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PerlMonks  

PerlMonks for newbies?

by cosmicperl (Chaplain)
on Feb 06, 2009 at 23:26 UTC ( #742037=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Hi All,
  I've been planning another branch of PerlMonks aimed specifically at newbies. I was wondering what people thought about this?

I can only see benefits:-
  • Less newbie questions cluttering up PerlMonks
  • Understanding and welcoming environment for newbies
  • Higher level stuff would be directed to PerlMonks anyway
  • Less strain on the PerlMonks server
  • Easier to use interface (TinyMCE)
This is part of larger plans aimed and making Perl more attractive to new comers, particularly students and bring in new blood.

Lyle

Updated: Trying to make things clearer

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by mr_mischief (Monsignor) on Feb 06, 2009 at 23:55 UTC
    I gave you an upvote for thinking about improving things, but I will now wholeheartedly disagree with your stated mission of how to improve them. It sounds like a good idea on the surface, but I'm convinced by experience that it is not so good.

    As I read your node, I see mostly knocks against Perlmonks and the people you'd pull away from Perlmonks:

    • new users' questions aren't welcome at Perlmonks
    • Perlmonks is not an understanding nor welcoming environment
    • new users couldn't ask interesting questions, and couldn't answer them among themselves if they did
    • the PM servers and admin team aren't providing sufficient resources
    • a WYSIWYG visual layout interface that requires a mouse and a keyboard is more productive when producing a text-only node than what PM provides

    I'll start down your list.

    • If only newbies are on your site, who answers questions?
    • What's unwelcoming about the PM environment? What's unwelcoming about it specifically for newbies? What have you done to improve this situation? If you don't know how to improve it, how would you do better on a new site?
    • If higher-level stuff is here and lower-level stuff is there, then what do you do for the newbies leading newbies who confuse things and drive people away from the language altogether? Basic questions about the language can still be fundamental, and new users or Perl or PM aren't necessarily asking basic questions.
    • PM is running more smoothly right now than it was a few months ago. By splitting the site, you'd make each portion less likely to get resources than the combined whole. If you could bring a second server and a second set of bandwidth to PM users, why not to PM itself if you're worried about the strain?
    • TinyMCE might actually improve a few things for a few people. However, most of its utility would not be useful for a PM-like site. It requires additional complexity in the node editing pages. It takes additional bandwidth to serve the JavaScript for it. The best feature of TinyMCE for a site like PM is the automatic paragraph breaks, which are easy to do in the code for the node engine.

    I think your heart is in the right place, but I would strongly discourage trying to help PM or potential users of PM in this manner. I think your efforts would backfire on both counts.

      As I read your node, I see mostly knocks against Perlmonks and the people you'd pull away from Perlmonks:
      It certainly wasn't intended that way. I'll try to address your points:-
      new users' questions aren't welcome at Perlmonks
      I didn't mean this at all. New users are very welcome at PerlMonks. I was talking about really, really low level questions like "what is a scalar", "how do I divide 2 numbers", "how do I save to a file". The kind of things an absolute beginner would ask.
      Perlmonks is not an understanding nor welcoming environment
      I really wasn't saying that. PerlMonks is welcoming and understanding. Although really, really basic questions like the ones I just mentioned tend to get hit with a lot of downvoting.
      new users couldn't ask interesting questions, and couldn't answer them among themselves if they did
      I don't know how you got that :/
      the PM servers and admin team aren't providing sufficient resources
      I'm not saying that. Some times PerlMonks.org does run pretty slow, that's a fact. I'm not complaining or blaming any one. I'm putting it down to a very high level of traffic
      a WYSIWYG visual layout interface that requires a mouse and a keyboard is more productive when producing a text-only node than what PM provides
      I'm saying that absolute beginners would find a WYSIWYG interface much easier to use. Some don't know HTML.

      If only newbies are on your site, who answers questions?
      The site would be intended *for* newbies to ask their low level simple Perl questions. I'm not saying only newbies would be on there. With really basic questions most Perl programmers would be able to answer them.
      What's unwelcoming about the PM environment? What's unwelcoming about it specifically for newbies? What have you done to improve this situation? If you don't know how to improve it, how would you do better on a new site?
      To be honest the site looks very dated. New Perl programmers the new site would be targetting are likely to be young students 14-21. They expect things to look at lot better these days. If you ask a really basic or dumb question here you'll generally go into negative XP very quickly. I'd be more than happy to provide a new modern interactive design for this site :)
      If higher-level stuff is here and lower-level stuff is there, then what do you do for the newbies leading newbies who confuse things and drive people away from the language altogether? Basic questions about the language can still be fundamental, and new users or Perl or PM aren't necessarily asking basic questions.
      You'd have people like myself keeping an eye on things :)
      PM is running more smoothly right now than it was a few months ago. By splitting the site, you'd make each portion less likely to get resources than the combined whole. If you could bring a second server and a second set of bandwidth to PM users, why not to PM itself if you're worried about the strain?
      There are other things to consider. PM is only one site, it can only have so much reach on the interweb. A new site on different servers (I plan to provide) would increase Perl's reach.
      TinyMCE might actually improve a few things for a few people. However, most of its utility would not be useful for a PM-like site. It requires additional complexity in the node editing pages. It takes additional bandwidth to serve the JavaScript for it. The best feature of TinyMCE for a site like PM is the automatic paragraph breaks, which are easy to do in the code for the node engine.
      I agree it would improve a few things for a few people. Easy of use for new people. I don't think a lot of the higher end people would like it, but that's just another point towards another site.

