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Why does PerlMonks rock?

by pileofrogs (Priest)
on Aug 21, 2008 at 19:48 UTC ( [id://705960]=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

... while so many other forums suck?

If I were going to start ApacheMonks or LinuxMonks, how would I do that? What's the magic ingredient?

This question was inspired by the conversation at Good Forums?.


Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by moritz (Cardinal) on Aug 21, 2008 at 20:06 UTC
    A few points that come to my mind:
    • Effort. It's not just some random phpbb board, like ten thousand others
    • It's specialized. It's easy to link to perl specific things (like cpan, docs, rt, perl repository, ...)
    • The voting system. It encourages useful and polite posts.
    • It has an audience/market.
    • It has a non-persistent channel for off-topic discussions (CB)
    • It's stable (eg the links to 9 year old nodes still work)
    • It's fast. (Ok, just kidding)
Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by FunkyMonk (Chancellor) on Aug 21, 2008 at 20:51 UTC
    I tried to put these in some kind of order, but I like so many features so much, I fear I failed.

    • Content. Content. Content.
    • The on-topicness
    • The Monks
    • The expertise
    • Near enough ad-free
    • I like that so much of the site is customisable using CSS
    • XP & voting
    • Nodelets
    • The ability to add your own links & especially the Add current node link to your Personal Nodelet
    • The /msg system
    • The XML tickers
    • The CB (despite the fact that I never use it) - I do read what you lot are are talking about :-)

      That list would make a good Poll topic.

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by shmem (Chancellor) on Aug 21, 2008 at 20:51 UTC
    What's the magic ingredient?


    update, to be more verbose - it is perl which gathers so much fine people here. The site was established, is maintained and driven by a bunch of great hackers and those following their steps. Which leads to all the benefits this site gives you. From Paul Graham's article -

    Indeed, these statistics about Cobol or Java being the most popular language can be misleading. What we ought to look at, if we want to know what tools are best, is what hackers choose when they can choose freely-- that is, in projects of their own. When you ask that question, you find that open source operating systems already have a dominant market share, and the number one language is probably Perl.

    It's those who love perl and this site's venerable engine which make this site so great in the loving beholder's eye. Perl is special.

    ...seen any python monks out there? ;-)

      This may go against the general opinion here, but I feel that given the same set of dedicated people and a language other than Perl that community would still Rock.

        There's something magic involved with Perl.

        There's lots of programming languages out there and many of them have forums dedicated to the language. Their forums have plenty of users and plenty people that answer questions.

        But, I've yet to find another language that really has a community the way Perl does.

        Perhaps it's all related to the Love many of us feel towards Perl. It just isn't the same as other languages.

        (this space is reserved for the really kick-ass punchline I planned to write here. But, by the time I'd got here, I'd forgotten it.)

        If you haven't already seen Clay Shirky on Love, Internet Style. Go watch it. Now.

        Mmmmmaybe. The Monks here are amazing and many are tremendously strong in things other than Perl; which makes them better monks. I certainly would not be here if it weren't for Perl. I tried and finally set aside programming as a colossal and pointless bore, age 10-15 (no judgement, just my personality). As a 30 year-old I found Perl and became a professional developer because Perl is so damn fun to work with that I don't even really mind Larry-jobs (no slight against the Great and Powerful Wall) as long as I can use Perl to do the work.

        There is a personality class that is attracted to Perl... I won't delve the adjectives because it would reek of hubris. I'll just say that I don't know any monks personally but I like just about all of them (you).

        Yes, of course. But then, it's perl. Why? Because perl attracts those dedicated people, and perl is it in which they cast their dedication.

        But thinking about it... there might be other vibrant language communities out there which I just don't happen to know - probably because I'm too busy with perl... ;-)

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by BrowserUk (Patriarch) on Aug 23, 2008 at 08:06 UTC

    I think the answer is relatively simple to state: Perlmonks is about helping to solve problems. Anyone's problems.

    For the most part, it has discouraged and successfully avoided the mistake of allowing particular individuals or cliques, to dominate the discussion and influence the membership through the promotion of their political and idealogical ideas.

    No matter where you come from, or what your programming background, or what platform you use, if you're using Perl, you're welcome here.

    Just as the language that forms the basis of this place exhibits and encourages TIMTOWTDI, so the community that has evolved around Perlmonks not just tolorates, but promotes TIMTOWDI in the lives of the people it accepts in to that community.

