Thread: Why nothing but beginner questions?

  1. #1
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    Why nothing but beginner questions?

    Perhaps my perception is skewed, but it seems to me that there are nothing but beginner questions posted recently.

    If it was just this one site, I would assume it is because of the large influx of new learners in education, but I don't seem to be able to find any interesting questions anywhere right now. It's all either questions covered in any reasonably well written programming guide, or soliciting opinions.

    If I was the sort to rely on foil headwear, I might think there is an extraterrestrial stupid ray hitting the planet right now, tuned mostly to programming and politics, but as funny and as interesting such an explanation would be, I think it is rather extremely unlikely for that to be the reason.

    Of course, there is nothing wrong in beginner programmer questions per se. It's just that after answering the same question a few times, it gets uninteresting. I don't know how Laserlight et al. keep their enthusiasm, really.

    I'm just wondering, where have all the interesting/hard questions gone?

    Stuff like questions about data structure details when implementing a core (as in "central to solving the problem at hand") algorithm; soliciting suggestions as to how to solve a specific type problem; and so on. You know, questions that cannot be answered by a simple quote from your average programming handbook or programming language specification.

    I'm sincerely hoping people are still working on such difficult problems, somewhere, and just not discussing them online. I don't have any such myself right now, just a mind-numbing buttload of mundane uninteresting everyday stuff, so finding a bright problem to consider would do good right about now.

  2. #2
    C++まいる!Cをこわせ!
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    If you ask me, it's the beginner questions that are the interesting ones.
    Quote Originally Posted by Adak View Post
    io.h certainly IS included in some modern compilers. It is no longer part of the standard for C, but it is nevertheless, included in the very latest Pelles C versions.
    Quote Originally Posted by Salem View Post
    You mean it's included as a crutch to help ancient programmers limp along without them having to relearn too much.

    Outside of your DOS world, your header file is meaningless.

  3. #3
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    If you ask me, it's the beginner questions that are the interesting ones.
    O_o

    That explains a good deal more than it should...

    Soma
    “Salem Was Wrong!” -- Pedant Necromancer
    “Four isn't random!” -- Gibbering Mouther

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elysia View Post
    If you ask me, it's the beginner questions that are the interesting ones.
    Just out of curiosity, have you tried whether wearing a tin-foil beanie changes your opinion on this?

    Edited to add:

    I'm not trying to be snarky; I'd just like to exclude the possibility of an extraterrestrial stupid ray. I'm semi-serious: looking at the last few weeks political events here in the cold northern europe, such a ray would explain so, so much ...

    Sure, occasionally a beginner programmer will blow your mind, by providing a completely new viewpoint to the problem you might not have even considered. Unfortunately, I haven't seen those either, in weeks. Months. Even then, the original utterance usually stems from confusing some concepts. (Which does not change the value of the new insight, but is indicative of the rarity.)

    The kind of questions prevalent here and elsewhere (StackOverflow sites, for example) are those that are best answered by quoting either the programming language specification or standard, or a well-written programming manual for that programming language. Nothing new, just people working through the variations of same. Questions involving new solutions seem to have vanished. Where? Why?
    Last edited by Nominal Animal; 09-27-2015 at 06:05 PM.

  5. #5
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    Questions involving new solutions seem to have vanished. Where? Why?
    O_o

    I thought you were just ranting...

    The answer is, basically, the ultimate result of years of "gamification" of support forums.

    An environment where regurgitating the same answers to the same trivial questions a few times is considered significantly more valuable than a rich answer to a complex question doesn't attract the sort of people who can even answer such complex questions.

    The expectation of questioners getting a nice spoonful doesn't attract the sort people who want answers which require any thought.

    *shrug*

    I could list a lot of reasons.

    Soma
    “Salem Was Wrong!” -- Pedant Necromancer
    “Four isn't random!” -- Gibbering Mouther

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    Quote Originally Posted by phantomotap View Post
    ultimate result of years of "gamification" of support forums.
    That explains the trend, but not any sudden changes.

    Besides, not all of us play the game. Me, I'd happily give away all my "score" at SO to find out the reasons for the six downvotes I've gotten. Yes, I'm pretty sure the answer boils down to "it's part of the game", but there is always the possibility of me having missed something, and I hate to lose an opportunity to learn.

    I'm quite sure I'm not special. So, where are the others? Where are the hard/interesting questions?

    The goofy reference to the stupid ray is semi-serious, because I can easily see how economic and commercial reasons might drive programmers to actively avoid having to deal with such questions. (A recent thread comes to mind; perhaps there is a planet-wide push for increased "productivity" via "productivity analytics" among programmers, using metrics designed for factories and manual labor, by economists and analysts who lack actual understanding of the subject matter, but can talk dollar signs into eyes in any boardroom. It's not that far from a stupid ray, if you think about it.)

    In which case, those questions are not asked at all anymore. I'd hate for that to be true.

  7. #7
    Registered User MutantJohn's Avatar
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    Join the CUDA forums. There are all sorts of hard problems there and the research there is usually interesting.