      The idea isn't to split up PerlMonks, but to support it, and particularly to support and attract new programmers to Perl.

      Lyle
        First I'll rebut your rebuttal.

        • You called questions from new users clutter.
        • You said a plus of the new environment would be that it was friendly and welcoming. How is that a distinction if PM is to be considered those things upon reading it?
        • You said "Higher level stuff would be directed to PerlMonks anyway" which means you don't intend your new site to handle "higher level stuff". If your site isn't capable of handling higher level stuff but it gets asked there anyway, who answers it?
        • You said you wanted to cause "Less strain on the PerlMonks server" which can only be taken to mean you'd be taking users from PM or making people read two sites. Most people won't split their Perl-questions-on-website time across two sites. Most will be on one or the other. PM would reach down to help new users up anyway. Your site would eventually grow to handle increasingly experienced users as the community forms around it. It'd be Perlmonks:Alternate rather than an adjunct newbie-friendly area.
        • The text boxes are not the biggest usability issues with PM in the first place. There are all sorts of nodes for things that have links scattered above the input boxes, in the hep section, and in the CB conversations of the monks. A master directory of useful links would be a much bigger boon than TinyMCE.

        Now I'll rebut your new points:

        The site would be intended *for* newbies to ask their low level simple Perl questions. I'm not saying only newbies would be on there. With really basic questions most Perl programmers would be able to answer them.
        Those users would be the newbies you recruited to your site and the people from PM who gave up time on PM or on #perl or the comp.lang.perl Usenet hierarchy to answer those questions. If you have them ask their questions one of the existing places, there are already experienced users for them to ask.
        To be honest the site looks very dated. New Perl programmers the new site would be targetting are likely to be young students 14-21. They expect things to look at lot better these days. If you ask a really basic or dumb question here you'll generally go into negative XP very quickly. I'd be more than happy to provide a new modern interactive design for this site :)
        As the saying goes... "patches welcome". The customizations you'd be able to make to Everything2 (which you asked about in the CB) would take you quite a while to even get to where PM is, as the PM developers are still actively improving the site on a regular basis. Much of PM can be styled with CSS that other versions of the Everything Engine can't. Why not offer better CSS themes? Just don't expect to submit an unsolicited patch against stock Everything2 and have it accepted.

        I'm a web developer myself, you know. Who says your new, beautiful site would be to my liking? Or to that of any number of others? Yes, PM looks a bit dated. That's because it actually has been around a while. But more changes are made to this than to your download of the code. Why not start here?

        You'd have people like myself keeping an eye on things :)
        So you're willing to watch the nodes over there 24/7 to make sure the answers are all acceptable? Somehow I think you're thinking of your site filling a great need but getting very little traffic. That's a disparity of thought, IMO. If it's very big need as you seem to think, then it should get too much traffic for one or two people to police it. More eyes on a question bring more different answers, as you can see in many PM threads. Are you ready for your small band of heroes to suggest all of those?
        There are other things to consider. PM is only one site, it can only have so much reach on the interweb. A new site on different servers (I plan to provide) would increase Perl's reach.
        This is a strawman. eBay is only one site (well, except that they have international versions). The same with Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and CNN. CPAN, SourceForge, Tucows, Simtel, kernel.org, and the GNU project (other than that these have mirrors) are each one site. The way to reach new people is to have different types of sites: perl.com, perl.org, perlbuzz.com, perlmonks.org, and others. It's not to have two of the same type of site targeted across a fuzzy gradation of users.
        I agree it would improve a few things for a few people. Easy of use for new people. I don't think a lot of the higher end people would like it, but that's just another point towards another site.
        There's no reason to need another site to use or not use a visual editor. Lots of CMSes support dozens of different plugins for their content areas. Markdown, BBCode, Textile, TinyMCE, Xinha, FCKEditor, etc. Slashdot gives the choice between plain text (auto paragraph breaks) and HTML (you must break your own). Lucid CMS comes with multiple plugins, and some other CMSes come with multiples already in the package too.

        If you're sure HTML is such a problem, then come up with specific suggestions about how to make PM better. Just remember they'll have to be optional.

        Finally, consider that lots of people want PM updated and tweaked. There is just not a lot of consensus on what updates and tweaks take precedence. If you have a specific list of things and can get them approved, you'd be helping PM be the site you want. Planning to start an alternative site just so you're the one calling all the shots just seems like an end-around past the process of gathering consensus.

        Back when I was first learning, and asking lots of basic questions here, I was very happy to see questions posted that I could answer. It gave me a way to contribute something to a site/community that helped me. As my level of knowledge increased, I was able to help with harder problems. I even gave bad advice a few times, and benefited immensely from being set straight.

        An additional site runs the risk of fracturing the community and depriving all sites of the critical mass they need to be self-sustaining, useful communities. IMO, It would be better to focus on improving PM.

        So, if we accept that one site is better (which you really needn't), apply your ideas to PM, we'd update the UI and separate/track content by "difficulty level".

        Modern UI

        PM my be old-fashioned (sooo very 2001!) looking, but it doesn't rely on buggy javascript and AJAX to add flashy features that die on certain browsers or slow-connections. This is a pet peeve of mine when it comes to StackOverflow. In some ways the interface is very nice. But it is fragile. If an upvote request has an error, I can't vote or see comments until I reload the page. I frequently have problems reading comments on nodes when using a slow internet connection.

        I would be open to UI improvements that do not make Javascript mandatory. Stack overflow's node editing interface is great. I'm not sure how well it degrades w/o javascript, though.

        Tracking PM by "Difficulty Level"

        IMO, it would be sad to see perlmonks tracked by user-level. It would deprive future members of the opportunity to learn and grow organically in an open, level community.

