Originally posted by dannyngan
Here is some good advice for how to post more productive questions on these forums:
I highly recomend that people read this. Although the article is talking specifically about hacker communities, the information there applies to this community as well. That information can also be used as good guidelines for anyone asking questions in the IRC channel.
A rebuttal to How To Ask Questions The Smart Way by Eric S. Raymond
Greetings to all,
With regard to posting on any forum or newsgroup, there are often many more “realistic” variables that arise with the current state of the World Wide Web as compared to five, ten, or twenty five years ago.
There will always be those with the status of Newbie (sometimes spelled NOOB) among us; those individuals just embarking on a new direction in their academic pursuits.
I was a newbie in 1970 when I first gazed on an IBM 360 Computer complete with card punching machines and a whopping 10K of core storage.
I was a newbie in 1979 when I embarked on my first in depth usage of Computers from Digital Equipment Corp.
I was a newbie a year later when I started to learn UNIX and VAX/VMS simultaneously.
I later became an expert in Unix System Internals, C Language, ADA, Database Design & Administration, Systems Engineering, and System Administration, 12 other languages and on and on. I taught Computer Science at the Collegiate Level for 11 Semesters in the evenings. I’ve worked in Research Centers, and I’ve worked on projects that had multi-disciplined hardware, software and networking with over thirteen million lines of code. I have also programmed the Commodore PET using simple Basic.
In this entire experience I have worn many hats. Both asking the questions and answering the questions.
I can relate to Mr. Raymond when he states… “What we are, unapologetically, is hostile to people who seem to be unwilling to think or do their own homework before asking questions. People like that are time sinks -- they take without giving back, they waste time we could have spent on another question more interesting and another person more worthy of an answer. We call people like this "losers" (and for historical reasons we sometimes spell it "lusers").
I can remember having that attitude about 20 years ago in the Usenet News Groups. “Don’t waste my precious time with your silly no-challenge-newbie questions.
I think a lot differently now. I don’t think of anyone as a ‘loser’ anymore.
Development was much simpler then. If you were developing an application in C you would be more than likely using a Unix Box, using ATT’s Operating System with the native C Compiler. Perhaps a RDMS from Unify or Sybase and you were coding for TTY terminals. You didn’t have to stray very far to find answers. And with answers being easy to find you were considered lazy if you didn't try to look.
My last little project had a remote MySQL database, a PHP driven (producing HTML) Web Site that does database lookups and allows users to interact and input data. There is a local stand alone MS Access database with MS Visual Basic using Sockets to communicate with the remote database using XML to transfer data. Add to that a little Flash Animation and a little bit of pretty graphics and you have a system in today’s world. That is eight disciplines you have to be competent in to achieve the desired goal.
Everything changed with the invention of WWW in 1991 by Tim Berners-Lee.
Prior to that, those of us who were on the ‘net’ so to speak had Telnet, FTP, Gopher, Archie, Usenet and other limited searching tools to scour the TCP/IP network.
When you wanted to look up something you typically only had to wade through several hundred to several thousand listings of documents to research in finding your answer. Most of the contributors to Usenet at that time circa 1985-86 were Professionals or CS Students at Universities. (Besides myself, I couldn’t think of anyone that I knew that had a home computer running UNIX at that time. My first modem was a 300 baud acoustical modem.) There was not a lot of fluff and there were far more “in-the-know” than there were Newbies. Answers were fairly easy to find.
In 1991, the first year of its existence, WWW was exclusive to those who had access to the NeXT Machines. (That is what Tim used to develop HTML and HTTP.) How I miss those days to some degree. Not too much clutter back then.
Within that year there were millions of web pages in existence. No huge Search Engines and blissfully reminiscing, no Pop Ups either! Simple Hyper Text pages were the main feature of the day.
Shortly after UNIX browsers came into being and in mid-1994, Silicon Graphics founder Jim Clark collaborated with Marc Andreessen to found Mosaic Communications (later renamed to Netscape Communications.) and the rest is history. Access to the World Wide Web was now in the hands of Amateurs.
So what is my point? Today it is actually harder to find answers than it used to be. Most of the time, my questions (depending upon the forum) are way beyond the normal expertise. I get a lot of responses similar to “If you figure it out let me know how you did it because I had a similar problem… “ or I get no response because no one else has an answer either. Usually, with enough digging I eventually find the answer, but it is not always timely.
I Google a question and I am inundated by millions of results
Google -> Results 1 - 10 of about 5,760,000 for can't create object. (0.16 seconds) Most of the results are not relevant. Even refining the search down to greater detail still yielded hundreds of thousands of pages. Very few of them relevant and providing any solutions.
A great percentage of web page results that were returned were advertising some products.
You would think that you could often find answers in the local help of a development environment. I was fiddling with .NET not too long ago, just trying a proof of concept with some XML parsing and I wanted to create a quick little routine that just wrote to a file. It had been to many years ago that I had the method for doing that in my head so I went to the help and typed on Open File. To my astonishment I was inundated with 500 listings NONE of the first 100 returned were relevant to my search criteria. It was an endless sea of non essential information. I don’t use .NET for that very reason. It is far too bloated.
So, I come and participate in forums.
The rebuttal to Mr. Raymond and anyone who thinks like the hard nosed Usenet folks from long ago is basically to just simply chill and get off your high horse. (this is coming from someone who is well beyond 50 years old and one who has been around the block more than once in this industry.)