    You can also help me write a LAMP to MEAN blog I want to start.

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    Lurking whiteflags's Avatar
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    I'd like a small sample of the glory days of cboard where interesting questions were asked.

    I've been around since '06, and to be honest, the place feels the same. Even after I got here and delved into the forums past... Not only was this site using completely different software, so there are posts that I can never find, but prior to my arrival people seemed less formal than they are now.

    I am noticing that no one asks questions related to new standards, or people asking questions will complain about new standards. Whereas way back in dirty C++03 days, people might have asked about something hard to do in C++03. So, it could be a combination of no one learning new things, and some of us being burnt out on questions answered with an older standard.

    Or even some of us just not having as much time for the forum as older adults.

  9. #9
    Registered User MutantJohn's Avatar
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    I think it's a combo of other sites gaining popularity as well as C and C++ losing popularity that's hurting the site an detracting a lot of the talent and "interesting" questions.

  10. #10
    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    That explains the trend, but not any sudden changes.
    O_o

    I once posted, on a "gamification" forum, to correct a common misconception from an earlier post regarding when "SFINAE" applies in the C++98 language.

    The "SFINAE" question is rich with complexity, and a real answer requires a lot of care thanks to so many compilers having wonky expansion in some scenarios.

    I was asked to leave the forum as a result of arguments from that thread.

    A huge reputation, as it turned out, gave people the ability to edit answers of other accounts.

    The guy who posted the incorrect answer had a massive reputation.

    I had answered only one question in several weeks; the only question, as you probably expect, which was remotely interesting.

    *shrug*

    I haven't seen any such sudden change at all.

    I'd like a small sample of the glory days of cboard where interesting questions were asked.
    I invite you to search around during the time when manasij7479 was still learning fancy template mechanisms.

    I admit that such questions aren't the most interesting, but the questions were interesting.

    I've been around since '06, and to be honest, the place feels the same.
    o_O

    I know the situation is completely different than what is being discussed, but I really haven't felt that things are "the same" here since Adak died.

    Soma
    “Salem Was Wrong!” -- Pedant Necromancer
    “Four isn't random!” -- Gibbering Mouther

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    Quote Originally Posted by MutantJohn View Post
    Join the CUDA forums.
    I am not interested in becoming dependent on a single vendor, thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by MutantJohn View Post
    LAMP
    Don't get me started, you might regret it.. The entire security scheme with Apache (which is basically the same as every other HTTP server I've seen the sources of) is bass-ackwards. The SuEXEC scheme, in particular, is an insane footgun, security-wise, except you don't know which end the actual bullets will come out of.

    I can prove that a simple group-based security scheme on POSIXy systems would immediately eliminate several categories of security risks, without opening any new ones, eliminating all script drop and defacing attacks. (Additional security for database access would require changes to existing gateways, namely to provide the database credentials in a safe manner.)

    However, even adding a file ownership test to current scripting languages (I've looked at PHP and Python) seems unsurmountable to the language developers. Pushing a new security scheme to replace SuEXEC (which is, after all, "known to work" and "very sensitive code") in upstream Apache is, well, basically not going to happen, no matter the reasoning.

    Security is one of these questions that are thought of as "too hard to solve properly". Especially for software like name servers, web servers, mail servers .. yet we have individuals like DJB who have proven, in practice, that getting them much more secure is possible. See here and here for more about djbdns and qmail and DJB's security guarantee about them.

    All this boils down to: If you want to write new content, a blog or instructions or whatever, just buy the service, making sure they have uptime guarantees, and that you can move the site with a moment's notice if you need to. Writing any code yourself will be limited to very weak security, because the entire foundation of the stack is as porous as Swiss cheese; not designed for secure use at all. Without rewriting the stack you're not going to get better security. It's like adding a padlock to a plate-glass door.

    Then there is the entire L part of the stack. A lot of the new-ish features provided by the Linux kernel -- like thread-specific identities and capabilities -- that would be very useful to a service daemon, are deliberately not exposed by the GNU C library. To write better service daemons on Linux, we'd need to, well, basically replace the C library with something not quite C-or-POSIX. That's not going to happen without serious effort.

    Quote Originally Posted by whiteflags View Post
    I'd like a small sample of the glory days of cboard where interesting questions were asked.
    Questions that involve an actual problem to be solved, as opposed to completing an exercise. Do you want me to post a list of links to threads?

    This summer I was mostly offline in June and July, but in August there were three threads I enjoyed participating in (this, this, and this). In September, I can only think of one interesting thread I participated in here (this one).

    Quote Originally Posted by phantomotap View Post
    The "SFINAE" question is rich with complexity ... I was asked to leave the forum as a result of arguments from that thread.
    I had to look up the acronym at Wikipedia. It's a pretty good summary of the issue, except for the fact that there are compiler (and version) specific variances on the interpretation of the various rules, which makes it quite a complicated issue to get a good grip on.