        I could see adding some kind of "difficulty level" tagging to nodes as part of the moderation system, that would allow users to easily filter their view if they so desired.

        I wouldn't have used such a mode early on, anyway. I read nodes and discussions I didn't understand, but doing so helped me to grow and guided my investigations. Now, I often read "basic" nodes, because sometimes I find a great insight or have a basic misunderstanding of mine dispelled.

        If you believe a tracked interface to PM is important, talk to the pmdevs and sell them on it. Also, I suspect that you would need to be willing to do a good chunk of code to the table.

        Conclusion

        While I disagree with your ideas, I am gratified to see your interest in improving PM and working for the benefit of the Perl community. The cooperative exchange and development of ideas that makes a community strong.


        TGI says moo

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by jethro (Monsignor) on Feb 07, 2009 at 00:01 UTC

    It seems to me similar to the idea of having two emergency numbers for calling the police. One for the small emergencies and one for the serious emergencies

    But seriously, here are some disadvantages:

    • It splits up the helpers.
    • perl users need to know two websites and ...
    • decide which one to use depending on the problem. Don't think that will work. For a beginner any question he can't answer is advanced
    • and they need an account on both if they have newbie and advanced questions
    • A lot of people like perlmonks.org because they can help AND learn. Most of them would have to read both websites

    I'm not saying the idea is bad, but there are definitely disadvantages

      It seems to me similar to the idea of having two emergency numbers for calling the police. One for the small emergencies and one for the serious emergencies
      I was thinking more along the lines of asking questions of your primary school teacher, compared to later in life asking serious questions of your University professor.

      It splits up the helpers.
      I was thinking more of creating new helpers. Most Perl programmers could be very helpful to complete beginners. Whereas a lot of the questions you get here are high level stuff, only top Perl programmers can answer a lot of them.
        For example I'd consider myself an intermediate Perl programmer. I try and always answer a question here when I come to ask one. I don't hang round a lot of answer questions as I know there are much better people already here. On a low level newbie site I'd be more inclined to hang round more as I'd be able to help a lot more people. I believe others would feel the same.
      perl users need to know two websites and ...
      decide which one to use depending on the problem. Don't think that will work. For a beginner any question he can't answer is advanced

      and they need an account on both if they have newbie and advanced questions
      I'd think more than they'd start on one, and move onto another.
      A lot of people like perlmonks.org because they can help AND learn. Most of them would have to read both websites
      I don't see that most of them would have to read both websites :/ Obviously they could if they wanted to. Anything new and interesting that did crop up on the newbie site would then be mentioned here as well, removing the need for people to monitor both. But really there shouldn't be anything like that on the newbie site as it'd be intended for absolute beginners.


      Lyle

        I have my doubts a "low level" copy of perlmonks will really be a benefit. But feel free to do it. Still, you should think about something to distinguish your site from perlmonks, maybe with an interactive programming course on that website.

        I was thinking more of creating new helpers.

        Whence would the new helpers come?

        And you didn't even know bears could type.

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by roboticus (Chancellor) on Feb 07, 2009 at 06:17 UTC
    cosmicperl:

    I'm amused about the amount of traffic I've seen on this thread. In fact, I'm amusing myself by actually commenting on it. But you happened to catch me after midnight on an evening when I've drunk a few too many black Russians, and it's well past my bedtime.... 8^)

    • I don't see newbie questions as clutter. I get frustrated sometimes about the fact that they don't search first, and that they don't review the archives, and they don't hang around for a week before their first post. (By the way, I lurked on the site for about a year before I finally created an account and created my first post.) But then again, PerlMonks isn't the same-old same-old website. There are quite a few websites where all the action is on the first few pages and there's no incentive to search through the older threads. But it's simple enough skip over the questions you've answered a dozen times already, so that's not a problem. And if you're bored, it's also simple to try to refine one of your earlier replies to a question to make things even better. If you look over anyone's history here, you'll see periods where the members are *incredibly* helpful, and periods when they're apparently bored because they skip questions. Some are very prolific (iki & Gramps), some are more reticent, but we're all here for the same thing: This place just works!
    • As a group, I think we're pretty understanding and welcoming ... though sometimes we're a bit terse/brusque when people expect us to read their minds. Penitent: "Oh prithee hallowed Monks. Prithee wouldst thou but render unto me assistance in banishment of the travails of my most recent incantation ... blah blah blah" Respondent: "Oh, what problem? What code? I'm not a freakin' psychic, ya know. You might try using "use strict; use warnings;", posting some code and/or an actual error message, or even using Super Search to find similar questions, and reading How (Not) To Ask A Question, I know what I mean. Why don't you? and/or (I'd stick in a reference to the "X-Y problem node" but I forgot it...) etc.
    • Higher level stuff.... no comment...
    • Less strain on the PerlMonks server ... Yeah, it can be a bit slow at times. But I view that as an opportunity to run "perldoc xyzzy". I'm a bit too frenetic anyway. The slowness is great training for my patience(?sp?).
    • Easier to use interface? I'm sorry, but I don't get you here. I'm an old VT-52 user, and I find it quite usable. I know it's not as "pretty" or "modern" as other websites. But I actually like that. I don't discount things just because they don't fold in every bell and whistle imaginable. I haven't found any shortcomings in the site, so it's not bothering me. Is it pretty? Well, no probably not. But then again, if I wanted pretty I'd be watching "purty grafix" on some other site. For me, content is king. I'd actually be a bit annoyed if they spent bandwidth shooting fancy GIF images and mouseover crap at me. In fact, I think the interface is quite fancy enough.

