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IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums

by mothra (Hermit)
on Apr 13, 2001 at 20:49 UTC ( [id://72389] : perlmeditation . print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

This is a question about the real value of community-based discussion forums, whether they be Perl Monks, comp.lang.perl.misc, efnet #perl or even other "geek forums" like Slashdot. This is not an attack on any one forum (and please don't reply with flames about how much you hate this or that :).

But after a recent CB discussion, I've come to the realization that maybe these forums are doing more harm than good. Maybe they waste more time than the educational value one derives from them. In fact, I've even considered completely isolating myself from all of the aforementioned forums (and a few others) for one year, to see if perhaps it would increase my focus on programming, and be the best for my development as a hacker.

Obviously, the community aspect of Perl is a huge thing for me. Coming from other languages (augh) has more than shown me the importance of knowing that there are people out there to answer your questions, in fact, often already having solved the exact problem you're facing. I truly can't emphasize this enough.

But why is it so difficult to participate in almost any discussion on efnet #perl without getting flamed or kick/banned? Likewise (though unlike the latter, this is not something I can remember facing specifically) on clpmisc, it seems like there is more fighting going on than helpful replies.

Is it complete coincidence that Larry and The Damian never seem to frequent these forums? But then again, there are others who are all around these parts whose books are the ones I read to learn Perl. :)

And then there's the more controversial analysis in the post: The Monastery itself. Perhaps Perl Monks's approach of newbie-friendliness, often answering FAQish type questions rather than referring to docs isn't teaching newbies the right way to learn. (Yes, you are seeing correctly, that FAQ is something I asked :) In fact, I often agree with the clpmisc/#perl approach of "read perldoc <whatever>" as being the best way to answer a question, because it fosters technical accuracy and teaches people how to do the research for themselves. I also definitely do believe that all the pod is there for a reason: because somebody (among others, of course) spends lots of time writing and maintaining it, and to overlook it is an insult to the hard work they've done.

So again, why is it then that Larry and The Damian never seem to be around these discussion forums?

Is there any one of these forums (or another perhaps) commonly referred to as "the best" source of information?

Does one really need to use any of these to become an excellent hacker? Or would one actually be better off developing the discipline to stay away from them? (ie. Perhaps they're just entertainment value!?)

Would all the time on Perl Monks/IRC/newsgroups be better spent in front of a book and/or a text editor?

Has anyone else "had it" with all the (flame|holy)wars going on?

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by footpad (Abbot) on Apr 13, 2001 at 21:03 UTC

    Well, as with anything, you have to call your shots. There are, after all, so many hours in the day.

    I used to check slashdot (and a couple of different newsgroups) out every couple of days/weeks to make sure I was up on the headlines. Now, I rarely go there, in part because of the, er, free-wheeling nature of the place.

    I spend a lot of my free time here (perhaps more than I should). By doing so, I've not only learned a lot about Perl, but I've also collected a huge number of random links (enough so that I'm working on a script to consolidate those and upload them to a central respository as an exercise.)

    But, in order to truly learn something, you've got to roll up your sleeves and write some code. Only through making your own mistakes will you learn to prevent them. It's great to read how others solved problems, but if you don't make some of your own, you won't be able to make the transitions from apprentice to journeyman to master.

    Some time away may be helpful, but I don't recommend you completely isolate yourself from all communities, just budget a set amount of time for the communities you find most helpful. If you have certain coding practices you follow, regardless of the language, use that same discipline in your community participation.

    (And, yes, I'm finding I have less and less patience with zealotry.)


Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by Masem (Monsignor) on Apr 13, 2001 at 21:28 UTC
    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
      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.
Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by KM (Priest) on Apr 13, 2001 at 21:11 UTC
    But why is it so difficult to participate in almost any discussion on efnet #perl without getting flamed or kick/banned?

    FYI.. most get kick/banned from #perl because a) they don't read the rules of the channel (summarized in the channel topic), and b) get nasty when someone points them to docs instead of writing things for them.

