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(Toward a better PerlMonks) Who do we serve, and why, and how can we do it better?

by sundialsvc4 (Abbot)
on Jun 10, 2013 at 14:05 UTC ( #1038079=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

This post is by sundialsvc4, not Anonymous Monk, just in case somehow I get logged-out prematurely.  (I didn’t.)   Yes, I have said some of these things before.   Place your down-votes here to be sure that I get proper credit.

PerlMonks is kind of like Perl itself ... quirky, hasn’t changed much despite various attempts to change it in a dozen years, and we sort-of like it that way.   And, it does serve two fundamental user communities remarkably well:

  1. N00B1ES:   Perl is a hard language to get to know, and newbies don’t get barbequed here.   Much.   (They’re often so amazed at being treated courteously, that they write nice letters.)
  2. Esoterica:   Perl is a high-performance, yet compact language, with one of the most well-developed contributed software libraries to be found anywhere.   So, it winds up being pressed into service in a lot of amazing ways.   You can ask a question here, and get an informed answer (and a few not-so informed ones), and some complete blocks of source-code, in a matter of minutes or hours.

I suggest that all of us should always be asking ourselves, how can we serve these two groups better.   (And then, if changes to our venerable are called for, actually get changes done.)   Why do people come here?   What do they want to get from it, and what do they not?

They do want to get:

  • Answers.   Above all.   I am (whoever I am ...) “show-stopped” and the clock is ticking.   We have all been there.
  • Peer Review.   The best solution is not-obvious.   We want to hear the opinions of our peers.   We know that the Perl space is actually vast, with all kinds of nooks and crannies, and that someone .. here has already been there.

They do not want to get:

  • Participant personalities.   The moment a thread “gets personal,” it not only becomes off-topic, but it also gets irrelevant and even annoying to people who have to scroll through back-and-forth exchanges.   The rules of debate are formalized, but they’re formalized for a reason.   The greatest scene in The Fugitive ends with Tommy Lee Jones’ character shouting back, “I don’t care!”   His character had one purpose.   So do we.   The audience doesn’t come to a movie to see back-office politics.
  • XP wars.   So far as I know, PerlMonks is the only forum that provides a means of negative feedback, although a great many offer n people found this post helpful.   When I am looking for answers, especially in unfamiliar spaces, it is helpful to zero-in on what other people find helpful.   But it isn’t coincidence, I think, that these forums don’t tally negativity, let alone bundle them into a singular “total.”   Rotten Tomatoes, the well-known movie review site, tallys, separately, both the fresh and rotten fruits.   (And, guess what, I tend to read only the fresh ones.)   You heard the opinions of both Siskel (R.I.P.) and Eibert (R.I.P.).   Separately.   I think that there were carefully market-researched reasons for that.
  • “Anonymous” egg-throws.   No other forum that I know about permits posts to be made anonymously.   You must log-in, and if your session times out, you must re-authenticate to proceed.   The ability to do so, not only prevents someone from following-up offline with the true author of a particular post, but also encourages the other two things that, I aver, participants do not want to get.   Once again, I think there is a reason why every other forum acts differently from this one in this regard.

In the end, movies exist to sell popcorn.   Perlmonks similarly exists to provide on point answers and peer-reviews to people who one-and-all “sing for their supper.”   Whether we change the site software or not, in the end, it is the Monks who define our effectiveness in doing what we do here.   We ought to be “on-point” and “on-message,” collectively, all the time.   That message is never particularly about “any of us,” and I think we all should strive to keep it that way ... for them:   the folks who buy popcorn.

  • Comment on (Toward a better PerlMonks) Who do we serve, and why, and how can we do it better?

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Re: (Toward a better PerlMonks) Who do we serve, and why, and how can we do it better?
by 5mi11er (Deacon) on Jun 10, 2013 at 14:37 UTC
    I'm, unfortunately, going to immediately get into the personalities.

    I'm not new here, but I've only within the last month had the time (and need) to visit regularly again. From that time, I've noticed several posts of yours that appear to be needlessly defensive, and somewhat self aggrandizing. Apparently you and several other monks hate one another, and down vote one another constantly. That's not what I would call healthy behavior within the monastery, but, I've not seen what went on before, and I can't say that I really care to delve into the past to find out.

    The system is what it is, and I personally believe it is the system that had managed to cultivate and keep some amazingly talented, patient, intelligent people engaged for significantly longer than any other forum out there. Is there room for improvement on this model? Maybe. Is it worth changing simply because you have managed to attract a significant amount of negative XP? No.

    If you want to cultivate positive XP, then post material that will garner positive XP. Decide to become truly helpful. It will take time for the negativity to evaporate, but eventually it will, and then you can be at peace with Perl Monks.


