in reply to Help me understand...

I agree completely with BlaisePascal's criteria. In general, I vote something up if I find it interesting, informative or insightful. This means that even non-perl-related discussion will get ++ from me if I think I learned something from it.

I also rarely vote --, and only when the post is completely irrelevant, gratuitously agressive, or very badly formulated. This means that a Perl question may get voted down, because it's phrased like "I don't know what the problem is -please help me" followed by 300 lines of code. Extra bad if the code is not enclosed in CODE tags.

As to "this community's ideals", I would say that the answer is in the word "community". We came here because of Perl, but we are all individuals with different experiences, opinions and interests, not all of them Perl-related. You learn as much in just chatting with other people as in reading deep technical posts. So IMHO, it's OK to get off-topic or philosophical every once in a while if it helps in fostering our spirit of community.