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Perl Monks good for Beginners?

by substr (Acolyte)
on May 31, 2001 at 07:17 UTC ( #84448=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

A little while ago I ran across an article,Turning the Tide on Perl's Attitude Toward Beginners by Casey West, on In short it points out a history of abuse directed at Perl newbies from more experienced Perl programmers and introduces some new resources to help Perl beginners. Nowhere in the article was Perl Monks mentioned. Is really a good resource for beginning Perl programmers? Is not getting the respect it deserves? What are your thoughts?


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Re: Perl Monks good for Beginners?
by footpad (Abbot) on May 31, 2001 at 09:06 UTC

    I still consider myself an "apprentice" with Perl, which means I write a lot of "baby Perl" and the other monks do their best to teach me how to program--in spite of my experiential shortcomings.

    With that in mind...I think the Monastery is a good place for newbies with a bit of experience regarding effective online communication. This makes sense given the fact that those with the most experience have dealt with Usenet and other online fora before.

    I do think that some monks come across too harshly against the completely clueless or uninitiated, however, I understand the frustration with dealing with the same things over and over and over again.

    Personally, I try not to mind that so much...because I tend to believe that if *anyone* gets it, then the agony will have been worth it. Others disagree, of course.

    To answer your question more directly...I think the Monastery was established with high goals. I think there are a few, vocal monks that suggest to the unitiated that we're not supportive of the clueless. I feel this is unfortunate, but also believe that people should solve their own problems. *I'm* certainly not willing to consult for free...more than I already do elsewhere. I will share the knowledge I've learned from others...gladly and freely. I will even try to puzzle out the real questions underlying poorly written nodes. Not everyone is so kind.

    I'm not saying we should be. Like others, I get tired of homework and "do my work for me" nodes. I am saying we're sometimes harder than necessary. Folks experienced with certain Usenet fora will recognize that and look past it. Others won't.

    Such is the nature of online fora. It's existed long before the Monastery was established and it'll contiue long after we're all dust.

    I believe there is a certain class of individual that the Monastery appeals to. Yes, we should be open to all members, but not everyone agrees with me.

    In the end, I believe you should focus on what's important to you, help where you can, and let everything take care of itself.

    Have we driven people off in our various quests for idiomatic solutions and postings? Perhaps. I can't answer that. However, if you think that we perhaps have...then I challenge you to counter such forces.


Re: Perl Monks good for Beginners?
by chipmunk (Parson) on May 31, 2001 at 08:27 UTC
    I expect that this was an intentional omission. Casey feels that PerlMonks is not a good resource for newbies who want to ask questions which are answered in the documentation.

    This is from a p5p thread on his proposal for a mailing list for Perl newbies:
    thoughts and proposal for
    the message discussing PerlMonks

    He may be right about that.

    On the other hand, there's more to helping newbies than just quoting the documentation to them. Perl Monks regularly help newbies with interesting questions; the ones that aren't answered in the documentation.

Re: Perl Monks good for Beginners?
by mirod (Canon) on May 31, 2001 at 10:38 UTC

    I think the reason why the attitude on perlmonks is much better than on comp.lang.perl.misc is simple: the voting system.

    If you get involved in the Monastery you are at least mildly interested in the XP scheme. Even merlyn and his self-proclaimed disdain for it was quite happy to rack-up the XPs when he started to answer questions faster than anybody could ask them!

    What are the consequences when a beginner ask a question, no matter how easy it is to find the answer in the docs:

    • a RTFM! post will get downvoted,
    • no answer will get no vote!
    • a post gently pointing to the appropriate answer in the docs will get some xp's depending on who answers and on the tone of the post,
    • a friendly, complete and correct answer will get lotsa xp's, no matter who answers.

    In short the system drives people to answer, and to do so in a friendly manner, rather than in a harsh tone.

    In a way the voting system just formalizes peer pressure

    So I guess it is not surprising that very few of the newsgroup regulars participates in perlmonks: about the only feedback mechanism (and way of building a reputation) on usenet is called flame wars! Not quite appropriate for civil discussions, not very friendly to beginners, and certainly very different from their usual MO.

    Interestingly enough the system also rewards good questions and monk's involvement, so after a couple of basic-level questions it seems that most people here start learning on their own, answering questions, and overall bringing their knowledge to the community instead of just asking to be spoon fed information.