    Now, if that didn't make me sound somewhat like a curmudgeon, then this will.... I don't particularly care if someone is going to avoid the site because it "doesn't have enough bling". People who are impressed by shinys aren't the sort of people I want to spend my time on. </bastard-mode;>

    Like mr mischief, I upvoted you because it's a good thing to want to improve the site in some way. I just disagree that the site needs improvements in those particular directions.

    Oh, well, I was expecting to make Parson soon, but I expect this node will put a damper on that. C'est la vie!

    (The funny thing is, though XP is meaningless, the only reason I signed up here is because I wanted to post a reply, and then I found that the XP is an amusing thing to keep you coming back. "Gee, I wonder how my last post fared?" ... "What? Negative XP? Whose Cheerios did I piss in?"

    --rusty robot

    (This node is proof positive that one shouldn't post when one is ... tipsy.) I hope I haven't offended anyone. If so, just downvote me....

        Easier to use interface? I'm sorry, but I don't get you here. I'm an old VT-52 user, and I find it quite usable. I know it's not as "pretty" or "modern" as other websites. But I actually like that.

      Word.

      OK -- I've been writing code for 30 years, so all this newfangled Web stuff is pretty awesome to me. Sure, PM doesn't any fancy AJAX hacks or gorgeous eye candy -- I don't care -- it's a fantastic user community and repository of Perl knowledge, and I don't care much *what* it looks like.

      And I used a Lear Seigler ADM-3A years before I moved up to a VT-100. :)

      Alex / talexb / Toronto

      "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by GrandFather (Sage) on Feb 07, 2009 at 00:09 UTC

    We already have a "PerlMonks for newbies". It's called PerlMonks. And Hey, you've found it already!

    I can only see disadvantages in offering a PerlAspirent web site:

    • Fewer newbie questions generating traffic at PerlMonks and therefore less interest in the site
    • Mentors with less experience providing less understanding of poorly asked questions and poorer answers
    • Confusion over where to post questions and double posting
    • Less incentive to improve PerlMonks interface
    • Ok, that is an extreme stance than is really warranted

    Points for wishing to help, but splitting the effort is not the way to do it in this case.


    Perl's payment curve coincides with its learning curve.
      Fewer newbie questions generating traffic at PerlMonks and therefore less interest in the site
      If the new site can help generate new people using Perl, then it'll end up directing more intermediate/advanced questions.
      Mentors with less experience providing less understanding of poorly asked questions and poorer answers
      I'll admit that is a concern. But the way people code changes a lot as they get better. Some things it's important to get right form the start, such as form 2 email security. Whereas sometimes the *best* way is to complicated and off putting for a newbie who just wants it to *work*.
      Confusion over where to post questions and double posting
      Personally I don't see this as much of a problem. A difficult post to the newbie site would just have a response that they'd be better off at PerlMonks.org
      Less incentive to improve PerlMonks interface
      I don't agree with this. If the newbie site looked better, or functioned better in any way then I'd think that's much more incentive to improve the PerlMonks interface.
        A difficult post to the newbie site would just have a response that they'd be better off at PerlMonks.org

        Which would, presumably, lead to people at PerlAspirants seeing a few "go ask on PerlMonks"-type responses and deciding, "I may as well ditch this site and just ask on PerlMonks to start with and save myself the trouble."

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by Old_Gray_Bear (Bishop) on Feb 07, 2009 at 03:39 UTC
    How would this be different from the Beginners List at Perl.Org? I'd be a bit worried about diluting the pool of experts responding. There are already a number of Monks who split their attention between the Monastery and the Beginners.

    Another thought, one of the things that drew me initially to the Monastery was the lack of 'elitism'. Instead of a terse RTMF to the Truely Clueless, the usual Monkly response is to point them to the 'How To Ask A Question' node. By splitting the Monastery into a Newbie camp and a Oldsters camp, you may end up sending a signal that you don't to -- "my question is not important enough to bother the to the Monks with."

    I appreciate your basic idea, to make Perl more accessible, but I'm not comfortable with with your proposed implementation.

    ----
    I Go Back to Sleep, Now.

    OGB

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by Your Mother (Bishop) on Feb 07, 2009 at 01:07 UTC

    Agree with the above, especially mr_mischief's sentiment of great way to think, bad idea in this case. Taking the beginners out of here would be messing with a healthy ecosystem. When a big part of an ecosystem is excised from the bottom or even a small part from the top (apex predators for example; losing just one of BrowserUK, tye, or ikegami would change the timbre of the whole place) there are invariably unexpected, usually unwanted, results.

      I agree that 'messing with a healthy ecosystem' is bad (I, for one, find the posts of those three incredibly informative and helpful). However, what of people who aren't part of the ecosystem? I'm sure there are people out there who, for reasons Andy Lester outlined, find Perlmonks too intimidating / complex / archaic looking / whatever, and consequently go elsewhere or even chuck Perl and learn Ruby. Perhaps another, separate offering of the sort cosmicperl is describing could benefit people outside the Perlmonks community who would not otherwise benefit?


      Life is denied by lack of attention,
      whether it be to cleaning windows
      or trying to write a masterpiece...
      -- Nadia Boulanger

        You actually come close to making a sale. Ecosystems only get interesting and diverse through pressures which can include competition.

        I suppose ultimately I see it as Perl Monks is great but Perl Monks is not well enough known or used or recommended. I'd rather see some evangelism for this site than a new site. I confess, however, that a new site done right might be good for Perl.

