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"running with scissors"

by merlyn (Sage)
on Aug 01, 2000 at 04:24 UTC ( #25371=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

OK, after the recent bout, I realize that I don't have time to give long explanations for things that have been explained tens of times here before, and hundreds of times in published literature (both on-web and off).

So, from now on, when I see something that looks dangerous from a security or maintainability perspective, I'll merely followup with a single line of "running with scissors", and downvote the post. The newbies will merely be confused. The experienced people can fill in the details in the nicey-nice way that seems to be mandatory here, or if that's not clear, ask in a followup about why I marked a post with my phrase.

That way, I get to say my piece, give me peace-of-mind, and nobody gets offended.

-- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
(kudra: comments to all) RE: running with scissors
by kudra (Vicar) on Aug 01, 2000 at 13:01 UTC
    First, some comments in response to replies and earlier comments:

    Unexplained -- votes are mean. If the objection is that Merlyn's posts are cruel, returning in kind does not help matters.

    Some allowances should be made for the fact that people will get upset, vent, and then retract. The handling of the boycott issue is an example--see the update. It may not be completely admirable to vent in public, but it happens. It's happened to me, and it has probably happened to you.

    Finally, when you put someone on a pedestal, there's no place to go but down. Respect for someone's knowledge is one thing; having feelings about a person, either respectful or otherwise, without having interacted with the person leads to unwarranted expectations.

    Now, some comments in response to the root node:

    Just saying 'running with scissors' will not educate anyone (and has the potential to seriously confuse people for whom English is not a first language). It would be more useful to simply say that it is dangerous and include a link to an earlier solution. It's an accepted practice to say <a href="link_to_fm">rtfm</a>. Those who do not learn from this are unlikely to learn from a full copy of the answer, either.

    For that matter, if responding to the same issues over and over again is tiresome, don't. There are plenty of people who can do the same thing, and who may even enjoy explaining it. Read the posts that look interesting, and reply to those that intrigue you--you're under no obligation to follow every thread and if you feel that you are perhaps you should consider where this expectation comes from. People who expect you to be the ever-flowing source of answers are mistaken and should learn as soon as possible that you are just another person.

(Corion) Cultural differences
by Corion (Patriarch) on Aug 01, 2000 at 16:59 UTC

    I think one of the topmost problems between old skool Perl people and Perlmonks members is the cultural difference. I've never been even a lurker on c.m.l.p (or however it's spelt), but from my run-ins with Perl people (Tom mostly), I think that the general tone of communication is much more direct, I even say offensive.

    On Perlmonks I've witnessed three people coming from the "Mainstream Perl Clique", and all had adaption problems, which mostly had to do with the general tone of discussion. To me, this (more or less) gentle tone is what makes Perlmonks different from the rest and what makes Perlmonks the place I want to be a part of. Of course I also get tired from answering newbie questions all day, but nobody forces me to read them. I could of course use usenet instead of Perlmonks, like Abigail does, but my People are here, and we don't have people with a need to display their ego all the time (well, of course we do have them here, but they all got tired after some short time).

    Personally I hope that you, merlyn will stay with us, as I've liked most of the informative posts of yours, and maybe you can even learn a bit from Perlmonks, not so much about Perl, but maybe more about Perl people :).

    A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. (Dr. Baldwin, "Friday" by R. A. Heinlein)

RE: running with scissors
by steveAZ98 (Monk) on Aug 01, 2000 at 07:48 UTC
    Ok, when I first joined PM I thought it was awsome that merlyn was responding to my questions. I'm not an expert and could use to learn from everyone on here that has something to say. The more posts I read by you merlyn the more I'm dissappointed that the "perl wizard" that you are is so lacking in maturity. Nothing says you have to answer posts that insult your intelligence or waste your time. Nothing says that you have to give long explanations to previously answered questions. Many users on here link to the previous answers, so that newbies can find there way, this, I think, would be the prefered method instead of giving some arcane message that will confuse people. The purpose of this site is to help people learn perl and give the perl community more cohesion. I don't understand how you can be such an intellegent person and yet not understand that everyone doesn't know what you know about perl. If it's too much trouble for you to share your wisdom with junior perl programmers then I'm sure other equally intelligent people on this site will take up your slack and we'll all be better for it.

