[Haskell-cafe] Building the community

Nicolas Frisby nicolas.frisby at gmail.com
Thu Dec 14 14:07:00 EST 2006

On 12/14/06, Ross Paterson <ross at soi.city.ac.uk> wrote:
> Absolutely.  Some more questions of this type:
>         How do I update a variable?
>         How can I efficiently update an array?
>         How do I get debugging output?
>         How can I put different types of things in a list?
> Sometimes the person asking is ready for the advanced features, but
> all too often beginners are pointed at IORefs, the ST monad, trace
> and existential types, when, as you say, they probably asked the wrong
> question because they don't have the frame of reference to know what
> they need.

I've definitely made that mistake about the heterogenous list. I
blurted out existential code when they just didn't know about "data"
types. Sure I see the mistake I made there, but variant types are
often assumed to have been ruled out--it's kind of step one with
Haskell. That's not to say it was the poster's fault: any question is
a good question.

Sometimes it's appropriate to assume some knowledge on the poster's
behalf, and it would be tedious if every first response was a list of
10 questions gauging the poster's familiarity with various intro

  1) The first response to a FAQ should be a link to a thorough
treatment of the FAQ on the wiki. Of course first responders ignorant
of the wiki FAQ's existence wouldn't be able to do this, but if the
community is consistent, then people will most likely catch on (I
suddenly realize that I'm talking about myself...)

  2) The "welcome to the mailing list" message could say "if you're
new to Haskell, please check this FAQ first". I'm talking big letters
here; I'd even be OK with <marquee>.

Are these rules too draconian? Should we just adopt the tedium of
quizing every new poster?

What are some other steps that could help prevent overly sophistocated
first responses?


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