback, although a great many offer n people found this post helpful. When I am looking for answers, especially in unfamiliar spaces, it is helpful to zero-in on what other people find helpful. But it isn’t coincidence, I think, that these forums don’t tally negativity, let alone bundle them into a singular “total.” Rotten Tomatoes, the well-known movie review site, tallys, separately, both the fresh and rotten fruits. (And, guess what, I tend to read only the fresh ones.) You heard the opinions of both Siskel (R.I.P.) and Eibert (R.I.P.). Separately. I think that there were carefully market-researched reasons for that.
- “Anonymous” egg-throws. No other forum that I know about permits posts to be made anonymously. You must log-in, and if your session times out, you must re-authenticate to proceed. The ability to do so, not only prevents someone from following-up offline with the true author of a particular post, but also encourages the other two things that, I aver, participants do not want to get. Once again, I think there is a reason why every other forum acts differently from this one in this regard.
In the end, movies exist to sell popcorn. Perlmonks similarly exists to provide on point answers and peer-reviews to people who one-and-all “sing for their supper.” Whether we change the site software or not, in the end, it is the Monks who define our effectiveness in doing what we do here. We ought to be “on-point” and “on-message,” collectively, all the time. That message is never particularly about “any of us,” and I think we all should strive to keep it that way ... for them: the folks who buy popcorn.
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