    Sorry to anyone that doesn't understand my disappointment

    There are so many helpful people on this site that make the community so worth while and that is why I love it. I once aspired to be like merlyn, I still aspire to know what merlyn knows, but not act as he does.

    Sorry again for offending anyone. Just had to vent.

An additional observation.
by gryng (Hermit) on Aug 01, 2000 at 18:26 UTC
    Hi merlyn!

    Well I'd only like to add two small things.

    The first is, realize you ask everyone else to have time to explain themselves for their -- against you, but you claim to not have time to explain yourself when you are curt to other's posts. (This is not an attack, just an observation, perhaps to help gain perspective. I'm in relative agreement with everything said above).

    The second is, I wanted to ++ everyone's post here, because they were all insightful, but if I did that then I wouldn't be able to vote on anything else later in the day. So I'm going to settle for null votes across the board.


RE: jogging with shears
by nardo (Friar) on Aug 01, 2000 at 05:16 UTC
    By trying not to offend, you're also not informing someone of what is wrong. I've had you correct one of my posts and found it useful since it helped explain something which I clearly didn't understand. It would have been much less useful, not to mention more offensive (and I really shouldn't use the word "more" there, since the post wasn't offensive at all), if you had simply said something like "that's wrong" without giving an explanation why. Personally I'd rather have you reply to one of my posts with "Hey dumbass, that's the stupidest thing I've ever seen, you should have done ..." than something like "That's not right, reply if you don't know what's wrong with it" or "running with scissors" or "sticking paperclip in socket" or "watch out, that's poison ivy"
RE: "running with scissors"
by Buckaroo Buddha (Scribe) on Aug 01, 2000 at 23:29 UTC

    i just got back from a week's vacation ... i'm a little
    surprised to see this type of thread here, but that's OK

    i too have been lucky enough to recieve some of your help
    as well

    i don't care about getting voted down if it means i get
    to solve my problem. (experience is nice and all but
    it's the programming what puts food on my table)

    perhaps we'd be better off if you reduced it to
    'running with scissors: lookup the scalar .. operator'
    or something where you at least give a hint of what the problem is

    you could even shamlessly plug your books in every post you make

    "you can find out more about that on page 324 of my book"

    even being an intelligent pointer can take up a lot of time
    but i find them to be some of the most helpful posts

by royalanjr (Chaplain) on Aug 02, 2000 at 00:39 UTC
    There are certainly multiple sides to this whole issue.

    I can understand that merlyn would be a little tired of answering what to him are very basic questions.

    I can understand someone voting a post negative because they percieve it to me be "mean" or "curt". (and I do mean anyone's post here)

    I do know that everyone in this community brings something to it, even if only a different viewpoint.

    All that being said...
    Is a negative vote really worth getting uptight over? Honestly? I just do not see that it is. People are not always logical, and someone could log in in a very bad mood and vote all their votes negative on semi-random posts just because at that moment that feels good. Silly, but true. Yes, it would be the polite, and contructive, thing to do to make a post or message exlpaining a negative vote. But I just do not see where a negative vote is worth getting upset about, explanation or no.
    We all have different humors, experiences, and ways of looking at things. The same words printed in the same way under the same circumstances will affect me differently than it affects you. Remember that forums like this are bad in one respect: there is no body language, no vocal tone, nothing to help in your interpretation of what you see written. I am sure we all have had experiences were something that was written sounded horrid, but was not intended in that vien.

    Yes, merlyn can be considered curt at times. But if you do not take the tone personally, there is generally a LOT of information within there. No, I am not saying that manners need to go out the window. But, should you see anyone's post that is a little curt, look past it. (Note: a curt post is NOT the same thing as one that is an attack. Attacks are certainly undesireable; curtness can be forgiven.)
    And as for the negative votes on posts all I can say is this: in the end, it does not matter. My two posts that gone -1 do not make me any less a person, just as those that made it to +6 (high for me) do not mean that I am better than someone who has no +6.