    The result .. it is infuriating to the extreme. Information is precise, but some treat it as a malleable product of a malleable social process. It is wrong on so many levels; it is really not that different to declaring π is exactly 3.14, just because the notion of a transcendental number is offensive to some sensibilities.

    Quote Originally Posted by phantomotap View Post
    I really haven't felt that things are "the same" here since Adak died.
    I've been a member here for less than four years, but I definitely miss Adak. We had quite a few interesting discussions.

  12. #12
    Registered User MutantJohn's Avatar
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    CUDA does require a single vendor, yes, but it's C++ in a very different light. It's a mess of fun.

    Would you feel better about using OpenCL?

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    C++ Witch laserlight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nominal Animal
    The kind of questions prevalent here and elsewhere (StackOverflow sites, for example) are those that are best answered by quoting either the programming language specification or standard, or a well-written programming manual for that programming language. Nothing new, just people working through the variations of same. Questions involving new solutions seem to have vanished. Where? Why?
    Yeah, and then when we do get such questions, either they are not within my areas of expertise, but someone else gets to it first while I'm pondering an answer. In that sense, I'm curious as to how you manage to type up long replies in a rather short span of time. If my replies are long, it tends to be because I'm quoting some text from a standard that is verbose, or was so irritated by the poorly formatted code posted that I posted a better formatted version of it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bjarne Stroustrup (2000-10-14)
    I get maybe two dozen requests for help with some sort of programming or design problem every day. Most have more sense than to send me hundreds of lines of code. If they do, I ask them to find the smallest example that exhibits the problem and send me that. Mostly, they then find the error themselves. "Finding the smallest program that demonstrates the error" is a powerful debugging tool.
    Look up a C++ Reference and learn How To Ask Questions The Smart Way

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    Quote Originally Posted by laserlight View Post
    In that sense, I'm curious as to how you manage to type up long replies in a rather short span of time.
    Because I'm verbose?

    Not kidding; I mean it literally. I'm not a "fast" person in any sense of the word. Typically my answers and statements stem from a concept or an idea -- which for me are not verbal or visual, but more like... uhm... networks? nested graphs? -- that get merged with my "flavouring" or "attitude" towards it, be that "funny" or "annoyed" or "suspicious" or whatever. At this point, I start writing out the description. The key point: the "thought" or "intent" of my answer is already formed in my mind; I'm then just trying to express it in words. It's a top-down approach for me, I guess.

    I do read everything I write, before posting it. Sometimes, the textual description itself triggers new insight, in which case I typically use a short paragraph or a horizontal line to signify mind-track change, and repeat the process. This continues, until I'm satisfied my mental model and the text I've written match. Roughly.

    I suspect that this leads to posts and messages that are written at an average rate, measuring core content and wall clock time. I just manage to use more words than others. The extra words are not just fluff; I need them to make my text match my mental models to a satisfying degree.

    Perhaps others can just condense their ideas to fewer words, using similar amounts of time?
    Last edited by Nominal Animal; 09-28-2015 at 12:42 AM. Reason: Typo: condense, not consense.

  15. #15
    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    C and C++ are dying languages. They are generally speaking the province of older programmers and new blood is mostly being driven to it by their need to finish college and not by a real desire to make practical use of the language. So the forums tend to reflect that new reality that has been hitting us for the past... maybe 10 years or so. We may have just passed some hidden threshold and now it is becoming very visible.

    There's a tremendous (I would say, conscious) effort to diminish the value of compiled languages. In particular C and C++. Universities have been reducing the importance of any of these two in the education of their students and the social markets have been spreading the word of "better" and "safer" languages for everyone to consume. On some cases this is indeed true; I can only find one fault in the value of a language like C# using the .Net framework for GUI development of business applications as opposed to writing a POS software in C++ with wxWidgets; and that is the fact the latter allows me to more easily port the application to other platforms (no, Mono doesn't count. Mono sucks. So let's not go there).

    The problem is that the human mind, especially when being herded, isn't happy with just the rightful and just. It has to attach all manner of other justifications to not leave any room for doubt. It doesn't matter those justifications don't hold to scrutiny. Weak minds, which is what we all are when we allow others to think for us, need to validate their choices by defining the world they live in as a black and white painting, where everything is either completely good or completely bad. And so, C and C++ loose ground as the interpreted language prophets and the safe coding prophets and the better programming prophets spread their inane ideologies.

    You probably wouldn't imagine the kind of heat you get these days trying to defend a language like C or C++ in the python newsgroups, every time someone comes up with an attack on their virtues. It's telling of how far away we are from computer science and how we have moved into ideological marketing. It doesn't matter that Python breaths and sweats C through all its pores. You will not be able to stand in a room full of python programmers and not want to smash their faces with a 2 by 4 when they start talking about their better and safer language and how C is ruining the world.

    So where does CBoard fit in all this? This is just a WYSIWYG of the world out there. You see questions about kids wanting to get rid of college as soon as possible. Actual problem solving in C or C++ is rare nowadays and getting rarer. It won't get better.
    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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