    That has meant that whilst there is a core of deeply expert Perl & CS competent people here, there has persisted a tolorance for those just starting out on their journey with Perl. "Dumb questions" are not just tolorated, but accepted and encouraged, rather than summarially dismissed as being too low-level to be asked, never mind answered.

    Unlike so many other places on the web, everyone here has a contribution to make, and is encouraged to make it. The newbies "dumb question" may be far below the interest level of the acknowledged experts, but it just right for the monk that joined last month and discovered the answer to that question just last week. And even if that answer isn't the perfect answer, it will phrased and explained such that the newbie asking understands it, and so make progress on his journey with Perl.

    Six months from now, he may be ready to hear the better, usually longer and more complicated answer from the expert. But in the mean time, he has been enabled to make progress, at his own speed, by getting an answer he understood. Now.

    And that means he stays around. And that he might be in a position to answer the next newbies "dumb question", next week, or next month.

    And that's the magic "secret ingredient" of Perlmonks. New blood.

    Examine what is said, not who speaks -- Silence betokens consent -- Love the truth but pardon error.
    "Science is about questioning the status quo. Questioning authority".
    In the absence of evidence, opinion is indistinguishable from prejudice.
Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by ForgotPasswordAgain (Priest) on Aug 22, 2008 at 08:53 UTC

    Maybe vroom used psychohistory to predict that the Informatic Empire was in the process of collapsing. To minimize the ensuing chaos, PerlMonks was created as a sort of "foundation" upon which a new empire would be built. The success of the site is practically guaranteed by the science of psychohistory... --Encyclopedia Informatica

    Although we tend to minimize its importance, I think that XP is probably one of the major factors of the success of PerlMonks. (How many people log in every day just to vote in order to pick up a few more XP?) Maybe there are ways to make a site like this even more RPG like...

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by mr_mischief (Monsignor) on Aug 22, 2008 at 18:23 UTC
    The software and the community built around PerlMonks are big factors. Don't forget that there was a pretty strong sense of community around Perl before PerlMonks really took off.

    I started lurking because the monks who also frequented comp.lang.perl.misc and comp.lang.perl.moderated were talking about this great place with discussion categories, a search engine of its own, user accounts that didn't necessarily allow people to get your email address, and near-real-time chat features. This place also didn't time out posts, was more persistent than IRC or even the newsgroups (other than the archives), and kept track of read posts everywhere based on the user rather than making me always SSH into one machine and use the same newsreader from there to keep threads straight.

    I stayed and started an account in 2001 (and moved away from the newsgroups for Perl) for several reasons. The people were mostly friendly, overall knowledgeable, and not only willing but often eager to help people. There were plenty of questions I could answer as well as ask. The reputation system encourages people to read good nodes, which furthers good discussion.

    The personal XP system isn't perfect, but it helps newbies to the site recognize someone who, even if not an expert at Perl, has some idea how the site itself works. It's important to get accustomed to the community, and the PM community having XP isn't just a game but actually helps when people see the majority of higher-ranking members acting with dignity and respect.

    For example, this isn't a place to screw around and say stupid things and hurtful things, but humor is accepted and even encouraged. I don't mind a joke forum or a goof off forum, but I don't want my serious discussion about Perl topics to become one. The XP system, though imperfect, gives newbies a bit of a clue whose behavior is respected. Put a little humor in your otherwise serious post, and that's fine. Make a total joke program for Poetry or Obfu, and that's cool too. Don't post a JAPH to SoPW or call people names for laughs. The post reputation and personal XP systems encourage the behavior the community expects from people getting accustomed to the site, other than purposeful trolls who do the exact opposite.

    This attitude of having a sense of humor but being frank and serious about the technical issues and about the expected behavior of participants in public fora is part of the Perl community. It's a goal of Larry, Damian, Tom, Tom, Randal, Jon, Tye, and many others throughout the community to be able to have a bit of fun but not miss the point of the forum, which is Perl. This relaxed yet purposeful atmosphere largely existed around Perl before PM was around, but the site administration certainly helps foster it. That's one of the best features of PerlMonks and the Perl community, right down to many the texts about the language. Being technical, thoughtful, or informative doesn't mean you have to be stuffy, and the Perl community seems to get that better than most.

