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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2010 10:20 am 
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Long-time lurker (somewhat), first-time poster. It seems this thread got hijacked into a little flame war (or fervid discussion, if you prefer). May I intrude and provide a footnote of wisdom-to-be?

Let us list a couple of initial statements:
- This place (the OSDev enterprise, consisting of the forum and the wiki) has a required knowledge agreement, which can be found on the wiki. The wiki itself is constantly available to the forum-goer, so there is a definite connection.
- I don't have any hard statistics, but I think this enterprise has undergone a growth, both in membership and in knowledge available (quantitatively and I assume qualitatively). This leads to further growth, ideally.
- There are always noobs on the internet. A hassle, an annoyance, and sometimes making yours truly dread for the future, but you can't escape them.
- When a website's popularity reaches a certain level, noobs will show up. The more popular a website, the more noobs (e.g. YouTube, read the political comments and weep).

As you invariably have noticed, your community has reached that level. No way back now. This is an exciting time for any community, because if they find a way to channel those noobs into regular membership, this steady source of users will become an impetus of further growth.

Since this community is built around a rather esoteric subject (OS development), noobs will be dazzled by the amount of information and the complexity of the material. Cross compilers, your first kernel build, even setting up the test environment, it's all rather strange for the novice. And then they're dumbfounded about a certain error. Sure, it's all in the proverbial manual, but looking stuff up in the manual can be as dauntingly difficult as the task at hand.

And then they ask a stupid question here. And you read it. And then you have a choice:
- You can answer it, with respect towards the person. How you answer is your business. I would personally nudge a person towards the right answer ("You may find this page interesting to read..."). If he still can't find it out, rinse and repeat. Or not, your business.
- Ignore it, especially if the question annoys you through its stupidity. You have no obligation to answer, you're here to enjoy your time like everyone else, you decide how to spend it. RTFM or similar is never the right answer. It's insulting, demeaning, and not helpful at all. If you can't help putting noobs down, that is your problem, not theirs.

If everyone makes their choice according to their own interests, then there is no problem. Noobs will be helped (and if not*), no one will be annoyed, fun times are had by all. Happy happy, joy joy.

* If they're not helped, they either 1) give up (noob fallout: tragic perhaps, but this is not a kindergarten) or 2) find the solution themselves, giving them extra motivation to keep on working.


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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:20 pm 
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Boomlala++

RTFM agitate me. It's impolite, and accomplishes nothing. I'm afraid to ask a question here since I don't want to be shouted at to google it myself or RTFM. Sometimes people just has an off day (or even week) when trying to find info, and being yelled at for it just makes the shouters seem like dicks to them. It's not that hard to close a tab/window if you don't like a topic. I do it all of the time.

I propose if someone posts a RTFM they get a warning. There's absolutely no reason for it. Combuster's question shotgun was much better since it's the kind of questions that will lead to the OP finding the answers themselves. Once they learn the kind of questions others will ask, they'll be more likely to find the answers to those questions to (a) avoid the shotgun and (b) possibly find the answer to their own question.

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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:36 pm 
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Boomlala wrote:
And then they ask a stupid question here. And you read it. And then you have a choice:
- You can answer it, with respect towards the person. How you answer is your business. I would personally nudge a person towards the right answer ("You may find this page interesting to read..."). If he still can't find it out, rinse and repeat. Or not, your business.
- Ignore it, especially if the question annoys you through its stupidity. You have no obligation to answer, you're here to enjoy your time like everyone else, you decide how to spend it. RTFM or similar is never the right answer. It's insulting, demeaning, and not helpful at all. If you can't help putting noobs down, that is your problem, not theirs.


I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, if you go searching through old threads on this very forum (which everyone should do, btw - they're where much of the good information is), there are a few instances of noobs and trolls invading threads, not as frequently as today, but still with similar intent. The difference is, in those threads, nobody responds to them. They keep talking as if nothing had happened! Whether we are now more irritable, more "righteous" in our own illusions, or simply like to talk more at the expense of our community, this axiom still holds: do not feed the trolls. And as we all know: since sufficient incompetence is indistinguishable from malice... do not feed the noobs.

