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The problem with nearly every community help forum now as opposed to, say, 8 years ago before Netscape was even a browser, is that 1) the new tools make it easy to post away without understanding of what technology you are taking advantage of, and therefore, you need not learn what 'USENET' is, only that if you post, you get an answer like a magic oracle, and 2) anonymity and lack of responsibilty for what you post in some forums. Combine those two facts, and instead of an environment where it is impliciently encouraged to go read FAQs and previous posts and any other reference material prior to posting your question for 'fear' of being embrassed by lack of knowledge (as USENET was 8 years ago), it's now an environment where you don't have to take responsibility for what you post, and can ask away on even the most stupidest of questions without doing any 'research', and expect someone to give an answer.

Thus, S/N continues to worsen, and a lot of time can be spent in separating the good stuff from the crap. Moderations can help to some extent, but they have to be done right (Slashdot's is horribly horribly broken with no way to fix it, for example). Those that are the leaders for a project would rather spend time on making the project better than answering questions that are pretty much answered by RTFM, so that's why you'll rarely see them on those types of boards. (Now, mailing lists, on the other hand, tend to be more direct since it's rather hard to avoid taking responsibility for what you posts, and thus, nearly every mailing list I know about has higher S/N ratios than any forum or newsgroup).

Now, as for ditching forums and the like for a year, I don't think that's necessarily the best idea; while you can read every perl book and other related document on the web, the practical examples are generally the best examples of where you'll learn something. And unless you're a multitasking superbeing, most likely the small number of projects that you can work on in a year will certainly not introduce you to a bunch of new concepts and ideas.

Now as for what is currently the best forum, I've mentioned mailing lists, but for a group of PM's size, that's too inefficient to handle it. I've found it hard to follow comp.lang.perl groups due to S/N. As for the problem with PM, we've hit upon it before; you could force new users to wait X days before posting; have posts go through an intelligent agent and provide the FAQ links for any relevent terms that might show up strongly encouraging the new poster to check there first; getting rid of the AnonMonk, and so forth. But as PM is vroom's puppy, he gets to make those final calls and from those previous discussions, I don't see such additions as being high on the list.

However, as non-site operators, we can fix the newbisms by a bit of social engineering; as this "read the faq" questions appear, they can be voted negatively or put into nodes to consider, such that they move off the front page or the other index pages. This will leave more practical and interesting questions to be solved on the various front pages which might encourage newer users to post less-faqish questions themselves. Mind you, there should be a mechanism to make sure that a RTFM-type post's author can get a response, even if it is just as simple as 'RTFM', since the node will no longer be visible from the main pages. It's a iterative and long process, yet it could be a good way to nudge PM's 'interesting' factor in the right direction.


Dr. Michael K. Neylon - mneylon-pm@masemware.com || "You've left the lens cap of your mind on again, Pinky" - The Brain

In reply to Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums by Masem
in thread IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums by mothra

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