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Project FAQ?

Robert Konigsberg
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 23, 2004
Posts: 172
I'm almost afraid to suggest this.

It seems that very often we're getting many of the same questions, over and over, and I understand why. Partly it's because people do not search far back in the archives. That's OK, they don't. And I've found myself typing the same response more than once.

In general, why don't we have a FAQ that is specific to the project assignments? The FAQ that is currently available seems to be a general SCJD FAQ, and not one related to, say, the B&S or Fly By Night assignments.

I can see the following reasons why a project-level FAQ would be beneficial:

  • Less need to type responses.
  • Easy access resource for users.


  • I can see the following reasons why it would be bad:
  • People might spend less time thinking out problems for themselves.
  • Projects might change. (This isn't so much a bad thing as it would require FAQ answers that are sufficiently specific that their purpose is clear.)
  • It might violate some of the non-disclosure agreements with Sun.


  • I dunno, I just think it would be good to have a place where it discusses "fat client / thin client" or "what is the difference between 'server' 'alone' and ''?" or "Bad ways to implement row locking"

    Thoughts?

    RK


    SCJP 1.4 (91%)<br />SCJD 1.4 (376/400, 94%)
    Steven Hoodless
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Mar 23, 2004
    Posts: 64
    Robert,

    I like the idea. There are some great posts out there but you have to weed through an awful lot of rubbish to find them (currently 41000+ posts in SCJD).

    I guess a reorganization of SCJD into sub-sections may be too dificult. By reorganization I mean dividing SCJD into a section on Threading, another on MVC etc. More work for the moderators though.

    Alternatively there are a lot of posts that are irrelevant. Perhaps if posts that were never responded too and odd irrelevant questions could be removed we might have a more accessible SCJD forum? The problem is how to decide which are useful and which aren't.

    Another idea would be to rate certain posts. Occasionally you find a post from 2002/3 where somebody explained database/servers or you find that crutial bit of information about callbacks on MVC. These posts can be extremely useful and should be marked as outstanding. The downside, as you pointed out, is that it removes new candidates initiative. Would I have struggled so hard if I'd had all the answers given to me on day 1?

    Congrats on passing.

    Steven


    SCJP, SCJD, SCWCD.
    Steve Taiwan
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jul 01, 2003
    Posts: 166
    Dear Robert and Steven.

    I know ranchers here are being spending their free time answering questions. I appreciate for and cherish this very much. Also, I can understand your feeling.

    I passed other certificates with JavaRanch's help and I sheldom make a thread in JavaRanch since I know that my questions should be always asked in the past. Before I do make a thread, I always, in advance, check old threads in "Show topics from last 30 days" or use search engine to see if the same question is asked. Maybe next time I shall use "Show topics from last 60 days" or "Show topics from last 100 days".

    The problem I faced when I used the search engine is I can't find a "correct key word" to search old threads related to my question. Therefore, If FAQ is not possible, could there is a page containg "titles and keywords" for others to easily find out old theards. And then to save your time?

    Thanks.
    [ August 25, 2004: Message edited by: Steve Taiwan ]

    Steve Taiwan<br />SCJP 1.2, SCJD 1.4, SCWCD 1.3, SCBCD 1.3, OCP 8i DBA, SCEA
    Robert Konigsberg
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jun 23, 2004
    Posts: 172
    Steve,

    Let me clarify: Nobody asks stupid questions. (The only stupid question is the one not asked.) This has nothing to do with asking questions, it has to do with having to retype answers. It also has to do with the fact that it's not convenient to search the archives all the time. It also has to do with the fact that this list doesn't often respond to questions with "This has been covered before." so perhaps it's a list culture thing.

    Hey, I know that some (if not most) of my questions had been asked before, so don't worry.

    It would just make things more concise and easier to manage if there was some material people could read in advance is all.

    RK
    [ August 25, 2004: Message edited by: Robert Konigsberg ]
    Steve Taiwan
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jul 01, 2003
    Posts: 166
    Dear Robert

    I deleted that part. And many thanks for the thread.
    Olivier Dumont
    Greenhorn

    Joined: Aug 24, 2004
    Posts: 8
    Hi Robert,

    I find your idea of having projected-oriented FAQs (in addition to the current SCJD FAQ) very interesting. But that's a question which should be discussed with the moderators of this forum (Andrew, Phil?) and probably with other moderators as well.

    As (AFAIK) our FAQs are organized as Wikis (the pages are editable by anyone), it would need some moderation of course. I don't see Phil on this forum for a few days now, but I guess it's very temporary. In the meantime, what does Andrew think of it?

    Regards,

    Olivier.
    Paul Bourdeaux
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: May 24, 2004
    Posts: 783
    While FAQs are a VERY good idea, I think some things are better left to discussion. For instance, the recurring question about the meaning of "server" "alone" and "client" would do well in a FAQ because there is a definitive answer to it. However, other topics that are discussed again and again, like tier design, locking, etc should remain discussions because there are differing views on the correct solution.

    Personally I enjoy it when a new thread is posted on a topic previously discussed. It gives new ranchers the opportunity to weigh in on the discussion, and it is also easier to follow a discussion as it evolves instead of reading through a 30+ post discussion all at once.

    Don't get me wrong. I really think this forum could benefit from a FAQ, but some recurring topics don't really belong there!