As far as the state of the forums goes: I'm personally very sad it has come to the point that someone like Solar, who has been here for years and has given us megabytes of hand-typed data over thousands of posts, has chosen to leave. We really need to fix these stupid internal quarrels and get back to the essence of this forum and of this site. I cannot bear to see this forum die, it's volatile members vaporized by flames foolish.

Edit: And no more proposals for "what we should do with ourselves"! Count the times we have had threads that started like this! If you feel that the site could be better, make it better! Write a wiki article, answer a good question with a good answer, and if you cannot, work on your project with passion until you can! Shut up and act! Leave the management of the forums to those with power and temperance in their decisions, for they are ultimately the deciders anyway; focus your efforts on userspace.


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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:03 pm 
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NickJohnson wrote:
Boomlala wrote:
And then they ask a stupid question here. And you read it. And then you have a choice:
- You can answer it, with respect towards the person. How you answer is your business. I would personally nudge a person towards the right answer ("You may find this page interesting to read..."). If he still can't find it out, rinse and repeat. Or not, your business.
- Ignore it, especially if the question annoys you through its stupidity. You have no obligation to answer, you're here to enjoy your time like everyone else, you decide how to spend it. RTFM or similar is never the right answer. It's insulting, demeaning, and not helpful at all. If you can't help putting noobs down, that is your problem, not theirs.


I wholeheartedly agree. In fact, if you go searching through old threads on this very forum (which everyone should do, btw - they're where much of the good information is), there are a few instances of noobs and trolls invading threads, not as frequently as today, but still with similar intent. The difference is, in those threads, nobody responds to them. They keep talking as if nothing had happened! Whether we are now more irritable, more "righteous" in our own illusions, or simply like to talk more at the expense of our community, this axiom still holds: do not feed the trolls. And as we all know: since sufficient incompetence is indistinguishable from malice... do not feed the noobs.

As far as the state of the forums goes: I'm personally very sad it has come to the point that someone like Solar, who has been here for years and has given us megabytes of hand-typed data over thousands of posts, has chosen to leave. We really need to fix these stupid internal quarrels and get back to the essence of this forum and of this site. I cannot bear to see this forum die, it's volatile members vaporized by flames foolish.

Edit: And no more proposals for "what we should do with ourselves"! Count the times we have had threads that started like this! If you feel that the site could be better, make it better! Write a wiki article, answer a good question with a good answer, and if you cannot, work on your project with passion until you can! Shut up and act! Leave the management of the forums to those with power and temperance in their decisions, for they are ultimately the deciders anyway; focus your efforts on userspace.

Hear, hear!

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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:08 pm 
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I have taken the time to read this thread in its entirety. I don't feel the mini-flame has gone off-topic. Here are my views:

First of all, everyone should calm the f*ck down. :) (Keep on reading, I won't be using such strong language.)

@brine32:

Your approach was a bit unappropriate - you were arguing against being aggressive while doing it yourself, insulting a couple of our respected members. That's why the reaction you got wasn't the best. I suggest that we should all forget about that and focus on being constructive. There's no need to start a flame war over this. Also, this community is a lot better than others I have seen even though you've stated the opposite.

I think you are missing two important points in your posts:
  • Required knowledge. Operating system development is a complicated topic. We would like this community to be a place where we discuss operating system development, not setting up tools which is a trivial task. If we do that, we are missing the point of the community. We have a nice little article in which we state what the required knowledge is. Every community has its rules - it's that simple.
  • Researching. I'm sure you agree people should do their own research before asking for help. We are not here to do your homework. We have clearly stated this in our little set of rules. If we start giving out code and answers (like you said Combuster should have done in thatthread on GCC's -ffreestanding argument) then we are embracing this kindergarten culture everyone keeps mentioning.

The above only show our desire to keep this a technical community where we can discuss advanced topics. There is nothing wrong with being a beginner but if you're not ready to take on the challenge then you have no place posting here - and there's no shame in that. Perhaps, at some point you will. I think you should be more angry with the people who don't ask intelligent questions (which is in fact one of the rules - and it hasn't been followed!!!).

