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Help me understand...

by footpad (Abbot)
on Oct 18, 2000 at 20:52 UTC ( #37354=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

The novice takes a moment to reflect on his current XP, takes a deep breath, and hesitantly asks...

In trying to understand and learn this community's ideals, as well as the types of folks that hang out, I have been following Best Nodes and Worst nodes for the last several days. It's been interesting to see the posts that get voted down and those that get voted up.

However, I am curious why certain perl-related nodes that seem reasonable to me (again, a simple novice) get hammered while certain nodes that could be regarded as "off-topic" get voted highly.

I have gone through Super Search in an attempt to learn some general guidelines and there are a few. However, I must confess that I am still confused.

I would have continued watching quietly, save for a very lively set of exchanges on Chatterbox today. It seems that a number of novices, acolytes, and (well) newer members of the community have similar questions.

So, would the monks, abbots, and other high-level members be willing to share a general sense of the contributions they find valuable and consequently vote up? Also, it would be instructive to learn the criteria you use to vote down.

Please understand that I seek wisdom, not heat. I am not trying to start a fight and (as someone offered me in another thread), there's a bucket of water right *there* in case I've inadvertantly struck sparks with this question.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
RE: Help me understand...(FAQ anyone?)
by neshura (Chaplain) on Oct 19, 2000 at 03:24 UTC
    It is good to see the additional input on people's voting styles. I notice no one got around to pointing footpad to the Perl Monks FAQ, specifically, Voting Guidelines (or 'How should I spend my votes?').

    Obviously, you are free to vote in any way you like and (thus far) with confidence that the privacy of your vote is sacrosanct. I would guess that most people vote, if not logically, at least consistently. For some people, it is important to punish wasteful nodes. For other people, it is important to reward particularly thoughtful or detailed nodes. For some, it is important to seek out and upvote the nodes of prominent community members. For others, it is important to seek out and downvote those same nodes.

    Perhaps the community is large enough at this point that the inconsistent and illogical votes are mere outliers. Unfortunately, it seems like there has been a steady appearance of posts by recipients of a downvote or two (or ten, more rarely), requesting that the privacy of voting be overturned or that downvoting be limited to those who know what to do with them. Wherein the implicit idea is that there is someone out there more qualified to make that judgment, and the poster would perhaps be willing to volunteer some time out of his or her busy day to pass a few judgments.

    This concept has already been encapsulated in the voting/experience system though. New users simply cannot do much damage. They can't vote you down multiple times. They don't have many votes. The system is robust enough that in the aggregate, good posts go up and bad posts go down.

    This is not to say the system doesn't have problems. The most obvious problem is the observed behavior of visible posts (e.g. root nodes) receiving a disproportionate number of upvotes. I'd be interested to hear proposals about how to subtract the influence of node placement and timing from the voting process.

    e-mail neshura

      I think it's unfortunate that recipients of a downvote feel the need to complain to the heavens that voting changes immediately. In the context of this thread, however, I think that a statement on downvotes and their distribution is in fact within the bounds. The question was about why certain nodes get voted up or down, regardless of apparent content/context. I've received a few downvotes. I accept it as a fact of being on a moderated board. But when a question like this comes up, it has a double entendre.

      footpad wonders whether he is not seeing an underlying trend, and that is a fantastic thing for anybody who writes code to do. But since the trend would be gestalt to our individual voices, we can only say why we vote. I've noticed that of the responses, they come from monks who I already expect to hear why they voted ++ or --.

      When I have made statements in the past about voting, I did not do so to complain. I did so to generate discussion. Do I feel that the voting system is bad? No. Could it be better? Maybe. In regards to reputation viewing, it'd be nice, and I'm going to feel that way for some time to come.

      In order to finally get around to my big point, however, I looked at the Voting Guidelines (or 'How should I spend my votes?'), and I don't know why I've ever received downvotes. I haven't screamed to vroom whenever it's happened, either. I don't see the point. But, I also don't see the point of avoiding the question when it's clear that good ideas can come from a good heated impersonal argument. Since I've been a vocal proponent of considering change on this thread, I felt it necessary to at least defend my statements.

      ALL HAIL BRAK!!!