    (efnet) #perl is not a Perl-help channel. It is a place for people who like Perl to gather and hang out. Noone there feels obligated to help, since that is not the purpose of the channel.

    I just wanted to clarify that :)

    Would all the time on Perl Monks/IRC/newsgroups be better spent in front of a book and/or a text editor?

    I don't think so. I think that real-time (or near real-time) communication with others doing what you are is invaluable. I spend time here, #perl on 2 different networks, and various mailing lists. I think if I didn't, my Perl knowlege would have been stunted because I couldn't learn by interacting (or even lurking) with others.


      FYI.. most get kick/banned from #perl because a) they don't read the rules of the channel (summarized in the channel topic), and b) get nasty when someone points them to docs instead of writing things for them.

      I can speak from firsthand experience and say that this simply isn't true. Some of the ops (but I certainly won't categorize and say all) have power trips and look for ways to kick people.

      For example, the other day an op "informed" me that Linux was only a kernel. I sarcastically replied with "Um, can you state something slightly more obvious? :)" (with the happy face in there too I believe, but either way, my intent was clearly being sarcastic, not offensive, even though I felt it almost offensive that I was being talked down as if I had never used a computer before. I'm QUITE aware that Linux is a kernel, thank you :).

      But anyways, as a reply, this op responded with (something "more obvious" I guess) "Unix is more capable than Linux". An #perl...saying that!? There's enough I-want-to-start-a-holy-war in there to light up a small town.

      Shortly thereafter, other ops "joined into this discussion" (in quotes because, they didn't exactly "join in" but rather "pushed their way in", and it was more of an annoying "arugment" than a discussion). Before long one particular op (who is ALWAYS the one that k/b's me, the only op I have real problems with, every time) was essentially name-calling and telling me to leave saying that I never contribute anything useful, and how much of an idiot I was for trying to start a flamewar (Um, I wasn't the one making the blanket statements and giving zero proof of why anyone should think I'm right).

      Within minutes said op k/b'd me. That was about 3 days ago and I'm still banned because of it. Now, again, I'm not using Perl Monks as a voice for flaming any other forum, but does this seem like appropriate op behaviour? Even if it's "just a hangout for Perl programmers", do you honestly (not that you were an op involved) treat your friends like this when you hang out in real life?

      And again, to revisit my original post in this thread, the point is that I'm starting to feel like there's too much of this crap going around in -- for some reason mostly Perl -- forums it seems. I honestly believe that places like #perl and clpmisc have driven some from using Perl to switching to the "more friendly" communties like Python's. In fact, I occasionally hear this sentiment reflected in IRC and on the web.

        Says mothra:
        Some of the ops have power trips and look for ways to kick people.
        That certainly is true. And since the mass exodus from EFnet, many of the more moderate and rational people are gone.

        I'm starting to feel like there's too much of this crap going around in -- for some reason mostly Perl -- forums it seems.
        While I agree that there is far too much of it going on (and I'm hoping to give a talk about this at TPC this summer) I disagree with you that it is mostly in Perl forums. There are plenty of communities that have worse cases of this disease. Try reading comp.lang.lisp for a couple of weeks. Now there is a newsgroup with big problems.

        I can speak from firsthand experience and say that this simply isn't true

        I didn't say people get k/b'd for those two reasons. I said 'most'. Please don't say what I am saying (especially since I am an op there) isn't true, when it is. I may go back in the logs and see if what you are saying is true (out of curiosity).

        who is ALWAYS the one that k/b's me, the only op I have real problems with, every time) was essentially name-calling and telling me to leave saying that I never contribute anything useful,

        So, one person you have trouble with. Sorry that sometimes ops can be, well, jerks.. but it is the way it is (in most communities)

        Even if it's "just a hangout for Perl programmers", do you honestly (not that you were an op involved) treat your friends like this when you hang out in real life?

        Like what? Saying they are wrong? Flick them behind the ear? Of course!

        Anyways, I don't mean to defend #perl against another unsatisfied customer. But, please don't say what I am saying isn't true. I don't care to be called a lier.