People Googling "-ffreestanding" 10 years from now shouldn't get their answer from this forum. This question shouldn't have been asked here to begin with. If we do this, the forum will contain 1,000 repetitive posts where we quote from other manuals. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of this technical forum? The information was on the wiki too, as you have said. Why answer on the forums as well?

At the time I posted this, earlz had 1523 posts and recently admited not knowing about the "continue" and "break" statements in C. See here: viewtopic.php?f=13&p=171599#p171537 Is that normal? No.

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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 8:39 am 
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Writing fully-fledged operating system is a very hard task. Someone who can write a decent operating system can work with most of other types of software. Operating system developer has to know his language, his tools, his environments. He has to know how to research. If this forum had only that kind of users, here wouldn't be so much use for OS Development board.

I'm not suggesting that mods should start kicking out everyone who asks something that isn't highly advanced. Straight RTFM to questions that are noobish or show lack of research by OP is in my opinion best choice. Other questions should be discussed well with possible hints about manuals and papers about subject.


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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 9:18 am 
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fronty wrote:
Writing fully-fledged operating system is a very hard task. Someone who can write a decent operating system can work with most of other types of software. Operating system developer has to know his language, his tools, his environments. He has to know how to research. If this forum had only that kind of users, here wouldn't be so much use for OS Development board.

I'm not suggesting that mods should start kicking out everyone who asks something that isn't highly advanced. Straight RTFM to questions that are noobish or show lack of research by OP is in my opinion best choice. Other questions should be discussed well with possible hints about manuals and papers about subject.


Boomlala's point was: Why RTFM and not just leave the post as it is? Why do you feel the need to RTFM the user? If the user obviously isn't experienced enough, why don't you just walk away and leave it to someone who does want to reply in a friendly way? If you RTFM, the user will feel insulted and denigrated, while if you post nothing, another user might post something more friendly.

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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 9:53 am 
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Creature wrote:
Boomlala's point was: Why RTFM and not just leave the post as it is? Why do you feel the need to RTFM the user? If the user obviously isn't experienced enough, why don't you just walk away and leave it to someone who does want to reply in a friendly way? If you RTFM, the user will feel insulted and denigrated, while if you post nothing, another user might post something more friendly.

I have to say I just quickly skimmed last few posts.

My opinion on that depends on what do you mean with friendly reply. If it is RTFM in friendly form, I think this is a good idea. If it is something else, I think it probably isn't right direciton.


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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Thu Apr 29, 2010 10:06 am 
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@Creature: While I agree that there's little point ripping in going on RTFM rants, I don't think that's the heart of the issue here. It's about signal to noise and the general attitude that babying users tends to encourage. Personally I don't care a whole lot either way, but the fact that this exact issue keeps cropping up every few months with the current "just ignore it" policy indicates to me that there's some room for improvement. From the sounds of it sounds like we need a new users sub forum and the mods need to be proactive about moving thread there if they're posted in the wrong forum. I think it's fair to say that the OS development forum is too all encompassing at this point and that there's obviously enough beginner traffic to warrant a forum category for it.

On another note I think people get far too caught up being overly polite and not wanting to say anything negative. That's really really giving someone a false perception of how the whole process works and the expectations they'll have to meet if they're going to overcome some of the challenges of designing an OS. If a new user or any user isn't doing their due diligence and just expecting to get answers they need to be told that, and if they throw a tantrum the mods need to step in and deal with things in a formal manner. That said I'd also agree that simply degrading someone over and over again isn't an approach that is likely to garner good results either.

There's a middle ground though, on that note I'd also like to hear from the moderators a bit more to hear what criteria or policies they use to judge a bad post, as it does seem like a lot of threads that violate posting standards are left to languish until a flame war breaks out in them.

