[erlang-questions] Rhetorical structure of code: Anyone interested in collaborating?

Lloyd R. Prentice lloyd@REDACTED
Tue May 10 17:26:18 CEST 2016


A similar less-than-helpful response is "have you tried flurbmacburger," where flurbmacburger is as opaque as the original question.

Best to all,


Sent from my iPad

> On May 9, 2016, at 11:38 PM, Richard A. O'Keefe <ok@REDACTED> wrote:
>> On 10/05/16 5:23 AM, Lyn Headley wrote:
>> The editor has a keybinding for 'express puzzlement here.' Elder may
>> discern the source of the puzzlement simply by observing its line of
>> code in context (which elder's editor provides), or elder may need
>> more information.
> I don't think there is any doubt about it.  My own experience has been
> that "I don't understand <this>" invariably merits the response "*what*
> don't you understand about <that>".  It doesn't always *get* that
> response.
> Let me give you a personal example, which still rankles.
> I happened to mention to someone (while I was still a Masters student)
> that I didn't understand the difference between the cardinal numbers
> and the ordinal numbers.  What I *meant* was
>  "I don't understand why \aleph_0 + \aleph_0 = \aleph_0
>   but \omega + \omega > \omega."
> That is, what I didn't understand was why infinite cardinals and infinite
> ordinals don't follow the same rules.  (Please, don't anyone explain it
> to me now.  Thanks to the book "The Joy of Sets", I do understand it.)
> The lecturer in question told me a little story:
>  A little boy was helping his mother in the kitchen.
>  He was counting beans as he put them into a bowl.
>  His mother said "give me five beans, Johnny."
>  He answered, "I don't remember which was five."
> This of course demonstrated the difference between the *linguistic*
> cardinal numbers and ordinal numbers, but was utterly useless for
> helping me with my actual problem.  Worse still, it left me feeling
> humiliated that anyone had thought I might not understand the
> linguistic distinction.  I never expressed any kind of ignorance or
> uncertainty in front of that lecturer again.
> So actually, there is something worse than "elder" having to ask "youth"
> what the puzzlement is about, and that's "elder" NOT asking, because
> "elder" has unwarranted confidence that s/he knows already.
>> Note that context includes the entire active question
>> history, which helps elder reply with "not relevant to your question."
>> Express puzzlement is a bit lazy on youth's part, so before submitting
>> her question youth may annotate this event with language.
> And why should we believe that "elder" is right?  I mean, in this scenario,
> "elder" doesn't know for sure what "youth's" question IS.  And even if the
> answer is not relevant to "youth's" immediate *question*, it might be
> extremely useful for youth's *development*.
> It may be that other "elders" are extremely good at reading "youths'" minds.
> Perhaps it is a form of clairvoyance.  It would be very interesting to explore
> this experimentally.
>> Youth 1 posts her question to a public location where Youth 2 and
>> Google can trawl for existing questions and answers. Of course this
>> raises Grzegorz Junka's question about how to maintain this archive,
>> but I don't think maintenance is critical. The resource can age, even
>> obsolesce, and still provide great value while it is relevant.
> As always, the problem is knowing which bits are relevant and which are not.
> It's not a matter of simple age.  Myself, I would find trawling through Q&A
> sessions a frustrating squandering of my time, when the same amount of
> effort could have gone into straightforward stuff in the source files.  I
> would view it as other people viewing *their* time as far more valuable than
> *my* time, because actually, it would be.
>> I'll close with a grander claim. Programmers are less likely to add
>> sufficient annotations and documentation to their code than they are
>> to answer specific questions about the code.
> Well, people are different.  The best programmers I've met (as in the ones
> who could solve complex problems quickly and effectively) produced lots of
> internal documentation.  And I really don't see why answers to specific
> questions cannot be recorded *in the code*.
>>  And this Q&A process can
>> become a kind of re-usable documentation over time.
> If it is not being maintained, so that it's not even trustworthy applied
> to the file it pertains to, how is it going to become reusable?
> If I *want* documentation in the form of questions and answers,
> I know where to find StackOverflow.  I've even answered some
> questions there myself.
> The screen-capture-as-video-with-audio-questions experiment could
> also be used to study whether people *are* good mind-readers about
> what the question is.  (Turn off the audio, have the "elders" guess
> what the question is, turn it back on and resume.)
> The experiment might be worth doing.  Has anyone already done it?
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