in reply to Should a Socratic Dialogue be attempted?


I, too, have wondered at the helpfulness of spoonfeeding answers to people. Lately, though, I don't worry about it so much. Even though most questions will get some "helpful" code, they nearly also come with some "hint" answers. I've come to the (tentative) conclusion that the current system works well.

From the perspective of the questioner:

(1) Some people are at the very start of their programming journey, and aren't used to thinking analytically and/or aren't familiar with the reference materials. This group will likely learn quickly from the hints, even though their immediate problem is solved.
(2) Other people won't improve their skills using the hints, nor pay attention to them once they have their answers. So the answer isn't likely to hurt them any more than the hints would help.
(3) People in the intermediate camp can easily learn from the answer and/or the hint.

For all three groups, I think we have a net positive effect. As far as the person answering the question, it's often hard to come up with a really good hint (other than module references or RYFM), or you've got a code response in mind. At other times, the question just calls out for a bit of coding, so rather than providing a hint, the answerer goes off and codes for a little while for fun. Even the most socratic among us will drop a bit of code rather than a hint.

Ultimately, PM is for the people who are here. If a question invites some coding and experimentation, that'll just improve the answerers skills. So even a code answer can easily raise the overall level of discourse. And with enough people answering, there are always going to be answers and hints.

Finally, different people have different learning styles. So if we all answered with some hints, we'd only cultivate people who learn well with hints. I think our current spectrum of answers gives everyone the opportunity to learn in their favorite way. So even though I'd prefer more hints than answers, I'm happy with the status quo. (Yes, I'm aware of the fact that many of my own answers tend to be chunks of code, rather than hints!)

So relax, and enjoy a nice glass of hemlockbeer!


  • Comment on Re: Should a Socratic Dialogue be attempted?

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Re^2: Should a Socratic Dialogue be attempted?
by Gavin (Bishop) on Oct 20, 2007 at 19:24 UTC
    I concur with roboticus, In an ideal situation one would be able to look at previous posts from the Monk asking the question and tailor a answer to suit their particular learning style or needs.

    Habitual homework questions and those who want their work done for them aside.
    A pointer to a node or reference, a snippet of code or an example all have their place.
    It is not possible to take all into consideration as a matter of course and we tend to reply in the style that suits our own learning style.
    As this is a large community the various learning styles are well represented and so a variety of answers are posed which should then suit the questioners learning style of choice.