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Re: Making Perl Monks a better place for newbies (and others)

by bellaire (Hermit)
on Mar 18, 2009 at 19:50 UTC ( #751561=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Making Perl Monks a better place for newbies (and others)

Nice write-up, and thanks for putting the effort forth to compile this list, I know it can't have been easy. I'd ++ multiple times if I could.

First, I have some meta-commentary on the problem of dealing with suggestions in the first place. It seems like most of these suggestions can be broken down into two groups:
  • Suggestions for site features, i.e. things that must go through pmdev.
  • Suggestions for content or community behavior, i.e. things that could be done at any time, if enough people care enough to go ahead and do it.
Unfortunately, it's hard to build consensus on these issues. I think that part of the problem is that the suggestions themselves are buried in various threads (for example, this one and the node from which this list was compiled). Even when they are found, it's hard to know whether they have been acted upon, superceded, forgotten, dismissed, or whatever. Case in point, the recent addition of support for [man://] markup, which was requested, implemented, forgotten, requested again, and then applied. Handling suggestions like a forum makes them difficult to find and to manage. Compiling this list in the first place is a good start, but I sense that it's going to be hard to extract consensus from the discussions, even given the current voting system. For example, many of the suggestions discussed have both proponents and detractors. Even if the pmdevs wanted to use these nodes as a basis for deciding what to work on next, they would have a hard time making sense of the discussions. In the end, things remain as they are, that is, the pmdevs work on what they personally feel is appropriate, and the gods make a further judgment on whether their efforts, once submitted, are realized on the site.

I really don't know how to deal with this. On some other sites, there is a voting system attached to suggestions. This way, developers and admins have a clear idea of what the community wants. They don't have to search through discussion threads, mentally summing the votes for and against at various depths, or trying to interpret people who are presenting two sides of the story. Something like that would be nice, but of course that in itself is a suggestion that would require an implementation in code, unless somebody wants to pony up the cash to pay for such a service.

The other idea I have is that there could be a new order of monks, whose job it is to solicit, facilitate, and compile suggestions for improving the site (much as ELISHEVA has already done in this thread), and do this on a continual basis. Unfortunately, since they would have no abiltiy to actually do anything about it, they'd be limited to publishing their findings as a new root node every so often. The pmdevs and the gods could take those data or leave them, as they see fit, but at least the information would be marshalled for easier consumption. After several weeks of demands for some form of WYSIWYG support (for example), perhaps they might decide it's worth looking into. Deciding the mandate for this proposed order definitely would require some extended discussion.

Second, to address some of the specific suggestions made, here are my thoughts:
  • "Pretty sites", the "dated" look, and ease-of-use - The site, even in the default (public) view, is cluttered. Content is king, and must trump other factors, but there is no reason you can't have both an attractive, modern presentation, and the same excellent content we've grown to love. Actually accomplishing that will take effort, and I'm not sure that anyone wants to put in that effort given the objections that have been raised by the people who find nothing wrong with the look and ease-of-use. In particular, why not simplify the view that the general public sees, while leaving alone the baroque complexity of the interface for established users?
  • WYSIWYG and simpler markup - I don't particularly agree that WYSIWYG is itself a good idea, however at the very least I don't see why a more comprehensive summary of Markup in the Monastery can't be presented on node editing page. Also, non-WYSIWYG javascript support for editing markup of various types has been around a long time in heavy use elsewhere on the Internet. It should be possible to set up a non-buggy solution.
  • Preview nodes on update and for chatterbox - Especially for updates, seems like a great idea. I was actually somewhat bewildered when I discovered its absence there.
  • Content for Newbies - Not sure here. I think part of the problem is that there is so much great content already here, it's hard for newbies to know what they should be looking at. So, in that respect, a prominent "Start" node (if you will forgive the reference) would be a good idea.
  • Site Promotion Suggestions - I think that promoting the site by itself won't have an effect if the experience people have on arrival isn't improved. Going back to look-n-feel, the "new generation" of programmers see no reason for this site to have its decade-old appearance. It gives the impression that the site is a relic. If that were to change, site promotion could be quite effective indeed.
  • Community Building - I totally agree, I just am not sure what exactly to do. :) Twitter is a good start (and I just started following PerlNews, which I had no idea existed until this thread).
  • Performance - It seems to be the elephant in the room, which gives me the impression that nothing can be done. I don't want to be struck by lightning for even asking, so... moving right along...
  • Development Tools - I don't know enough about the existing tools to comment here.
I think that's enough of me talking now.

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