        So, let's just give eachother the respective --'s and be done with this :)


Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by nysus (Parson) on Apr 14, 2001 at 00:08 UTC
    Your question: Why have peer communities? My answer: for the same reason we have uprofessors, schoolteachers and fellow students. They place us in an environment with our peers where through interaction and the socratic method we can learn much more quickly and efficiently.

    Suppose, as a small child of 9, you were suddenly to thrown you into the New York Public library and locked there until age 21. Your orders are to "educate yourself" in those dozen years. How efficient could you really be seeking out the perls :-) of wisdom from those millions of books? My guess is that, isolated from your peers and the rest of society, you would come out an idiot and would not be able to function in the real world though you spent the last 12 years diligently reading.

    Are books important? Of course! But learning Perl from books alone is like saying you went to college because you bought and read all the required textbooks. I try my best to learn from the books and not waste the time of others. I try to use Perl Monks when I'm stuck. I'm no idiot and I'm a great self-learner. It's just a hell of a lot more efficient to ask someone. I've got a hell of a lot more better things to do than to turn a code over in my head for a half hour because a passage in a book is not written clearly simply because it's "more disciplined" approach. There are very few people, the super-geniuses amongst us, who don't need to seek outside help. But for the rest of us mere mortals, thank God for places like Perl Monks.

    It's true that Perl is no high art and is very technical in nature. It does however, still have a culture. And it's places like PerlMonks that I've learned a lot about the philosophy of programming and Perl. I've enjoyed reading about the trials and tribulations of Perl programmers out there in the real world. It has given me a much deeper sense of Perl is and the culture that has grown up around it, more than what any book ever could.

    As far as flame wars and such, I'd attribute that to a lot of immature punk kids. Hell, that's the kind of junk I said when I was 16. It's just part of being young male. I don my best to ignore it cuz there's not much I can do about it. One reason I like PerlMonks so much is because it seems the culture of Perl has triumphed over the culture of teenage boyhood.

    Ah, well, back to studying Perl in isolation!

Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by yakko (Friar) on Apr 13, 2001 at 22:56 UTC
    OK, having read this entire thread, here I go...

    First, having had experience with EFnet that turned out to be very negative, there is virtually no incentive for me to go there for any reason. This holds slightly less true for USENET. USENET's basic problem is that I can't devote excessive time to separating signal from noise. EFnet's basic problem, and this is only my perception, is that it's simply more stressful to sign on and try to live in peace than it's worth.

    deprecated, on your BOFH story... he's giving the rest of us bastards a bad name. :o)

    On participation: This has been in the back of my mind for weeks, now.

    For slashdot, it was simple: why bother participating when the S/N is approaching zero?

    For IRC, I can lurk and log and have scrollback, so unless the channel disallows lurkers, things aren't so bad. Being able to hop in at any time without fear of ye olde /kick (or, if people are really nasty, ye olde /kill) is a huge plus. If that's discouraged in any way, there's much less value in non-established people going there.

    Which brings me to this place that I'm wasting my time at currently... only much of my time -isn't- wasted. The main demotivator of participation here is the almighty downvote. A secondary demotivator all my own is that I shouldn't post garbage in hopes of gaining XP, so I don't, and it's been a really steep hill going up. Very discouraging.

    However, I've been able to participate when I could (read that as "when it's safe" if you're so inclined :o) and I've learned a lot in the process.

    For KM and mothra trading views on #perl: I think this duel is one of perceptions. I know I'd probably form the same perception as mothra given what I've heard about the place. IMO, downvotes should be spared here. :o)

    On a big sabbatical: If you think you need one, GO FOR IT! But don't hesitate to come back the instant you have an urge or when you think you're done recovering. It could take a day, a week, or a month... or however long. When existence suffers, don't force yourself to stay.

    Me spell chucker work grate. Need grandma chicken.

Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by tinman (Curate) on Apr 13, 2001 at 22:37 UTC

    Partly in reply, and also partly to Masem's suggestion earlier, I think one of the greatest things about this community is its tolerance of people who ask questions that have been asked before.

