mailing list welcome welcome msg in wiki suggestion

Brian van den Broek bvande at po-box.mcgill.ca
Sun Dec 12 22:11:47 CET 2004


Hi all,

There have been a few posts over the last month or so expressing a bit 
of exasperation with the "rising tide of newbie's". (Or, more 
accurately, the rising tide of questions from newbie's not trying to 
follow ESR's advice.)

A month or so ago (in a thread found here: http://tinyurl.com/5bj8j), I 
suggested that it might help the situation if there were a python.org 
wiki page that amounted to a "Welcome to the Python community; please 
play nice" message. The idea is that a link to the envisioned page be 
included in the mailing list welcome message. The suggestion received 
limited but positive feedback.

(I know that a mailing list welcome won't make it to those who read this 
forum as a newsgroup, rather than as a list. But, as a near-newbie 
myself, I'd wager at least a nickel that newbie's tend to use the 
mailing list more than the newsgroup interface. It would also make 
people aware of the wiki -- a good thing, I think.)

I've written something up (it is at the end of this post). While I know 
that wikis are community property, I also know that deleting an 
ill-conceived page is a task that adds to the admin burden, and that a 
page with a wiki name like "WelcomeToTheCommunity" might well seem a bit 
'official'. Further, I obviously cannot myself add a link to the 
python-list welcome message. Thus, since I'm hardly a core community 
member, I don't feel entirely comfortable about inaugurating such a page 
on pretty much my own say-so.

Anyway, now that there is something more concrete than "wouldn't it be 
nice if ...", I'd be curious to know the community sense as to whether 
such a wiki page to be linked to in a mailing list welcome message seems 
a good idea.

My attempt at a draft (in wiki markup) is below. If anyone with 
sufficient community 'juice' thinks the idea good, please feel free to 
use my text to start such a page. Or, if community endorsement follows, 
I will happily do so myself.

Best to all,

Brian vdB

<Begin Proposed Text>
= Welcome =

'''Welcome to the Python community!'''

This is a page of the http://www.python.org 
[http://www.python.org/moin/FrontPage Wiki]. Links with words in title 
case and run together as in WikiName are Wiki links to other pages on 
this Wiki (or even to other Wiki's). Keep in mind that a Wiki is a work 
in progress, so some of these links might not be too useful yet.

One of the goals of the Python Community is to be accessible to people 
with all levels of technical skill and experience. If you don't have 
much experience with programming or the OpenSourceCommunity, that's 
quite all right. Almost everyone who reads the various Python 
MailingListsAndNewsgroups is very happy to see Python spread, and is 
thus glad that you are joining. But, since Python is OpenSource, it is 
also true that almost everyone is participating on their own time (as 
in, without pay). When you post a question, you are asking a lot of 
people to take time to read your question, and, it is to be hoped, to 
take some more time to answer it. That's fine; the Community is glad to 
do so. But everyone's time is precious. And, from that, a few things 
follow: all the rest of this page can be summarized as "Please respect 
people's time and effort". That really is the key to being a good 
community member.

= Asking Questions =

It is sometimes said "There's no such thing as a dumb question." Well, 
that isn't quite true. What is true is that there is no such thing as a 
dumb question that was preceded by an honest effort to find an answer 
the question and to make the question clear. (Obviously, that isn't 
anywhere near as catchy a slogan ;-) To avoid asking this sort of a 
"dumb" question, the very best thing you could do is to read Eric 
Raymond's essay [http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html "How 
to Ask Questions the Smart Way"]. Please read it. Really.

But, here is the distilled version:

== Searching for Information ==

First, try to see if your question has already been asked and answered. 
(Hint: it certainly has if you want to know what PythonBooks or 
Tutorials (BeginnersGuide) there are, or what GUI Toolkits 
(ChoosingGuiToolkits) exist.) GoogleTips will get you started on how to 
do this well. You can also search CompLangPython through 
[http://groups.google.ca/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&group=comp.lang.python 
Google's Groups interface].

== Selecting a Venue ==

If searching for an answer hasn't helped, by all means, feel free to 
post a question. And that brings us to the second important thing to do: 
decide where to post. There are many MailingListsAndNewsgroups for 
Python (and Python projects, too). If your question concerns a specific 
Python application, such as MoinMoin, you will do a lot better posting 
your question to the list for that application. Likewise, if your 
question is specifically about using Python with features specific to 
the Windows operating system, you might meet more success posting to the 
list for Win32All. If you are quite new to programming, the 
PythonTutorList is designed for you. The people who read that list are 
particularly good at explaining things in a way that is very accessible 
to newcomers.

== Writing your Question ==

Having searched for information, and having decided where to post for 
additional help, you obviously have to write your question. Well-written 
and well thought out questions are the ones most likely to receive well 
written and well thought-out answers. The more clear and complete you 
can make your question, the more likely you are to get a useful answer. 
A question like "My program doesn't work. Can you help?" isn't going to 
get any useful answers, and if you do eventually get help, it will only 
be after others have taken the time to get the necessary information out 
of you. It will all go much more smoothly if you provide this 
information up front. It isn't always clear what to provide, and if you 
are learning, you may well not do it perfectly. That's OK. What's 
important is to make an effort to do so. So, what should you include? If 
you are having a problem with a program, a good general checklist would be:
  * Python Version
  * Operating System
  * Version of any other Python tools you are using (e.g. wxPython, 
pygame, etc.)
  * What you are trying to do
  * A snippet of the code causing you problems
  * Results of running your code
The results might well be the traceback information that Python gives 
you. Don't summarize it; include the full traceback in your post. It 
might not all seem relevant to you, but the information can be quite a 
lot of help to those who know how to interpret it.

== Asking for help with homework ==

Finally, if you are asking for help with a homework problem, it is a 
good idea to say so. Then, you might well get some help in the form of a 
push in the right direction. If you don't say so, it is almost certain 
that a Community member will recognize that it is a homework problem, 
suspect that you are looking for the community to do your homework for 
you, and point out to you that it is '''your''' homework.

= Conclusion =

If that all seems like a lot:
   1. '''Don't Panic!''',
   2. understand that this describes an ideal, and the Community 
understands that it can take a few tries to get the hang of being a good 
community member, and
   3. consider starting off with the PythonTutorList.

And, please, don't let any of this scare you off. The Python Community 
has a reputation for being one of the friendliest tech communities 
around. So, no one is going to be flogged for not following these 
suggestions. But, trying to follow them is the best thing you can do as 
a new community member to preserve and maintain that friendly reputation.

Have fun. We're glad you found us.




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