      I too was away from PM for several months (for external reasons; nothing to do with PM itself). I return a few days ago, and one of the first posts I see is the one at the start of this thread, which is a rehash of a complaint that was being rehashed and reposted to the point of absurdity last year.

      I'm astonished that A) the same person is still posting the same "Make people be nice to me!" whine, thinly disguised as a request for useful discussion, and B) the post has gotten any upvotes, let alone enough to have a positive score. How depressing.

      I'm honestly sorry to be so harsh in one of my first posts since returning, but this is ridiculous.

      Aaron B.
      Available for small or large Perl jobs; see my home node.

      Actually... I downvote almost nothing, and never will.   And I have not the time to carry a grudge, much less a vendetta, thank you much.   Yet, I encourage all of you not to suppose, either that I seek “self-aggrandizement,” or that I raise this issue (yet again ...) merely to “counter negative-XP.”   Believe it or not, I have a Rhett Butler attitude about that.

      If I raise a question, I mean it quite seriously.   Even though you might see me post here frequently, the vast majority of my use of this site is Super Search.   I am not a god and therefore have (and seek) no access to the relevant statistics, but I do suspect that most non-newbie uses of this site are exactly the same.   Therefore, it is all about the quality of the content, which is obvious-enough, but also about the information quality of . . . the content-peer-rating system!   (Affectionately known as, “XP.”)

      Think outside the box.   To status-conscious frequenters, ratings are a way to rise to the Papacy.   But, to those who search, they are a way to sift the wheat from the chaff.

      When I very-badly need to know something, I search here.   Don’t go anywhere else WRT Perl.   When I perform a search on any topic, I don’t merely want to see what “hits” on this-or-that keyword.   (Google alone tells me that much... and Google knows nothing-at-all about Perl or anything else that it presumes to index.)   No, I want to know what posts the peers on this site considered, at that time, to be the “best ones.”   Those are the ones that, by far, are most likely to quickly give me the answers that I seek.   However, I am somewhat stymied in this, because I can only see the sum of the votes.   A really-good but unpopular-to-some post could attract 5 upvotes and 5 downvotes and wind up ... zero.   “Off my radar,” even though the upvotes are really what I want to zero-in on as an indicator of the thread’s actual information-value to me.

      Need other examples?   They’re very easy to find.   On Facebook, you can “like” something, but you can’t snub it.   But, why?   I suggest that the answer just might boil down to this:

      • “If you like it,” then maybe the right thing for me to do, from a less-informed position of knowledge, is to trust your judgment.
      • “If you don’t like it,” strangely, that’s just not the same thing.

        No, I want to know what posts the peers on this site considered, at that time, to be the “best ones.” ... However, I am somewhat stymied in this, because I can only see the sum of the votes.

        Actually, you can’t see a node’s reputation until you’ve voted on the node yourself. So, if you’re evaluating nodes by reputation — and therefore voting on the major nodes in each thread of interest — you’ll have to invest a lot of votes!

        But, once you have voted on a node, you can see its reputation spread by ticking the “Show reputation spread” box in the “Miscellaneous” section of your User Settings. That will show how many downvotes were included in the sum. You can then discount the downvotes and rank the nodes by their positive votes. See Display of Node Reputation.

        Hope that helps,

        Athanasius <°(((><contra mundum Iustus alius egestas vitae, eros Piratica,

Re: (Toward a better PerlMonks) Who do we serve, and why, and how can we do it better?
by eyepopslikeamosquito (Bishop) on Jun 11, 2013 at 10:34 UTC

    So far as I know, PerlMonks is the only forum that provides a means of negative feedback
    I find this an incredible claim. You've already posted not once, but twice, and at length, on the evils of downvoting: There were responses to your posts that mentioned sites with downvotes, such as Slashdot, Stack Overflow, reddit and hacker news. There was a response that refuted your claim that geocaching does not permit negative feedback (which you did not respond to). Finally, you yourself in a reply quoted that on Stack Overflow:
    Downvotes remove 2 reputation from the post author
    Had you bothered to do a small amount of research before posting for a third time on this topic, you would have easily discovered sites that provide a means of negative feedback.

      Come on, you should better cherish the positive aspects!

      At least a troll who doesn't pretend to be ignorant.

      Cheers Rolf

      ( addicted to the Perl Programming Language)

      PS: Nevertheless: Don't feed! =)

Re: (Toward a better PerlMonks) Who do we serve, and why, and how can we do it better?
by Anonymous Monk on Jun 10, 2013 at 15:01 UTC

    XP wars. So far as I know, PerlMonks is the only forum that provides a means of negative feedback,

    What, you don't know about slashdot? Everything2? StackOverflow?

    I could have sworn you did

Re: (Toward a better PerlMonks) Who do we serve, and why, and how can we do it better?
by Preceptor (Deacon) on Jun 11, 2013 at 19:21 UTC
    I can see an argument for separately counting positive and negative votes. An article with +100 and -100 is likely to be... well, not the same as an article with no votes.

