How to answer questions from newbies

Roy Smith 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 
audience.

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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