      Good points and thanks for the links. I find those very helpful.

      My pondering, though, wasn't about how to spend my votes. I find many things interesting and educational.

      In reviewing the nodes that appeared on Worst Nodes over the last several days (and reading the all-time residents), I saw nodes appear that I interpreted as reasonable questions/comments. My question, then, was an attempt to draw out the reasons why people vote down.

      What criteria do you use to vote up or down?

        Here's a lousy suggestion ;-)...

        It seems that your question isn't so much "why do people vote things down" as it's "why did these reasonable questions/comments get voted down".

        Perhaps if you specified which nodes you think got voted down for no discernable reason, we could tell you why we (hypothetically) would (or would not have) voted them down.

        It could be random... Once, I posted a reasonable question, and gave a flippant reply to one of the answers. I was surprised to see the reps of both the original question and the flippant reply shoot up over $NORM for no discernable reason -- so much so, I even asked (fruitlessly) why the reply was voted up so much! If flippant comments can have large meaningless reps, I suppose good posts may end up with large meaningless negative reps.

        But I could be wrong...

RE: Help me understand...
by ZZamboni (Curate) on Oct 18, 2000 at 23:13 UTC
    I agree completely with BlaisePascal's criteria. In general, I vote something up if I find it interesting, informative or insightful. This means that even non-perl-related discussion will get ++ from me if I think I learned something from it.

    I also rarely vote --, and only when the post is completely irrelevant, gratuitously agressive, or very badly formulated. This means that a Perl question may get voted down, because it's phrased like "I don't know what the problem is -please help me" followed by 300 lines of code. Extra bad if the code is not enclosed in CODE tags.

    As to "this community's ideals", I would say that the answer is in the word "community". We came here because of Perl, but we are all individuals with different experiences, opinions and interests, not all of them Perl-related. You learn as much in just chatting with other people as in reading deep technical posts. So IMHO, it's OK to get off-topic or philosophical every once in a while if it helps in fostering our spirit of community.


RE: Help me understand...
by BlaisePascal (Monk) on Oct 18, 2000 at 21:13 UTC
    I rarely vote myself -- I feel that votes should be reserved for exceptional cases, and not simply "vote 'em if you got 'em". I think I'm in the minority, though.

    I use different criteria for the different sections... I'll vote an obfuscation up if it is really clever, like the Big One, or informative, like japhy's Obfuscation Review. I'll vote a Discussion up if, like this one, it brings up an interesting thought-provoking topic to discuss. I'll rarely vote a SoPW up, but replies that are well-written, generalizable, and informative will get ++. And so forth.

    To get a -- vote from me usually requires extreme off-topicness, outright flaming, major lossage, or incredible stupidity on the part of the poster. I'll not give any examples, as I don't want to piss anybody off.


      A follow-up, if I may? What's "major lossage?"

        The jargon file defines lossage as:
        lossage /los'*j/ n. very common The result of a bug or malfunction. This is a mass or collective noun. "What a loss!" and "What lossage!" are nearly synonymous. The former is slightly more particular to the speaker's present circumstances; the latter implies a continuing lose of which the speaker is currently a victim. Thus (for example) a temporary hardware failure is a loss, but bugs in an important tool (like a compiler) are serious lossage.
        To me, a posting would have lossage if it was buggy, inaccurate, or suggested stupid or dangerous things (ex. suggesting that -T should be avoided in CGI scripts run as root because of the performance hit caused by tracing all the data movement). Major lossage is that ever so much more so.

        You could also take it to mean that the poster was suffering from a bug or other malfunction that caused him/her to post such a post.

RE: Help me understand...
by Petruchio (Vicar) on Oct 19, 2000 at 05:35 UTC
    I think one of the things to understand here is just how young this community is. Folks like footpad want to understand the Perl Monks Way... and really, there isn't one. Not quite yet. No voting standard is defined; vroom & Co. decided not to hand one down by fiat. Great decision, in my opinion, very Perlish. Let it evolve.

    It feels like there's starting to be one, like the collective personality of the community is becoming better defined. And conversations like this one are, I think, really important. Kudos to footpad for asking, and for caring enough about ettiquette to lurk and think.

