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Postings from April 2011
Re: Nature of this list
April 23, 2011 00:42
Re: Nature of this list
Message ID: BANLkTi=YRGA_gCJOr2rH8fc5MQ5ToxyExg@mail.gmail.com
Sorry for intruding, I just recently joined this list, I have the list
messages usually skip my inbox, but somehow this one did not and as I read,
I thought I might contribute by letting you know that there are different
"types" of Perl beginners, particularly one type, which is not a programmer
and is never going to be one. I am in that group.
I am a forensic geneticist. I have studied medicine, human biology and now I
am doing my PhD in forensic genetics. I like programming, I remember being 8
years old sitting on my T84 making silly programs in Basic, then on the
Apple II, following a Pascal tutorial, then in 1994, taking a shot at HTML.
And that was it, my life went in another direction and I didn't do anymore
Now as a PhD student, I am supposed to have my hands on everything including
high throughput sequencing data analysis. I started last year by learning R
by myself, for statistical analysis, doing some tutorials so I could do
basic stuff with bash and learning my way around in Ubuntu. But that was not
enough, so recently, I took the Unix and Perl for Biologists (
http://korflab.ucdavis.edu/Unix_and_Perl/) course. I do not program
everyday, which makes remembering and getting better at it very hard, I have
never taken a real live course with instructors in anything programming
related, I have no background in it. After taking the Unix and Perl course I
was able to solve a problem with a simple Perl script, which seemed
monumental if done manually and I am really proud of myself for that. But
reality is that I wont get much better at it than this, I have no time for
that, I have to learn about other things too that are part of my PhD, and
maybe someday when I am done, I might be able to work with a programmer.
The thing is, that having my background it is hard to "research" a question
before you post it, because you don't know where to look, or there are
simply too many options and lack the knowledge to discern which one is the
I am always terrified of posting any question in a list, because I don't
want to be put down (it is not a matter of thick skin, but who in their
right mind, unless they are masochists wants to be put down?), and mainly I
don't want to waste my time, if someone answers me: "you should read the
manual", has that person considered that sometimes these manuals are written
by/for programmers, and its like reading klingon for us regular people?
It took me several tries, and lots of tears of frustration to really get
into R, because I just could not understand the manual and the tutorial was
not helpful either (I finally tracked down a programmer friend of mine who
recommended R in a Nutshell and that was what got me over the first hurdle
-learning to read the manual!-).
In the beginning when I started learning, I looked for answers in the help
lists and it was very intimidating, I saw similar questions to mine which
were answered so rudely and were of no help at all, I started thinking that
these lists seemed like a medium for people who know their stuff to feel
superior and good about themselves while putting down others. I finally
gathered the courage to post a question and was told to "read the manual",
the end. Not helpful at all, and also patronizing.
Now posting in lists is truly my very, very last resort, I really think
about what I am going to write, "research" all I can, and proof read my
message 1000 times and gather the courage to press 'send', sometimes only to
be ignored (and I can't decide what is worse, being put down or ignored).
For me this is a very bad thing, because there is no one else in my
department I can ask questions, if I Google stuff, there is a gazillion
pages to check in order to sift out moderately useful stuff, this means a
lot of time spent in a wild goose chase, time I don't have.
Not all of it is bad, of course, I have made 'friends' in some lists, who
have been kind and patient and have helped me become better at what I am
doing, and in the end I am really grateful the lists exists and that there
is people out there willing to share their knowledge, so when I read the
statement of purpose of this list, I was very impressed to find out that
there were others aware of the problem and wanted to create a list with a
friendly environment, thank you for that.
So please, think about this before answering harshly and being patronizing.
Not all of us Perl Beginners have a programming background, anyone who is a
beginner to programming needs to learn how to read the documentation/manuals
first, sometimes a silly question with an obvious answer, is there because
the person does not have someone next to them to discuss out loud beginner
stuff, and once the question is written and posted, the answer sometimes
might come by itself. Lastly, if someone out there is thinking: "well, if
you are not a programmer, you shouldn't be here", all I have to say is: I am
not a programmer and I will never be one, but reality dictates that I learn
some of this stuff and there is no other way to this, and besides in my
case, I enjoy it very much -- which makes it very hard to manage the time I
"waste" on programming :)
Thanks for taking time to teach others, to share your knowledge and keep up
the friendliness! It is very much appreciated! :)
On Sat, Apr 23, 2011 at 5:07 AM, John Refior <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> On Tue, Apr 19, 2011 at 4:31 PM, Randal L. Schwartz
> > My biggest problem (I think) is that I'm clearly not my code. If
> > someone complains about my code, no matter how harshly, *I* don't take
> > it as an affront to *me*. I just learn from it, and get better.
> > So, I project that same level of independence on others, and have a
> > really hard time relating that someone would take a criticism of code as
> > a personal attack.
> > I suspect that most *mature* programmers have already sorted this out,
> > even if they are beginners in Perl.
> In my experience, this is more about anger management than about
> programming, but maturity is the right description. As we grow we should
> all learn that criticisms and judgments of code (or any other behavior or
> skill) are separate from statements about a person's worth. We shouldn't
> mix the two when we're looking at other people's code, and when other
> conflate the two we shouldn't get drawn into their zero-sum arms race.