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Re: Re: On Answering Questions

by blackstarr (Friar)
on Feb 09, 2003 at 14:18 UTC ( #233896=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Re: On Answering Questions
in thread On Answering Questions

Thank you for formulating what I could not.

This is a debate that is as old as Usenet (at least), and will never leave us as long as society (especially our online virtual one) is made up of various levels of skill.

We all differ, some of us are highly skilled, in Perl, in the ability to articulate (a question or an answer), and in understanding our fellow human beings. Most of us, however, fall short on AT LEAST one of these, and it is this that makes life both interesting and frustrating.

How much "interaction" would there be if we were all Larry Wall clones? Very bright bunch, no doubt, but not much to say to each other ... BECAUSE we all shared the same skill levels in Perl, in Communication ability, and in Understanding.

No matter what we say, we all come here from common motivations, to learn on the neophyte's part, to share on the "expert's", for whatever reason. That being the case, how long would PerlMonks (or any other Virtual community) survive if only the Senior Monks (? Abbot+ ?) could ask questions? Sure, they would be very interesting questions ... to other senior monks, but the rest of us poor mortals would say "Gee Wiz, aren't they clever!" and wonder off somewhere else to learn the basics of Perl.

So, what's my point? ... We seem to have two fundamental differences of approach to how to handle neophytes who do not yet know how to ask questions. The first is to treat them like the "Open Sesame" doors of fairyland. If you ask the question right, you will get all the riches of the land, as well as the princess. If you don't formulate your question correctly, well, tough, hope you've got an umbrella.

I agree that people should learn how to formulate questions.
I agree that people should first figure out what they can.
I agree that people shouldn't be spoon-fed.

I also think that those of us who are advocates for Perl, and those of you who actually know how to use it, should be gentle on those who still have certain skills to develop. We should be evangelising the use of Perl, not protecting our turf. (I am NOT implying that anyone here did that). Very often we frighten away someone who may, over time, have become a useful member of the community.

If, when someone asks a question in a vague or obviously poorly thought out way, instead of lambasting them (however gently), we said something to the effect of:
"I'm sorry, I don't understand exactly what you want. Could you please repost your question and provide us with some background (context) and a fuller explanation of what you do want to achieve, then maybe we'd be able to point you in the right direction."
... a bit syrupy, I agree, but the idea is, let's be helpful, not hurtful ...

I'd better stop, I'm sounding like a kindergarten teacher!

So Long

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