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I recently inquired into asking & answering questions about a niche programming language here on Meta in this question and received some encouraging answers and useful guidelines.

Today I finally got myself in gear to ask & answer my first two questions, but at least on the first one, my tags were removed (in my mind incorrectly), the question downvoted without a comment, and additionally it was voted to close as too localized. (And I see now the second one has an upvote so never mind that one.)

I'd appreciate the community to help me out, as I want to create quality material and think that attracting this segment of the programming world would be positive for Stackoverflow (and believe me folks, hospitals all over the country have people who code MLMs). I don't see why it has to start out negative this way. I suspect it's because people have no clue what this is, but if my question is truly low quality I'd appreciate at least a comment on what to improve. Your thoughts appreciated.

Some notes:

  • In general, while there are many accomplished programmers working with MLMs, there is a substantial portion of the group of MLM-coders that have limited technical backgrounds, coming from the clinical side--people who were first and primarily lab techs, nurses, and physicians, for example. This means that while some questions may seem extremely basic (like, how do I do a substring) the fact is that the quality of code found in the wild is sometimes extremely low. My hope is to provide a large enough body of content to attract other knowledgeable MLM coders and eventually make SO a resource that the beginners are directed to and where they will have a real chance of learning something new. The syntax of Arden is very strange compared to other languages (and the list-handling being somewhat Lisp-like, only not really) and it can be quite difficult for people to put together even a simple SUBSTRING, possibly due to Arden's wordy, non-parenthetical method of providing parameters to functions and methods.

  • When intending to answer my own question, I have never before thought about "showing enough effort" or putting in a "what have you tried" since I already know the answer and plan to give it in a moment. I'll try to think about this a little more and will see what I can do.

  • Regarding the anonymous nature of downvotes: of course people are allowed to downvote without a comment. I am not complaining about this practice per se. Simply given that in fact no comment was given and I would like to repair any defect in the question, I am asking here (and explained why I am asking by saying there was no comment to help me figure it out).


I have improved the first question and answer. Is that better? While I always show my effort on regular questions, for self-answered questions I will be more careful to show this so the questions are of higher quality. It feels strange to pretend to be confused or to lack knowledge when in fact I do not, but I'll figure it out.

Tag Information

The original discussion suggested I use two tags: and . I foolishly went for three tags, but agree now that is too many, so I was leaning toward and , similar to the tags and , one for the language, and the other for the platform (or think and ).

But I am being told to use only one tag, so I am suggesting since just by itself is not specific enough to me, and gives no clue what the programming language or context is.

More about Arden, MLM, Sunrise

Could I get input from more people please--people who are really going to think about this rather than just ignorantly toss off something that "sounds good"? The suggestion to use is, frankly, a joke. I'm sorry that this programming language is so obscure, but it SO's specific position that niche programming languages are welcome here. To do this welcoming thing and put paid to those words, we have to come up with a tag or tags that the people programming MLMs will understand. Perhaps an explanation of the topic is in order to help you all arrive at an informed position:

  • Arden Syntax: the actual programming language that is used. This is not the term people in the industry generally use (they say "MLMs" and "MLM coder"). It is at least accurate.

  • MLM (Medical Logic Module): The term most used for these kind of clinical decision support programs. "An MLM" is one block of code with a name, sort of equivalent to a single method in another programming language. MLMs, however, are all self-contained "full programs" with a definitive structure and a usage that doesn't really lead to thinking about them as "just functions". MLMs are sort of like VBA modules, where a user can write code to automate an application, to respond to events, and perform other actions (open custom forms, modify application data & UI elements, read/write data, tell the application to allow/disallow something).

  • Allscripts Sunrise Acute Care: The particular medical system within which my MLM knowledge is based. MLMs with Arden Syntax do run in other medical systems, though, and the syntax may not be the same--especially when it comes to the underlying LISP implementation in Sunrise.

Imagine I were the first person to post any SQL questions on stackoverflow, and I created 100 questions and answers with just the tag "SQL". Then, come to find out, it was really postgre-sql and now all those questions have to be retagged because it's confusing everyone who now also wants to post questions about sql-server? Wouldn't it have been better to start with "postgre-sql" in the first place?