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by CountZero (Bishop) on Feb 07, 2009 at 14:45 UTC
    It's a free world. If you really wish to run a "Perlmonks-the-newbies"-site, I wish you all the luck. Just know that it will be very difficult to emulate the success of this site. I cannot think of another site that is as close-knit as this bunch of totally different people and still welcomes all newcomers in their ranks.

    The worst thing that could happen is that you give up half-way through and that all these abandoned newbies retreat in disgust from our beautiful language and start coding in PHP or --may the Gods forbid-- Java.

    CountZero

    A program should be light and agile, its subroutines connected like a string of pearls. The spirit and intent of the program should be retained throughout. There should be neither too little or too much, neither needless loops nor useless variables, neither lack of structure nor overwhelming rigidity." - The Tao of Programming, 4.1 - Geoffrey James

      newbies retreat in disgust from our beautiful language and start coding in PHP or --may the Gods forbid-- Java.
      I'm afraid this is already happening and has been for some time. Addressing this issue and bringing new people to Perl which these days would automatically go straight to PHP is the real aim for this project, and all the surrounding plans.


      Lyle
Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by zentara (Archbishop) on Feb 07, 2009 at 15:42 UTC
    There already is a place for absolute newbie questions, it's called the perl.beginners maillist/newsgroup. Although the level of questions posted there are not much different from posts here. IMHO, this is a very friendly site for newbies.... of course you will get pointed to reading existing docs/tutorials, or googling for previous code examples, but what do you expect? Even in a paid school setting, a teacher will not write code for you, you will need to show some effort on your part, like reading something beforehand.

    I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth Remember How Lucky You Are
Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by ELISHEVA (Prior) on Feb 07, 2009 at 21:02 UTC

    My sense as a newcomer is that the mix of new and old is precisely what draws many to this site and is essential to its culture. I was awed the other day as I saw two people use the chatterbox to patiently talk someone through how to set up a complex hash. Also I think the experienced people may need the newbies even more than then newbies need the experienced people.

    • It keeps people fresh - it is so-o-o easy to forget what it was like when one was first learning -both on a technical and emotional level. The mix allows more experienced people to remember what it was once like and some of us want that. It makes us better at our jobs and better people too.
    • It attracts caring people with teaching skills - such people find the opportunity to share and learn essential. Sharing makes life worthwhile. Learning prevents burn-out and gives one something to share.
    • It functions as a weed out - people who really dislike being "bothered" by newbie questions, simply aren't going to find participation attractive and are going to focus on other venues.

    But I also think there are things to be done that would make the site more approachable for a newcomer. I've been programming for over 20 years and "speak" several different programming languages, but even for me it took a lot of courage to make that first post. And that despite some excellent and well thought out FAQs.

    I think a discussion about what would help make it easier to bring beginners into the community could be very constructive. I'll start with a few suggestions. I'd be happy to help implement them, but at the moment that is little more than sentiment (I have 100's of XP to go before I can join any site group).

    • A page named "Beginner's corner". This page would let someone who sees him or herself as a beginner post a question/reflection/etc with the promise that it would be placed on a "real" page by someone with more experience. When the node was approved it would continue to appear on the beginners page so that beginners could see questions posted by other people "like me" and on a normal page so that the beginner could see by example where an experienced person would post it.
    • Preview mode for update. beginners are more likely to feel the need to review and review anything they write, be it first post or update to existing post.
    • Ability to preview private messages and chatter box messages. It is very scary to post a message for the first or second time in your life and not be able to see how others might see it.

    Best, beth

      Ability to preview private messages and chatter box messages. It is very scary to post a message for the first or second time in your life and not be able to see how others might see it.
      I often post on my Private scratchpad, which allows me to preview again and again, prior to posting anywhere (inlcuding /msg and CB). Every monk's home node has a Private scratchpad which other monks can not view. Granted that there are some differences between /msg, CB and other posts (such as length), but this should be pretty much WYSIWYG. Obviously, this is not as convenient as the ability to preview on /msg or CB, but it is an alternative.

      Of course, this also applies to previewing updates.

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by repellent (Priest) on Feb 07, 2009 at 19:42 UTC
    cosmicperl, what a great node! I appreciate your enthusiasm in this matter.

    Though I agree somewhat with points about taking attention away from PerlMonks, I do wonder how much of a dent it would actually make. Like CountZero said, it's a free world. So go forth and give it a shot!, only if you can see it to the end.

    Being relatively new at PM, I do feel that there is a certain tough love that goes on around here. It takes a little getting used to, but it's definitely a put-off for very new beginners and not conducive at all to bringing in new blood. This, I believe, is part of what you're trying to address and I'm all for it.

    It's comforting that there are senior monks, like tye, who still understand that the human-aspect of Perl is more important than the pedagogical-aspect, at the beginner level. In this node, he drives the point through with:

      I love it when a very basic question gets answered by somebody with roughly the same experience level as the person asking but who happens to know something about that specific subject.

    and

      But, as a senior Monk pointed out on some other site, you can't stop know-it-alls from jumping in over and over. So it might be worthwhile to have a place that offers a culture of telling the know-it-alls to go to PerlMonks if they want to "go all PerlMonks" on people.

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by matze77 (Friar) on Feb 07, 2009 at 18:02 UTC

    I agree with the many answers as i think it is *not a good idea to fork PM*.
    completely UPDATED: Maybe it would be better to help make this site a little "new user friendlier" (write tutorials/guides add a book review make this a good place for new users to get started. There are many valuable users around here the only little problem i see is that some information for new users here migt be a little outdated, I am not at the level to fix it so dont ask ;-) ... )
    spread the word. Link from your webpages to PM ...
    I think PM is newbie friendly (as long as you respect some basic rules as on any site).

