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Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums

by Masem (Monsignor)
on Apr 13, 2001 at 21:28 UTC ( #72403=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums

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 - || "You've left the lens cap of your mind on again, Pinky" - The Brain

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Re: Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by nysus (Parson) on Apr 14, 2001 at 00:49 UTC
    One big problem I have with gruff RTFM answers is that for most non-programmers like me, the FM usually doesn't make sense. It's almost like asking someone with a 6th grade literacy level to go and read Ulysses.

    I've been a Perl for the last 2 months or so and am only now starting able to refer to the Perl doc for enlightenment. There is a hell of a lot of jargon in programming and it takes a bit before it all starts sinking in. Also, Perl doc is not meant to be didactic. It's a concise reference work. Works great if you are already familiar with programming and Perl, but almost completely useless if you don't. I can no more become a Perl programmer by reading the Perldoc than I could become a medical doctor by reading Gray's Anatomy.

    So I guess all I'm saying is, "do your best to have patience." I know it's hard, but do your best. You'll make the world---or at least PerlMonks---a better place. :-)

      I'll agree, there are some manuals that are very poorly written that it takes a long time for the answer to sink in, and since usually that is the only major source of information for a certain program or language, well, you're pretty much SOL.

      But this IMO is a minority of manuals, and very much not true in the case of perl's documentation. Maybe the perldocs can do with some reorganization or better indexing, but the language and numerous examples used make it one of the more friendly documents I've come across.

      Most of the questions that get RTFM's are usually from people that have probably just picked up the language but don't want to bother to 'learn' it, just use it right off the bat; this is very typical of homework trolls who just want the program to work to get a good grade in the class but don't care to remember perl in the long run. In most of those cases, RTFM is the right answer, given that the answer they want is right there. But there are a good minority of posts that sometimes will get RTFM answers but the people asking does have a serious question or concern, generally even after scanning the docs. It's sometimes hard to separate out those truely asking for help from the 'do it for me' crowd, so one way to avoid getting a gruff RTFM answer is to make sure that you tell us that you've already glimped through the manual or whatever and can't find what you're looking for. That would tell us that you've done your homework before asking here, and you'll probably get a more thorough answer than typical FAQ pointers used in newsgroups and such.

      Dr. Michael K. Neylon - || "You've left the lens cap of your mind on again, Pinky" - The Brain
      When i first started using Perl perldoc want real useful to me becaue for the most part i didnt know what functions were out there. Personally I started out really learning perl when i got my hands on Learning Perl Thats where i started to learn how to use perl to solve problems. Then i was able to move onto Programming Perl around this time Perldoc beacme real useful for looking up specific syntax and such. The one thing that those bok and perldoc hasnt given me that i found here was a place to see problems hashed out beyond just getting something to work. For me some of the most intresting nodes are the ones where someone posts a question and thier take on it and in the process the other memebers here end up reworking the whole logic and approach to the problem. you can't really find that in any book.

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