    But I do think negative feedback _is_ effective and useful. Like or not, there's plenty of posts on an open forum that are themselves negative. Be that via trolling, offensiveness or merely being offtopic. It works quite well with Slashdot - being able to filter based on threshold values is also a valuable way to efficiently filter wheat from chaff.

    I don't think removing anonymity is particularly beneficial - it's not exactly difficult to re-register on most sites, and a contribution is valuable regardless.

    A reply falls below the community's threshold of quality. You may see it by logging in.
Re: (Toward a better PerlMonks) Who do we serve, and why, and how can we do it better?
by ambrus (Abbot) on Jun 12, 2013 at 19:00 UTC

    I'm here for the community, not for the perl knowledge. I come to perlmonks even during the periods when I get tired of perl and write everything in ruby for a change.

    I do want participant personalities. I do want to read and post irrelevant off-topic discussion in threads. I want these both for enjoyment and for actually learning things. If you don't need any of those, go to StackExchange sites (such as StackOverflow), which actively try to discourage those with the system. (Technically, the StackExchange sites have a chat part where such off-topic discussions go, but those are separated from the posts, are not threaded and you can't search information in them easily, just as you'd expect from chat.) I prefer the PerlMonks way.

    As for anonymous posts, StackExchange allows anonymous questions and answers, but not anonymous comments or egg-throwing. Besides, if you don't allow anonymous posts, people can just register throwaway accounts, as long as they don't vote with them, both on PerlMonks and on StackExchange.

Re: (Toward a better PerlMonks) Who do we serve, and why, and how can we do it better?
by Argel (Prior) on Jun 10, 2013 at 23:12 UTC
    I agree with the "on point" focus on volunteer service work, but experience points, node reputation, and anonymous posts are not the problem. The real problem (in my opinion) is lack of leadership. I tried to draw attention to this in Better Days? but clearly toned that node down too much. Though the Anonymous Monk in Re^5: Better Days? did understand: "I think the OP's point about how members reacted to the troll last summer didn't help either."

    And that right there is the problem. Prominent members, including some of the gods, encouraged a troll for several months, inflicting significant amounts of friendly fire and collateral damage on PM as a whole.

    Others have said that forums decline over time, but that's taking the easy way out. The reality is that when leadership actively works against the best interests of a site other undesirable behavior will be encouraged, or at least will not be discouraged, and the site will begin to fall into decline.

    And sadly, just mentioning the representative from The Perl Foundation covers that front....

    Of course, yet another post by you complaining about XP and Anonymous Monk does not exactly make this a better place either. Though I salute you for posting as yourself and upvoted your node for the "staying on-point" commentary.

    Elda Taluta; Sarks Sark; Ark Arks
    My deviantART gallery

      Though I salute you for posting as yourself and upvoted your node for the "staying on-point" commentary.

      I would much rather like to see you upvote the OP for putting "stay on point" into practice

      A very interesting observation ... “lack of leadership.”

      I have only-recently become aware that there are gods here ... or what are called “orders,” which appears to be a very-exclusive, by-invitation-only scheme by which you can volunteer to swab the decks.   ;-)   (And seriously, I’m not making fun here:   if you have a ship at sea, then you have decks and salt-water, and so, those decks must be swabbed.)   Probably the reason why I have not been aware of their existence is that ... PerlMonks has de-centralized that role.   Having achieved some certain quasi-status, I (among many...) can both “moderate” an unapproved node, and “consider” one that has come under fire ... or bring it under fire in like manner.

      PerlMonks, in other words, by design trusts its users, as a collective, with a role that traditionally is reserved to über-powerful "gods," whose singular authority firepower cannot be questioned nor overturned.   However, does that somehow result in “a lack of leadership?”   I don’t know.   But I sure do find the thought to be interesting, for being so un-answered ...

      Still, to me it really does come back to information content, not personalities.   The day-to-day bubblings of an online forum are superficially interesting, especially as one slurps one’s first cup of morning coffee, but their real value manifests in the many years that follow.   Just today, I found a “timely” answer in a post made eleven years ago ... and, for all I know (and not that I should care), the author could be ten years dead.

        Still, to me it really does come back to information content,

        Exactly. It is the "information content" of your posts that is demonstrably -- and oft-demonstrated -- as wrong -- often 180° so -- that is the source of your downvotes and personal attacks.

        • When asked, cajoled, and challenged to substantiate the technical information in your posts; you simply ignore those requests.
        • When that technical content is comprehensively demonstrated to be wrong; you simply ignore it and continue to post that same wrong crap.
        • The only thing that ever gets any reaction from you is when frustration with you causes someone to question you personally.