    I dont think you could prevent people to post newbie questions at all. So it is no use to create a place for newbies only cause they wont all be there, and if they be there the experts which should answer the questions might not be willing to be around cause of the uninteresting newbie questions. (I got some Admin mailing lists subscribed and there are always some basic Desktop users questions asked there too from misguided new users you cant prevent that ... There will always be people who wont read the manuals, imho thats human nature to take the easy way ...)

    Some things that surprised me about Perl in general :
    Perl is not well known to be a good language for "web development", i would say Perl is not widely known at all (compared to PHP, Java but i am luckily not the person that is blinded easily by "Hypes" and "Bling-Bling" ...).
    I hate those badly designed Flash sites (especially since i am often on a low bandwith connection), which want me to download the latest flash player e.g. or those nasty videos that are already on the Start page so please dont make PM to such a cruel site. Perlmonks can be basically read with links http://links.sourceforge.net/ and that is a good thing ;-).

    Personally i thought (before i started to try it out) Perl only might help for sysadmin tasks ..."
    What might help: Put a small text on your webpages "designed with Perl" and link to Perl ressources? .

    I think Perl needs more public relations. (I told a friend that i want to learn Perl programming he answered "Oh yes i did some Perl a few years ago, but isnt Perl dead? I didnt hear much of it lately ...)
    Just my 2 newbie cents

    btw: I am just around here for 3 month (got fewer time to practice than i wished), but i found this site invaluable for me as a newbie to Perl.
    In fact i count it to one of the best places i found so far. I think the XP thing is a good aproach ( i must admit that i did not ask a few very basic questions cause i feared XP loss, that is a small drawback. But in general it is good and helps to find the worthy nodes i badly wished this would be possible for some mailinglists i subscribed too ...).
    The design of the Site is good, it is well structured, hanging around the CB Other CB Clients i learned many things by the way ...

    Thank you all for your help and wisdom
    MH
Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by moritz (Cardinal) on Feb 07, 2009 at 15:27 UTC
    I agree with the others who have replied in that it's a bad idea to fork perlmonks off.

    However I do think that there are aspects where perlmonks could be made easier accessible for new visitors, for example an option for simpler markup. I'd welcome it if somebody took it up to incorporate that into the existing monastery (I planned that at one point, but didn't have enough tuits :(, so the project is (indefinitely) stalled for now).

    (Update) for example I would appreciate it if I could use POD markup here (with more features for links), because it makes paragraphs and code areas easier.

      However I do think that there are aspects where perlmonks could be made easier accessible for new visitors, for example an option for simpler markup.

      Erm... the markup required for a post at PerlMonks is already easy and dead simple (all I use is p, c, code, blockquote, i - well, sometimes ul,li - and the PM markup syntax). Of course, it is a terrible new thing for those not having any knowledge of HTML at all, despite them relying on it all the time while browsing "the web".

      If such people come here to learn from the answers to their questions, pointing them to HTML basics will make their life easier as programmers, not only inside the confines of PerlMonks.

      Those that come here to learn will be taught the basics rather than being driven off. I don't care about one-time GIMME-visitors.

      Using a WYSIWYG HTML editor is not making things easier, but would mean replacing one mess with another.

      POD would make things easier for you (in some areas), but not for the newcomer or perl beginner.

      Hey, how about pitching this to TPF the next time grants come around?
Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by salazar (Scribe) on Feb 07, 2009 at 20:18 UTC
    I dislike this idea. Mostly, as other people have said, because it creates more ground to cover -- and in the end, I don't think the new site would be frequented by experts.

    As for the site interface, well that's life. I don't mind it at all. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it's fine. And as a side note, all of the Perl coding I've done so far (albeit I've only been working with it for a few days) has been from the command line. If somebody comes along who absolutely cannot use a site that's not 100% AJAX powered and flashy, they probably aren't going to like coding in any language.

    Still, I am not going to deny that you make one strong point - the environment. As a newbie to Perl, I feel out of place asking, even in the chatter box, something quick while looking at all the advanced stuff going on.

    What I would suggest is adding a section for beginners, where simple questions could be asked. It would probably also help to emphasize these tutorials at the top of that section or whatnot. Because even if newbie questions are completely welcome, it doesn't feel like they are to somebody just getting started with Perl and PM.
      it creates more ground to cover

      Heh, after playing Risk 12/7 for the past week, I can further the above metaphor (jokingly, of course).

      Using the traditional Risk map, and not taking into account pretty much anything, I would say technically inclined websites are Europe, and beginners to the internet are mainland North America. (Don't worry about the fact that one continent is made of websites and the other people.) PerlMonks is perhaps Spain (the blue #7 on the map). Greenland and Iceland (yellow #5, blue #2) are, obviously, for technically inclined people; they know HTML, CSS, and maybe can put together a computer if given instructions. (Have I lost you?) The branch of PM is probably Quebec (yellow #8) as you describe it.

      As you can see, it is not the best strategical move. However, if you are successful, there is possibility a bridge may be built to connect the two countries. If that were true, then there would be a bunch of newbies here in Programming land. Newbies, who, of course, know Perl. That leaves Spain weak, and able to be taken over!

      My batterty is running low and there is no power source in sight so I will leave you to imagine the rest.

      By the way, PHP is probably somewhere around Peru...

      (Note that I wanted to incorporate the online communities map but got too lazy to really think it though.)

      And you didn't even know bears could type.

