[Haskell-beginners] Re: Homework help (was Re: Help in Haskell)

Benjamin L.Russell DekuDekuplex at Yahoo.com
Thu Nov 27 02:44:34 EST 2008

On Wed, 26 Nov 2008 18:18:45 -0500, ajb at spamcop.net wrote:

>G'day Benjamin.
>Quoting "Benjamin L.Russell" <DekuDekuplex at Yahoo.com>:
>> As such, first, please follow the homework help procedure outlined in
>> "Homework help - HaskellWiki" (see
>> http://www.haskell.org/haskellwiki/Homework_help) (substitute
>> "haskell-beginners or haskell-cafe" for "haskell-cafe," and just
>> ignore the part about the existence of "stupid questions"--there is no
>> such thing as a "stupid question"; however, there are such things as
>> appropriate questions and inappropriate questions, and in order for us
>> to help you appropriately in this context, you need to show us more
>> specifically what you have done and where you are stuck, so that we
>> can provide help that would be appropriate in this context).
>It's a wiki.  If the wording is bad, fix it!

Actually, initially I had to fight the urge not to rewrite it in a
less elitist manner, in order to avoid the possibility of offending
the original author.

In fact, I had been thinking about changing that page since about
December of 2007, when I think I first saw it, but had hesitated out
of a concern that doing so would have gone against the intent of the
original author of that page.  On a related issue, I had previously
encountered a number of participants on Haskell-Cafe who had reacted
negatively against what they apparently thought were "stupid
questions":  One of them even asked (in private e-mail) that a
participant not "pollute" Haskell-Cafe by asking about whether screen
resolution was important in determining the precision of an algorithm
to compute prime numbers by picking points randomly from a square.  

I refrained from changing the page because of the possibility that the
original author may have been an elitist, who could have changed it
back immediately.

Part of my original purpose in suggesting the creation of
Haskell-Beginners was to create a more non-elitist, beginner-friendly

More specifically, since HaskellWiki is also visible to participants
on Haskell-Cafe, and not just to those on Haskell-Beginners, if I
changed the original intent of the sentence by rephrasing the
following sentence (see

>Your lecturer/instructor may have told you that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Inside your classroom, that is correct. Outside your classroom, there are smart questions and stupid questions. If you ask a smart question of the Haskell community, you will probably get a helpful answer. If you ask a stupid question, you will probably get an unhelpful answer or, more likely, no answer at all. 

to the following sentence:

>Your lecturer/instructor may have told you that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Indeed, that is correct. However, independent of the context, there are appropriate questions and inappropriate questions. If you first attempt to solve a problem with a decent amount of effort, then get stuck, and then ask for a hint from the Haskell community, your question will most likely be viewed as appropriate, and you will probably get a helpful answer. If you do not attempt to solve the problem, but try to get somebody else to solve the entire problem for you, your question will most likely be viewed as inappropriate, and you will probably get an unhelpful answer or, more likely, no answer at all. 

I could have risked going against the cultural attitude of the
original author, who had deliberately used the pejorative term "stupid
question."  The term "stupid" has certain condescending connotations
that are not suggested by the relatively neutral term "inappropriate."
Perhaps those connotations had actually been deliberate, and not
coincidental, in which case changing the connotations could have
started a revision war, which I didn't want.

I disagree with the cultural attitude suggested by the term "stupid
question."  To me, there is no such thing as a "stupid question."  If
somebody asks an inappropriate question, it should be sufficient just
not to answer the question, or to suggest an alternative question,
rather than to respond in a hostile or condescending manner.

Nevertheless, this is just my personal opinion.  Everybody is entitled
to an opinion.  I didn't change the original wording, even though I
had to fight a desperate urge to do so, because I had thought that the
original author had just as much right to his/her wording as I did to
mine, and I wasn't sure if possibly changing the original intent, as
opposed to just the original wording, was appropriate.  However, if I
had been the original author, I would have definitely worded the
sentence in a less elitist manner.

-- Benjamin L. Russell

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