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Re^2: PerlMonks for newbies?

by cosmicperl (Chaplain)
on Feb 07, 2009 at 02:17 UTC ( #742060=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Re: PerlMonks for newbies?
in thread PerlMonks for newbies?

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

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re^3: PerlMonks for newbies?
by mr_mischief (Monsignor) on Feb 07, 2009 at 02:51 UTC
    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.

      I can understand you are being objective. Have you read:- Perl must Decentralize, Diversify and Colonize
      What I'm talking about is very much in that vein.

      Some people don't want this site changed in anyway. There is no way to please everyone. I've helped sites with patches and redesigns in the past. Some times it's really can well received and well appreciated, other times it's a lot of time effort for something that never gets used. In a long standing site like this there are always a lot of politics to get through. Updating this site really isn't an option.

      Recently I saw people on LPM offer to update use.perl.org to help make Perl look more modern and alive. The offer was rejected. I myself have offered to update pages on main Perl sites that have clear HTML errors and look very dated, my offers have been rejected.

      Don't think that I haven't looked at improving what is there already. That's an obvious first step. But when you've tried these things and you know what happens, then the experience lets you know it's a lot easier and more productive to start something new.

      As I said in another reply the aim isn't to take helpers from PM, or any of the mailing lists. It's to create new helpers out of the people in the middle. Provide a new gateway into Perl, and new newbies.


      Lyle
        I think the big mistake isn't that you want to develop a site for newbies. I think it's that you want it to work like PerlMonks except that it's for newbies. Make it more distinct in how it works instead of just in audience and in appearance.

        Having a tweaked PM but for newbies I'm afraid will lead to a ghetto in the middle. If one is the site for the inexperienced and one is for the experienced, then where do people go who the beginners site doesn't serve well but the more advanced site refers back to the beginner's site?

        I'm also afraid that telling people "you're on the wrong site" will just turn them off altogether.

        I think your site should be unlike PM in many ways. It should take a different approach to organizing material. Perhaps the tutorials should play a bigger role in the site organization. It'd be nice if some single-topic course material for the web had a home, for example. Articles on how to think about context from the very beginning could be helpful. Caveats about what dark corners of the language can be avoided while still getting useful software written would help lots of people I think.

        My problem isn't with another site. I think if your site complements PM then that's great. I just don't think it should be such a similar site as you're talking about with only part of the audience. Threads of nodes would still be a good idea, but I'm not sure you should have the same sorts of sections. The distinction of type of discussion here might be better on a site for new users broken into subject areas. Perhaps take the topics for the individual lessons in your beginning Perl classes and make a section of the site for learning and discussing each topic further.

        I think dividing people into the sites is a mistake, in short. Make the site work how new users expect and gear it to how new users are more likely to pick up knowledge. Make that site a knowledge site that can grow upward. Let PM be the wisdom site that can grow downward towards the newbies it may intimidate. You'll then get the people you want by topic rather than telling them which site is suitable for their experience level.

Re^3: PerlMonks for newbies?
by TGI (Parson) on Feb 09, 2009 at 18:49 UTC

    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

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