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by jdporter (Canon) on Feb 09, 2009 at 19:06 UTC

    IIRC, an analogous proposal was raised on comp.lang.perl.misc, probably more than twice.
    One part of your idea, sequestering the newbie content, was even discussed here once, in Uber-newbie section.

    Others have offered reasons why such a split might not be in the best interest of the community;
    I'll address your reasoning. You allege four potential benefits:

    • Less newbie questions cluttering up PerlMonks
    • Understanding and welcoming environment for newbies
    • Less strain on the PerlMonks server
    • Easier to use interface (TinyMCE)

    (The other bullet, "Higher level stuff would be directed to PerlMonks anyway", is not really a benefit; it's simply an attempt on your part to allay fears of one potential negative effect of the split.)

    Those four "benefits" imply and presume four corresponding problems, extant or imminent:

    • Too many newbie questions cluttering up PerlMonks
    • Environment not understanding and welcoming for newbies
    • Server overloaded
    • Interface lacks modern ease-of-use features
    So the question (which you have begged) is: Are these really problems at PerlMonks?

    If they are, is a fork of PerlMonks really the best solution?

    Your implied answer is "yes" on both counts. Here's what I think...

    Too many newbie questions cluttering up PerlMonks

    Negative. PerlMonks is a top-to-bottom community. If you are bothered by newbie questions, then the problem is with you, not with PerlMonks or the newbies. I think, statistically, having more novice-level questions than guru-level questions is to be expected.

    Environment not understanding and welcoming for newbies

    By "environment", I assume you're referring to people - the ones who regularly hang out in the chatterbox and the ones who reply to posts. This is undoubedly a problem, to some extent. But I differ with you on what would be the best approach to solving it. I believe that the preferable solution would be to fix this aspect of PerlMonks. Simply hiding people from it would do grave damage to PerlMonks: leaving a serious problem unfixed, and eliminating a large and vital part of our user base. See the rest of this thread for more reasons. :-)

    Server overloaded

    Unless you have reason to believe that monks' experience of the site is being measurably negatively affected by server load, you shouldn't care about this. And you should also know that the site sysadmins are actively working on improving performance.

    Interface lacks modern ease-of-use features

    Guilty. But the PerlMonks engine is constantly evolving, and it's not too late to bring those kinds of features into it. If you have specific ideas, please feel free to suggest them in PMD. Again - why should only the newbies get the goodies?

    IMHO, YMMV, IANAL, KTHXBAI.

    Between the mind which plans and the hands which build, there must be a mediator... and this mediator must be the heart.
Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by cutlass2006 (Pilgrim) on Feb 10, 2009 at 12:12 UTC

    I think as with all websites, there is a bit that can be improved on PerlMonks.

    The suggestions in this thread though seem to vacillate between evolution versus revolution. For those who want revolution, perhaps go make your own website ... even better if PerlMonks provided a data api to repurpose content to that site.

    As for evolution, there is plenty that could be done e.g. what about starting off simply

    • provide options like textarea editing as a progressivly disclosed option
    • interact with larger community via twitter, delicious, web irc
    • ratonalize site navigation ... lots could be tweaked here
    • tweak content information especially categorization perhaps using colors
    • expose data via RESTful interface
    • add a 'Getting started with Perl'
    • freshen up the design ... higher readability
    • add appropriate high level bifurcations (like here is the route to Perl6 ) ... actually, I think posts could benefit from tagging (aka delicious)
    Lastly I think PerlMonks could learn a trick or three from other sites ... for example stackoverflow is a good place to start looking.

    Of course, everyone has their own opinion of what should be done ... and 'design by committee' sometimes makes something no one likes, but I think there are a number of things that could be done to make the site more accessible to all users, newbie or otherwise

      Regarding Twitter, there is Perlnews which seems to broadcast all new (root?) nodes from Perlmonks onto Twitter.

        twitter may just be this years '8 track tape player' or the latest in a long line of internet 'fashion'... won't be long until advertising will probably make people flee to some other communication space ... in the meantime, would be dead simple for PerlMonks to take advantage of it.

        Instead of using it as just a place to have a broadcast firehose ... why not something a bit more personal and engaging e.g. humans tweeting .. I sometimes think the analogy of commentator (as in sports) works with tweeting, e.g. would be interesting to get perspective of whats going on with PerlMonks right now ... I would also recommend following all the people who follow you.

      The stackoverflow site is horrendously slow to scroll (vertically with either the keyboard or the mouse) in Firefox 2.x, 3 & Opera 9.x. Disabling JavaScript alone does not ameliorate; disabling all CSS (with or without disabling JavaScript) seems to help much.

        yes stackoverflow has its problems as well ... my point was to look at what it is doing correctly and consider how this could be applied to PerlMonks.

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by fullermd (Priest) on Feb 07, 2009 at 21:07 UTC

    JFDI

    If it works, it works. If it doesn't, you can say "oh well" and try something else.

      I will be. This wasn't much more than a test to see what people here though of the idea. But an important one.

      This project is a part of much bigger and broader plans.

      Keep an eye out for "Fixing the Perl Mushroom" that I'll be posting to my blog, use.perl and just about everywhere else for that matter. (albeit maybe not for a few weeks yet, still fining out some points like this)

      A new age of Perl is coming, much like what we saw with the Perl-CGI explosion, but with a real framework to progress onto greater things.


      It's a good time to be a Perl programmer ;)


      Lyle
Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by kdj (Friar) on Feb 09, 2009 at 16:06 UTC

    I think that a site such as you are suggesting presents a threat to PM. However much you intend for it to be newbie-based, it is unlikely to remain that way if it is successful. If the people who spend time there enjoy it, they probably won't leave simply because they have reached some arbitrary skill-level. Instead, experts will emerge over time, and the site will evolve. You could hardly kick your oldest and most-learned members out for beginning to discuss the higher level things they were interested in. And, as has been proven time and again, things grow of their own accord on the web (sometimes in spite of the creator's intentions).

