It seems that every day another Initiate barges into the monastery and blurts out a badly formatted question (and usually badly phrased, and badly thought out). And there's a near-automatic response by a monk exhorting the newbie to fix these things, and read How do I post a question effectively?. So, my suggestion is to simply post that advice (or better, a link to it) on the Gates. The request for donations, and the link to the poll ideas could be eliminated to make room.

Actually there is as much room as we like. And it seems to me that having some more general information there would be extremely useful. Such as some of the things in the Getting Started node.

And a nice picture of the monastery would be cool, too.

  • Comment on Monastery Gates Suggestion for Improvement

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Re: Monastery Gates Suggestion for Improvement
by LesleyB (Friar) on Sep 11, 2008 at 15:13 UTC

    I just checked at the Gates and on the SoPW page.

    There is no ability to post at the Gates. There is on the SoPW page.

    There are 6 links relevant to how to post here following the textarea on the SoPW page.

    They all follow the textarea where any of us might enter our missive

    As this suggestion appears to be about getting initiates to notice these items, I would suggest this information is also reformatted so the links fit neatly under the Add your question heading or even underneath the Title input field but before the textarea.

    The existing layout of the information could stay

    The problem seems to be some initiates are

    • used to other forum formats where they don't have to concern themselves with layout
    • quite possibly hoping for a quick fix to something and too rushed to be bothered to read the information that is there
    • possibly not very well versed in English so not reading or understanding the information
    • hitting the preview button and not looking at the result properly nor reading the information there
    • possibly not familiar with HTML and markup. It is, after all, possible to do Perl without the Internet and HTML as prerequisites.
    • not scrolling down much past the textarea once they have found it

    The Monastery is not here to improve someone's English or HTML - that may occur as a side-effect but the aim is to improve their Perl.

    Some initiates do take the trouble to read and understand what skill is required to make a post.

    We might increase the success rate if we position the links so they are more noticeable

    This is, of course, all despite the existence of a suitable link appearing below their preview when they first preview the post.

      Perhaps instead of "Your Text:", it should say "Format your post with HTML here:" right above the text field?

      I'm fairly sure that would have made my first post a little easier to get right the first time. :)

        ++ but <code></code>, <c></c>, <spoiler></spoiler> and <readmore></readmore> aren't standard HTML. A node should be posted, ideally, in MonkCode (or is that PMCode, like BBCode?). It's mostly HTML, but <pre></pre> is discouraged in favor of <code></code> or <c></c> and there are the other additional tags to consider.

        Perhaps "Format your post with HTML and the additional tags mentioned at [id://17558]:", or perhaps a more succinct node summarizing the special tags is is order?

      ++ your analysis, and support your suggestions on the layout and placement of the links around the text area.

      Of course, to be really effective there should be a Captcha at the bottom of the 'How do I post a question effectively?' page with its entry box on the question submission form ;-)

        I know you're joking, but I can't tell for sure if you're half serious. A check box for "I have read, understand, and accept the terms of this usage agreement.", where the usage agreement is that we will post, to our best ability, clearly-phrased questions with suitably formatted relevant code would do as much good. If you have a captcha and a captcha entry box, it only means one has to glance at the page rather than reading it.

        The clearest way to get points across to people about to post is to not refer them to another document at all. Pick the two or three biggest problems to address and address them directly. Have a link only for more information.

        Before you post:
        • Is your question or issue specific and complete including a searchable title relevant to your post?
        • Did you include a small code snippet (in <code></code> tags) that demonstrates your problem or question?
        • Have you searched for answers with Super Search, Google, and in the Perl documentation?
        • Read How do I post a question effectively? and the documents linked from there for more information.
        textarea goes here...
        Then, How do I post a question effectively? could reference all the other stuff, such as how to make a title more effective, where to post, how to use PM markup, how to ask questions more effectively, and more.
      It is true that the information is easily available; but personal experience tells me that what's underneath the posting box doesn't get seen much. And I agree that there are plenty of people who will ignore all advice no matter how easy and clear it is.

      This forum doesn't require any more formatting than any other forum. But a 500-word post with code needs formatting on any forum. The person with the answer might possibly be busy and not willing to waste their time wading through a crappy post. It behooves the seeker of wisdom to put some effort into making the question as easy to answer as possible. It shouldn't be that much of a burden to learn <p> and <code> tags. Notwithstanding the fact that on Perlmonks everybody gets answers (good ones) regardless.


      Good analysis. From my point of view, this calls for a little more guidance for first time visitors (customers). Not to patronise, but to give the SoPW more orientation. It should be possible to properly express the problem without knowing a markup language.

      I think the SoPW textarea and the small-print deserve its own page/node. Personally, I would remove the textarea and the small-print from the SoPW pages and replace them by two prominent links at the top and the bottom of the SoPW (Now: Add your question). The same link could be used at the Monastery Gates.
      An unregistered user would be led to a more structured page allowing him/her to enter (draft):

      • the question title
      • (opt) category/tag
      • a problem description
      • the question (re-think the problem)
      • (opt) a code fragment to demonstrate the problem (what have you done so far?)
      • (opt) current/desired output of the program

      As a quick hack, these inputs could be decorated with a little bit of HTML and provided as a preformatted preview textarea (Your "PerlMonks-approved HTML"-formatted text) as it is now.
      E.g., the code fragment is wrapped into <code>...</code> tags, paragraphs are detected and marked up, spoilers and output is wrapped, very long text is folded (see more), Perl keywords become links to the [doc://keywords] ;-) etc.

