FAQ
Hi Ted,

It was a thought provoking E-mail. Let me reply.
On Wednesday 27 Apr 2011 11:58:48 Ted Mittelstaedt wrote:
On 4/22/2011 3:17 PM, Shlomi Fish wrote:
I recall that the traffic on the list was very overwhelming and that
someone commented to me that whenever he set to compose a message
answering a beginner, he already got several good replies by the time he
finished. The traffic now may also be a bit too much, even for
experienced people, but I recall it being much higher.
That is common to all online forums and nothing to be concerned with.

These forums were setup to help answer questions - many questioners
today will Google and find answers, often from archives of mailing lists
like this.

In the last decade I have gotten answers to problems from postings as
old as 8 years prior.
You are probably right. I should also note that there's a lot of other choice,
with Facebook forums (%-)), IRC, StackExchange sites (Stackoverflow/etc.),
other web-forums (including perlmonks, which was very similar to
Stackoverflow, a long time before SO existed) and others. So measuring
activity based on traffic is misleading.

One thing that irks me is that many people who ask questions intuitively think
that asking the question in private (whether by accident or by intention) is a
good idea. If I'm saying "foobar: add my to a variable" and get "/msg rindolf
What is my?" then I need to tell him to answer on the channel, because he
didn't study IRC netiquette. Of course, many people don't do that (most?) and
just type my nickname manually (sometimes misspelt) but it happens often
enough to get me irritated. I've seen my replies to a /msg 's a few years back
(I have comprehensive logs) and they were much more friendly and polite than
those recently.

There's also the problem of the /topic not being read, which isn't really
surprising giving that most users don't read most messages that are posted to
a screen manually (it's a very known phenomenon in user-interface design and
you must get to the bottom of it.).

Of course, it doesn't help that people measure stuff based on such silly
metrics, such as number of subscribers or participants or number of posts per
year, which as you indicate is stupid. A lot of people think that Eric S/
Raymond (ESR) no longer does nothing of value in the open source software
world, and just writes documents all day and posts silly posts and comments on
his blog, but he actually did a lot of work on many random small stuff (and
was quite quiet about it). This is one reason why my "Recent Hacktivity" blog
posts were important in the past, because like ESR, I tend to do a lot of
random work on things that interest me or even that I need. (Maybe Mr. Raymond
should get a technical blog, because his non-technical "Armed and Dangerous"
blog is a bit… something, and even I don't read it.).

But thanks for the insight. I guess online forums now focus more on helping
people with "Why my code does not work?" or answering people with really
complex questions, or answering people who are too clueless or too lazy to
Google, or just discussing tangential topics (humour/etc.). This may actually
be a good thing, as you indicate and we just got to accepting it.
http://unarmed.shlomifish.org/909.html

It discusses Dealing with Provocative Internet people - based on the
approach in the book "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy".
Actually what is more useful about that link isn't your post, it is all
the blog posts appended to your post.

I don't frankly believe that engaging people in the manner you describe
works very well. I think pretty much everyone has been taught by their
mothers at a young age the difference between asking for something in
a rude SOB manner and asking nicely. So the "aggressive posting" or
"trolling" or whatever you want to call it usually originates from
people who know better. Like porno, we know it when we see it.
Hmmm..... maybe you're right. Still, if you reply properly, politely and in a
friendly manner, you will be a few steps above the poster who say something
like "pyton suxors! pearl is mch better, LOL, l0sers." (which is probably too
lame to be a professional troll[1]) and thus people (and him) will think that
you are winning. This is like I recall seeing a fellow Perl monger at our
meetings in Tel Aviv University, in his work alphet which was a very elegant
uniform, and then when I saw him come to my home for picking up some stuff in
T-shirts and shorts (out of convenience), I had a much lower opinion on him.

If you phrase yourself properly, with proper spelling, grammar, punctuation,
capitalisation, idioms, etc. then people will consciouly and subconsciously
think that you know what you're saying, even if you are much more clueless.
This may be related to the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_effect .

[1] - we had one very sophisticated professional troll on #perl who posted
code and then discussed how to write it properly ad-nuseum. Thing is he seemed
to have known Perl very well, only pretended to be clueless. Eventually, I
moved him to #perlcafe , and asked him what he studied and we quickly
discovered it was an elaborate practical joke and he was probably laughing his
ass off at us all the time.

