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Question Your Opinions

by Guildenstern (Deacon)
on May 01, 2001 at 20:28 UTC ( [id://77019] : perlmeditation . print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Recently, I responded to another of merlyn's "find the personality downvoter" nodes. In the ensuing dialog, I told him that I had developed an unfavorable impression of him. I also said that since the only interaction I've had with him is through PerlMonks, that impression must have been gained through his postings. Now, this argument seems to pop up quite often. Merlyn is accused of being a heartless clod who thinks only of himself. I admitted that I shared similar feelings, and was challenged by merlyn to point out to him what it was that made me think that way. So, off I ran to sift through merlyn's posts, thinking it would be quick work to find several representative samples of what I had been talking about. After looking through a hundred or so posts at random (sorted by date, mind you, not rep), I was still looking for the silver bullet that I could hold up and exclaim "aha!".
By this point I was beginning to question why exactly I had developed my opinion of merlyn. Reading through more posts I came to the conclusion that at my personal stage in Perl knowledge, most of his answers were perfectly fine. Sure it's annoying to click through to a Web Techniques column, but the information is there. Upon more examination, I decided that merlyn had never done anything to me to cause me to feel the way I do. Most of what I felt was based on how I thought others would respond to merlyn's answers. I didn't see very many times when someone said "Hey wait. How about a better/more in-depth answer?" It was just my perception that the answer was wrong for whomever asked the question. As KM stated: "If you don't like someone short, terse answer.. noone is stopping you from expounding on it".
I'm not saying that I'm going to be posting everything from now on as merlyn lovers anonymou, but I have been forced to take out one of my opinions from its shelf and notice that it's a bit dusty and could use some refurbishing. In the dealings I have had with merlyn, he has not hesitated to answer my questions and has been surprisingly civil even when I'm insulting him. My opinions were incorrectly formed, which is dangerous no matter what the subject is. I guess this is what I'm really trying to get across.

*sigh* I'm looking back at this and wishing I could write better. I don't seem to have captured the essence of what I'm trying to say as well as I should have. I tried not to write a "Yay merlyn!" piece, but rather use the PM community's perception of him as an example of the dangers of not knowing your self and making poorly thought out assumptions and opinions.

Negaterd character class uber alles!

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Question Your Opinions
by footpad (Abbot) on May 01, 2001 at 23:47 UTC

    I think you've touched on an important point, specifically the dangers of making assumptions and forming opinions without being willing to revise them.

    And while I agree with rchiav that no should be forced to change, I'm reminded that people can change and that they can change the way people perceive them.

    As an example, a certain monk of our acquaintance had gathered a reputation for posting some potentially interesting problems, but doing so rather scathingly. In turn, he became the target of voting similar to the type discussed in the nodes you mentioned. Indeed, he retired from the community rather publically.

    Fortunately, he later returned, clearly having thought things through. He's made a genuine effort to contribute and has done so rather admirably. While I haven't always agreed with his postings or his views, I've learned a great deal from him and I believe he's managed to change the way some people perceive him.

    In fact, one senior monk was so outraged by this monk's previous behavior that he swore (in CB) never to respond to any of this monk's posts again. I recently noted that the two of them have been carrying on quite civil discussions in their posts.

    It's almost as if they're starting to gain modicum of mutual respect for each other.

    (Sorry for being vague regarding who, but I don't believe that ID'ing the person would be fair at this point.)

    I mention the story because this monk has made a concerted effort to change and to contribute. He's clearly toned down his rhetoric and focused on the real goals of the Monastery in (most of) his recent posts.

    Remember, we're here to help others learn Perl and to learn effective Perl. We're here to help each other succeed and to help Perl succeed.

    Furthermore, remember that your words have a larger audience than the person who posted the node you're commenting on. Indeed, turnstep recently reminded us at the full range of our audience. If you were disappointed or concerned about the points he reported, then I urge you to actively seek ways to correct those outside ideas.

    I challenge every monk who really cares (which should leave out the trolls) to:

    • To meditate on the difference (if any) between their impression of themselves and the one held by their Monasterial (and outside) colleagues.

      Make this an honest assessment. If there is a difference, then actively look for ways to bring the two points of view closer.

      If there's a possibility that there's a difference, then work on your presentation.

    • Consider carefully before posting anything that could be seen as disrespectful. I do not believe there are many cases where disrespect is warranted and fewer in a community supposedly devoted to technical information.

    • Think twice before mentally classifying anyone as a troll, as clueless, as heartless, as mean spirited, or any other form of name calling. Name calling never helps.

    • Follow-up when voting down. At the very least, send the poster a private /msg.

    That last point deserves a little more expansion. A certain monk recently voted a node of mine down and was kind enough to privately tell me why. We discussed it and it became clear there was a difference of interpretation in what I'd written. I pointed out my intent and we both learned something from the experience.

    To date, this monk is the only one who's every contacted me after voting me down. Since I've been voted down a lot, I find this disturbing, for it means that we're (generally) espousing an ideal (feedback on downvotes) without actually implementing it. If you agree with this ideal, then I challenge you to practice it.

