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Jeff said I should ask here.

Hi Jeff,

I read your Stackoverflow blog post about the R folks getting together to push R content into Stackoverflow. I'm a maintainer of the Perl docs and would like to push the perlfaq into Stackoverflow too. We already have all the questions and the answers, a bit over 300 in total.

What's the best way to put these into Stackoverflow, considering issues of rep, community wiki, etc? Would you like me to create another user for these, tag them in some special way, etc? Would you like something you can import into the database directly, or can I write a posting robot to do it for me?


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I guess Jeff was too busy being sick and playing with Google Wave to figure it out himself ;) – Joel Coehoorn Oct 1 '09 at 21:35
The url to this question should probably be given on irc, and on the mailing list. It would be good to get a larger audience to this question than just the very small number of Perl programmers on Meta. – Brad Gilbert Oct 1 '09 at 21:52
There were a few complaints on MSO about R questions "flooding" SO during peak hours. – Austin Salonen Oct 1 '09 at 21:53
@Austin - That doesn't change the fact that a) it was a good idea on the part of the R programmers, b) Jeff approved of the idea. Therefore, we should steal that idea. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 1 '09 at 21:55
There should also be some discussion about using one of the tags: [perlfaq] or [perl-faq] ( the latter would seem to better match up with the other tag discussions on Meta. ) – Brad Gilbert Oct 1 '09 at 21:55
@Chris - Wasn't disagreeing at all. I wish there were more. Just commenting on the reception the R people got here. – Austin Salonen Oct 2 '09 at 3:59
If flooding is a concern the questions could be added a few at a time. Spreading the import over a week or two should eliminate any problems on that front. – Dan Neely Oct 2 '09 at 20:36
Can we get a bump on this? Everyone seems to like this idea, so are we going to go through with it? – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 8 '09 at 3:29
The idea is good, but there isn't a concensus on how to do it. I was hoping maybe an official Stackoverflow person would jump in to make a decision, but maybe I have to point them at this discussion. I'm writing a book this month, so I'll come back to this in November. – brian d foy Oct 11 '09 at 23:09
@brian - Oh, goodie! It'll be like a birthday present for me, except for everybody. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 20 '09 at 22:53
Looks like this is being started now -- see – Ether Dec 6 '10 at 23:47
@briandfoy: What is the status on this Brian? I can't see any evidence of activity, but I don't think it has been excluded. Does it need some keyboard work (for which I volunteer)? – Borodin Jul 7 at 11:04
I don't maintain the perlfaq anymore. You don't need my permission though :) – brian d foy Jul 7 at 11:42

If you are posting so many questions as your faq, you should probably post them as Community Wiki. That way more people can join in editing them, and you won't get annoyed users trying to close your questions because they think that you are farming for rep points.

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+1 for editing. I wasn't sure about that point, but it is a good point - when Perl 6 comes out (knock on wood) we will need to update all the perlfaq questions on SO, and when Perl 6.2 comes out we'll need to do it again, and so on. Making them editable is important. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 1 '09 at 21:54
We could probably just have another tag, perhaps [perl6-faq] – Brad Gilbert Oct 1 '09 at 21:57
@Brad - Why don't I ever think of these things? – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 1 '09 at 21:59
@Cris, it could be because you are a cLutz. ☺ – Brad Gilbert Oct 1 '09 at 22:09
+1 to Brad for originality. The only joke I've heard more than that is the one using the last letter of my first name. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 1 '09 at 22:14
@a_m0d: farming for points does not violate a single rule on StackOverflow. Asking good questions or supplying good answers is what gets you points. – RSolberg Oct 2 '09 at 2:30
@RSolberg - Just because it doesn't violate a single rule doesn't mean people won't get angry about it. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 2 '09 at 4:58
brian currently has a rep of 19k on stackoverflow. Who would care if he doubled that within the next month? But cw is a must here since both questions and answers should be editable by the unwashed masses. – innaM Oct 2 '09 at 9:16
Perl 6 will have its own FAQ. We will not be converting the Perl 5 faq to Perl 6. Maybe someone forks the Perl 5 FAQ though. :) – brian d foy Oct 3 '09 at 18:11

It appears that everybody agrees that the posts should be community wiki. However, Chris and Adam also propose creating a new user for this. I think that is not necessary, and in fact not desirable, for two reasons:

  • By posting CW questions and answers, Brian will not receive any rep points anyway. But, as the maintainer of the Perl faq he did spend a lot of time on this, so the few badges that he may receive by posting using his own account are very much deserved.
  • If Brian will create a new account, then it will not be as easy/convenient for him to keep track of any new answers and comments on/edits of the [perl-faq] questions.
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New answers and edits will bump the question, and are fairly easy to keep track of. Comments are supposed to be only of minor importance. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 2 '09 at 7:09
As I said in my response, I don't have strong feelings on this, I was only trying to anticipate the possible irritation of thers. If nobody else is bothered either, then I agree brian should be the one to post them. – ベレアー アダム Oct 2 '09 at 12:05
s/of thers/of others/ – ベレアー アダム Oct 2 '09 at 12:06
If he ever decides to give someone else control of perlfaq , he may want to give them control over all of the questions as well. – Brad Gilbert Oct 2 '09 at 13:15
... Which would be easier if it was a separate account. – Brad Gilbert Oct 20 '09 at 7:00

I have wanted to see more activity about Perl, on Stack Overflow.

