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Hope that helps -- 1 year on.

by BrowserUk (Patriarch)
on Jun 04, 2003 at 10:31 UTC ( [id://262941]=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

With due deference to Bloody vanity posts brigade I'll keep this as short as I can.

This is the 1st anniversary of the day I first visited (and signed up) at PerlMonks.

I came here looking for a quick fix to an infuriating "perl problem". So insensed was I by my inability to grasp this (to me, then) new language, despite my 20+ IT years and 10+ IT languages that I already had, that I coined a couple of alternative acronyms.

  1. Perl = Painful; excruciatingly ridiculous language.
  2. POD = Purposely Obfuscated Documentation.

Needless to say, but I will anyway, I got over my insensibility. Or is that insensation?:)

I never did solve that original problem per se, I chose to hand the project over to someone else with greater expertise in the field.

I hung around because I saw something at this site that I had never encountered at any similar 'self-help' or 'experts-on-line'. It is difficult to put exactly what it was I saw into words, and maybe it is unnecessary as most of the audience will already have seen and recognised it for themselves, in terms that they understand, but I'll have-a-go, as is my want. I think what I saw was the simple premise that this site, and the vast majority of the people it attracts as regulars are here for the same purpose.

They are here to learn

Unlike many (most?) other places of this type that are available on-line, the real emphasis here is on learning. Sometimes this takes the form of learning by asking. Sometimes learning by showing. Sometimes learning through making mistakes. Sometimes through watching others make mistakes.

With rare exception, most of the people and the responses they write, are predicated on the premise of

"On the basis of what I know, or at least what I think I know, I think this will help you, so here it is. It almost certainly isn't perfect, it may not even be relevant, though I believe it to be, and I am happy to offer it in case it helps, and to learn from the enevitable corrections that will come if what I believe is wrong.

I think that this attitude is most succinctly and most prevelantly summed up by the oft-used sign-off HTH. -- Hope That Helps.

For me, that sums up the difference between this site and so many others. Most people who post here, and I put myself right amongst that list, offer their responses on the simple premise that they "hope that their contribution will, in some way--be it big or small--assist the original poster to whom they respond". And that, for the most part, is it.

This is so different from so many other sites of a similar nature to PM, where the basic premise seems to be one or more of the following:

  • I'm the guru/expert/great-wise-one and you're a newbie/novice/DSoB and I'm going to prove that by putting you in your place.
  • We're a close-knit group of code-heads and you're an outsider, and we are going to show you just how much you don't know at every opportunity.
  • I don't have the time, nor can I be bothered to make the time to try and understand your problem, poor (english|grammer|spelling|punctuation), misunderstanding of the subject-of-reference, but I see an opportunity to make great sport at your expense, so cop this.
  • I didn't take-in most of what you asked/posted, but I noticed that you (subscribe to my-pet-peeve | contradicted my-pet-dogma ) and so I am going to concentrate my efforts on belittling you, by waffling on at length, on that small, often insignificant-in-context, part of your post.
  • I've long since forgotten how long it took me to understand X. I've also forgotten how hard it was for me to learn X, or even to find the information I needed to learn X, but now I know it, and therefore I must have been able to learn it. If I can do so, so can you. So get off your lazy lower-lumbar-region and do the same.

For reasons that are irrelavent beyond the fact that they exist, I have had the time that has allowed me to be here almost every day for the last year. As such, I have had the opportunity to read, digest, explore and learn from almost every question that has been posed here in that time. This has allowed me to aquire, sometimes deservedly, perhaps mostly not, an XP-level, along with the associated XP-based ranking, that is noted on my home node. What this proves, if it proves anything, is the wisdom of the note at the top of this page, namely

..and remember there are a lot of things monks are supposed to be but lazy is not one of them

That said, my personal feelings on the value of the much discused, much argued, much denigrated and maligned XP on this site is that it is, in general and in its specifics, a good system.

  • I don't subscribe to the oft-quoted view that XP is 'just a number', 'a vote of popularity', or 'totally meaningless'.
  • I do subscribe to the view that it has little or nothing to do with 'expertise', in perl or anything else.

