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I've fallen for this myself, but have recently noticed a few others doing so and wondered what people thought...

When a newbie asks a question, is it always best to answer with the most efficient code? I don't think so myself. I think it's important to help them gain the building blocks of 'baby code' needed to help them understand the answer and not just know the answer.

I think we should try to remember some basic rules when answering a newby question:

  • this may be their first attempt at Perl and they may not know what functions are available (don't RTFM them - learning what functions do what takes some time. If they are in their first week of Perl, we don't want to scare them away!). Of course, that doesn't mean you shouldn't point them to the RTFM page.
  • rephrase their question before answering if they have asked it very fuzzily
  • comment answers well
  • point to functions/modules you use and explain why you are using them

The temptation is always there to show how much you know (and yes, I'm guilty of answering some questions from that perspective), but what we should be trying to do is answer questions so that we help increase their knowledge.

A while ago I suggested we had a node for 'newbie questions'. I think this would be good, because it could have the specific rule that the answer is explained properly as well as answered properly. Eg,

-- for:

$string =~ s/\s+/ /g;

++ for

# replace all multiple whitespace characters from $string # \s represents a whitespace character (space, tab, newline etc) # + means 'one or more' $string =~ s/\s+/ /g;

ie, this section would encourage you to -- answers that answered the question but didn't really help the questioner.

Well, that's my .02. What do you think?

cLive ;-)


In reply to Writing answers for newbie questions by cLive ;-)

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