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Help for new monks

by tachyon (Chancellor)
on Jun 07, 2001 at 21:45 UTC ( #86660=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

When you first post to comp.lang.perl.misc you get 'spammed' with a welcome message. In this you get a series of pointers to a number of perl resources (sadly not the monestry).

I think that should develop a similar document to be sent by auto-responder to all new posters/initiates. As well as the usual welcome to the community pitch it could include *links* to some of the relevant perl resources both within and 'without' the monestry.

Between us all I'm sure we could develop a very useful document to smooth the path of new perl programmers providing pointers to all those things that seem obvious NOW but did not THEN.

Here is the text of the usenet doc as a basis for discussion.



This email is automatically sent to every new poster to comp.lang.perl.misc. You should only receive it once. My apologies if the program contacts you twice, perhaps at two different accounts. This is not a flame, only an attempt to help newcomers get the most out of the newsgroup.

If you are an experienced Perl programmer who simply has not posted before, or have inadvertently cross-posted to comp.lang.perl.misc, I apologize for inconveniencing you with this message. Keep in mind that it is intended to help inform newcomers and cut down on redundant posts, which you then won't have to read. Some of the resources in it may prove useful to you anyway, however.

Please look at the following tips, which will often answer your questions without the need to post at all. Every post to the newsgroup consumes the time and effort of readers all over the world, and your cooperation is esential to make the newsgroup useful for everyone.


last changed Apr 18 2001

1. The latest stable release of Perl is 5.6.1. The latest maintenance release of the 5.004 track is 5.004_05, for the 5.005 track is 5.005_03. You can download them from (look in for a list of FTP-based mirrors)

2. comp.lang.perl.misc is for questions on the Perl language. Try comp.infosystems.www.authoring.cgi for questions on the CGI part of CGI scripts. The two leading blocks of reusable code for CGI purposes are, at, at
You might also want to check out
libwww-perl at
If you are having problems with a CGI script, look through

3. Are you using the following?
#!/usr/bin/perl -w
use diagnostics;
#se strict;
"-w" turns on all sorts of warnings about probable errors (see the perldiag manpage),
"use diagnostics" causes the "-w" warnings to be explained in greater detail (with the explanations from the perldiag manpage), and "use strict" generates compile and run-time errors for certain unsafe variable, reference and subroutine constructs (see the strict manpage)

4. Are you checking the return values from the functions built in to perl? Most of the file and system functions set $! and have return values that you can test thus:

open(PASSWD, "</etc/passwd") or die "error opening /etc/passwd: $!\n";

$! will contain an error message that will give you more information on where your program is going wrong. The perlfunc man page will give you more information on the return values from functions.

5. Have you read the Perl FAQ? Many questions on sockets programming, an important and common problem with Solaris, text manipulation and the jargon of perl are answered in the FAQ. As well as being posted regularly to comp.lang.perl.misc, the FAQ is on the web at:

6. Have you read the man pages? Here are some subjects and the man pages to look in:
Objects perltoot, perlref, perlmod, perlobj, perltie
Data Structures perlref, perllol, perldsc
Modules perlmod, perlsub
Regexps perlre, perlfunc, perlop (not a man-page but still useful)
Moving to perl5 perltrap, perl
Linking w/C perlxstut, perlxs, perlcall, perlguts, perlembed
The man page for "perltoc" provides a crude table of contents for the perl man page set.

7. Have you looked at ? This is a great online reference, with documentation, pointers to modules in the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN), articles on the inner workings of many bits of Perl, and more.

7.5. Have you checked to see if a Perl module satisfies your needs? Many reusable modules are available for immediate download and use. See for details.

8. Have you tried archives of Usenet?
<a href="
maintains an archive of postings to Usenet dating from March, 1995. Be sure to include "Perl" in your search.