    The purpose it serves it purely one of feedback, by the community-at-large(*), to the authors of nodes. If there is a flaw in the system, I would say that it lies entirely in the accumulation of XP and the ranking based upon it. Actually, the problem is more to do with the prevalence and the in-your-face-all-the-time nature of the ranking based on XP. It is the fact that one is constantly reminded of a persons 'rank', and moreover their rank relative to one own rank, that is the greatest source of controversy, dissent and ill-will that surrounds the issue.

[*]Community-at-large as opposed to the central, controlling, elite minority who would hold sway in these matters were this a "moderated environment".

As a feedback mechanism to discourage those that would write 'bad nodes', be they technically inaccurate, socially intolorable or offensive, or simple the--usually, though not always, unsophisticated--flame-bait of would-be trolls. It serves that purpose and serves it well.

As a mechanism for ranking: The presence of people like myself squirrelled between, along-side and above those with hugely greater 'real', hands on experience and expertise, renders the rankings suspect.

The presence of some of the members of that less-and-less elite club of Saints in our book, who have acheived that status despite having made very small contributions (in terms of numbers) to the fabric and materiale of the site has a similar effect.

There are those, and I hope he won't mind me mentioning his name, like Erudil, who's numerical contribution is relatively low, but who's contribution to the site and the wider Perl community, to say nothing of his obvious and apparent perl expertise(**), make their ranking deserved.

[**]There is an old adage, though the traditional wording escapes me right now, that holds that it takes hugely greater expertise to do something skillful, badly, deliberately, than to simply do it correctly. This is often applied to the likes of stuntmenpersons who fall off horses, buildings or roads without hurting themselves, and to the likes of clowns who can fall-down, up, under, over or through all manner of dangerous objects without hurting themselves or others.

My eternal tribute goes out to one of, if not the, Master of both fields: Buster Keaton. Were it that he were alive and working today. Can you imagine what he could have done with the aid of modern technology and special effects:)

There are others on that list, whom I won't name as they are not 'at fault', that have achieved their ranking through longevity rather than contribution. This is the fault of the system rather than the individual. At the end of the day, the system, flaws'n'all, works pretty well, and is a lot of fun. It certainly empowers and encourages contribution. Volume isn't everything, but then neither is simple accuracy.

If you take the premise that this site should have one definitive answer to every question, and repeat questioners should either search and find their answer there, or be breifly, or pre-emptively referred to that definitive answer, then the site would serve no purpose and would die. You could simply freeze the database along with the FAQ's and the super search node to a CD and the site could become a static reference work and a piece of history. The rare occasions when a truely unique and original question comes up could be dealt with through an 'Unresolved question automated dial-out' to a list of half a dozen wildly recognised experts, with a fall-back to p5p or comp.lang.perl.moderated(and friends)(+)or some such.

[+]Update: Merlyn Pointed out that comp.lang.perl hasn't existed since 1995...

But that isn't what this site is about, nor should it be. This site is about learning, assisted learning and community. It's about advocacy, about promotion, about self- and community-help. And everyone, from the noviciates, through slow- and rapid-learners, through acknowledged experts can all contribute to and learn; both from the information here, and, through the interactions that take place at this site.

For my part, I learn something, and usually several somethings every time I come here. This evening, I learnt 3 new things in less than an hour. Two of them were even perl-related:). And I will continue to come here and read and learn, and when the occasion arises, post my questions in the hope of achieving a quicker and/or more complete answer than I could acheive alone.

Trying hard not to come off like the winner at a celebrity awards ceremony, my heartfelt thanks to all those that have contributed to my education here over the past year, and especially to those (they know who they are:) that have taken the time to engage me in debate over some of my more <polite_term> esoteric </polite_term> ideas related to perl and programming in general. I award these people the BrowserUk Award for Valour in the Face of Insurmountable Adversity.

Thanks to you all. BrowserUk


Alternative ending removed pending

Examine what is said, not who speaks.
"Efficiency is intelligent laziness." -David Dunham
"When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." -Richard Buckminster Fuller

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Hope that helps -- 1 year on.
by Anonymous Monk on Jun 04, 2003 at 15:32 UTC

    I would like to thank BrowserUk for all his contribution to the Monastery.

    I could say how much I appreciate his posts, but since I signed as I did, it would not be relevant.