    Personality voting comes in many forms. Most of it is wrong...however, sometimes, a downvote contains clear feedback to the poster; feedback that can be incorporated if the poster a) understands why the downvote happens and b) cares to adjust their behavior.

    Earlier, I mentioned a monk who adjusted his behavior and applaud his success. I would hope others facing similar frustrations could learn from that example and be willing to demonstrate the same amount of courage.

    Not everyone who leaves returns. And, we are a poorer community for that. Everyone contributes in some way to the outside opinion of the Monastery. Make that contribution count.

    Furthermore, be open to the possibility that you may need to change, to adjust, or even to apologize. And then fit your deeds to the action.


Re: Question Your Opinions
by merlyn (Sage) on May 01, 2001 at 20:35 UTC
    I really appreciate the courage it took for you to do this, and the time it took for you to do the research.

    Thank you. I'm touched.

    -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker

Re: Question Your Opinions
by thabenksta (Pilgrim) on May 01, 2001 at 20:43 UTC

    I have to say that when I first came here I thought merlyn was great. It was amazing to me to have one of the authors of the camel right here, answering my questions. After a while, somehow I started to get a negative opinion of him. I didn't really know how, I just did. Now I realize that I gathered this opinion from other people saying things about him that may or may not be true, not from dealing with him directly.

    When I look at the whole situation, I think it's all childish. People seem to jump on the opportunity to attack someone the don't like, for whatever reason. I shouldn't even be posting this node, cause this Community isn't about what you personnally think of other luser's, it's about finding information, and helping others.

    With that said, I hope I never see another node targeted at a specific user's practices or personality, this is not the place for that.

    my $name = 'Ben Kittrell'; $name=~s/^(.+)\s(.).+$/\L$1$2/g; my $nick = 'tha' . $name . 'sta';
Re: Question Your Opinions
by rchiav (Deacon) on May 01, 2001 at 22:14 UTC
    ugh.. I've tried not to comment on any of merlyn related nodes flying aroud here lately in hope that they would just go away. For watever reason, I'll weigh in with my two bits.

    merlyn does a great amount here and I think in general for the Perl community. I think the issue can be summed up in this line of code..

    if ($merlyn->terse) {$vote--}
    Now the node in question yesterday was terse and could come across as condesending. I'd suspect it was more along the lines of how a teacher would word something to make a student think instead of just giving an answer.

    I'd suspect that some people, after seeing a lot of terse posts come up with the idea that merlyn is a "heartless clod". You'd be hard pressed to find any one post that sums up your reasons though. Does someone have the right not to like him because of this? Sure. Should merlyn change? Of course not. He is who he is, and he's probably nothing like what those of us who don't know him personally think he's like.

    So I don't think that the people who don't like merlyn are baseless, nor do I think that merlyn should try to change the way that he is.

      Dammit, dammit, dammit. Use a please.

      I've had this argument in the CB numerous times, and I want it to stop. Terse does not mean what you think it means. Quite simply it has been perverted into the vernacular to be synonomous with rude.

      Yes, this diatribe is useful, because your "code" is something that, when read by a person who knows what terse means, demonstrates the Personality Voting cause celebre that merlyn is annoyed with.

      Sorry, but I have to rant about this (especially when Guildenstern's post talks about how merlyn's terse answers are useful in helping you solve the problem).

      ALL HAIL BRAK!!!

        And how do you know how I meant it? Are merlyns posts terse? Yes they are.. and I' not referring to any basterdized version of the term. I meant it EXACTLY as it's defined. When his posts lack any type of feel and are just short tidbits of factual information, people tend to downvote them. That's what happens, right or wrong. If someone doesn't like answers like that, they have every right to downvote the node. And merlyn has every right to post them.

        Please go and try to read someone elses mind...


        I looked at the entry you link to above and personally i kinda like this item to sum up merlyn's posts
        terse Language for decryption of hardware logic. ["Hardware Logic Simulation by Compilation", C. Hansen, 25th ACM/IEEE +Design Automation Conf, 1988]. </silliness>
Re: Question Your Opinions
by Ducati (Beadle) on May 02, 2001 at 00:04 UTC

    I think that often what is written and what is actually meant are two different things.

    One can say something and it could be harmless ... but it all depends on the inflection of what is said. When posting a written response there is no inflection ... and things can be taken as something totally different for it is just text on the screen.

    Also, people spend long hours thinking and coding ... so it is natural to get on the defensive when their thoughts and ideas are questioned. This is just a normal human reaction. Is it right to do so ... that is a question for each individual.

    I think that it took a lot of guts for Guildenstern to post such a meditation ... and I personally ++'ed him/her for it. It shows real understanding to admit that one is wrong ... something we all hate to do.

    In conclsion ... this awesome site is here for all Perl keeners ... and to keep it cool we have to all keep our cool and think of ourselves in the situation.

    This is my meditation ... one is free to agree or disagree.



    "We rock the body to rock the party ... until the party rocks the body"

    De La Soul