Before I start this post, I'd like to thank snafu for allowing me to "pick on" his post to a recent node, Determining what line a filehandle is on. In that post, snafu clearly answered the wrong question and, as I saw the post pop up on the Worst Nodes list, paid the price for it. This post, however, is not designed to pick on snafu at all. Instead, I want to discuss the usefulness of that node and other nodes like it.

As I had mentioned, snafu's post answered the wrong question. Rather than answering how to determine what line a filehandle was on, snafu answered what line the Perl script was on. While this may not have answered the original poster's question, I believe it does add some value to that post and to the Monastery as a whole. In fact, you can find sections similar to that in almost any tutorial. In tutorials, however, they are often in a section called "Common Gotchas" or something similar. The PerlMonk's Tutorials page, in fact, has a section for Common Regex Gotchas. When I first read snafu's post, I felt that it fell into that sort of a "Common Gotcha" category. Maybe something like: "Don't get $. confused with __LINE__." It seems to me, I've seen posts like this in the past, as well. Some monk, attempting to be helpful, will answer a question incorrectly and get his/her hand slapped by the other monks.

My real question comes in as this: Are these posts useful to the monastery, or not? When I viewed that post, I had to stop and think of how I wanted to vote and, for some time, I simply didn't. I know many monks have very different views on how to vote and I'd rather not get into that discussion. My principle, however, is that, if it adds to the monastery, it deserves to be up-voted. However, this post, although well structured and easy to read, didn't answer the original poster's question. So shouldn't that then be down-voted? This was my dilemma.

When I saw that snafu's post had quickly climbed to the top of the Worst Nodes list, I considered this issue. Had I done the same thing, replied incorrectly, would I be willing to post again? I'd like to say that I would, but I'm not so sure. Would snafu? I hope so. I, for one, had a professor in college that would, in no complicated terms, tell me when I was wrong or being stupid. Many people found that hard to deal with and quickly grew to dislike that professor. To me, however, that behavior made him my favorite professor - one that would quickly correct any misconception I had and give me a straight answer. In this case, it would seem that PerlMonks is that tough professor.

<Actual Question!>
Now, what I'd like to know, is how would you feel if your post (as helpful as you were trying to be), sky-rocketed to the top of the Worst Nodes of the week list? Would you be willing to try to answer another question? And, based on that, what do you think should be done with posts such as snafu's?
</Actual Question!>

I'd like to again thank snafu for allowing me to use this node as an example. I didn't mean to pick on snafu, but this whole thought came to me because of that node and I thought you'd find it more relevant with a concrete example to go from. Thanks, snafu.

- Sherlock

Skepticism is the source of knowledge as much as knowledge is the source of skepticism.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Pummeling Monks for Misconceptions?
by chromatic (Archbishop) on Jul 06, 2001 at 23:21 UTC
    A monk who knows the answer to the question and comes across an obviously incorrect answer has four options:
    • Ignore it
    • Downvote it
    • Reply and correct it
    • Send the poster a message with a correction

    Two of those give *useful* feedback to the poster. A downvote doesn't -- it's a one-bit message that doesn't communicate very much. Posting a followup allows for more room to explore and to explain the reason why it's wrong. Also, it'll enter the archives forever attached to its parent.

    Sending a message works in cases where the poster just missed the boat and presumably knows better. People misread questions. It happens.

    Now the poster of an incorrect node also has several options:

    • Ignore it
    • Reply to it
    • Censor it
    • Update it

    Two of those leave useful information in the database. One of those potentially notifies the user who posted the original question.

    In my opinion, it's better to reply, whether by writeup or message, to an incorrect post. This gives the poster the chance to correct it (if by /msg) or attaches a correct answer to an incorrect answer. A downvote doesn't accomplish much, but it has the chance of attracting the poster's attention to possibly incorrect data. It doesn't tell what's incorrect, though, and it doesn't put any data in the archive, though it may prevent an incorrect node from sticking around.

    Far better to be explicit. If it's wrong, explain why it's wrong. Give people a chance to correct it.

Re: Pummeling Monks for Misconceptions?
by footpad (Abbot) on Jul 06, 2001 at 23:31 UTC

    I'm glad you brought this up. We need to be careful to evaluate the context of a bad node before voting it down, reaping it, or nuking it.

    • If you see a node you want to vote down, please take time to check Worst Nodes and see if it's already there. Make your decision then.

    • Those with access to the approval nodelet and Nodes to Consider should carefully weigh the decision to reap a node--especially if it has replies.

    • Those with access to more direct tools should do likewise, for reasons that have been discussed in other areas.

    Every negative reaction we take has at least an equal reaction. I recall the time a 13-year old posted some code he'd just written. Sure, it was Baby Perl, but it was reaped before morning. That person hasn't logged in since. Given the contributions by other youngsters in our Order, one wonders what we've missed by driving him away.

    It's all well and good to resist trolls and to correct improper behavior, however, there are always two sides to a story. If you have moderation abilities, try to consider the flip side before taking action. If you cannot see that, then please take the time to confirm your assumptions before knee-jerking. /msg the author or another monk who's opinions you trust.

    This is, in my opinion, the only way we'll be able to reduce the temperature around her and to combat the ideas of Casey West, among others. If we want this to be a nice place to hang out, then we have all got to take responsibility and help each other do the right thing.

    Lighten up, take a 'lude, and breathe deeply for a time. (Also, a little weirdness should be expected; there's a full moon.)