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by zentara (Archbishop) on Aug 22, 2008 at 18:51 UTC
    When I first started, it was because Perlmonks was civilized to newbies. comp.lang.perl.misc, at that time was a brawling, insulting competition between posters. There was this beast called Godzilla that would insult any newbie, claiming the question was incompetant; and there were regulars who would try to out do each other in making the better answer, mostly as means to insult the other guy's intelligence.

    The most common answer was RTFM.

    Perlmonks ,on the other hand, was considerate, the worst chastisement here is "show your code", or "I can't understand your question".

    Now after a few years, as the perlmonks code base has built up, it's very easy to refer to past nodes containing code, and it has a nice web front end. It just is generally easier to use than the nntp newsgroups.

    I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth Remember How Lucky You Are
      The most common answer was RTFM. Perlmonks ,on the other hand, was considerate

      To expand on that from my perspective, the nice thing about PerlMonks IMO is that when the appropriate answer is RTFM, it will be given in the form of a link to the FM.

      In other words, being told to read the documentation here isn't a four-letter slap in the face, it's a friendly hand pointing at the answer.

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by pajout (Curate) on Aug 21, 2008 at 20:01 UTC
    My opinion:

    Expertise, decency and quick responses. Other factors, for instance XP system and useful GUI, help but not establish it. Simply, very good community.

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by GrandFather (Saint) on Aug 21, 2008 at 21:48 UTC

    In part it's the subject matter. For a whole lot of reasons Perl feels more fun to use than any other language I've used. It seems to me that engenders an enthusiasm for Perl that is substantially greater than that for other similar interest areas.

    PerlMonks draws together a bunch of knowledgeable and enthusiastic people with an ethos of sharing their knowledge and teaching others. Some of this is stimulated by the FOSS background or inclination of many people using Perl.

    And as others have said or implied, the site gets it pretty much right in terms of accessibility, focus and methods of interaction.

    The bottom line is that it's a combination of the language, the community and the site.

    Perl reduces RSI - it saves typing
Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by jplindstrom (Monsignor) on Aug 22, 2008 at 12:52 UTC
    • Timing/luck
    • The people
    • The XP/level system

    PerlMonks was right timing-wise to position itself as the forum that isn't Usenet or mailing lists.

    It had cred from the start in the form of well known Perl people. It also attracted enough not-so-well-known but still expert Perl people to write high quality posts, both on the topic of Perl and on software development in general.

    The XP and level system is what provides stickiness. I think that especially the fact that you get XP for voting (and that you get new votes every day) makes new people establish a pattern of returning.

    For existing users, it's easy to keep up with what's new using e.g. Recently Active Threads (which unfortunately isn't obvious enough for new users).


Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by tilly (Archbishop) on Aug 23, 2008 at 00:53 UTC
    I would say that it is because some of us near the beginning made sure that the starting culture was good. I think I can claim without false modesty that I was one of those people.

    It was not always fun. Between some targeted criticism, losing a few who were more interested in social dominance than useful contributions, and a lot of just patiently providing good answers to questions we attracted a critical mass of people who were interested in maintaining that community. And over time that mass has maintained itself.

    I imagine that if you wished to create a similar community you would want to have some good seed people near the beginning with a clear idea of what community they wanted to see, and with the patience and skills to encourage that community to form. Assuming that enough people are interested in that community, it will self-maintaining once it is established.

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by LesleyB (Friar) on Aug 23, 2008 at 21:41 UTC

    Because a novice like me can ask daft and possibly boring questions about CGI and the Template Toolkit and get useful, informative answers

    Because we can all contribute where we can without being shouted down - we just get -ve points to help indicate the error of our ways

    Because there aren't too many egos on display and apparently few flame wars - at least I haven't been aware of any yet.

    Because it does take effort to make a decent post, whatever the actual content, which might put off those that don't read the instructions and aren't willing to learn

    Because we are required to think

    Because we can learn here

    Because this place is about Perl

      LesleyB that is a really valid point, looking back at my writeups I see my first one (after much lurking) was a question about DBD::CSV that was answered by jzed who wrote the module!

      Getting responses that are kind to newbies and from authoritative sources is amazing on PerlMonks.

      Kia Kaha, Kia Toa, Kia Manawanui!
      Be Strong, Be Brave, Be perservering!

