[Haskell-cafe] Building the community

Conrad Parker conrad at metadecks.org
Thu Dec 14 17:28:03 EST 2006

On 15/12/06, Nicolas Frisby <nicolas.frisby at gmail.com> wrote:
> ... That's not to say it was the poster's fault: any question is
> a good question.

I agree ...

>   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>.

... hence I'd caution against such a rule. Part of the reason this
community is welcoming is because there is no such barrier for people
new to Haskell to ask questions. Everyone has a different  mathematics
ability and programming experience, and an ambiguously posed question
is often just scratching the surface of what someone really wants to
know. It's great that this community recognises that and responds

By contrast, many technical communities follow the advice of a
document called "How to ask questions the smart way" by Eric Raymond
and Rick Moen [0]. Although it contains some useful advice for
individuals who want to find the answers to simply definable technical
questions, imposing that advice on people who ask questions often ends
up being elitist. For an example from that document:

  What [hackers] are, unapologetically, is hostile to people who seem to
  be unwilling to think or to do their own homework before asking questions.
  People like that are time sinks — they take without giving back, and 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 hope the Haskell community never adopts such an arrogant tone.

By all means, responders should politely refer to existing FAQ
entries, and use the opportunity of answering questions to also
improve the FAQ. At best, answering questions (the smart way ;-)
should be thought of as taking part in a mathematical dialogue, not as
a game of wits where the original poster is only given one chance to
precisely formulate their question.



[0] (which you can find by searching the Web for its title)

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