      I agree with this 100%. I would only add that I think PM is better than usenet for newbies and japhs since the signal to noise ration is a lot better. Here I can find a lot of persistent info that has been reviewed (i.e. Q&A, Reviews, Tutorials, Snippets, etc).

      Usenet has the same premise, but it doesn't work anymore. One person posts some info, another comes along and adds 17 changes, others come along doing the same with or without tact or clue. If you are lucky, the orignal author posts an updated copy. If you are really lucky, 3 months down the road you can actually retrieve the updated copy, with a news search enginge, without having to weed through more than 10 or 15 other posts that you wish you didn't have to read. At PM, the info and/or comments can be fixed or obliterated as needed. It's not perfect, but in the short time I've been here, I've felt no compelling need to go back and look at clpm.

Re: Perl Monks good for Beginners?
by Ducati (Beadle) on May 31, 2001 at 16:17 UTC

    I am a newbie ... really new to Perl. I have been around Perlmonks for 2 months or so and these are my thoughts:

    It is much better than IRC or the newgroups. The community, in general, is a lot more understanding and there seems to be a lot less ego thrown around.

    However, like anything else in life there are some people that come across very negative, confrontational and in some instances down right mean (I say "come across" because one has to remember that text can be misinterpreted from what is actually ment, there is not emotion attached like speech). In my experiences people at Perlmonks have been kindly helpfull and positive.

    There are rules and one has to learn them: Everybody makes mistakes and sometimes has to be told. From what I have seen, and experienced, most monks kindly point out the one's error and suggest corrections or point them in the right direction. Again, there are others who go off on a rant and flame or downvote or just demean the newbie. That is not cool ... it doesn't stimualte a postive environment for learning. All it does is make the newbie feel like shit and makes them feel stupid ... and who likes to feel that way ??

    Being a newbie is tough: One is trying to learn something new. I feel that a positive attitude and patience from fellow Monks really helps. Some people often forget that they were not born experts and had to start somewhere. This is not a competition, we are all here to learn. Demeaing a newbie is not a way to strengthen the community, it only causes more problems. Who wants to stick around when they are constantly made to feel inferiour ... not I.

    I have replied to a few articles on this subject, because I am a newbie. Also, I want other newbies to feel comfortable here at Perlmonks becuase I feel that it is a great place for EVERYBODY who even glances at Perl. I want to see the community grow and with growth comes more knowledge ... and that is the key. We need new people who will, one day, become experts. If they are brought up in a positive community and are shown respect and patience then they will do the same to others as they grow.

    I would like to take oppurtunity now to thank some monks that have helped me and made my time here plesent. The folling monks have not only helped me but have also been patient, kind and understanding. This is a big deal for me, I hate when people take the "Holier than thou" attitude and try to make up for thier insecurities by attacking newbies and non-newbies alike. This is not a healthy attitude in a community that exists for the sole reason to expand knowledge.

    So thanks:

    chipmunk, footpad, jerones, Jouke, merlyn, arturo, Albannach, Chemboy, et al.

    I have forgot to mentioned anybody, please forgive me ... and thanks to you to !!

    Update: I forgot to thank tye !! That was the one name that I couldn't remember ... sorry :-)

    Ducati ... speaking up for the newbie.


    "We rock the body to rock the party ... until the party rocks the body"

    De La Soul

Re: Perl Monks good for Beginners?
by Masem (Monsignor) on May 31, 2001 at 17:28 UTC
    One of the dangers of PM, given the speed of response time over email and USENET, are new users that come in, see how fast their (not-quite-FAQish) questions get answered, then start asking more questions that are typically at or below the same level in regards to being FAQish.

    Now, since I've done the TA/tutoring stint in the past, I know how easy a trap that is to fall into as a student not understanding the material. I've had cases where students come in and ask a question which usually helps them get started with a problem, then because I'm right there, continue to ask more and more questions that one might consider as less-than-elementary (like how to do algebra, for example, in a thermo course). This is typical of students that are only interested in the right answer and not fully understanding the material, and it's hard to deal with them. After the first 2 or 3 questions, I generally try to tell them that they've got the setup of the problem right, and to go back and look at the book. Of course, you can imagine how many of them actually do that...