(tye)Re: Pummeling Monks for Misconceptions?
by tye (Sage) on Jul 07, 2001 at 10:15 UTC

    No, I don't see much point in downvoting a node such as snafu's most of the time. I sort nodes by reputation (see User Settings) so I only downvote merely technically incorrect nodes after I've upvoted technically correct nodes and found the incorrect node still listed higher, and not always then.

    So, yes, I encourage monks to not downvote a node just because it contains mistakes.

    But I'd also like to contrast some of the drama you've written. When I saw your post, snafu's had a rep of -6 and the top of Worst Nodes for the week had a rep of -8. I have a hard time using the term "sky rocket" for numbers of such low magnitude. I don't know how low the rep got, but I don't see how this should be considered such a tragedy that it is likely to make someone foresake PerlMonks.

    I also checked that, as I suspected, snafu gained XP every single day. I don't even detect a dip in XP for that day.

    Most of us make mistakes and most of us have gotten downvoted for some of them. Should this really be even a big deal?

    I think the biggest problem we have with downvoting is downvoting of new members. Not yet having many positive experiences on the site can make the negative experience of negative experience points rather hard to take and surely has driven some people away. Worse, it has been documented to have motivated trollish behavior.

    So I'd like to encourage everyone to refrain from downvoting brand new members.

    No, I won't discuss any "technical solutions" to this "problem" because, frankly, I'm tired of hearing about "technical solutions" to the "problem" of downvoting. q-:

            - tye (but my friends call me "Tye")
Re: Pummeling Monks for Misconceptions?
by TheoPetersen (Priest) on Jul 06, 2001 at 23:04 UTC
    <Twelve Step Program Joke>
    Theo: Hi, I'm Theo, and I posted an answer to Perl Monks without getting the question.
    Support Group: Hi, Theo!
    </Twelve Step Program Joke>

    And I got downvoted, lost some points and so on. Given that I'm 1) not that fragile and 2) aware of the fact that miscommunications happen all the time, I came back and answered other questions.

    As to what should be done: if the poster has a point that he feels is worth archiving, he can post it as a stand-alone node. Assuming others agree, the new node will get votes and the poster will gain standing, both in XP and the more important community recoginition.

    I think communities remember people for their good contributions, except when someone insistently and repeatedly makes bad contributions.

Re: Pummeling Monks for Misconceptions?
by arashi (Priest) on Jul 06, 2001 at 23:20 UTC
    For some, being told that they are wrong is the worst punishment in the world. Being told your answer is wrong, and then being compounded by a downvote doesn't seem like the correct solution to solve the problem, to me.

    If I was in this situation, and my node appeared on the Worst Nodes list because I was wrong, I would still continue to post. The purpose of answering a question, for me, isn't to show off that I know how to do something, it's only to try and help someone out. If I've done that, then I've done my job. If I post 10 wrong answers to something, and one correct answer, then I've helped someone, at least one person. I also don't think that the wrong answers would steer someone down the wrong path, purely because someone else will come along and say "hey, you're wrong, here's what you should do". I'm not trying to say that people should try to post wrong answers, I doubt that anyone would want to do that, unless they were evil...but that's another story. On the positive side, if I was to post a wrong answer, that I thought was right, and someone corrected me, not only would that be helpful to the person who asked the original question, but it would also help me to fix my own mistakes, and I would learn something new.

    What should be done with snafu's node? I think that he should be told that he was wrong, but I personally wouldn't downvote the node, it does serve some future benefit if someone is having a similar problem. Plus I don't think that a downvote helps snafu to learn, just a simple "hey, you're wrong, here's why..." will help him learn.

    If my node got a bad rep, well, I'd be a little sad, maybe even angry, but I wouldn't let that stop me from trying to help someone else out in the future.


    I'm sure Edison turned himself a lot of colors before he invented the lightbulb. - H.S.invented the lightbulb. - H.S.
Re: Pummeling Monks for Misconceptions?
by tadman (Prior) on Jul 06, 2001 at 23:13 UTC
    I wish there was some indication if the node was zero or negative before you voted, because sometimes I casually downvote something, not realizing it had already been carpet bombed. I feel bad after, too, but what can I do? Maybe I'll look for something recent of yours to upvote to try and make it up, to balance things out. Damage done, though, and there's no going back on votes.

    I downvoted snafu on that one, and I believe it registered -1 or -2 when it showed up the first time. Yes, it was interesting, but it was wrong. My thinking is that the node was of no value, and eventually should be reaped anyway. Perhaps it should just be deleted to save snafu the agony, so that it doesn't scar his record.

    Looking at the "worst" nodes, you see, time and time again, the so-called "Thanks!"-type nodes. They're useless, and I don't downvote them, but people certainly have a thing for them and will -- without mercy in some cases. Perhaps it's their way of saying use /msg instead.
      I wish there was some indication if the node was zero or negative before you voted, because sometimes I casually downvote something, not realizing it had already been carpet bombed.

      You could use worst nodes (the posts are rated !) to spot the 'alredy beaten hard' posts...

      UPDATE : Oops ! I miss footpad comment on this point...

      My advice if you feel bad : spend time to browse through the person you just downvoted's node to find a good one to ++ :-)
      You might not only 'correct' your previous action, but also learn new things and even maybe 'know' the downvoted person better (and hence maybe understand him...)

      "Only Bad Coders Code Badly In Perl" (OBC2BIP)
Re: Pummeling Monks for Misconceptions?
by John M. Dlugosz (Monsignor) on Jul 07, 2001 at 05:33 UTC
    For purposes of keeping the thread for eventual unearthing by the super search, or linking to next time someone asks, I'd say keep it and have him Update it to say this is a common gotcha.