    Anyway... here's an approximation of my ++ voting criteria, in descending order of importance:

    • Things which teach me something
    • Things which somebody obviously worked hard on
    • Things which are helpful, to me or someone else
    • Things which are funny
    • Expressions of politeness

    I rarely vote people down. Happily, many more things deserve ++ here than --. But I will vote down:

    • Rude or hurtful language
    • (False) Laziness
    • Anything which, if it becomes commonplace, could harm the community

    The first of these, I will always vote down. Civility is rare online, and we've got it in abundance. I want it to stay that way.

    As footpad pointed out, Laziness is a real judgement call, and I always give the benefit of the doubt. Some people are just beginners, and really need to ask simple questions... and they may not know the right questions to ask, or how to phrase a search in order to get on the right track. Also, if it's going to take you three days to dig up what someone could tell you off the cuff, IMHO you should ask. After all, what couldn't you figure out on your own, given enough time?

    Likewise with my lattermost criterion. Non-Perl posts (for instance), in great number, could mess up the site... but a strict Perl-only policy is too austere, and not enough fun for me.

    Anyway, many of the questions footpad asked me in private converstation were sensible, but he's right, the answers are not to be found in the site documentation. Hence, I'd like to suggest (and volunteer to write, make suggestions for, edit, whatever) some sort of page like, "Welcome to the Monastery", which would give friendly advice to newcomers... because there's more to getting along here than understanding official policy. The link to such a page should be prominent on the home page if you're not logged in; presently nothing immediately beckons to the newbie whose one thought is "help!"

    Also, some means ought, I think, be set up for newbies to get help without bothering everyone. If mail gets implemented, perhaps there could be a volunteer newbie-helper list. Or perhaps a newbie section. Some means by which newcomers can more easily get the hang of things, without disturbing the elder Monks' daily observances.

    Please tell me what you think about any aspect of this post.


      *Cheers*++ Excellent and well-rounded (imho).

      In reading the Camel books and followups, one gets senses that the Perl community has a identity of its own. This is echoed here (for obvious reasons).

      My posts over the lasts several days have been, in some ways, attempts to understand that identity. If one understands the community, one can be a better citizen in it.

      And I would be willing to help you in these efforts in any way I can.

      -- f
RE: Help me understand...
by swiftone (Curate) on Oct 18, 2000 at 23:37 UTC
    Voting habits are completely personal, there is no set rules. Open community. So if it doesn't make much sense to you, there's a reason :)

    That said, there are some things in common that many users here will share that may affect their voting habits. Here are the ones that affect mine:

    Any massive collection of info, such as PerlMonks, becomes unwieldy and useless as time goes on if there is no way to move the good long term stuff from the good short term stuff (and the junk-at-anytime stuff). Thus, in general, I only vote up posts that I would want to find in a search a year from now. I leave unvoted posts that are not of general use. (many replies an author makes to a reply to his/her thread fall in this category, as does a lot of humor). Downvoted is anything that can be answered via a FAQ, or running with use strict or -w. Security errors are downvoted, unless they've updated the node to mention it.

    Others may hold the virtual "Bar" higher, so that what I'm content to see as a 0 rep post they'd see as a -2.

    Ways to improve chances of getting ++

    1. Always run with use strict, -w
    2. Always provide sample data and sample output, and the exact error that resulted.
    3. Always list the thoughts you've had in trying to solve it.
    4. Always read the documention of the functions.
    Ways to improve chances of getting --
    1. Reinvent a common module, particularly
    2. Ask any question in the perlfaq, or one that shows up at least 5 times by using PerlMonks Search.
    3. Post your code in PRE tags rather than CODE tags. Make sure you have lines at least 250 characters long.
    4. Answer a question with blatantly (see #2) incorrect cargo-cult code
      "cargo cult code"?
        I had the exact same question when I heard the term. Cargo cult code (Jargon File entry) is WRONG (doesn't work/security risk/poor practice) code that is passed along anyways. A bad meme.

        A super search for "Cargo Cult" will give you some examples of the term being used, usually in reply to some code in that category. Merlyn is particularly vigorous in down-voting this code.

        Other "classic" examples are A lot of Matt Wright's perl CGI code, and the "Pragma: no-cache" myth.

