in reply to XP, page ranking, sponsored links and the fortune of PM

The Theory of Power

So. There you sit at level 1. Just an Initiate, but you're better than all those Anonymous Monks. You've just gone from the most powerful of people (by hiding behind your anonymity) to...well...a newbie. You look up all of the Saints in Our Book and see the towering figures of vroom, merlyn, Ovid, tilly, Abigail-II, and all the others, and can't wait until you reach that level of authority where you can smite the very existence of all that oppose you MUAHAHAHAHA!


Levels no longer have the same meaning they had when you were anonymous. In fact, except for levels 1 to 4, which show...well...just about nothing... the name of the game isn't about levels anymore. It's about access.

You'll figure this out quick enough. You'll want to add a picture to your home node, or you'll run out of votes 5 minutes after you log in, and you'll find yourself wanting more. What the hell, you'll ask yourself?! What do you MEAN I can't downvote that ignoramus? I don't WANT to wait until tomorrow!

Nope. As an Initiate you are a completely untested and unknown quantity. You've done nothing for PM and, therefore, you have no access of any significant sort. However, the first few posts you make will likely get you some XP, and you'll become at least a Novice and suddenly gain... votes! Woo! POWER!

But what about all those other things that people here do? You're a professional Perl coder! You know what you're doing! Why can't people just trust that you know what you're doing and let you at the source code?

Well, if making a few posts made you a Novice, then perhaps with a few more, you can become an Acolyte or even a Scribe! Maybe if you keep voting every day, you'll gather a few more XP. But it's hard work. Hanging out in the chatterbox will at least get you some name recognition, and people who read your posts might be more inclined to ++ your posts (or --, depending on how you act in the CB.)

Now you're a full-fledged Monk! You can FINALLY put that picture on your home node. (Nothing lewd, please!) And if you're really good, you might get the privilege to edit site documents!


Suddenly you are a massive colossus strutting across the stage of PM (e.g., a Friar as you single-handedly (well, with the consent of the other Moderators) re-configure the entire Front Page of PerlMonks! You can moderate others' posts. You can consider posts for fixing or even move them between different sections! You now have REAL POWER!

But wait!

You are now officially the whipping-boy of the Saints as you are trained in the art of "considering" what all those other Monks are pumping out.

But wait, dammit, that means you're a newbie again. Huh? Well, real life is a learning experience and PM is no different. Every step you take puts you in a position where you are learning new things as you step into new worlds of responsibility and duty. This is (one of) the most important thing you will learn before you are deemed worthy enough to take the next step, and become a full-blown Saint of PerlMonks!


You relax. Finally, you can do just about everything there is to do on PM! You bask in your "power" and you relax. You kick back to enjoy your power. You tell Novices to post more. You -- an obnoxious poster looking for help with his homework. You do a lot of chatting in the CB about the good ol' days. And a year later you suddenly wake up and say "Gosh! Why am I still a level 7?! And another thing, where's more of my POWER!" Someone else is remolding the Seekers of Perl Wisdom section because you kind of let the whole thing slide and another eager beaver cadre are remolding Cool Uses for Perl. Your Perl Monks Discussion project has been picked up and done by someone else and you suddenly exclaim Shit! What's happening?!

What's happening is that you have become the victim of a false theory of power. Power isn't about levels. And power isn't even about access. Power is about doing. Those who do get access because they do. They don't do because they get access. Is this too zen for you? Think back to the above case. A young go-getter Monk constantly pushes the bounds of his or her access. The higher Monks happily watch as the young one gathers greater and greater access as he takes more and more responsibility and posts more often. That responsibility translates into REAL power and to that "power" comes more access and more power.

So our chastened and now older and wiser Abbot awakes. The Abbot begins to get involved again. Offers to get more involved in consideration. Picks up a new Tutorials project, and while the newest Saints (who weren't even Initiates when you started) has his doubts, he says go for it because ...well...good help is hard to find. The Abbot then does a massive and huge revamping of the entire Tutorials section, adding dozens of great FAQs, soliloquizes on regexes, shows newbie monks how to write OO Perl properly, and writes a tutorial for every CPAN Module in existence. Even the ones that start with "Acme::".

The light is dawning for sure by now...

You begin to curse the day you accepted the Tutorial Overseer spot. Sure, more POWER but the work load. DA-YAMN!

As a devil you discover the secret of power, and no matter how many times you explain it, no one (except ex-devils) believe you. Power, you insist, is about taking responsibility. Take the job, get it done well, offer to continue to oversee your work, ask for another job, add its responsibilities, and suddenly the vroom can't live without you. He depends on you because, well, because you *DO* things. And so he fills you with power.

Ahh, you say. But that isn't REAL POWER! I can't make a new policy, right? Wrong. As you study the PM, you find a serious discrepancy. The VOTING POLICY is obsolete. It just doesn't make sense. You take the problem to Perl Monks Discussion. "See what I mean?" you say. The other monks are balancing a dozen other policies, not to mention their RL work load, trying to find a way to do all that work. A devil perks up! Here's someone who wants to work on fixing policies! "Go for it", he tells you. Shuddering with awe, you take the sacred VOTING POLICY and hack it to shreds. You study the various ++ and -- options, $NORM as a function of time, how often people really log in, and finally you present your proposal to the vroom. He then pores over it, checks a thing or two and thinks...YOWZA, this is spot-on! All is cool, it then becomes the new policy and is installed. And the vroom turns to you with an evil eye and asks you if you aren't ready to turn over your Tutorial Overseer duties and maybe become a devil yourself!

And on it goes. Power comes to the person who exercise it. You can ask anyone who has found themselves moving up the hierarchy. Sit around and bitch about not having power and you will never have it. Go out and gather the power and more and more will come to you, naturally.

The above extracted, modified, and generally plagiarized from an unknown original source. Not all of the positions mentioned above actually exist on PerlMonks. require "std/"

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: The Theory of Power
by perllove (Beadle) on Jul 12, 2007 at 04:08 UTC
    Great article, I have experienced things like, "I want more power" but later only realized it takes both effort and time. And with it like everywhere else in world(sane) you always have the power. For me the XP system is like an illustration to that aspect of life.