    Understandably, those who love this place would prefer not to have a potential rival that could ruin the very special atmosphere here. Initially, I was in the same boat. However, after reading the whole thread and thinking it over, I'm not worried about that anymore. This place isn't what it is because people don't have other options. So, I won't tell you what to do, but I will offer my perspective and why I would have chosen PM even if your site had existed when I started Perl not too long ago:

    The first time I looked at Perl code was on the second day of my entry-level job out of college. That was about 10 months ago now. I still consider myself a beginner (because wow is there a lot to learn), but I've also moved a bit past the newbie stage. PerlMonks is in large part the reason for how far I have come. And were it more of a beginner-oriented site, I would never have learned as much.

    There is no shortage of answers for 'silly noob' questions around here, and I've never gotten the feeling that the Monks are uncharitable or harsh to anyone who expresses a genuine want to learn. I lurked for months here before creating an account, and even having done so I don't exactly post much. But, I do prattle in the CB here and there, and mostly I read. A lot.

    I read the nodes that I think I know the answer to, to see if I got it right. I read the nodes that are way over my head to see if I can find something new and useful to me (I often do). I read the... well, you get the point. I read it all, and I am often rewarded for doing so. Understanding much of it relies on some googling and a little head-scratching, but the important thing is that it spurs me to seek out knowledge I wouldn't have thought of or known to seek.

    If I had started at the type of site you suggest, I would still be there. And while I would likely post more often and enjoy the satisfaction that would bring, my ultimate reason for visiting this type of site in the first place is selfish- I want to improve myself. If I can give back and help others that's wonderful, but first and foremost I want to be challenged and to learn new things. I feel that I'm a better Perl programmer as a result of coming to PM as a total newbie than I would have been if I had found a site tailored to my newbie-ness.

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by Aim9b (Monk) on Feb 12, 2009 at 01:03 UTC
    Finally, a post to which I am emensly qualified to reply. I think the premis here is that the Monestary could be "friendlier" to noobies. So, do we mean friendlier Monks, or more intuitive pages. Each probably have room for improvement, however, being a newcommer to perl, I can speak from experience, when I say that "this site Rocks."

    If we look at WHY it rocks, we find that the common love of perl binds us all, and while we differ in almost every other facet, language, gender, age, ethnicity, programming ability, length of "service", etc. we respect each others views and abilities. I can relate to many of the previous posts. I've been programming for over 3 decades, I love perl. I'm not real good at it yet. I've asked the wrong questions here & done penance for said deed. I've been thrilled when I could answer the question without first looking at the Monk's answers. I've felt the guilt of the "all take & no give back" syndrome, and I'm working on that.

    So, would another noobie site be the answer? Frankly, I don't think so. I think the risks far out weigh the gains. Would a noobie section on PM help? Possibly. There are tutorials, docs, and other things here that I haven't even found yet, but I think we (ok you) need to distinguish between finding the answer, & finding the PLACE to find it. This may quite possibly be a navigational issue, rather than a content issue.

    Please don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good challange, but sometimes I think just a bit more intuitive would help. Also, a fancy GUI interface may not be seen as an advantage to some "dialup" folks.

    These are just some of my own perceptions, and I applaude the Monks for being able to have such a dialog. I've used other sites (java ranch) that use a segmented (beginner, intermediate, advanced) approach. I've never even been to the Advanced forums. It seems to work for them, but would it work here? I don't really know, but I'm not willing to risk what we have to "test the waters" of such a fundamental change. I'd vote for improving PM over a new site, but at the same time, I upvote you for concept of improving the perl community & wish you all the best.
Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by Argel (Prior) on Feb 09, 2009 at 18:36 UTC
    I will throw out the obvious question -- how hard would it be to create a beginner's section here on PerlMonks?

    Elda Taluta; Sarks Sark; Ark Arks

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by rohanv (Initiate) on Feb 13, 2009 at 16:37 UTC
    As others have said, you deserve kudos for thinking up ways to improve the state of Perl, and rationally explaining your point of view.

    I get the feeling you might've been bitten by the "I can do some of this stuff better" bug, and I don't think you should stifle that at all. Having more options rather than fewer is one of the fundamental premises of Perl right?

    If the site does offer a better user experience, then I'm sure you'll find more than just "newbies" coming to use it.

Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by tswall (Monk) on Feb 13, 2009 at 13:35 UTC
    I'll upvote this. But as a relative Newbie who tries to not clutter PerlMonks with too many Newbie questions, I'd maybe move your first bullet point to the bottom of the list. "Understanding and welcoming environment"s for newbies don't make people think they're cluttering up the real users world in my mind.
Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by dgalati000 (Initiate) on Feb 19, 2009 at 21:25 UTC
    Hi, I'm pretty squeaky myself...my 2nd time here. I'm looking to post a new thread to get help on changing Cisco.pm to do something for me, but can't find out how...until I got to this reply page. I'd be interested in learning,,,can you point me to newbie faq's or how-to's? Also, where do I make new posts?
      Questions typically go in SoPW. Every section of the site that accepts new nodes has an input area at the bottom of the same page. Sometimes it's easy to miss the input boxes to start threads because they are on longer pages, but it looks much like the one for replies. Just keep scrolling.
Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
by ambrus (Abbot) on Feb 09, 2009 at 09:59 UTC

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