9. The latest version of the "Camel Book" ("Programming Perl"), updated for version 5.6.0, is available from your bookstore or from

10. Remember, USENET newsgroups are based on the idea of mutual aid. USENET only works if we put as much into it as we get out of it. Good luck with your Perl work.

-Nathan Torkington, Perl mini-FAQ maintainer

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Help for new monks
by VSarkiss (Monsignor) on Jun 08, 2001 at 00:11 UTC
    Speaking from personal experience, I'd like something like this a lot. Personally, I'd like to see more emphsasis on items specific to this site -- the "within the monastery" part -- than items related to Perl in general.

    To explain the "personal experience": I created a login on Perlmonks a few weeks ago. Mostly I've been lurking since then to learn my way around. I've been an "active" member of the community only in the last few days, and I'm still not comfortable with how everything in the site works. For example, I still find having all of Guide to the monastery, Perl Monks Site FAQ and Site Howto confusing -- most of the time I check all three. I never did find out what "node depth threshold" is. ;-)

    Personally, I'd rather see the general items in Nathan Torkington's note collected under a "Check these before posting" node, with a link to it in the welcome e-mail (or welcome node). Other items to include: Writeup Formatting Tips, Where to post, and of course Super Search.

    Another point I think is very important: Nathan Torkington's writing style is just right for this note. It's informative and to-the-point, but very friendly, without a hint of condescension. The last thing a newbie needs is something that sounds like a put-down: "You didn't use strict or -w, did you, newbie?". I definitely agree strongly with Casey West's recent writeup on on this point.

Re: Help for new monks
by petdance (Parson) on Jun 07, 2001 at 22:39 UTC
    Sounds good to me, although I think my writeup is a little more specific to the Monastery.

    Also, I think that one of the reasons that people hit us up is because the FAQ and perldoc can be so daunting...


    %_=split/;/,".;;n;u;e;ot;t;her;c; ".   #   Andy Lester
    'Perl ;@; a;a;j;m;er;y;t;p;n;d;s;o;'.  #
    "hack";print map delete$_{$_},split//,q<   >
(jptxs)Re: Help for new monks
by jptxs (Curate) on Jun 08, 2001 at 00:31 UTC
    I once devised a /msg for all first timers which could be sent through the CB. Still think something of this sort is a good idea...
    "A man's maturity -- consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child, at play." --Nietzsche

      I think a /msg would be a nice welcome as well. It might help people like me who took about a week or more to realise who all those little boxes accumulating at the top of the chatterbox were directed to!


Re: Help for new monks
by LD2 (Curate) on Jun 07, 2001 at 23:54 UTC
Re: Help for new monks
by Vizjerai (Acolyte) on Jun 08, 2001 at 17:36 UTC
    I also think that there should be a some kind of message to all newbies, e-mail or node, as I am one myself and had to search and hunt down answers that weren't all that easy to find. Such as what to put in posts if you ask a question about something, and where to find basic perl explanations.

    Another thing that I would like to see, or there might be one and I haven't found it would be a place for people to just goof off on (within reason) just to get more of a friendly atmosphere.

Re: Help for new monks
by tachyon (Chancellor) on Jun 09, 2001 at 02:07 UTC

    Thanks to all who have answered both privately and by posting here. A first draft has been posted under Seekers of Perl Wisdom New Monks as I am unable to edit the original here and hope to have more luck there.

    Having posted it seems that it is not possible to change an original post, only a reply. Can anyone enlighten me?



      I was reading up on editing nodes, and the only way to edit the original post would be to e-mail an editor with the changes to the post. I forgot where exactly I read that, but it's somewhere.

Re: Help for new monks
by Brovnik (Hermit) on Jun 08, 2001 at 23:25 UTC
    How about a "New users node" that would have pointers to useful places to look for newbies.

    This could be done by auto adding several nodes to the personal nodelet.

    When the user is sufficiently experienced to work out how to do so, they can then delete those nodes using the existing mechanisms, or keep them if they remain useful.

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