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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Fri Apr 30, 2010 1:29 am 
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I've had some time to think about my suggestion more and have refined my opinion a bit. :)

Solar wrote:
I'm a big fan of StackOverflow, but if you look at the difference between stackoverflow.com and superuser.com, you'll see how much of the "drive" behind SO depends on the sheer number of users. (Which they actually state on the SE site: "A Stack Exchange Q&A site only works when it has critical mass: enough people have to go there every hour so that questions get answered.")


Point taken. I've been listening to the StackOverflow podcast this week, and it seems the founders of SO also recognize this, which is why they're moving StackExchange to a more controlled community-building process. Sites without critical mass won't work. I don't think there are enough OS developers with the same kind of focused interest to create a new StackExchange community.

But, what about StackOverflow itself? Hear me out...

IMO the reason we keep having this debate about newcomers to the site is because the site (forums + wiki) are not fulfilling all of its users' needs. OS developers need:
  1. Good reference material where they can dig deeper into subjects like memory management, hardware details, general OS architecture, etc.
  2. A community of like-minded people that they can socialize with and have more general discussions.
  3. A site where they can get their specific questions answered.

The wiki is designed to fulfill #1. Right now, the forum is trying to fulfill #2 and #3, and that's where our problems are coming from. The RTFM'ers are interested in #2 and not so much in #3. This happens to all communities over time as the knowledgeable members start to get bored and resent having to answer the same questions all the time from beginners.

My proposal is this: Let's continue to keep the wiki and forums around, but start using StackOverflow for #3 instead of the forum. Whenever somebody comes in with a specific question, we repost it on StackOverflow tagged with [osdev], along with the answer (or ask the questioner to post on StackOverflow and tag it with [osdev]). When someone has a more general, subjective question ("What qualifies as a microkernel?" is a common example), we can keep it on the forum and use the ensuing discussion to beef up the wiki.

StackOverflow works really well, even for technically advanced narrow topics like OSDev. It's high time we make use of this valuable (and free) resource and put OSDev Q&A where it belongs instead of continuing this pointless and destructive conflict between old & new forum members.

In light of this modified proposal, here are my responses to Solar's specific concerns:

Solar wrote:
I also don't believe in hosting our knowledge on a third-party system, and one in beta phase to boot:


Agreed about StackExchange. However, StackOverflow is not in beta and all content is available under the Creative Commons license.

Solar wrote:
One, there would be much work involved in transferring our existing knowledge over.


There's no need to transfer everything over. Nobody would have the time or patience anyway. I suggest just moving basic, objective Q&A over there one question at a time, as they come in. The incremental effort to re-post the question and answer on StackOverflow is a lot less than the energy people waste flaming and RTFM'ing each other. If we link to StackOverflow in a very obvious way on the main forum page and make using it a standard practice, eventually people will stop using the forums for Q&A and go there instead.

Solar wrote:
Two, I don't think SE caters to the kind of tutorial / descriptive / technical documentation we have here.


I totally agree, in the context of SO too. That's why it's important we keep the forum and wiki, but use them for what they're good at (general subjective discussion and reference, respectively).

Solar wrote:
Three, and here I actually agree with brine32, if we got a weak point, it's the OSDev / General Programming forum - the Q&A thing that spoon-feeds people custom solutions. Which is exactly what SE caters for: Not going for FAQ links, but to give individual answers in hopes that they get upvoted. (You remember the opposition against voting systems in this forum?)


If I understand correctly, you're worried about the incentives leading beginners toward copying & pasting tutorial code rather than learning the concepts themselves, right? I have mixed feelings about this, but here are a couple things to consider:
  1. On StackOverflow, you can vote on questions too. "Gimme some code!" questions should be ruthlessly down-voted and largely ignored; Same with duplicates.
  2. If people want to waste their time copying & pasting code on SO, I say let them. As long as it's not happening on the forums, it's not bringing down the quality of discussion here.

Solar wrote:
Four, something like SE doesn't cater for information presentation (as in the "Expanded View" of the Wiki) or interlinking of information. Yes, you can link, but you don't get something like BackLinks or WantedPages, the strong points of a Wiki.