I mean, currently there are less questions tagged [perl] than tagged [delphi].

This could be a step on the way to that goal. It also could be very problematic if not done correctly.

So I would suggest slowly adding questions, to start out with. That way if there is any backlash, it would be easier to manage. This would also help with the process of learning how the questions should be set up.

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As a regular Perl questioner, ::waves @ brian::, I'd love to see this.

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I want to wave too! – Brad Gilbert Oct 1 '09 at 22:10

Have to say, nice idea, I'm looking forward to this! My opinion on the particulars:

  • Create a new user in preference to posting them yourself, although I don't really have strong feelings on this one way or another, others might see this as more "fair".
  • Use a robot rather than asking for DB insertion, since that allows for the same community involvement as regular posts. I'd say rate-limit the robot, for example 10 posts a day, spaced at one every 2 hours, and we're still done in about a month. This will also help to make sure the non-Perl crowd aren't confused and infuriated by the import.
  • The posts should definitely be community wiki. That's another reason to rate-limit the import, to make sure us Perl folks can keep an eye on things and make sure nobody abuses the CW nature of these pages.
  • Tag them all perl-faq, this tag is currently unused.
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[perl-faq] would be more in keeping with the rest of the tags ( [code-golf] for example. ) – Brad Gilbert Oct 2 '09 at 2:51
Good point, I've edited this response. – ベレアー アダム Oct 2 '09 at 12:03

I think this is a truly great idea. The Perl community would benefit from this and stackoverflow would benefit. Win-win!


  • The questions shouldn't flood the site.
  • Somehow we need to have an eye on what gets done to all those questions and answers. They might be edited in an unhelpful way, they might get flagged as duplicates. Some of them might no even be programming related if you are very strict. I guess this could be most easily accomplished by having members of the community "adopt" a couple of questions each.
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One thing to consider (see my comment on this answer) is how to handle answers with version dependencies. The FAQ is synced to a release or Perl; it can and should take advantage of all the features available to that version. Readers of SO might be using an older version, however, which could create problems and confusion if they try to implement the answer as given. This is especially true if the SO answer mirrors the master and the master has been updated to take advantage of features that only exist in development releases.

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I definitely think you should create another user. 300 Perl questions with good answers is an easy silver badge, and almost assuredly a gold badge too, and there aren't a whole lot of Perl programmers on Stack Overflow, so even spreading that workload out would give a lot of people a lot of badges, to say nothing for rep. Plus, it'd be funny to occasionally have someone's question answered by user perlfaq.

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You should get Jeff's approval before creating another user. – Brad Gilbert Oct 1 '09 at 21:59
@Brad - I assumed that since brian emailed Jeff, and Jeff told him to post it here, that Jeff already knows about this idea, and is probably going to be okay with creating a perlfaq user, or at least we should be getting his support for any action we take. – Super Long Names are Hilarious Oct 2 '09 at 4:57
brian currently has 24 silver and 5 gold badges. another gold and/or silver badge would hardly matter. And even if they did matter, wouldn't they be well deserved? – innaM Oct 2 '09 at 9:21
@Manni, If brian ever wanted to give up control of those questions, it would be easier to do if there was a separate account for perlfaq questions. – Brad Gilbert Oct 20 '09 at 7:04

This is a great idea as it would also allow closing questions that are answered in the FAQ as exact duplicates.

I would recommend (as the maintainer of the FAQ) brian use his own account to do this using a robot and make the questions CW.

The rest of us will have to keep a keen eye on edits to these questions and answers.

I am assuming not all the edits made on SO will make it to the release version of the FAQ list. In that case, how would one keep the SO version in sync with the release version?

Update: I just read the blog post brian mentioned:

In the first hour, participants will pair up to claim a question, formulate it on StackOverflow, and provide a comprehensive answer. In the second hour, participants will rate, review, and comment on the set of submitted questions and answers.

I think this method also has some merit by allocating a certain degree of responsibility on a number of people for ensuring the integrity of the FAQ content instead of everyone assuming brian will take care of things ;-)

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I'm not sure how I would monitor edits or comments on 300 questions in SO. I'd like to think that I could completely replace the perlfaq answer from the one in source control at certain intervals. – brian d foy Oct 3 '09 at 18:10

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