How to answer questions from newbies
roy at panix.com
Sun Feb 16 16:23:47 CET 2014
We get a lot of newbie questions on this list. People are eager to jump
in and answer them (which is wonderful), but sometimes we get off on
tangents about trivia and lose sight of the real question, and our
The particular one that set me off just now (I'm leaving off the names
because it's a generic problem) was somebody asking a basic, "how do I
code an algorithm to manipulate this data" question. They presented
some sample data as a tuple of tuples.
One of the (otherwise well-written and informative) responses started
out with a 20-line treatise on the difference between lists and tuples,
and why the OP should have used a list of tuples. Nothing they said was
wrong, but it wasn't essential to explaining the algorithm.
What I'm asking is that when people answer questions, try to figure out
what the core question really is, and answer that first. If there's
other suggestions you can make for how things might be further improved,
add those later.
Also, try to figure out what the experience level of the OP is, and
scale your answer to fit their ability. I've seen people who are
obviously struggling with basic concepts in an introductory programming
class get responses that include list comprehensions, lambdas,
map/reduce, etc. These are things people should learn along the road to
Python guru-ness, but if you haven't figured out what a for loop is yet,
those things are just going to confuse you even more.
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