While he was malevolently reducing the SNR, it seemed like he was very
professional as professional trolls go, and so was quite formidable and awe-
inspiring as trolls go. Anyway, we realised now that if a person requires too
much hand-holding (whether a professional troll or not) then they will be
requested to move to #perlcafe or #perl-cats or wherever where they will do
less damage.
I suspect the reason things are not so polite on this list anymore
has much more to do with the changing nature of lists than anything
else. As I said, most people nowadays try googling up their answers
first, and only post to a forum as a last resort. So the posts your
going to see on these lists really are asking questions that cover
very "cutting edge" territory of Perl, where there is going to be more
disagreement. Such as, for example, the question of when do you
abandon old code and stop fixing bugs in it and replace it with
new code written in a modern style? There is no right answer for
this, at least not one that most people would agree on. Thus the
beginner who posts this is really asking an opinion question. That
is guaranteed to get a lot of opposing responses.
Well, yes or no, some people are clueless or lazy, and they need to be treated
with respect, because they are potential contributors and have friends who
care about them and some of them may even be star programmers, the kind who
write a Lisp compiler in Assembly on the weekend for the Palm Pilot
(naturally, this is an exaggeration, I was just paraphrasing Joel). There is a
limit to how much you can be rude to people, as clueless as they are, while
this hurting your reputation a lot. I don't want Perl to end up like GIMP,
which is an incredibly powerful, important and usable project, with some
talented people working on it, but since they are very hostile towards co-
developers on the gimp-dev mailing list and other places no one works to work
for them (and yes, I was a GIMP contributer at the time.). GIMP could have
been much further along the road today if they had been more polite and
friendly (which isn't hard).

Now, the perl5-porters people are very polite and courteus, and encourage
small and large contributions, but most people know a little better than to
post questions there. It's good that many people post to the Perl mongers
mailing lists where people are more polite than here, but it's not enough.

I'm not saying you shouldn't instruct a person to use "strict;" and
"warnings;" (which will be one step backwards and eventually two steps
forward) or refuse to write his complex homework project for him, or whatever,
but we should still be more hospitable. Someone here accused me of always
being phony, but I told him that I'd rather err a little on being phony than
on being rude and laconic and annoying, because the latter indicates that you
don't care about the other person's feelings.
It is really better for most people to simply NOT respond to what they
think is trolling. Let the list members who DON'T think the post is
trolling, respond, and stay out of the thread. I think that is the best
advice for all online forums.
Maybe. Still, asking "Why this code does not work?" is not trolling, and we
should dissect the code. There are still many bad Perl tutorials out there and
until we do some white-hat SEO work to reclaim Google , we will need to do it.

My original response to Uri's post with advice was out-of-line and I now know
better to respond to him in private, but I was only hoping for him to say
"Yes, you're right, I'll try to pay attention" (and it wasn't aimed at him
specifically.).

If you haven't read
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twenty_Thousand_Leagues_Under_the_Sea already,
you should. It tells the story of Captain Nemo, a person with a "Criminal
Mind", who thinks the world at large is evil, and that people are superficial
and that he and his crew are the only right people in the world. (I've met
someone like that on IRC, and he is very persistent.). So he designs a
submarine, build it and decides to live under the sea. Only this submarine,
while a fine innovation is hardly the end-all and be-all of submarines (read
the book to know why), which shows how incompetent Nemo actually is, because
he thinks it's still perfect, and does not want to share his invention with
the world and asking for improvements. I'm not claiming the people on this
list are anywhere near as destructive or incompetent as Captain Nemo is, but
it's still a valid analogy.

Howard Roark, the noble arcitect protagonist of The Fountainhead (a very good
book, BTW) exhibits similar symptoms, because instead of publishing as
knowledge in books, and training future architects, he keeps all his insights
to himself. Maybe when Rand wrote this book (and Atlas Shrugged naturally)
keeping things secret was more fashionable, so we need to judge her works
based on that (and many modern day Randians are all about being open and
sharing their knowledge[Wikip], and insights, and that's what Ayn Rand
practiced too when publishing her works as books), so it could be much worse.
I guess no one's perfect, and as time progress, so does our views of what is
right and what is wrong.

[Wikip] - there's a very good coverage of Randianism on the English wikipedia
and other wikimedia projects.

Regards,

Shlomi Fish

--
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Shlomi Fish http://www.shlomifish.org/
What does "Zionism" mean? - http://shlom.in/def-zionism

When Chuck Norris uses git, he takes a coffee break after initiating every git
commit. And then he waits for the commit to finish.

Please reply to list if it's a mailing list post - http://shlom.in/reply .

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