    The simularities to PM is staggering. While not all newbies are only intent on solving a particular problem in perl and not learning the language, that number is probably close to 30 to 50% of those new users; it is sufficiently high that when these 'closed minded' learners continue to ask questions, the terseness and attitude of some of the replies shows quite well. (I know exactly how some of the more advanced monks feel at this point; after an hour or so of dealing with 10-20 of closed-minded students, I was typically very rattled).

    So while it might be possible to ask those that might seem harse to tone down, it's better to approach the problem at the other end, and to encourage open-mindedness before asking a question; encourage the use of FAQs, perldocs, other websits, etc, before asking a question. Encourage asking more open-ended questions, or ones where you've exhausted what sources are known to exist but still lack an answer. Discourage the "do my work for me" questions and FAQish questions. This would help to reduce the problems outlined above (terseness due to closed-mindedness), and would cast a better light on PM.

    But I still think that PM is a good site for newbies, much better than USENET currently is or email lists, assuming that the newbie thinks open-mindedly. This is partially because PM encourages a "give and take" approach with voting and experience, something that email and USENET lacks and tends towards the "take only". But again, the key is the open-mindedness of the newbie; one that is intent on finding the right answer and not learning is going to get a hostile reception here, and this is a significant fraction of new users out there.

    Dr. Michael K. Neylon - || "You've left the lens cap of your mind on again, Pinky" - The Brain
Re: Perl Monks good for Beginners?
by rchiav (Deacon) on May 31, 2001 at 17:38 UTC
    I'm not trying to contemplate the meaning if "is", but I think newbie needs some definition. If in saying newbie you mean someone who thinks, "Perl is cool! How do I make this ultra complicated thing.. and give me every detail", then no. This isn't the place for that newbie.

    Now if by newbie you mean someone who is putting in the time to try to learn something on their own, has dedication and truely has a desire to learn how to write good code (or better understand the language), then yes. This is a good place for them.

    I'd say that the harsh responses tend to be aimed at questions that show very little work was done before the author wrote the question, or very little thought went in to asking the question.

    I'm happy to participate in an online community that promotes and rewards thought, hard work, personal achievment, and selflessness. While a RTFM comment is sometimes a little harsh, I think that referring people to where they can get their answer (if it's well documented and should be core reading), is better than giving the answer.

    If someone can't be bothered to take their own time to read what someone else has already documented then why should the people at perlmonks be bothered to take the time to give them information?

    In a nutshell, I think that with newbies, perlmonks helps newbies help themselves. And to me, that's the best kind of help out there.


Re: Perl Monks good for Beginners?
by OzzyOsbourne (Chaplain) on May 31, 2001 at 23:14 UTC

    You can get documentation from anywhere, but Perlmonks gives the documentation a personality. There is a group here that can and will help you understand even some of the crappiest docs, and they do it with a patience that is not quite present in other places. You feel 'helped' rather than 'tolerated'. Plus, they'll make you laugh, probably at yourself.

    Personality counts, and it counts for a lot. If it didn't, we'd eat dogs a lot more regularly (US-centric).


Re: Perl Monks good for Beginners?
by coreolyn (Parson) on Jun 01, 2001 at 16:18 UTC

    I'm somewhat baffled by the lack of mention of Perlmonks in the article. One of the thing I've harped at my kids since they we're young was that school was the only place where people will give you there knowledge for free. I should revise that to include Perlmonks, but because it is so unique, it's kind of hard to fit the exception into the phrase smoothly.

    I've prided myself on being self taught, till I came to Perlmonks and realize how much I was missing. While I may have been able to get things to work when the others around me couldn't, I had no clue how many bad habits I had or what elegance in code truely was. I had laziness, impatience and hubris, but for all the wrong reasons and expressed in my code in all the wrong ways.

    Since coming here, Perl via Perlmonks has proven to be my Rosetta Stone into other languages. A beginner that can't cope with (kindly worded) RTFM, does not truely even qualify as a beginner. A mentor that doesn't slap the apprentice upside the head isn't mentoring. Adjusting the ego is a big key in establishing where you are going with your language development skills.

