Nick Hodges

Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene #160

04 Jun
  • The topic of newsgroup participation came up in our Delphi.non-technical group, and I mentioned that it appears that more people seem to be using StackOverflow to get answers to their questions.   Craig Stuntz turned around and in his own inimitable way, proved that such is the case.  I know that I check StackOverflow a couple of times a day, and try to make modest contributions.  I endeavor to vote for good answers and to give good answers when I can.  The cool part is that if you are only interesting in Delphi Programming questions, you can really make it “DelphiOverflow” by simply paying attention to the correct tags. 
  • Speaking of stuff on StackOverflow, Robert Love pointed out something I hadn’t seen before on there: Code-Golf.  This is a question that asks a small development problem, and then folks post their answers in their favorite languages using as few characters as possible (low score wins, like in golf).  Kind of fun.  Robert threw in a Delphi answer for this question, and he inspired me to post my own Code Golf problem.   So, if you are so inclined, I’d love to see a Delphi solution, though I’m sure it will be tough to compete with some of the command line scripting languages. Next time I’ll make the criteria be a command line EXE.  ;-)
  • Forgive me, but I found this quite funny. Please note the text bubble near the end. Now if she had decided to use Delphi, well, that might have been a different story.  I am also reminded that Jack Bauer uses Delphi – and I strongly recommend against crossing Jack Bauer.
  • I’ve mentioned that there is a new version of Delphi Prism – and one of it’s new features is the ability to put some C# code on the clipboard and paste it as Prism code.  If any of you is interested in automating the process, there is a command line version of that tool available.
  • Oh, and don’t worry, I haven’t given up on the “Pretty Good Practices” series.  I’ve got a few drafts in the queue, but they are a bit tougher to write than the Random Thoughts items.

16 Responses to “Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene #160”

  1. 1
    Xepol Says:

    Something about newsgroups tends to help make me a very angry participant. I can’t exactly put my finger on it; it is not just the general lack of manners (tho it doesn’t help), but I do know that I am not the only one with that problem. It is almost like newsgroups are a perpetuating motion machines that use anger as their energy source - it just keeps building and sucking in more and more people into the vortex. I’ve had to restrict myself from their use for this reason, and I am betting that I’m not the only one. Blogs style dialogs such as this and stack overflow don’t exactly break it, but by isolating the converstations so that its hard to keep on topic, it does help break up the cycle (usually). That probably plays a role in why people are migrating from one forum to the other.

    That and searchability. Newsgroups are basically a dart board that is very hard to sift when you have an actual question (and if you ask something someone asked at some point, inevitably someone will abuse you verbally for not having seen the answer when someone asked the question a month ago, even if it has long since rolled off the group - back to the anger cycle). Web based solutions are MUCH more searchable (and yes, I am aware that Google and others index many groups, but that leads to other problems including the shear volume of groups, which servers can post etc etc etc)

    Perhaps the most important part is that it is at least possible to have moderate a website (it is even somewhat expected now, right down to voting down the douches) - if you set up a newsgroup that is moderated, attempting to actually do it kicks off an even larger wave of anger.

    All good reasons why people are leaving the newsgroups.

  2. 2
    Nick Hodges Says:

    Xepol –

    I tend to agree with your general sentiment, though I personally seem to have gotten past the whole "angry vortex" and come to peace with them a bit more. ;-)

    I do think that StackOverflow is proving to be a terrific resource for getting programming questions answered, and I think that it is great that the Delphi community has become pretty lively over there.

  3. 3
    Francois GAILLARD Says:

    The ratio signal to noise is so much higher on StackOverflow…
    But it does not mean that the forums are not worth doing some heavy filtering: you may find gems like Peter Below’s answers for instance.

  4. 4
    Mason Wheeler Says:

    Then the solution is obvious. Peter Below needs to start using Stack Overflow!

  5. 5
    Nick Hodges Says:

    Mason –

    If he did, he’d be the Jon Skeet of the Delphi tag, rivaling Rob Kennedy and you!


  6. 6
    Xepol Says:

    Nick - I find it goes in cycles whether I am likely to get sucked into the maelstrom. Some things remain hot button issues for me, and some times the old ego just insists on being set free when poked the wrong way. Fortunately, I can choose to avoid the whole area. I’m glad you’ve found that tiny zone of zen since it is pretty much expected that you put in the occasional showing in the news groups.

  7. 7
    Wouter Says:

    More Delphi Code-Golf.. Gradient shaded Ascii mandelbrot in 310 characters:

  8. 8
    Mason Wheeler Says:

    @Nick: Fine with me! Maybe he’d know the answer to some of the questions that don’t currently get any, or a better answer for some that do.

  9. 9
    Marco Sangali Says:

    Hi, Nick,

    You probably know this, but anyway, there’s actually more results for Delphi in StackOverflow than the ones you show in your query. Try changing "= ‘delphi’" to "like ‘delphi%’".
    I’m not a big SO user, but it seems that some Delphi related questions came only with "delphi-2010" tag and not a more general "delphi" one, for instance.

    Best Regards,

  10. 10
    Rif Says:

    "Something about newsgroups tends to help make me a very angry participant."

    That happens everywhere on social web sites, where there are large groups where people are posting anonymously or under pseudonyms.

    On a social web site I would never want to reveal my actual name or email, but in the newsgroups I feel "at home" and post under my real name.

    I prefer using a news reader program, to endless mediocre variations of web forum UIs. Typically web forums have none or badly implemented threading - incl. the blog comment system here. The main feature that I find that newsgroups are lacking is the ability to vote on a post.

    Doei RIF

  11. 11
    Ken Knopfli Says:

    I’m surprised people even use Stack Overflow. I find it’s needle-in-haystack approach too time consuming. Stack Overflow indeed!

  12. 12
    Mason Wheeler Says:

    @Ken: What exactly do you mean by "needle-in-haystack approach"? I find that it works very well for all but the most obscure questions. IMO StackOverflow is an excellent application of Linus’s Law ("With enough eyes, all bugs are shallow") to a broad range of real-world programming issues.

  13. 13
    John Says:

    When will Update 6, 7 for RAD studio 2010 be released??

  14. 14
    Ken Knopfli Says:

    @Mason: I mean in newsgroups things are categorized. (depends on the care with which the newsgroup is administered of course, but Borland Delphi was categorized reasonably well.)

    Stack Overflow is just a massive list!

    Sadly newsgroups are overrun with spam and flamewars.

  15. 15
    Ken Knopfli Says:

    I also tend to copy and save useful tips from newsgroups. Not easy in SO.

  16. 16
    Warren Says:

    I have learned to turn down the volume on the cranks. If I can turn the volume down on my own inner crank, so he doesn’t spew so much bile onto forums (not only Delphi related, but also on hobby forums, and other places), and a few million other people do likewise, then we can all have some peace.

    Or we can learn not to care that someone is posting every five minutes, something like ‘Delphi is dead, and Embarcadero sucks, and it’s all because my page won’t print with 0.5" borders all around it, and also, Rave Reports sucks, and everything else sucks.I want a pony. Etc etc.’.


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