    However, I invite everybody to have a look at the nodes that BrowserUk has posted in the Monastery in great quantity. One thing you'll notice. Very seldom it is the first post. Not because he doesn't know the answer and had to ask someone. Quite the opposite. He doesn't rush to answer because he is thinking on it. He posts something that you can rely upon. He posts something very elaborate and carefully thought. If you see one of his posts, you may be almost sure that it is not a classic XP-whoring exercise, and he knows what he's saying.

    One more thing I like of him is that he is not that kind of saint who says "It's like that. Take it or leave it." He gives you reasons, and he listens to objections. If he happens to make a mistake, he will tell you so right away. He won't remove what he wrote before, but he will add the correction. We can learn from his mistakes as well.

    So, thank you again, BrowserUk, for playing the game well and for making it even more interesting.

    Anonymous Saint

    Anonymous because I don't want to attract XP. If you like this post, vote for the root node!

    There are other monks who deserve the same praise, of course - PM is such a great place! - but what the hell, this is *his* anniversary, so let him enjoy the moment!

      Anonymous because I don't want to attract XP. If you like this post, vote for the root node!

      I voted for both, and it appears others did so too. Your reply is as valuable as the thread's root.

      Juerd # { site => '', plp_site => '', do_not_use => 'spamtrap' }

Re: Hope that helps -- 1 year on.
by Aristotle (Chancellor) on Jun 04, 2003 at 15:21 UTC
    The purpose it serves it purely one of feedback, by the community-at-large(*), to the authors of nodes.
    That's what I've been saying ;-) I agree on what you describe as the special atmosphere at PM; although I think that while maybe especially striking here, it is not restricted to just this site but seems to be a common theme among the Perl community in general. Which is one reason I find the language such a nice, cozy experience.

    Makeshifts last the longest.

Re: Hope that helps -- 1 year on.
by zentara (Archbishop) on Jun 04, 2003 at 15:24 UTC
    I'm glad you are here at perlmonks. When I scan thru replies, I always stop and read carefully when I see the name BrowserUk, because you always write something useful. There are about 20 names here which trigger that response out of me, so that I guess that puts you in my top 20. :-)
Re: Hope that helps -- 1 year on.
by talexb (Chancellor) on Jun 04, 2003 at 19:07 UTC

    As I slowly climbed the XP ladder towards the seemingly impossible level of monk (let alone saint) I considered what I might do when I got there. Perhaps start over again with a new userID?

    About XP: one measure that might be interesting would be a display not of absolute XP, but rather of some combination of number of recent posts and associated XP. Also, if the database contained XP broken down by source (just showing up, votes cast, votes received) that might also show some interesting statistics.

    Happily, for current members all that extra 'stuff' isn't necessary -- we grow to recognize posters whose Perl-fu is strong (and whose is weak) and accord their posts the appropriate amount of attention.

    It's a fun sort of meritocracy, this place.

    --t. alex
    Life is short: get busy!
Re: Hope that helps -- 1 year on.
by kutsu (Priest) on Jun 04, 2003 at 23:38 UTC

    Being a new member of PM, I find myself here on a near constant bases, both at work and home, to find solutions to problems and just because I can. It is one of those rare sites which is invaluable not because of the information contained in it, but because of the users who give this information freely, all of whom I thank for the many answers I have found.

    "Pain is weakness leaving the body, I find myself in pain everyday" -me

      ...but because of the users who give this information freely....

      For all my words above, I think that phrase captures the essence of what I was trying to say above, and more accurately. Its not just free in the financial sense, but freely, in the 'willingly, and un-encumbered by quid pro quo' that is the distinguishing factor maybe.

      Examine what is said, not who speaks.
      "Efficiency is intelligent laziness." -David Dunham
      "When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." -Richard Buckminster Fuller

Re: Hope that helps -- 1 year on.
by sauoq (Abbot) on Jun 05, 2003 at 21:11 UTC
    I'll keep this as short as I can.


    ;-) ++BrowserUk

    "My two cents aren't worth a dime.";
Re: Hope that helps -- 1 year on.
by zby (Vicar) on Jun 04, 2003 at 15:41 UTC
    What I would like to read would be an analyzis how PM avoids those pitfalls you have listed.

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