My coworker suggests and that we do in fact work out any implementation-specific differences in the future. Given he is likely to be the only other person on SO for a while with any interest in MLMs, I'll run with it.

Any objections to ?

share|improve this question
Ha, why did I just know that Charles was involved in the tag deletions.. – Bart Apr 3 '13 at 18:07
Regarding the downvoting, it's anonymous, and there's not going to be any changing of that anytime soon. People have the right to downvote for any reason. At least on that point, the sooner one accepts that, the easier it is. – casperOne Apr 3 '13 at 18:11
They are both not terrible questions IMHO. Though the first one is a bit "just read a good book on the subject"-y. My first thought when reading the question was "Well, is there no substring or something like that?". – Bart Apr 3 '13 at 18:11
Although on this question I would say a downvote is completely justified because it "shows no original research effort". In other words, "what have you tried?" It's not a completely improper response when no research effort is shown. – casperOne Apr 3 '13 at 18:12
In regards to the tags, I'd say the only one that is appropriate is the arden-syntax tag. The medical logic module is like tagging a .net tag with assembly because it's compiled into an assembly (even though it has nothing to do directly with it) and clinical-information-system is like tagging a .net question with windows (which is a bad enough tag in itself). I strongly recommend removing the other two tags. – casperOne Apr 3 '13 at 18:19
@casperOne The questions may not be valid on other flavors of MLM besides Sunrise Clinical Manager/Sunrise Acute Care. Did you see the answer in my prior meta question referring to "android" + "java"? Knowing the platform is as important as the programming language. – ErikE Apr 3 '13 at 18:21
@Bart wow that's a lot of tag edits – Some Helpful Commenter Apr 3 '13 at 18:22
"When intending to answer my own question, I have never before thought about "showing enough effort" or putting in a "what have you tried" ... common trap. Even for self-answered questions, the question needs to meet the quality standards we set for any question. You can't get away with a "poor" question, just because you answer it as well. – Bart Apr 3 '13 at 18:23
@ErikE There are cases where it's important to know, but you have to prove that it's important. Why are those tags important in this case and on this platform? In the Java + Android case, if I'm asking about how to access elements in an array, Android is a red herring, and shouldn't be on the question. – casperOne Apr 3 '13 at 18:51
@casperOne Regarding the tags: I see what you mean. The problem is that I don't know any MLM variant besides Sunrise's, and I'd hate to make 50 questions & answers and then have to retag later. – ErikE Apr 3 '13 at 18:57
@ErikE - there's nothing "strange" or "slimy" about it; regardless of whether you answer it or if someone else answers it, the question should stand on it's own. – LittleBobbyTables Apr 3 '13 at 18:58
That singular tag is way too specific and crams too many ideas into one. Please just use acute-syntax, since that's what it seems the primary question is about. Everything else is ancillary. – casperOne Apr 3 '13 at 19:12
@casperOne "acute-syntax" is something not a single person on the planet is going to understand as referring to sunrise clinical manager, or sunrise acute care, or arden syntax, or medical logic modules. No one will understand it. – ErikE Apr 3 '13 at 19:14
@casperOne Don't you think that if you don't understand it, you're not qualified to make suggestions, let alone give orders, about what tags to use? How can you possibly be judging rightly when you're ignorant of the topic? I showed this to my MLM-coding coworker and we both laughed heartily at acute-syntax. The fact is, the people who actually code MLMs WILL understand sunrise-acute-care-mlm. Aren't those the ones who matter, not all the clueless folks? – ErikE Apr 3 '13 at 19:45
@ErikE: Hey, don't forget to create the tag wikis! You obviously have lots of info to share on the subject, would help if users confused by these newfangled tags could click in and learn what the heck you're talking about. As for what tags to create, I'd be of the opinion to start large then work small, as the context of the question requires. If there is one taggable subject that anyone searching for help would think to add in the query, convert that into your primary tag. As your questions get specific, add tags that describe that specificity. And always create the wikis! – Won't Apr 3 '13 at 21:05

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