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Learning how to answer

by blssu (Pilgrim)
on Sep 11, 2002 at 02:13 UTC ( #196851=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I'm new here -- only been posting for a week or so. The system is addict^H^H^H^H^H^H fascinating. One of the things I've tried to do is learn how to write an answer by watching reputation.

The sad thing is I'm not sure I can correlate my "good" answers to reputation. (I've searched and read about reputation. Yes, I know it's not correlated to Perl experience, programming skill, etc. I'm simply hoping it's correlated to community acceptance.)

One of my higher nodes is Re: setting hash keys by array. I thought it was poorly explained golf, but in an amusing functional style.

One of my zero rep nodes is How to build up complex SQL queries. I tried to demonstrate the thought process of how to build up a string from a pattern. The code showed an intermediate "thinking about it" stage that eventually became working, useful code. It's not in concise Perl style, but it definitely shows how to combine join and map.

The thing that motivated me to post here is that johnirl thanked me for the zero rep post! (You're welcome!) Is there a paradox here where nodes useful to the individual are not useful to the community?

So, if I you all say I can't trust reputation to learn how to answer questions... can you give me advice on answering questions? There is an amazing FAQ on asking questions, but what about answering?

BTW, please don't vote my examples. I'm not reputation whoring and that would ruin my (small) sample set!

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Learning how to answer
by atcroft (Abbot) on Sep 11, 2002 at 02:54 UTC

    While reputation of a node is one indicator of how useful a node might be, it is not the only indicator, nor is it necessarily accurate at the time. Sometimes the node may not be read by someone it is useful until much, much later, or someone may not immediately vote on a node because they don't find it useful until later.

    As to your question regarding how best to answer, my only advice is to answer as best you can. A quote from one of my favorite movies is, "Anyone who falls flat on their face is at least moving in the right direction -- forward." (Citation can be found in this node.) An attempt at an answer may at least bring up a point or a perspective that wasn't thought of earlier, in the spirit of TIMTOWTDI. I have at times in my own responses suggested what I thought to be a portion of an answer, but was unsure of a complete answer, in hopes of learning more myself while still trying to be helpful.

    As an aside, my compliments to johnirl for thanking you for your response. Sometimes we (or at least I do) find ourselves too busy to immediately respond back in thanks, even though the help is very appreciated, then later, when we have the time, so much has occurred that we forget to do so.

Re: Learning how to answer
by Aristotle (Chancellor) on Sep 11, 2002 at 05:19 UTC

    Complex answers, no matter how useful, generally seem to attract few votes. Simpler replies take less effort and less skill to understand and will likely get more votes.

    In general, the relation seems to be:

    Negative rep:
    You did something wrong.

    Rep around 0:
    Usually a "nothing special" note. Occasionally, Warnock's dilemma applies.

    Low to medium positive rep:
    You didn't do anything wrong. No other useful information here.

    High rep:
    Good work.

    Where "low to medium positive" tends to be the range from 5 to about 25. Negative rep is -3 or less. But these are no absolutes either.

    Makeshifts last the longest.

      I must have been living under a rock because I hadn't heard of "Warnock's dilemma" :) A quick google search later and I discovered not only the nature of the dilemma- what does it mean when no-one responds to your post, but also that the "Warnock" in question is a Perl hacker! I think this is the post from where the phenomenom was named.

      Until you've lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is. -Margaret Mitchell

      There is another factor which greatly affects the rep score of a node.

      Has the root node been frontpaged?

      Once a node reaches the Monastery Gates, the score gets greatly increased. This also has the same effect on the replies to the root node. The distribution of 'High rep' becomes skewed by dint of its mere presence on the front page - just because it's high rep does not necessarily imply good work.

      For those who don't know, frontpaging is something that any friar or above can do, if they think that a node is of sufficient quality or interest. Also note: you cannot frontpage your own nodes.

        Worth noting here is that the power to approve as well as frontpage your own nodes has only been removed recently.

        Makeshifts last the longest.

Re: Learning how to answer
by greenFox (Vicar) on Sep 11, 2002 at 04:46 UTC

    Welcome to the Monastery :)

    The topic of XP and reputation has been discussed numerous times here, most recently in a great post by Ovid. The long and the short is enjoy the XP for what it is - a bit of fun - and use your time to learn as much Perl as you can and help others to do the same.

    Until you've lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is. -Margaret Mitchell

      XP has a certain video game score quality to it. It's fun, but not useful. On the other hand, reputation seems like it should be useful as a feedback mechanism. (Compare to mailing lists where a thoughtful post can just disappear into the wild without any comment. Was it good? Was it bad? Was it too long? Am I a jerk?)

      I'm glad to hear other monks say good nodes sometimes have low reputations. At the same time I'm saddened, because it means we still have the mailing list problem and also have new false feedback problem.

      This strikes me as similar to the "not" problem in logic programming -- false is different from missing.

Re: Learning how to answer
by Popcorn Dave (Abbot) on Sep 11, 2002 at 18:10 UTC
    I've only been using Perl for about a year or so, so I do a lot more reading of posts than answering. That said, when I answer a question I do one of two things depending on the original post.

    If it's something along the lines of "How do I do this?," and the poster appears to be asking about a homework type of question, I tend to give a more generalized answer. I also apply this when there's a question without source code of some type to show where the poster thinks they're having the problem.

    The other way is to provide some code to help. Generally if the poster does provide code, and I feel that it's within my reach to offer a suggestion, then I will.

    As far as the reputation of the node, personally, if I'm looking for information, I'm not so much worried about the node's rep as the information contained therein. As others have said, some nodes only gain reputation when someone needs that information, and it could be a day or a month later.

    The thing to really remember here, is that we're a community. We're here to help each other expand our horizions within Perl. To stretch our limits and push our envelopes with the language. But in the end it all comes down to sharing our experience with those who ask for help in the hope that they will do the same and others will benefit down the road.

    There is no emoticon for what I'm feeling now.

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