    To compare, although such comparisons are obviously going to be flawed, I ask myself these questions..
    Are there perl experts in comp.lang.perl.misc ? yes
    Are there perl experts in perl monks ? yes
    So, what brings me here, and makes me contribute posts and spend more time here per day than I would in a newgroup ? its the sense of ownership and community..

    I consider myself to be a neophyte (with no reference to the monk of the same name :o) in terms of Perl, yet, I can ask questions, and I've never gotten flames here...

    So, I think web based forums such as these *will* work, so long as there is sufficient incentive for people to be nice (XP is one such reason, and its not even the largest or only one).. newgroups and IRC won't, because there is no incentive for someone to behave properly, since the great majority are silent or uncaring in the face of non-perl related idiocy...

    phew, does this sound like a rant to you ? it does to me :o).. but what I would like to conclude is that even if someone asks a complete newbie question, I'd throw the person a link to get started if I can.. if for no other reason than the fact that when I didn't know something, others in this community helped me out in a similar way...

    so, yes to web based forums... only occasional lurking in newsgroups is fine with me.. :o), but ultimately, any community can only help you get started down the road to "excellent hacker".. you need to do the work yourself.. but its going to be a much much easier journey when you can share notes, thoughts, opinions with your peers... just as you have now...

    So, finally, one of my fave quotes from Francis Bacon goes...
    If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers,
    it shows he is a citizen of the world,
    and that his heart is no island
    cut off from other lands,
    but a continent that joins to them.

Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by Desdinova (Friar) on Apr 13, 2001 at 21:02 UTC
    I find IRC and Perlmonks to be a great help to me. I have learned more here than about perl programming than i did in any book. Mostly because I get to see many approaches to problems. Most books list a problem and a solution and you are left to assume that is the only way. I have yet to ask a question here, because everytime i log in with a question in mind I do a search and find lots of great answers already here. THe fact that i sit here browsing through the questions others ask help me to be a better porgrammer. It gives me a chance to to eximine problems that i ma not facing yet and figure out solutions which keeps my skills sharp. More than once I have learned something about perl while trying to answer a question and then been able to turn it around and apply the knowledge to a problem I am working on.I dont learn well from just reading a book. I need to see things in action. The more problems i try to solve the better i get at solving problems
    As for the RTFM vs FAQ I see a lot of that here uauslly with links to past nodes ect. Its cool that it can be done in a nice way.
Re (tilly) 1: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by tilly (Archbishop) on Apr 14, 2001 at 20:12 UTC
    First of all Larry Wall may not now, but he certainly has in the past spent time on Usenet, and has even been known to drop the occasional flame or two.

    Secondly you are right that online discussion fora can become an insane time sink. Certainly if you spend all of your time at work helping others you are not, on the whole, benefitting.

    That said it is the rare person who can learn effectively without outside input. If you are incredibly lucky you will have that kind of input locally available to you. Most of us have to go elsewhere to get exposure to people, technical points, and ways of thinking that cause us to grow.

    So I would suggest whittling down. Decide how much time you feel comfortable spending online. Then decide where you want to spend it. Personally it is a major form of entertainment for me..from home. I sign in from work, but I limit how much time I spend online. (What that limit is depends on what is going on at work.)

    And if you are the kind of person who gets into flamewars and then is left upset and frustrated, well I definitely recommend avoiding places where you get into flames...

Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by r.joseph (Hermit) on Apr 13, 2001 at 23:53 UTC
    I am answering this post before reading any of the replies in hopes of offering a completley unbiased and uninfluenced opinion - so please forgive me if I reapeat certain things that may have already been said.

    Coming from a background with no formal training in any computer related field (except for a really badly executed online class in CGI) and being one who has taught myself everything I know (like many of the other memebers of this forum), I must say that PerlMonks in itself has been one of the greatest resources in the advancement of not only my Perl knowledge, but my knowledge of programming as well. Not only being able to ask questions and have them answered in a timely and correct fashion, but also being able to help others and read the questions of others is one of the greatest strengths of a forum such as this one.

