|Just another Perl shrine|
I think it is easy to forget that if you have had any exposure to formal tuition in a subject, you picked up a lot of simple stuff through the process of having the more significant stuff explained. A lot of that simple stuff is universal--it holds true across languages and platforms--and despite having been acquired almost subliminally, it quietly stands you in good stead when you encounter new stuff for the first time.
If you are approaching a completely new subject with no formal training, especially when every other word in the documentation is either completely new to you, or familiar, but used in a context that defies rational explanations in concert with the meaning you are familiar with; there are simply no hooks upon which to hang your hat. You are, until you acquire the equivalent grounding, completely out of your depth.
To get a sense for what I mean, go to a Chinese, or Russian, or Greek or Arabic website (pick a language and symbol system you are not familiar with), and then try to make sense of it. Cut and paste lumps of text into your nearest on-line translation page and see just how long it takes you to get a feel for what the page is about. Look up a "Chinese for beginners" website (or book) and see just how frustrating it is to get started.
Of course, there are the occasional persistent offender that never seem to progress, but mostly, the posts by the people I've seen over the last 4 years show a steady conversion from asking to answering and simple to sophisticated; and generally much more quickly than I would have believed possible before encountering this site.
This site works!
And the only time it doesn't work is when people get on their high horses (not you, your post was very gentle and enquiring), and rant about noobies who "cannot be bothered to read the manual". The first problems a noob encounters is "what to read?", and "where to read it?". This site is better than Google; your best friend and his grandmother (unless she was Ada Lovelace); and the entire Maths and Computing section of your local library or bookshop.
What makes it work, is a constant supply of new blood with new (to them) questions, and sufficient retention of old blood with the time, patience and interest to answer them.
Examine what is said, not who speaks -- Silence betokens consent -- Love the truth but pardon error.
Lingua non convalesco, consenesco et abolesco. -- Rule 1 has a caveat! -- Who broke the cabal?
"Science is about questioning the status quo. Questioning authority".
In the absence of evidence, opinion is indistinguishable from prejudice.