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Who We For? (Was: Re: How-to install

by Intrepid (Deacon)
on Sep 10, 2003 at 04:41 UTC ( #290301=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to How-to install

What's the Real Problem here?

Looking over the evolution of this thread, I decided I felt like making some observations about what happened here (besides my laughing myself silly over Abigail-II's comedy). Maybe some of it, humble as it is, might have general applicability.

The O.P. probably won't stick around to read this, but if he does, I should first point out that I think he got off relatively cheap in the ridicule department.

The reason I says so is that the O.P. states

Truth of the matter is, I taught myself Perl last week and I'm still learning. I thought this was a place to come and get help, not be ridiculed.
The immmense absurdity of the above is reason enough for normal people to find it nearly impossible to take the matter seriously. I taught myself Perl 6 years ago and I've barely begun to learn how to use the language effectively or beautifully. OK, so enough about that. It's painfully obvious to nearly everyone.

What I think really merits huge ridicule is the other dimension of the arrogance here. The O.P. came up with an idea: "install by copying it into some [undisclosed] location" and then when it didn't work (of course), he responded to efforts to point out his failure of understanding, with indignation. He came up with an idea that was completely flawed and arbitrary (well, it might have worked if we'd been talking about a simple pure-Perl, stand-alone module) and then remained fixated on it. Anything but read the pertinent Perl documentation, apparently. Or re-examine his thinking process.

This fiasco of non-help (as seen by him) supplied to this new user provokes us to look, if we care to, at several questions. Some of those might be:

  • What (and who) is Perl Monks for?
  • Are there minimum prerequisites for participating (in a manner that will be more or less satisfactory to all concerned)?
  • Is there a way of approaching Perl Monks that deserves or invites justifiable ridicule?

To (3), I propose that there is. This is an entirely voluntary project where all participation is done by people seeking only intangible rewards. This isn't a Help Desk. Maybe the external implied religious metaphor (the "Monastery") misleads some people, I don't know. I suppose that some people are naive enough to think that maybe there really are such people as "clergy-like Perl gurus" who regard themselves as having taken some vow to help anyone who asks, with anything. This says something remarkable about the person who assumes it, and that is: "What do they think of us?" They think we have no lives, that's what. Its a disrespectful, absurd, demeaning idea. "These Perl geeks just live and breathe Perl and so they've got nothing better to do anyway". This smacks of something nobody likes to be on the receiving end of: being seen as a cartoon, seen in a one-dimensional way, like a charicature cardboard cutout on a stage, or a badly written character in a third-rate television show.

As far as (2) goes, I think that a familiar answer lies at the basis: an ability to think, and a willingness to think about thinking (and how our thinking might be in a derailed state, and needing to be re-initialized). I don't think there's a hard-and-fast minimal level of Perl attainment that's got to be suggested. It's something more general and larger than that. There has to be, too, a certain determination, a drive to acquire greater insight into Perl. Ideally for its own sake: Perl is beautiful. Perl is full of potential and wonder. Perl is quirky and awkward in places. Perl is interesting.

Which finally leads, in perfect reverse order, to (1). "Who is Perl Monks for?" My best short answer at this point would be that it's for people who have, even to a tiny degree, begun to develop an esthetic appreciation of Perl as a form of self-expression or endeavor. Esthetics is not really alien to engineering. Anyone with a genuine appreciation of science knows that scientists speak of finding the "elegant" solution to a problem. Perhaps esthetics and engineering pragmatism coexist in a somewhat uneasy state, but they do coexist, at least sometimes for some practitioners.

Analyzing the motivation behind following-up his initial request with "I thought this was a place to come and get help, not be ridiculed", I think that the O.P. is engaging in a form of (ineffectual, attempted) emotional manipulation. Given that his context for posting is a workplace obligation, I don't think it's too farfetched to imagine that elements characteristic of his workplace environment have probably influenced what he wrote here to a large degree. Some workplaces (too many) run primarily on the basis of manipulation, politics, power-plays, backstabbing and maneuvering. If there is an element of the metaphor (calling this "The Monastery") that should be manifest in reality, perhaps it's something like this: this is a place a little bit apart from that kind of world. This is a place where people should not be complicit in manipulating others, nor in being manipulated. A place that's a bit academic, where freedom of intellectual inquiry is a primary value.

Anyone who ever tries to maintain a "space" that's different and apart will learn how this entails effort and some difficulty. The world outside will again and again insist on beating at the doors, shouting demands and hurling insults through the windows. And we do want to have windows, big ones, and no armed guards or fierce-looking hounds at the doors to keep out the "infidels". We want Perl Monks to be able to continuously undergo a cycle of re-enrichment, where new blood comes in and brings fresh perspectives, ideas and language for looking at cool problems. This doesn't mean, however, that we have to submit to being manipulated or guilt-tripped by people with an "outside world" agenda. Being told by his bosses that he has one week to learn Perl and then write some important production code to add on to some in-house or proprietary software is the O.P.'s absurd situation, after all. To put it simply, since when does that absurdity and incompetence (on the part of his managers) become our problem? Don't we have better things to do?

I welcome other thoughts on this.


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