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unanswered questions

by samizdat (Vicar)
on Aug 01, 2005 at 16:36 UTC ( #479965=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

Oh wise and dedicated Gods and Saints -

In this humble striver's opinion, adding a way that unanswered questions would be highlighted would be a wondrous addition to PerlMonks. I am constantly amazed at (and gratified by) the variety of questions that are answered, but several times I have posted arcane problems that nobody has been able to assist me with. I am sure I'm not the only one.

Would it be possible to create a Monestary section where such really deep or obscure questions could be stashed such that they wouldn't drop out of sight off SoPW and where people looking for a challenge would know to look?

Many** thanks! :D

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Re: unanswered questions
by merlyn (Sage) on Aug 01, 2005 at 16:47 UTC
    From time to time, I go back through my incoming email to see if there are questions I am now willing to answer but wasn't at the time it came in. (For various reasons, I have email from last week, last month, last year, and even last century in my inbox.)

    I first send email to the person of "is this still a problem, or have you solved it by now?" More often than not, my lack of response has sent them somewhere else for a satisfactory solution. So I'd be wasting my time to also solve it now.

    I think that'd be true here as well. If the original poster isn't satisfied within the first few days, they'll likely seek help elsewhere. It's not useful then to re-solve the problem here, when there are so many other new timely postings each day.

    Considering the "people who are willing to help" to be a limited pool, let's keep people focussed on solving the useful (current!) issues.

    -- Randal L. Schwartz, Perl hacker
    Be sure to read my standard disclaimer if this is a reply.

      Hi, merlyn -

      Indeed, there are always many new questions and questioners, and always more of them than answers and answerers, especially ones as wise and experienced as yourself.

      However, I would -- with much sackcloth and ashes weighing my shoulders to promote humble thought -- diffidently suggest that Perl and the domains it interfaces with are so large that there are many questions well worth having answered that aren't. PerlMonks is a hugely valuable community resource, and having such answers in our archive -- even if they might no longer be pertinent for the OP's urgent need -- is much more important than having forty-leven different explanations of regex parameters that disappear into the mists of time.

      There are few resources where multi-system questions are appropriately answered, and this is one of them. Perl is such a wonderful gluey mess that people use it for all kinds of things. There are a few others (UGU comes to mind), but often such are so diluted by their need to handle many variants of their subject matter.

      I can appreciate that many neophytes come to PerlMonks looking for answers to questions about core Perl, but there are also those of us who are here to seek insight and to share experience about far more exotic usages and interations.

      Why cannot PM serve both? As it is now, both mundane and exotic questions share space on SoPW. If there were to be a distinction, both questioners and answerers would have direct access to that which they seek. No longer would neophytes be confused by exotica, and no longer would arcane practitioners have their incantations swept away upon the winds of mundane dust.
Re: unanswered questions
by davido (Cardinal) on Aug 01, 2005 at 17:00 UTC

    Here's the problem with that idea:

    What constitutes an answered question, and how will we ensure that all answered questions get marked as such?

    First I'll address the first point, "What constitutes an answered question?" Obviously a question may have responses without being adequately answered. Other times a question may have good answers that aren't sufficiently understood by the inquisitor. Other times a question may have no responses at all, but the person answering the question may update his node appending a note saying (s)he solved the problem. And of course, there are those questions that do actually get answered (the majority).

    But how do we automate the process of marking such questions as answered? We don't; it can't be done. This is something that only the OP can decide. And sometimes the OP is just clueless enough as to never even realize his question has been answered. ...and that leads me to my next point...

    " will we ensure that all answered questions get marked as such?" Again, we can't. Many questions get asked anonymously. Many get asked by one-hit-wonders (people who ask a question and are never heard from again). And then there are us normal (or abnormal) people who do come back again and again, but who probably (if normal is like me) will forget to mark questions as being answered. Some people will get good answers but not realize it. Others will forget to check it off. Others won't even come back. And others won't care. And yet it cannot be the job of anyone other than the OP to check off a node as answered.

    So there we have two insurmountable problems: First, we cannot automate the process of knowing when a node has been adequately answered, and second, we cannot rely on people marking their questions as being answered. So we're dead in the water on that idea.

    To some degree Recently Active Threads can help to see which recent threads at least have no responses. That's a far cry from determing which long-ago posts didn't get proper answers. But it's a start. Aside from that, you're going to probably have to rely on tickling people in the CB if you feel one of your posts has been forgotton.

    By the way, I don't know that I would encourage this, but you can drag a long-passed thread back into Recently Active Threads by posting another followup to it... something along the lines of "Following up to my original question, I'm still seeking an answer. Here is some additional info that may help..." People who use Recently Active Threads will see it again that way.

    By the way, this has been discussed a number of times in the past. Here are a few of those instances:


      Hi, Dave -

      Thanks for the links to other discussions. Perhaps my need would be better served -- as I just scribbled to merlyn -- by a distinct section of the Monestary for questions of a more arcane nature.

