New to Python

Peter Hansen peter at
Mon Sep 27 20:37:21 EDT 2004

Ed Leafe wrote:
>     I've been following this discussion, and as someone who has been 
> answering questions for a variety of technical matters for many years, I 
> just thought I'd share my view.

Ed, have you read the "Smart Questions" essay?  From your
comments I infer (perhaps incorrectly) that you have not yet.

>     Obviously, having the poster pose a perfectly framed question, with 
> complete information, etc., is the ideal. Nobody minds helping someone 
> who is so well organized. But there are lots of other people out there 
> who don't know enough to try what seems like the obvious steps. People 
> new to a language tend to get nervous posting; it's hard to write an 
> intelligent question when you're feeling stupid.

All true, but (again) this is exactly why the essay was written.
It's designed to provide very clear and simple advice to just
those people who *don't* know enough to try the "obvious" steps.
Most of it is just the kind of "meta advice" that is needed for
folks such as you descrige.

In fact, I'd say that anyone who has read it and makes an attempt
to follow its advice will *not* be very nervous, and will find
it relatively easy to ask their question.  At the very least they
will not use an unhelpful subject line like "newbie question"...

>     My advice to those who find such poorly-worded posts offensive is to 
> ignore them. Yes, they could have done a much better job, so if you want 
> to respond, ask them for the information that would be relevant in 
> figuring out their problem. Often they don't know what's important and 
> what isn't. But by all means, taking the time to chastise them doesn't 
> help anyone. Either don't bother doing anything if you don't have the 
> time to spend with them, or ask for what you need.

Again, all true, though I really don't think the issue is
"poorly-worded" posts, of which we get many here and tolerate
them quite well.  I think the issue is poorly-conceived posts,
and the essay can help with that.

As for "chastisement"... I believe posting a link to the essay,
when it's appropriate, is generally a big help, and saves a lot
of time asking over and over again in new and creative ways for
just the information which would have been provided had the essay
been read by the poster.

But I think I'm beating a dead horse here... I'll stop now. :-)


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