    Refering to your comments on other types of discussion forums (c.l.p.misc or IRC), I will start with clpmisc. Before I found PerlMonks, I was frequently utilizing the resources of clpmisc to help answer my questions. Everytime I asked, I was answered, and usually (but not always) without flame or embarassment. However, I believe that PM fosters a more friendly atmosphere because unlike clpmisc where one day you can be Person A, and the next you can be Person Z and no one is the wiser, here most people are firmly attached to their identies and strive to advance their reputation (both perceived and real (with XP)) of their "character" if you will. I believe that the concrete identity that people have in PM and the voting system that allows them to advance in rank or caste level is one of the most important features of this community that seperates it from others on the Internet.

    In reference to #perl channels on various IRC servers, I must say that although people may argue that the concrete identity exists there as well, it most defintely does not. For some reason, however, even though many people try to remain the same "nick" all the time, I have had similar experiences in IRC channels - the feeling of not being welcome at all, and of being a target of major flameage. I am not a saracastic person by nature, but I realize that I do joke around alot, and I think that because IRC is so much more of a "converstaion"-like medium than PerlMonks or clpmisc (where in IRC it is near-real-time converstaion where as PM or clpmisc is nearer to correspondence (ie: letters) than true converstaion) that people "say" things in IRC that they would say in the normal world as being sarcastic or joking, but since no facial expressions or vocal inflections can be transfered in simple text, they are often perceived incorrectly and may offend - hence the reason for much more animosity in IRC than here or in USENET.

    Finally, in conclusion, although there are certain obstacles to overcome when conversing on the Internet (I recently posted a question on the same subject and recieved some really great replies), I believe that the human interaction the Internet offers is very important to those that are used to it and who rely on it on a daily basis. I can defintely say that my Perl skills would be no where near the level they are right now no matter how much money I spent on books and no matter how much time I spent reading docs. Well, that is my two cents...feel free to flame :).

    r. j o s e p h
    "Violence is a last resort of the incompetent" - Salvor Hardin, Foundation by Issac Asimov
Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by deprecated (Priest) on Apr 13, 2001 at 22:11 UTC
      But why is it so difficult to participate in almost any discussion on efnet #perl without getting flamed or kick/banned?

    Although this may seem to fulfil the original questions in this thread, it is well known (at least on DALnet, where I started on IRC) that lzh from efnet #perl is a, well, to put it kindly, he's a bofh. I am permanently banned from the channel for talking to him at 3am when he was ranting about stuff to nobody in particular. I guess I interrupted the fella. Don't take it personal being banned on efnet #perl.

    brother dep.

    Laziness, Impatience, Hubris, and Generosity.

Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by converter (Priest) on Apr 14, 2001 at 09:35 UTC

    Preface: these comments are not directed at any person in particular, they are just the mad ravings of a tired channel op.

    I'm sure the ops on EFnet #perl are a lot like the ops on DALnet #perl, where I'm an op: we spend a lot of time in the channel, so it's a lot like "home" to us (pathetic, but true). We're not trying to prove anything, we're not mean-spirited, we're just trying to keep the channel (generally) on-topic and make it a productive learning environment for everyone, including the ops. We have rules for a very good reason and we expect users to obey them--consider it the price you pay for access to our hard-earned knowledge and experience. Sure, there are ops who walk around with a chip on their shoulder. You should be mature enough to recognize that and just steer clear if you can.

    Sit in a #perl channel for eight hours or longer at a stretch and watch some of the folks who come through. The real "Perl disciple" is the exception, not the rule. A lot of folks drop by looking for quick fixes to problems they don't even understand. They ask questions that demonstrate a total lack of effort and an unwillingness to learn how to test even ridiculously simple chunks of code. These same people often argue with people who give them correct (and often very detailed answers), or get upset when instead of an answer, they're asked a few questions about the nature of the problem.