Agreed. That's why we need to keep the wiki and expand on it. I see StackOverflow as complementary to the forums + wiki, rather than a replacement for it.

Solar wrote:
Five, and here I disagree with brine32, I think we need the forum, as JackScott said, for the socializing and peer review of ideas. SE doesn't cater for that either.


Agreed. :)

Solar wrote:
Six, hosting our knowledge on a third-party service makes us dependent on that service. We could back up the current Wiki / Forum and rebuild elsewhere with comparatively little effort, something I don't see with SE.


When I mentioned SE, I didn't realize at the time that they were moving away from just selling the software directly to running the sites themselves. However, if we use StackOverflow instead, we will have access to a full public data dump.

Another benefit of putting our Q&A on StackOverflow is that it dramatically increases the number of people available to help newcomers with their general programming questions that are prerequisites for OSDev (C questions, questions about GCC compiler switches, etc.).

I've been following StackOverflow since its inception and thinking about how it could fit with the OSDev community. I really think this would improve things for everybody and is worth a shot. If you want an idea of what this could look like, I submitted an OSDev question there back in 2008:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3290 ... ity-v0-for

I was really happy with the responses.

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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 7:51 am 
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I am not sure if it is just me, because I have only been watching a few threads here and there, but I must admit, it seems that in such a very short time (almost overnight) that there is a noticeable change in behavior. I hope it isn't a bad time to mention this, but I am seriously shocked at how things seem to be going here lately.

Maybe it's just me being too optimistic, I think it is fair to say that the quality of those posts are seemingly becoming much higher, much more diplomatic, I can tell more effort is being taken, all around, from everyone participating, at least in those discussions I have read recently. And, I do mean, from everyone.

I am impressed with how fast this place has turned itself around. It's gotta be a record. World's fastest mass enlightenment ever. Does anyone else see it this way, as in, notice a difference at all, especially in overall behavior? Relative to recent past behaviors, of course.

Furthermore, I would like to make notice to the fact that because people are seemingly behaving more diplomatic, where in those threads such behavior can be fully noted (totally without folly), the level of intelligent discussion has not diminished even one micron. On the contrary, with the absents of RTFM and the like, the discussions are actually even more intelligent (IMHO).

I'm more interested in what you guys think. Do you see any improvements? Is it too soon to judge? Etc?


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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 11:46 am 
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I think you're biased, honestly I don't know why you would come on here and rip on people the way you did period. Are you even interested in hobby OS development? You lashed out someone who rarely rips on anyone severely and threw a tantrum like a stubborn child that wasn't getting his way, do you really think that made a difference?

In general yes it's been far too short, it's been a few days and no policy changes have been announced. If there's a major difference I'd say it's been that the past few days have had a lot of questions which tended to be simple mistakes rather then people looking for someone without the necessary skill set asking for their code to be debugged or written for them. Most people don't have a problem pointing out a simple misunderstanding or mistake if someone has clearly done their homework and simply had a small oversight or gotten a false impression of a small part of a complicated system. What you seem to have missed here is that there's a small subset of posts that really trigger that kind of backlash. There had been a significant wave of them lately, but overall the rate is usually kept lower, that's why this became an issue again. I don't know if it's school schedules, seasons or what but it does seem that there's some sort of cycle to the whole process. It'll probably be kind of uneventful for a few months, if policy doesn't change to address the issue we'll probably see a similar response at some point.

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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Sat May 01, 2010 9:44 pm 
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Cognition wrote:
I think you're biased...


I am. I am definitely on the side of the newcomer and against anyone who is resistant to the sort of change that I have proposed. So, yes, I am very biased in that sense.

Cognition wrote:
Are you even interested in hobby OS development?


Yes. Have you seen my work?

Cognition wrote:
You lashed out someone who rarely rips on anyone severely and threw a tantrum like a stubborn child that wasn't getting his way, do you really think that made a difference?