          That, at least, succeeds in drawing you out with yet another of these pointless threads; which in turn, have served to draw the attention of a wider audience to the terrible, unhelpful, -- sometimes disastrously so -- state of the technical content of many(*) of your posts.

          And that is a blessing in disguise. You serve as your own whilstle-blower which is ironically perfect.

        (*I'd say all -- which is my firm impression -- but I don't consider myself competent to judge all of it.)

        With the rise and rise of 'Social' network sites: 'Computers are making people easier to use everyday'
        Examine what is said, not who speaks -- Silence betokens consent -- Love the truth but pardon error.
        "Science is about questioning the status quo. Questioning authority".
        In the absence of evidence, opinion is indistinguishable from prejudice.
        Perhaps it's not the lack of leadership, but when the leaders actively work against the site. Are we really to believe that several months of trolling had no impact on The Monastery? Or the hall monitoring for questions that do not meet some clique's requirements had no impact? And what if the gods collectively came out against the hall monitoring?

        How about this exchange in Re^4: Do Not Feed the Trolls!!! (ban) between tye and chromatic way back in 2007:

        Tye: But when, for example, one of the gods appears to make a personal project of carrying on an extended discussion with "the troll"...

        chromatic: It was an experiment, and it was well worth my time, as I learned a few things.

        Is it any surprise then that a few years later we see Corion, chromatic, ikegami, and others encouraging arguably the worst troll we have ever had for months on end?

        Your own previous post, Politeness (to one another) is a virtue, provided for some interesting (and depressing) reading. This thread stands out: 939315, 939349 - 940494. Here's a heavily edited for brevity version (without any "..."):

        chromatic If you care to read those threads, you'll see me advising him to tread lightly as well as telling people to stop abusing him.

        Anonymous Monk I've read them far more than I cared to and I find your recollection of the events a little disingenuous. You're painting the whole episode, which lasted months, with a fairly one sided brush.

        The person showed a long pattern of bait and abuse on this site as well as an established history on others. You chose to ignore that, for your own reasons, and continued engaging with him until he had an epic meltdown a few weeks ago.

        A meltdown you seemed to be quietly absent from while everyone else suffered from his actions. Where were you to [sic] "Advise him to tread lightly" when all this was happening?

        chromatic Trading private email with him.

        Also, sometimes the business of running a business and managing employees and contractors means that I can't donate as much of my time to helping adults make wise choices as you might prefer that I donate.

        Argel [not the Anonymous Monk above] And my answer to that is if you do not have enough time to fully commit to something then do not get involved with it in the first place! In the end you were an enabler for poor behavior. And The Monastery in general suffered for it.

        Of course, if you research back to the events (2011 time frame), you will find that others such as Corion and ikegami were heavily engaged as well.

        Anyway, the point is that the gods collectively abdicated their responsibility to this site in favor of personal goals (presumably trying to bring a technically gifted but antagonistic person into the Perl community).

        So here we are, a few years later, and you really have to ask if leadership matters; has had an impact on this site? How many potential new members did we lose over that several month period? How many regulars did we lose, either completely or partially via reduced participation?

        Elda Taluta; Sarks Sark; Ark Arks
        My deviantART gallery

Re: (Toward a better PerlMonks) Who do we serve, and why, and how can we do it better?
by lee_crites (Scribe) on Jun 17, 2013 at 18:12 UTC

    Yahoo / PerlMonks

    What an interesting thread -- I am going to reply, anyway.

    I don't log into perlmonks daily and check things out. When I have questions, I normally hit Yahoo! up for answers, and scan through the list of links it returned.

    If I see an link to perlmonks, I normally go there (here) first. Why? For virtually all of the reasons listed by sundialsvc4. From time to time I start here, but most of the time not.

    I could pick on the user interface and the quirks in the search (I mean, really, WHY does Yahoo and Google do a better job of searching perlmonks than perlmonks does????), but by and large, it is what it is, and I find it's usefulness enough to keep me coming back.

    I am by no means a N0081E, but sometimes asking a question really IS the fastest and best way to get a real answer. Mindless replies like RTFM waste everyone's time and resources -- and thankfully, it has been a LONG time since that has happened to me here.

    Good post; good comments. I second the thoughts and feelings!

    Lee Crites
        (I mean, really, WHY does Yahoo and Google do a better job of searching perlmonks than perlmonks does????)

      I don't know about Yahoo, but search is what Google does. So don't be surprised if a Google search of the site is faster/better than the local search. Also think about how much hardware is being directed to a local search, and compare that against the Google behemoth.

      So, short answer, if you really want to search Perlmonks for something, I highly recommend using Google instead of the local search .. unless you know in exactly which section the post you're after is located.

      Alex / talexb / Toronto

      "Groklaw is the open-source mentality applied to legal research" ~ Linus Torvalds

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