RE: Help me understand...
by Fastolfe (Vicar) on Oct 18, 2000 at 23:22 UTC
    The one thing I don't really like about the voting habits of PerlMonks users is the tendency for people to downvote any post that doesn't have a positive value. And by that I mean a casual jab, joke, anything humorous really. In addition, frequently off-topic yet valuable conversations (in a sense) are often downvoted, because people do not feel they pertain to the topic at hand, or just because they're not strictly Perl-related.

    If it's desirable to have only clinically sterile Perl content, then I guess this behavior is warranted, but what's the harm in having an occasional tangential conversation, or posting something that this community in particular might find interesting or valuable but isn't strictly Perl-related? If you don't think the posts are particularly valuable, just don't vote them up. I tend to vote something down only when they truly detract from the site or the topic. Perhaps it would help if we started labeling any post that starts moving away from the topic at hand or Perl in general as "off-topic"/"OT"?

RE: Help me understand...
by PsychoSpunk (Hermit) on Oct 19, 2000 at 00:19 UTC

    BlaisePascal is not alone. I have very few days where I use all of my votes. My voting is based solely on my own interests. In many cases, that corresponds with the larger group. I actually posted once (and got severely beaten for it) that I'd like to be able to view reputation on posts. I understand the design decision, since it might lead to bandwagon voting, but it does help if you can see whether a post is considered worthy by your peers/higher-ups.

    footpad, I was impressed by your ability to justify yourself in that "fight", btw. In this case, I'm with you, as in I don't understand what fully makes a good node good and a bad node bad. I had a negative vote on some code I posted in craft, even though it was on-topic, and completely non-flammable. Further, I had only posted it for the benefit of an entirely different conversation. <shrug> I just figure that it's only fair of me to vote ++ on those that make me feel ++. I've probably only cast 2% of my total votes with a --. It seems that's a general consensus with the other monks (in the site name sense, not in rank) since it is probably only important to downvote if it really deserves the punishment.


      I also believe we have younger monks trying to use up/waste their votes to get XP by voting haphazardly. I've had two or three perfectly sane, legitimate and informative posts on a topic get voted down for no apparent reason. Clearly there are at least some people that downvote just to be a nuisance.

        Possibly it's time for a new design decision. You have to be at level x before you get a chance to downvote. That way, you have to learn the responsibility of knowing when to use your ++ votes since higher-ups who have the capability of -- can negate your choice. Of course that also requires knowing when a post has been unfairly ++. Hmm...

        But since your total votes are increased through experience, I guess that is the method to ensure that the older monks keep a balance of power. Well, if enough people take nosedives in XP due to haphazard downvoting, this might be something to consider, but the current method seems to have at least a little bit of balance in place.

        ALL HAIL BRAK!!!

RE: Help me understand...
by extremely (Priest) on Oct 19, 2000 at 10:48 UTC
    Others have explained quite well how I ++ but I'd like to add one thing to list of -- reasons. Strident hubris. The harsher someone is in passing out incorrect data, the greater is the likelyhood I'll knock em down. I do my best to keep an eye on the shimmery boundries of my own ignorance and expect others to do the same. merlyn and others who have shown great knowledge get a break on the hubris thing, they have the right to be a bit overbearing, they KNOW what they are talking about. =)

    Me, I hum and haw a bit and throw use strict; and -w and Benchmark at things before I get too loud.

    $you = new YOU;
    honk() if $you->love(perl)

(jptxs) RE: Help me understand...
by jptxs (Curate) on Oct 20, 2000 at 07:17 UTC

    since no one else has seen fit to respond to this... : )

    Obviously, many monks much more venerable and astute than we have given and regularly do give thought to this. So if you feel a bit confused, you're doing it right. ; )

    The only things I would add to this are:

    • neshura did you the best service by pointing you to the Perl Monks FAQ, it's there to help
    • You're absolutely right that there is no pattern or strict guideline to voting - this is an organic system we have here. lots of room for randomness an abberation.

    If you're asking questions like this - you must be doing all right. I always feel that it is the person who is doing things correctly that worries over it - I often do just that as well. No sparks here. : )

    -- I'm a solipsist, and so is everyone else. (think about it)

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