    If Perlmonks isn't one of the best places for a beginner with real world coding aspirations than such a place will never exist. I can only guess that the lack of mention of Perlmonks exposes some sort of political schiszm within the Perl elite. The resource that Perlmonks represents should stand next to CPAN as one of the shinning jewels of not only Perl but Open Source as well.

Re: Perl Monks good for Beginners?
by Arguile (Hermit) on Jun 01, 2001 at 02:23 UTC

    It's just coming up on 2mo. since I picked up my first O'Reilly book on Perl and joined Perl Monk's. I'm a complete novice at programming, the most complicated scripts I've written before coming here are some awk routines to copy a few files around.

    For me, this has been a treasure trove find. The level of intellect, in general, is well above the par of any of the IRC or usenet groups I've participated in; and there is more a feel of actually continuity and community (homenodes are a nice touch) than almost all the mailing lists I've ever subscribed too.

    As someone said before, the signal to noise ratio is great here. I'm constantly following old nodes and reading through them, and I'm sure to be engaged in this activity for quite some time: That is something you just can't do with usenet or email due to the glutt of inane and useless posts.

    Super Search and the Q&A are some other wonderful tools. Every time I just can't get around syntax or would like a more elegant way to do something, it's often already sitting there under "hash" or "sorting" when I'm ready for some help. If it's not, from the quality of the answers I've seen there, I'm confident asking would quickly yield a bunch of helpful suggestions.

    Being in a highly technical proffession, I understand the RTFM reflex. I spent a month lurking, just to get a feel for the community, before I posted anything. When I did, I exhausted all my resource (within reason) before hand then made sure to put thought and effort into it before taking others time. I think this is something many users miss, that by asking a question they are taking from the people they ask it of. When a users asks a questions that has already been answered 3e10^9 times and is easily accessed by anyone with even the most rudimentary reading skills, they're implicity stating that they don't value you in any meaningful way. However when presented with what seems like an honestly thoughtful question, even one off low skill, people are happy to share their knowledge.

    Getting back to the article, if it's advocating offering free consulting/programming to anyone who comes in with a CGI script downloaded from some website and no prior thought but a vague notion of what they want to do, then I can completely understand a so called 'elitist' attitude. No one likes to do work for someone who doesn't appreciate it (especially for free). If on the other hand it meant giving support to people who were really trying but needed some guidance, I'd like to offer up the following example:

    I think a really nice case in differences in attitude is Tiefling's post on his RPG effort. He's obviously as new as I to Perl, but by conveying a real interest and thought into his post he drew tons of (hopefully for him) enlightenting responses. The one trollish/AOLish sounding post towards him was "totally harshed" in the words of its author.

    To continue using the above as an example, he drew suggestions and guidance towards resources to check out. Snippets of code were offered to puzzle through, along with hints towards their resolution. Monks were also more than happy to offer clarification of concepts when asked thoughful questions. To someone who really wants to learn these are invaluable. In fact that thread in particular cemented my feeling that I'd enjoy this community.

    So to the question, "[Is] Perl Monks good for Beginners?" if you qualify it with "who truely want to learn the language", I'd answer a resounding Yes.

Re: Perl Monks good for Beginners?
by Jobby (Monk) on Jun 01, 2001 at 03:04 UTC

    The site initially seemed quite scary to me - so much information that it was quite overwhelming. Then I found familiar things (manpages and the like) and the infinitely helpful Super Search. This was very helpful and it's easy to get engrossed while learning about a certain aspect of perl.

    The community seems to be a lot like the one at - friendly and helpful. Posting is a bit intimidating, though - I can't tell whether this is going to be helpful or not and I'm not too good a writer. But the best way to learn is by doing, right?

Re: Perl Monks good for Beginners?
by dooberwah (Pilgrim) on Jun 01, 2001 at 00:58 UTC
    I think that Perl Monks is a great place for Perl newbies, perhaps the best on the net. But, it's only good for the smart newbies, who ask good questions and think through their problems before asking. I've been on Perl Monks for about a month and a half (and using Perl no more than 4 months) and PM has helped me increase my Perl knowledge greatly. I'd like to add that the first thing I did when I joined Perl Monks was to read through the help section (and the XP and Voting) which gave me a pretty good idea of what not to post. I think that if everyone did this Perl Monks would be even better off than it already is.

    -Ben Jacobs (dooberwah)
    one thing i can tell you is you got to be free

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