      A not so quick-hack would provide feedback (preview) with the same form and more guidance. Experienced users might chose to (personal settings or simple link) continue to use the textarea with it's full markup-power as it is now. If Javascript is not condemned, a SoPW-question-WYSIWYG-editor can be conceived...

      Just some thoughts... I wonder if it is worth the effort? After all, some gentle rebuke by the Monks as well as exercising the virtues of tolerance and helpfulness is part of the whole experience.

Re: Monastery Gates Suggestion for Improvement
by johndageek (Hermit) on Sep 11, 2008 at 13:04 UTC
    This activity, however personally annoying, is also one of the reasons PerlMonks has been so successful. It has not become cold and elitist (RTFM and so on).

    As a newbie, you receive some personal suggestions from someone(s) with more experience on the proper ways of the Monastery and advice on what documents to read that will help avoid faux pas in the future. Then surprise surprise there is usually also several helpful hints to help the OP with their problem. Sometimes this is in the form of code snippets, suggestions or even to the newbie's surprise requests for more information.

    I can not think of a better way to encourage new Perl users to continue with Perl as a language, and PerlMonks as a valued resource.

    I have been a newbie at everything I have tried at one time or another, and the ones I have become an oldbie at seem to be the ones where a helpful mentor has managed to guide me from my ignorant ways toward the path to enlightenment. As well as on occasion taking on the role of mentor.

    You do have an excellent suggestion, that I wholeheartedly agree with making a link easily available on the front page. Perhaps a NewPoster link with a small amount of information so as not to overwhelm a new person with all of the details, but enough to help them post a clear initial question.


      cold and elitist (RTFM and so on)

      I find that more than a third of the SoPWs have at least one response that links to the super search along with some quip like, "did you even try searching first!?!?!" (It's a pet peeve. My thinking: If you don't want to answer, don't worry, someone else will.)

      UPDATE: kyle, I exaggerate 100% of the time.


        Being fairly new here myself, I've observed the same not-so-gentle responses to some SoPWs (and, being of a fairly timorous nature, made sure to read every darn page I could find on the subject of posting before doing so). But I have also been impressed by the patient, tolerant and helpful replies that have been offered to even the most poorly framed questions. I think that's a testament to the quality of people there are in this place.

        There are already the "please read this first" notes under the Add your question area of the SoPW page. I suspect the world is made up of those who read things first and those who don't, so I don't honestly expect that another admonition on the Monastery Gates page would make much difference to the actions of the latter group.

        The fact that unformatted questions still get through despite having to go through a preview stage suggests to me that the authors are operating in a write-only mode anyway.

        I went to the Seekers of Perl Wisdom page and clicked the the "next entries" link at the bottom. Then I went through the ten questions (with a total of 60 replies) and skimmed through the replies. Two replies had links to How (Not) To Ask A Question and similar, one of those had a quip ("your bug is on line 42", directed at a monk who had posted no code). I also saw one that was a polite pointer to an external link.

        I also went to Super Search and had a look at my own references to Super Search itself. Most of them say either "Super Search is your friend" or "Super Search is super". That's after a useful link that I'd found with Super Search.

        Anyway, I think your estimated ratio of quipped to unquipped questions is a bit high.

        It's a pet peeve

        I've got one of them, too !! ... ie same pet, same peeve :-)

      My original post isn't meant as a complaint about newbies' or veteran monks' behavior. I'm just trying to see if we could refactor out some of the redundancy, and maybe help newcomers get acquainted with the monastery's culture and customs a little quicker.

Re: Monastery Gates Suggestion for Improvement
by dHarry (Abbot) on Sep 11, 2008 at 15:01 UTC

    It doesn't matter where you put the information. They won't read it and post a badly ($formatted||$phrased||$thought_out) question anyway. I think we should leave it as-is.


Re: Monastery Gates Suggestion for Improvement
by GrandFather (Saint) on Sep 16, 2008 at 22:17 UTC

    A small change has been made stimulated by SuicideJunkie's comment by altering "Your text:" to "Your "PerlMonks-approved HTML"-formatted text:". This has obviously worked because some node are now posted with correct formatting. :-)

    Perl reduces RSI - it saves typing
Re: Monastery Gates Suggestion for Improvement
by misterwhipple (Monk) on Sep 17, 2008 at 01:51 UTC

    Barging is impossible where one is already welcome.

    A blind man is not helped by lighting more lamps.

    Some lessons can only be learned after you've got them wrong.

    cat >~/.sig </dev/interesting

      A blind man is not helped by lighting more lamps.

      And the Englishman abroad's response to not being understood is to repeat himself slowly and loudly.

      ... And why are my wallet, phone, keys... always in the last pocket I look for them?


      1. Good idea to precede the text box with Your "PerlMonks-approved HTML"-formatted text:
      2. Possibly better yet if that text had a link - either to Perl Monks Approved HTML tags as in the fifth link under the text box, or to Markup in the Monastery which IMO might be more "approachable".

      This signature will be ready by Christmas