    Basically, I guess I am just saying:

    1) Do not take votes on your posts either way so seriously.

    2) Answer posts as you would like to be answered.

    3) Look past what might sound pretty curt and see if there is something you can use for the better within the words.

    I understand all this is long and wishy sounding; thanks for your time nevertheless.

    Roy Alan

RE: "running with scissors"
by grackle (Acolyte) on Aug 02, 2000 at 02:57 UTC
    Hi, everyone. I'm a newbie, and since most of the people putting in their two cents on this issue seem like seasoned Perlers, I thought I'd give everyone the benefit of my ignorance and inexperience.

    First, let me say that I've been around the block enough times to be insulted when people don't point out my mistakes. It means they think I can't do any better, or it means they don't care enough to help me.

    No one seems to disagree with merlyn about the insecurity and unreliability of the code he criticizes. If it's insecure and unreliable, why is merlyn the only one who bothers to point out these things? I can understand his frustration if other monks are letting this stuff pass.

    Please, folks, don't vote down a post that makes a valid and important point just because it's a little curmudgeonly. It's okay to be wrong, it's okay to write bad code. It's okay, that is, as long as you know that you screwed up. When people screw up, merlyn lets them know.

    To be consistent with my first point, merlyn, I'll have to fault you for your lack of diplomacy. To me (a newbie), your rants remind me of the joke about the frustrated old kindergarten teacher:

    "I've been teaching them to read for thirty years.
    You'd think they would get it by now."

    It doesn't help to get a little bit more sarcastic every time you repeat something. It often takes less time to inform than to complain. Instead of "running with scissors," try "insecure see (link)." Or you could even give a short but complete explanation for newbies (moi) who haven't dealt with the issue before. You have a talent for conciseness when you have your sarcasm under control.

RE:Running with scissors
by agoth (Chaplain) on Aug 01, 2000 at 12:59 UTC
    I also voted you down on the OP, I thought the suggestion a very poor one and the tone of the note were out of place and/or unnecessary. I take it by recent bout you mean Camel 3?

    I voted down your reply about +/-, because I dont think every negative vote should have to be justified, It would be like being mugged outside the voting booth 'why didnt you vote for me'? apart from people may vote on a feeling and after consideration without having time/wishing to reply.

    However, what your note made me do was read through YbiC's history of voting monologues and review my 'voting strategy' and look at your previous posts that I havent already seen.

    Recent minor spats aside! I value your contribution greatly to this site, I just hope the whole place doesnt descend to the venom/petulance and world weariness of c.l.p.m!

by Jonathan (Curate) on Aug 01, 2000 at 14:50 UTC
    Please stop complaining about Merylns posts!

    He makes a great contribution to the site his posts are always interesting/informative/amusing. Why should he have to temper his personality to others sensibilities? After all we are not children! So what if he is sometimes a bit terse or seemingly tetchy? Lets have a little more give and take. Lets not stifle individuality!!

    Meryln - please feel free to 'run with scissors' if you must :-)
    But I for one would be happier if you continued as you have been. Anyway - who cares about a few negative votes - your XP isn't too shabby.
RE: running with scissors
by lolindrath (Scribe) on Aug 02, 2000 at 18:14 UTC
    I think it would be best to just /msg one of the experienced monks and tell them to respond to the message instead of leaving such a short and probably hurtful message.

RE: merlyn's time
by wardk (Deacon) on Aug 01, 2000 at 20:07 UTC

    I expect Randal is quite busy, that he finds time to participate here is a big plus for all of us.

    With the perl community growing by leaps and bounds, the highly accomplished will continue to be mingling here with the uninitiated. the re-vistiting of topics will continue, at a continuing higher pace.

    The fact that Randal says he's doing this when the code presents a security risk makes it vital that he respond when he sees it. By not (re)solving the problem for us, others will have more opportunity to help out, and grow their skills by the exercise.