    If you want to get along on a #perl channel and actually derive some benefit from it, don't make an ass of yourself. Seems simple, but few people seem to realize that it's counterproductive to sit in an IRC channel and piss people off. Don't expect people to do your work for you, and by all means, learn how to use the wonderful tools Perl gives you. Learn how to run one-liners at your DOS or shell prompt, learn how to use the Perl debugger interactive mode, learn your way around the documentation that's included with every Perl distribution.

    I think I speak for the other ops on DALnet #perl when I say that we enjoy answering questions about Perl when we can do so without surrendering our self-respect in the process. We enjoy tackling interesting problems, and yes, sometimes we'll even sit down and write some code for someone we enjoy chatting with and who actually seems to be learning something. We're part of the IRC #perl channel community because we like Perl, and we enjoy the company of others who feel the same way. Behave like an adult, treat others like you would want them to treat you, and have a good time. That's all we ask. And just so you don't think I'm a softie, RTFM!

    I realize that this is probably not the most elegant prose to grace these pages, but it's late, I'm tired, and I needed to vent a little bit.

Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by virtualsue (Vicar) on Apr 15, 2001 at 18:07 UTC
    So again, why is it then that Larry and The Damian never seem to be around these discussion forums?

    Not everybody is interested in this sort of social interaction. That doesn't mean that it's wrong or bad or likely to stunt your development as a Real Hacker. ;-)

    Does one really need to use any of these to become an excellent hacker?

    No. I can't see why it should stop you from becoming one, however.

    Would all the time on Perl Monks/IRC/newsgroups be better spent in front of a book and/or a text editor?

    That depends. Are you missing deadlines (personal or professional) because you chat a lot?

    Has anyone else "had it" with all the (flame|holy)wars going on?

    Sure. Everyone (well, almost everyone) gets tired of that sort of thing. I found it was simplest to just learn to ignore them. Each of us can only really control our own behavior - it's impossible to make anyone else "behave". ;-)

Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by Anonymous Monk on Apr 15, 2001 at 22:49 UTC

    It sounds like you are reaching a stage of Perl programming maturity where the appeal of the novelty of it all has whithered somewhat and you would like to get some work done. As personal advice I would say that yes reading the docs and a book should be helpful at this time.

    Regarding the question of whether online fora have any value I would say that they most certainly do. When a complete newbie it can actually help to have someone refer to RTFM since you may be unaware of the FM. I recall tutoring someone who had been taking a Perl programming class at a nearby institution of higher learning. That person had already invested 6 weeks of his time (and I do not know how much money) into the course material. In order to get our session started he lead off with a simple question. Rather than answering it directly I opted to show that person how to find the answer in the online reference (perlfunc.pod). I was then shocked to find that the person had no experience with either the Unix perl man pages, perldoc, or Shuck on the Macintosh. It was surprising to me that his professor had apparently not bothered to mention these valuable resources. Oh sure they had purchased, through their campus store, the O'Reilly book Learning Perl which was a great text to be using. But the prof had not yet mentioned the wealth of online docs, how its organized, etc.

    The nature of aquiring technical knowledge can undergo strange contortions. There are Perl pod pages that are simply reference material (e.g. perlfunc). There are Perl pod pages that are more tutorial in nature (e.g. perlreftut). There are Perl pod pages that are more Q&A style (e.g. perlfaq$n).

    However none of the aforementioned pod docs are of the immediate human communication nature. I would venture that perhaps a course at a community college or meeting folks face to face at a Perl Mongers event would be helpful to you. There is something about the lack of anonymity in meeting folks in person that induces more politeness and respect than is typically the case online. So try forming/attending/organizing a Perl Mongers group in your area. When you are ready try giving one of more talks to the group. There is nothing quite like preparing a lecture to force you into learning the various aspects of a technical subject :-)

      I was then shocked to find that the person had no experience with either the Unix perl man pages, perldoc, or Shuck on the Macintosh. It was surprising to me that his professor had apparently not bothered to mention these valuable resources. Oh sure they had purchased, through their campus store, the O'Reilly book Learning Perl which was a great text to be using. But the prof had not yet mentioned the wealth of online docs, how its organized, etc.