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by lwicks (Friar) on Aug 22, 2008 at 11:28 UTC
    pileofrogs, I totally get what you mean.
    I have at times wondered how to create a similar site for my sport, I think the XP thing helps and is pretty much unique to PerlMonks. Sure there are points and similar on other systems, but they actually do stuff here. It really does make it a bit like a game. I know sitting on the XP I have now that I have so little to make the next "level", it's kinda sad that I want to "level up", but deep down I do.
    More seriously I suspect the downvote factor helps as perhaps it prevents "trolls".

    Maybe this XKCD sums it up:

    Kia Kaha, Kia Toa, Kia Manawanui!
    Be Strong, Be Brave, Be perservering!

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by Your Mother (Archbishop) on Aug 21, 2008 at 21:39 UTC

    A good idea (and others offered plenty already) is the starting point but even a great idea will fail without one or more friendly, professional, knowledgeable users who are on a lot at first. Any new forum can get a lot of fly by. There has to be a reason to stay; site-stickiness. Eye-candy or 2.0 features is never one in the end. The quality and availability of the community always is. So it takes a couple of founding users a lot of time and work at first. Until you get a critical mass. Here for example there is a currently active core of something like 100 "expert" users. That's pretty amazing actually.

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by Argel (Prior) on Aug 22, 2008 at 20:40 UTC
    I think you need to look further back into history and ask why such a great community developed around Perl first. Which in turn raises the ultimate question of what is that special something about Perl that fostered such a healthy community in the first place? The practicality of the language coupled with the (mostly) laid back attitude of community members plus their desire to help others learn are likely key factors.

    Elda Taluta; Sarks Sark; Ark Arks

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by johndageek (Hermit) on Aug 25, 2008 at 20:57 UTC
    Why does PerlMonks rock?

    1) basic Interface the basic interface is easy to use. As a newbie you can read a simple guide and make your post and "WALA" you will get an answer. The answer may not be exactly what you wanted but it will generally be polite and guide you to either the answer, or to how to state your case so you can get the answer you need.

    2) Depth As you hang out here you discover things about perl, yes but also about the site and community. The interface appears simple but has depth as well as a bit of the gaming mentality earn xp to gain privileges/abilities. Oh, yeah by the way many privileges also help the community up/down voting or fun like the ability to add a picture etc.. The community also has amazing depth, the most obscure question applied to the most complex situation can be discussed, and whittled down to a point where several monks can offer valid suggestions. Many times highly experienced monks sit on the sidelines while less experienced monks discuss a simpler problem. This encourages people with some experience to test their wings by helping others with the safety net that an experienced monk will politely step in with a suggestion if a serious mistake is made.

    3) Fun polls, chatterbox, obfu, poetry, meditations, cool new uses for Perl.

    4) Targeted This forum is about Perl, how Perl affects the world, how the world reacts to Perl users, what is important to Perl users and so on, with a bit of whimsy thrown in. but there is very little in the important parts of this site that is on this site that is off topic.

    5) Polite but Firm There is very little that is insulting or derogatory that is tolerated. Almost all responses are polite, even the terse ones. Some unwritten rules are generally adhered to: We will not do your homework, we will guide you, we will help you debug your code if it is supplied, we will suggest reading, but we will not do it for you.

    I could go on, but you get the idea.

    6) and not least the dedicated ones who keep the site going and give up the time to build the site and keep it going.


Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by dragonchild (Archbishop) on Aug 21, 2008 at 21:08 UTC
    Start it, point us at it, blog about it, and tweet about it. Then, sit back and wait 6 months. It will either grow or it won't.

    My criteria for good software:
    1. Does it work?
    2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
      I wouldn't agree with sitting back... I think you have to work tirelessly to create a community, at least early on. Get as much feedback from those who begin to join in, and modify things appropriately.
Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by samtregar (Abbot) on Aug 22, 2008 at 16:19 UTC
    It's really slow. Since time is money and people value things more when they pay more, people naturally place a high value on a board that performs really, really badly.

    More seriously, I think it's just an outgrowth of a really good programming community, helped along by good policies and a generally hands-off approach. Larry has been known to say that he designed the Perl community in the same way he designed Perl. I'm not sure that's true, but if it is he did a good job.


Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by dwm042 (Priest) on Aug 22, 2008 at 17:02 UTC
    I can't speak for the formula that created Perl Monks, but I can speak for what I see now. When every well visited question has the real opportunity to teach you something, wouldn't you hang around as well?
Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by toolic (Bishop) on Aug 24, 2008 at 02:13 UTC
    Another great feature is Consideration. Regular members are allowed to help keep the site relatively clean and looking good by recommending specific cosmetic modifications to nodes. There is no obligation, and each member chooses his own level of involvement. Power to the people.
Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by gloryhack (Deacon) on Aug 22, 2008 at 23:45 UTC
    The magic ingredient is Perl.

    Fans of bondage and discipline languages think one way, fans of languages of choice think another. So, here in the land of TIMTOWTDI we have a collection of folks who don't care how you say a thing as long as you say it well, while in the land of The One True Way you find folks who don't care what you say as long as you say it perfectly correctly. The former are friendly folk, the latter are pedantic disciplinarians.

    Or so it seems to me, but I could very well be wrong.

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by Lawliet (Curate) on Aug 24, 2008 at 21:04 UTC

    Godwin's Law does not apply here. It's why I stick around~

    I'm so adjective, I verb nouns!

    chomp; # nom nom nom

Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by targetsmart (Curate) on Mar 29, 2009 at 09:45 UTC
    Problem solving
    people wants to solve problems, give some work to the mind, basically solving real time problems.

    If I get to face problems only within the scope of my job, company, college, friends, etc. I will surely grow but slowly, I want to grow in problem solving at a rapid pace, This community has users world wide posting problems which I may face after 2 years(guess),when people suggests solutions for it, it is a learning for me. I will grow in confidence/wisdom.

    Getting some satisfaction in helping others, in the process I too learn, If I share I also ensure that whatever I have learnt is correct.
    IMO i see perlmonks rocks(and continue to rock) because of helping people to solve problems and it has a way of gathering/encouraging people to share in smooth way.

    -- In accordance with the prarabdha of each, the One whose function it is to ordain makes each to act. What will not happen will never happen, whatever effort one may put forth. And what will happen will not fail to happen, however much one may seek to prevent it. This is certain. The part of wisdom therefore is to stay quiet.
Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by Anonymous Monk on Aug 22, 2008 at 06:42 UTC
    Beans, refrigerated beans.
Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by wol (Hermit) on Aug 26, 2008 at 12:52 UTC
    The main thing is putting "Monks" on the end. Allusions to monasticism stop most forums from sucking. This forum - - does not have "Monks" on the end, and is clearly going nowhere.

    Judging by your question, you seem to have found the answer without realising. Good luck with your hypothetical new forum!

      (late in on this one, but it's worth keeping going)

      The impression I have picked up, being pretty new here still, is the folks who come here and stay are largely those who have got to the point in their Perl (and Open Source: the two mentalities go together so well) experience that they are ready to look at ways to give something back.

      This signature will be ready by Christmas
Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by roubi (Hermit) on Mar 29, 2009 at 15:06 UTC
    Nobody else seems to have mentionned the idea, but could the sense of community felt by the monks be born out of some instinctive protective mechanism against the "existential" threat that represents Python, Ruby, and others, all considered by some more 'cool' or marketable than Perl? In other words, I wonder if it would be harder to recreate PerlMonks for a technology that isn't threatened in some way (or considers itself to be).

      That's not my experience at all. I'm here because I find a group of very human and intellectually stimulating people who share my interests - it is that simple. It gives me an opportunity to help others even as I'm getting something back. That's a rare opportunity in life - either on or off line.

      Best, beth

      When PerlMonks got off the ground in 2000, there was no such existential angst. Furthermore if the sense of community was tied up with such a "circling the wagons" mentality, you would expect to see significant knee-jerk responses against people like me who occasionally suggest that it is worthwhile to learn other languages. And I have not experienced that.

      I hear about this so-called threat, but I've never seen anything to make me nervous. I get to choose what technology I use, and as long as I use perl, I can ask questions on PerlMonks, so I continue to use perl. The only state that would constitute a threat would be if the community dwindled to a size where it could no longer support itself, and that's not going to happen.


Re: Why does PerlMonks rock?
by sundialsvc4 (Abbot) on May 14, 2014 at 14:18 UTC
    It’s fun to read “this ol’ thread.”   Still True.

      And good to call attention to it, for newcomers!
            ... as does the parent and this, for those who check RAT.

      Come, let us reason together: Spirit of the Monastery
        Yes, thread bumping is more better than Best Nodes every day

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