      You pinpointed the flaws in my original idea, and you are indeed wise in doing so.

      Again, my humble thanks for your attention! :D

        The problem with a distinct section is that it adds ambiguity as to where to post questions, and it is entirely subjective as to what constitutes an arcane question. Mapping the human genome with Perl is arcane to me, and an everyday project for a lot of others. Name your module is an arcane module to one person and common to another.

        No question is simple to the person asking it, so the only person who could decide where to place a question is the person least likely to know where to place it.

        I don't have a solution for that (and thus your question goes unanswered. *grin*).


      By the way, I don't know that I would encourage this, but you can drag a long-passed thread back into Recently Active Threads by posting another followup to it...

      You can also view a long past thread by using the temporal navigation links at the top (the arrows) or by using something like [href://?node_id=397425;for_nodes=479965|this] which produces this, of course this wont bring it to anyone elses attention, but it might be a neat hack for peoples Free Nodelet


Re: unanswered questions
by graff (Chancellor) on Aug 01, 2005 at 22:15 UTC
    several times I have posted arcane problems that nobody has been able to assist me with

    Now that the "Recently Active Threads" page is coming into more prominent use among dedicated monks, you might try a strategy of posting a reply to your own SoPW thread when it hasn't gotten a response from anyone else.

    If the OP problem is still unsolved, use your reply to provide some additional information -- things you tried that didn't work, a rephrasing of the problem, some extra detail, etc. This will cause the thread to stand out on the Recently Active page, and also improve the likelihood that others will be able to help. (If you did find a solution, post that -- you'll get more XP!)

    Would it be possible to create a Monestary section where such really deep or obscure questions could be stashed...

    I wouldn't trust most SoPW posters to sort out their issues in any reliable way according to "really deep or obscure" vs. "not really deep or obscure".

    You have the ability to control the content of your own home node at PerlMonks, and you can create a standard "signature" that is automatically appended to all your posts. How about adding a table to your home node that lists links to all the SoPW nodes you've posted that are still unsolved, then make up a sig that says something like "Want to answer some HARD questions? Go to my home node!", or words to that effect.

    (I keep a list of favorite code I've posted at PM on my home node, mostly so I can find it later; modesty and common sense prevent me from referring to that in a sig. ;-)

      All good suggestions, graff, thank you! Barring a revamp of PM, I'll do some of this.

      I'm sure that if we had a section set up, some people would misuse it. Our higher-order Monks probably move at least two or three Meditations to SoPW (and vice versa) a week. Does that invalidate the concept, though?
Re: unanswered questions
by castaway (Parson) on Aug 02, 2005 at 06:17 UTC
    Assuming you didn't want to get too complicated, and would just like a list of quesions (SoPW nodes) that havent been responded to at all, that should be an easy addition to make. OTOH all you would really need to do would be to change your CSS and markup the "X replies" text on the SoPW section in some colourful way when it reads 0, or we could place an indicator on Newest Nodes, which is where I would look.

    Since I would also find this feature useful, I may write a patch or two.. I wouldn't go for a whole separate section though, as people have said, deep/obscure just depends on experience.


      I'm not sure how easy it would be, but I'm glad you want to try. :)

      (Responses > 0) != "completely successful answer".

      What you suggest would be a useful addition, though.

      The hardest parts of making a new section, IMHO, would be getting all the links to fit up in the top chunk, and choosing a name for it. :D
        No, those are the easy parts. The hardest parts come with the "discussions" as to which questions belong in that section, and which do not. Eg. A person quite new to Perl may think a question about a regex matching too greedily is "hard", whereas people who have been around a while consider that "simple" stuff.

        As to figuring out whether a question has been "answered successfully" or not, that would require a) some changes to the way the site works, and b) more participation on the part of the questioner, who would have to return to her/his node and hit some button saying 'answered'. It seems to me that not everyone would participate, and thus a list of supposedly unanswered questions will in fact just be abandonded ones, or ones where the author hasnt bothered..

        How would *you* define a successful answer, and how change the site to accommodate that?


Re: unanswered questions
by Anonymous Monk on Aug 02, 2005 at 13:26 UTC
    What's the point? So, you have a question that needs to be answered, and after asking on Perlmonks, the question hasn't been answered for three days. Would you put your marbles on a new section to slightly increase the chance that after three days the question still get answered (perhaps after a month, or a year), or would you actually seek the answer elsewhere?

    Questions without reponses are lucky, BTW. Those are the only questions of which you know they have no wrong answers.

Re: unanswered questions
by anonymized user 468275 (Curate) on Aug 03, 2005 at 14:04 UTC
    It seems to me that this could be fulfilled by an optional nodelet - dependent on someone senior enough having to put the effort in, though.

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