      Why is it that Perl books geared towards beginners, notably Learning Perl do not discuss pod and where to find the pod pages? As an author of such a book couldn't you provide your readership with a little more shelf life or longevity if you mention things like "be sure to check the online documentation that came with your Perl installation. Here is how to do just that..." or is it the case that designed absolescence in the publishing world is to be considered a good thing?

Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by LD2 (Curate) on Apr 14, 2001 at 21:09 UTC
    Just an opinion...

    I think you've brought up an interesting thought, I don't believe that these communities or forums make you a better 'hacker' or programmer. But, I do believe that communication between developers is a great idea and that these communites help foster that. Ideas, thoughts, and collaboration between developers has been greatly improved with these ways of communication.. and I doubt anyone ever regretted having these pathways open to them. I won't say that these forums don't help one improve their talents or help them learn or research in new areas or maybe just help broaden their understanding on a certain key points or fundamentals -- but I do think that one can survive and be an excellent developer without them. There are too many outside resources that one could use without using forums, IRC, web site communities - although a quick question may not be so easily answered. I think that online resources are a fast reply/response system and that's one reason why people use it so often. One doesn't have to wait days or hours to get an answer, they can either post or discuss it online with a short amount of time. I think it's a matter of patience, attention span...and maybe a bit of laziness.

    I'm not sure if one forum is better than another.. I personally think that online communities such as the monastery is a bit better than IRC communites. One reason generally speaking, people treat it as a community - which means they give as much as they take/learn. From my past experiences with IRC, it seems that the ops are the ones that mostly answer the questions while visitors pop in and out with questions. Although that is what it's used for, most users on IRC do not share their knowledge with others. Sorta like fast food.. but quick questions, quick answers. Also, since users here have to write their questions up in a post form - they may have to think a bit more on how to phrase their questions in a more understanding manner. This may or may not help them discover their own answers on their own - it also allows them to share their code and let others view the problems that they may be blinded by. Whereas with IRC, it's harder to ask difficult questions without flooding the channel with code. Another comparison is the ability to search for answers or documents here... with IRC, most users will just blurt their questions out with or without prior research. I think that may be the case on why 'RTFM' is used so often with IRC compared to here at the monastery. Most here have done a bit of research or they are shown the way by others - it's still a learning process here.. IRC seems more solving the problems for people.
Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by kha0z (Scribe) on Apr 15, 2001 at 00:45 UTC
    I agree that there is no replacement for formal training in programming. Whether this is school, seminars, books, man pages, perldoc, etc. these should always be the first resource of any programmer. However, the benefit to forums/IRC/news groups is that one may find insight on solving a problem that seems to have a non apperent solution. This is good for anyone that needs help.

    When I started programming I came straight out of the books. However, sometimes I still don't know the answer to all the problems that I face day to day. I dislike getting flamed because I put effort into asking a community for advice on hurdles that I am facing. I appriciate all direction even if it is not a total solution.

    You asked Has anyone else "had it" with all the (flame|holy)wars going on? My answer is yes. I am tired of all the flaming. All that I am looking for is direction, guidence, and support from the community of which I am proud to be a part of.

    Good Hunting,

Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by belize (Deacon) on Apr 17, 2001 at 17:55 UTC
    To me, the greatest value of PerlMonks is the ability to research questions and problems. Then, if one can't find the answer in the archives, to ask the "experts".

    When coding, it is frustrating to have to stop and research a problem when you know the answer is simple, just not within your own experience, and that if you had a Perl Guru sitting beside you, you could move on quickly. That is what I find extremely valuable about PerlMonks layout.

    Flames and Holy Wars don't bother me, as I rarely if ever take part in them.

Re: IRC vs. Newsgroups vs. Web Forums
by Beatnik (Parson) on Apr 15, 2001 at 18:47 UTC
    Personally, I dont read newsgroups, dont read all nodes here and spend alot of my time on IRC. None of the usual Perl gurus are there but most Ops do know what they're talking about...

    ... Quidquid perl dictum sit, altum viditur.