    I for one would rather get a humbling "running with scissors" comment than have my security challenged code be ignored.

    My ego can recover faster than a compromised system

      I would agree with every single thing you've said, if it weren't for one small detail. Pay attention, many of you seem to have forgotten this one.

      merlyn is not the only perl programmer out there.

      Did you get that? Do I need to repeat it again? If merlyn doesn't point out the danger in some piece of code, we have plenty of other people who are qualified and willing to point out the problems in a courteous manner.

      - email Ozymandias

        >> merlyn is not the only perl programmer out there

        very true.

        but it's his right to post. as much or as little as he chooses.

        and just because there are many who are as accomplished (or moreso), it's not a certainty that an obscure mistake will be caught.

        i'd much rather get two (or more) replies about a security error, even if one is a non-solution-added-pseudo-flame, that have it be ignored.

        and I would hate for ANY monk to feel they should not point something out, even if it's a rehash, and even if they don't have time to do anything more than just say "lookit here...this could come back on you".

        being warned is the courtesy, getting a solution handed on a platter is extra. the first is welcome, the second even moreso, but the first is still usefull in and of itself.

        how is "running with scissors" discourteous?

        anyway, you made your point, although I admit I only read it once, despite the kind suggestion in courteous bold.

by Kevman (Pilgrim) on Aug 02, 2000 at 13:28 UTC
    First let me say, I understand where Merlyn is coming from, it can be tedious reading the same post day in, day out
    That said, why reply? As Ozymandias said, there are a lot of experienced Monks out there willing to give answers

    I'm not really that experienced in Perl, but I know I would prefer a useful answer to a line of scissors!!!
by Macphisto (Hermit) on Aug 02, 2000 at 18:59 UTC
RE: running with scissors
by perlmonkey (Hermit) on Aug 01, 2000 at 06:17 UTC
    It sounds very reasonable to me.
    I can't imagine how many times you have answered the same questions with the same answers. It just gets old after a while. The newbies will still be confused by your answer (no change there :) but someone that has the time, patience and experience will surely fill in the details. Some times there are too many details floating around here. I would still find it helpful to find your notes, just in case I did not see an obvious flaw.

    On the same token, dont feel that you have to respond to the same questions over and over. I think there are enough users here that somebody will answer the more trivial questions. Just reply to what you like. It is not like you need points Saint merlyn :)

    Beside I guess you could always edit your sig to apologize in advance for curt/confusing responses :)
by toadi (Chaplain) on Aug 01, 2000 at 17:34 UTC
    Actually I think the idea of merlyn is great. The only thing that is maybe adjustable is giving some links with the right information top program safe.
    This way you don't have to explain it over and over again and the person set in the right direction.

    That's why imo people post to early. They should use the supersearch to read some node's concerning their problem and if they have got still a problem they should post!

    My opinions may have changed,
    but not the fact that I am right

RE: running with scissors
by coreolyn (Parson) on Aug 05, 2000 at 00:16 UTC

    I'm nobody here, but the discussion on this issue makes me want to add a couple of comments:

    1.) Randal's party in Monterey ROCKED so I can't claim to be impartial.

    2. ) Why don't all these upper level Monks create a link page of common responses to newbies so Randal (or anyone) could link "Running with scissors" comments to the appropriate detailed explanation.

    (i.e Stas Beckmans mod_perl guide provides an execellent outlet for newbie mod_perl mailing list folk.)

    It just seems to me that anything that is repetitive in nature should be automated, and that supposedly some of the brightest most creative minds are here.

    Just the cliche .02

by Macphisto (Hermit) on Aug 02, 2000 at 18:56 UTC
      I have to say I find it odd that someone would add a node to a conversation whose only purpose is to complain that the conversation is too long.


        Actually nuance, I wasn't complaining about the length of the conversation I was talking about the endless politics that goes on surrounding merlyn.

        Nobody expects the The Spanish Inquisition
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