Mr. Raymond you forget (like many others, including myself at one time) that you were a newbie and asked stupid questions and you felt bad when you were rejected so now you want to do the same to others. Or maybe you feel that you invested all your sweat equity in “learning” what you learned that you feel others must also tow the line.
I am going to make an assumption that Mr. Raymond is a professional and has spent his life becoming one. In today’s heterogeneous computer user society many folks are not in it to become ‘experts’ in a given situation. They may be hobbyists or enthusiasts for any given discipline that are just looking for a way to get from point (A) to point (B). Have a little fun. “How do I …” is their main focus is getting whatever project they are working on completed. For others, the interest may be in learning the details.
Mr. Raymond it is NOT being lazy for someone to ask how do I do something if your answer speeds up the process and the end result is a happy client that is pleased with a graphical rendition, or some software achievement that goes beyond the preconceived expectations that were in place.
I have had many projects in the 30+ years that I have been developing systems where I just needed one small piece of a “technology” that was foreign to me in order to “make it happen”. UNIX had the worst of all manuals for writing C code. Show me some code, perhaps two or three ways of doing the same thing and you have in effect, written 2,000 pages of explanation for me. I am an expert creating solutions. I don’t have to be a full on expert in all of the facets of PHP to query a database and generate an HTML page.
I am a concept person. Show me the how in terms of a concept and I can run with it forever. In other words, don’t give me just a fish to eat, teach me to fish. But, teach me in simple terms and leave out the physics of the tensile strength of the fishing line, the design specs of the reel and the fish psychology that addresses the attraction of lures. If I want to I can learn all of that extra stuff I can do that later.
One of the forums that I frequent has more than 23,000 members. Some forums have several thousand members. Given the fact that anyone from just about anywhere can access the web, there are constantly people who are at all levels of expertise simultaneously in any given subject on any given forum today.
Often when you do a search for a subject in a large forum you may get over 1,500 threads that have some bearing on the search criteria. 1,498 of them close, but different enough to be of no help. I can't even remember how many times that has happened.
If the question is too simple, or beneath the status for a person like Mr. Raymond then Mr. Raymond should indeed skip the question.
There are plenty of people who are well below that status of an expert like Mr. Raymond that can answer the question. Someone who is just slightly above newbie status would feel very good and gain confidence in answering a simple question. Anytime you answer a question you reinforce your understanding of the subject you are responding to.
Mr. Raymond forgets (just as I did for many years) that a lot of the time a newbie does not even know what a truly good question is. They often do not even know enough about the subject to ask an intelligent question. Should we chastise someone is just now coming aboard the train, expecting them to catch up with those of us who have had decades of experience?
Another reason is that there is SOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH information out there now that the person who is new is often on information overload and can’t process or distinguish what is really relevant to their situation.
I’ve been involved with Graphics since the early 80’s but only on a very limited scale. I worked for a company that was developing a 2D CAD program for the Apple Lisa Computer and I programmed some nifty C routines for that project, but I am not an artist, more of a hobbyist. I don’t ever intend, nor will I ever possess the talent that some of the folks here have with regard to what is done in this extremely complex 3D
environment. There is so much depth to this very complex 3D
graphics that I scarcely know where to begin or how to process the work flow. But I do enjoy it.
I also, because of my current circumstances, don’t have access to the internet 24/7 I live on a Farm and they don’t offer broadband anywhere near the area by any method except satellite. I come into the city for a couple of days a week and I try to get as much ‘internet’ related activities done with the precious time that I have.
I realize that there are probably others that are like me, so I will, if I have the time, answer any question that I am able to answer regardless of the simplicity or perceived notion for a quick answer. I don’t have the luxury of spending hours and hours researching an answer to a problem on the internet, so I use forums. Sure I spend a little bit of time searching for answers, but forums are not without problems either. In many cases there are thousands of threads many with no relevant content.
I appreciate it more than I can express in words when someone will answer a question that I posed that saves me endless of hours of wading through gobbledygook.
So, Mr. Raymond, and those who think like you, I appreciate your stance and, I encourage you to do what it is that makes you happy. I, on the other hand, will not hesitate to answer the simple question that has been posed for the umpteenth time.
Those who administer forums have a great opportunity to put together a very succinct and clear FAQ. This is often not done. Another possibility is they can create a non posting forum that has only relevant threads for newbies like what this forum has done. But newbie questions should never have that ominous tone of being rejected or feared because of some technicality in posting to the wrong forum. If it gets posted incorrectly simply move it with an explanation to the correct place.
No one is forcing anyone to answer or do anything on a forum. You either participate by providing content with questions, or answers, or opinions, or tutorials, or encouragement. People do this because they like doing it. It is normal to want to pass on knowledge and normal to have a community of sharing.
100 years from now computers may achieve AI status and there won’t be a need for forums or news groups per se … one would simply ask an initial question of the computer and then proceed from there.
There are literally thousands of people that are completely new to all of this and they should be encouraged and enlightened. An answer that states a solution to the question that was asked with links to additional information is even better than just providing a link.
Simply providing a link is the lazy way out. Why? Because, for the newest of the newbies the information provided in the link may be more confusing than a clear response to their specific question could have been. You have essentially turned away a potential contributor because what they see is they were shuffled to some location with information whose intended audience may have been way above the newbies level of expertise and they could feel let down.
Don't let pride get in your way. If you have the time and want to answer a simple question then do it because you want to, not out of obligation or anything else.
Thanks for letting me say this. I hope that I have not offended anyone.
PS … Okay, I have this polygon sphere and a tourus how do you get these two objects to … in Maya?