I like how you went, "who rarely rips on anyone... SEVERELY", so I take it he rips on people a lot but its often not that severe. OK, I think I have you understood. But, how is that a good thing? How did that improve anything? Growth? Quality of Answers? Right, you are too busy getting your shots in. A tantrum. A stubborn child. Well, at least I make sense when I talk. You on the other hand are speaking out of your (you know what).

Cognition wrote:
In general yes it's been far too short, it's been a few days and no policy changes have been announced. If there's a major difference I'd say it's been that the past few days have had a lot of questions which tended to be simple mistakes rather then people looking for someone without the necessary skill set asking for their code to be debugged or written for them. Most people don't have a problem pointing out a simple misunderstanding or mistake if someone has clearly done their homework and simply had a small oversight or gotten a false impression of a small part of a complicated system. What you seem to have missed here is that there's a small subset of posts that really trigger that kind of backlash. There had been a significant wave of them lately, but overall the rate is usually kept lower, that's why this became an issue again. I don't know if it's school schedules, seasons or what but it does seem that there's some sort of cycle to the whole process.


You seem to have all the answers. Maybe we should start listening to you considering that you are the center of all wisdom. You seem to have it all thought out and the matter to you is a simple one. What are we doing here discussing this? He already has it all figured out.

Cognition wrote:
It'll probably be kind of uneventful for a few months, if policy doesn't change to address the issue we'll probably see a similar response at some point.


Well, I am glad to see you at least agree that there is a problem.

All right, I see that we wont ever be able to talk about this with some civility, so I digress while things are improving. I see that they are, I don't need anyone to tell me it has. I'm sorry I even asked such an obvious question.

Well, in parting, I would like to say that you might think of it as a hostile takeover and a very few of you might leave, but to 99% of everyone else, this place will be like a limitless source of knowledge, it will be like a utopia for low-level programmers. It will be like Mega Tokyo again and when it does, I will come back to join you and to contribute all that I have. So, until then, good luck to everyone pulling for change and I am sorry in advance to those of you who resist it's inevitable coming and will be disappointed by it. Sic stat.


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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2010 1:21 am 
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@brine32: Try approaching an issue with some civility in the first place and you'll be likely to see some back. You're a great example of what the problem is, someone who comes on these forums and acts like a total fool then expects to be treated as anything but. You came onto these forums generalized, insulted, and accused everyone who disagreed with your viewpoint. Let me ask you something, how is THAT productive? You didn't want a civil conversation, you wanted to prove that you were right and anyone who disagreed was an idiot. Your sole accomplishment has been badgering a productive and well respected member off the forum. So yeah I'm going to call you out for it when you start asking if you magically managed to "enlighten" us all. Personally I don't care if you leave, but doing so under the guise civil conversation is convoluted at best.

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 Post subject: Re: Newcomer Shield
PostPosted: Sun May 02, 2010 4:20 am 
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Joined: Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:05 pm
Posts: 19
@Cognition: I'm sorry your friend left, but I am certainly not sorry for why he left. He left because he hated the idea of welcoming newcomers and having to be friendly to them. He is the epitome of Anti-Growth, a poster child for what was wrong with this forum. I have no qualms with whether or not he stays or leaves then comes back a week from now. But, I'm sorry his departure has stricken you with grief. I mean, he left on his own and he kept throwing in his towel, then revoking that and debating again, and it didn't take much to slay him. I think he might have already wanted to leave. I just gave him a reason. I don't know, I don't like the whole debate thing, but I was angry when I started posting, now I am not. So, if you want to discuss this further, let's talk. Otherwise, if you want to just stick up for your friend or speak more about how I hurt your feelings, then I'll have to pass. I realized before I posted that I would be offending someone, but at the same time I would be defending many more. I find it to be well worth the loss of two or three of the "I'm now too smart to answer a question with respect" type members for the gain of two to three hundred newcomers who are all thirsty for knowledge. Although I never imagined anyone would leave, but if that is your answer to our debate against the cruelty being done here, then it looks like you're doing exactly what you should be. I personally think you members should leave. After all, you are the reason there is a problem in the first place and perhaps your departure is needed. You certainly wont survive here with a RTFM manual attitude after the new policies are placed into effect.


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