    “Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning.” - Rich Cook
    Hanna Habashy
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Aug 20, 2003
    Posts: 532
    IMHO, FAQ is a good idea for static questions; like where can I see my grade, or how much the certification cost. Everyone of us has his own unique experience, and hence his own unique questions. I found the discussion board is greatly usefull for gaining knowledge by extchange ideas from wide range of developers, who might came form different backgrounds. The forum already has FAQ, and it is a great help for starters. However, when the work starts and it gets deep and dirty..it is much better to talk to people.


    SCJD 1.4<br />SCJP 1.4<br />-----------------------------------<br />"With regard to excellence, it is not enough to know, but we must try to have and use it.<br />" Aristotle
    Robert Konigsberg
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jun 23, 2004
    Posts: 172
    Yeah I agree, talking to people is good. It's something that has to be handled lightly. Maybe it's like, "Here are *some* of the frequently asked questions. These aren't *answers* but discussions about them. After you read this, then ask your question."

    Like I say, dunno.
    Andrew Monkhouse
    author and jackaroo
    Marshal Commander

    Joined: Mar 28, 2003
    Posts: 11404
        
      81

    Hi everyone,

    Originally posted by Robert Konigsberg:
    It seems that very often we're getting many of the same questions, over and over ...


    I think you will find that it is extremely rare for a new question to be posted. Just about everything to do with this assignment has been asked previously at some time. And we seem to go in waves - sometimes we have huge discussions about what to do with client crashes, and other times we go for months without anyone asking about it.

    But each time the issues are raised, we have new thoughts. Often we end up in the same areas as previous discussions, but sometimes we end up with a whole new solution.

    Originally posted by Robert Konigsberg:
    Partly it's because people do not search far back in the archives. That's OK, they don't.


    For some people doing large amounts of searching may not be an option. Whenever I go to Shanghai I find that access to JavaRanch is almost impossible (I can only read 2 or 3 posts a day using the work ISP or the hotel's ISP (different ISPs)) - I can get around the problem, but a Chinese person with only personal internet might not be able to. In that case, it is usually easier to create a new post and get the replies.

    Originally posted by Robert Konigsberg:
    In general, why don't we have a FAQ that is specific to the project assignments? The FAQ that is currently available seems to be a general SCJD FAQ, and not one related to, say, the B&S or Fly By Night assignments.

    I can see the following reasons why a project-level FAQ would be beneficial:

  • Less need to type responses.
  • Easy access resource for users.


  • I can see the following reasons why it would be bad:
  • People might spend less time thinking out problems for themselves.


  • That is a really big danger. Right now people do have a lot of choices to make. But if we had a FAQ giving specific answers, then candidates would not put as much thought into what they want to do. Or even if candidates did have their own ideas, they might consider JavaRanch canonical and discard their (potentially better) idea!

  • Projects might change. (This isn't so much a bad thing as it would require FAQ answers that are sufficiently specific that their purpose is clear.)


  • There are already multiple different assignments in circulation - there are 3 major assignments, each with multiple versions. This is definately a good thing. And rumor has it that there are more assignments coming out next year.

    But even so, there are common problems in all of them, and any FAQ could easily fall into the same problems of providing partial (or even complete ) solutions to the assignment and/or stifling creativity amongst candidates.

  • It might violate some of the non-disclosure agreements with Sun.


  • This is a very big issue. You may have noticed in the FAQ that we have explicitly disallowed complete solutions to the locking code (because of the number of times complete solutions were posted), and we have said that we will remove complete solutions to any other section of the assignment.

    JavaRanch is a valuable resource for candidates wishing to learn/get help. We would not want it to become a place where such help was banned by Sun, or where people think they can come and get easy answers.

    Originally posted by Robert Konigsberg:
    I dunno, I just think it would be good to have a place where it discusses "fat client / thin client" or "what is the difference between 'server' 'alone' and ''?" or "Bad ways to implement row locking"


    Ahhh, but a key word there (IMHO) is "discuss". If it is in a FAQ, there is normally no discussion. That is why we have forums.

    You gave the example of "fat client / thin client". How would you even try to summarise the "Should lock methods be callable by the client" topic into a FAQ? There were so many valuable arguments both for and against fat/thin clients, and at the end of the discussion, both sides agreed that the either solution could be acceptable.

    Originally posted by Steven Hoodless:
    I guess a reorganization of SCJD into sub-sections may be too dificult. By reorganization I mean dividing SCJD into a section on Threading, another on MVC etc. More work for the moderators though.


    We already have forums specifically for threading, and for graphics, and for networking, and for ... Often you will find that a question regarding (say) threading may have different answers in this forum depending on other issues related to the solution being developed (e.g. fat vs thin client). I can't see how splitting the forum up would gain us anything, but I think we could potentially loose a great deal.

    Originally posted by Steven Hoodless:
    Alternatively there are a lot of posts that are irrelevant. Perhaps if posts that were never responded too and odd irrelevant questions could be removed we might have a more accessible SCJD forum? The problem is how to decide which are useful and which aren't.


    We try to remove threads that are truely irrelevant, but it is a judgement call - what I may consider irrelevant someone else may consider essential (after all, they opened the topic in the first place). We also ask people to post "I passed" messages in the Sun Certification Results forum so as to not clutter this forum (Robert's post where he gave hints and comments about his experiences was too valuable to move though).

    Originally posted by Steven Hoodless:
    Another idea would be to rate certain posts. Occasionally you find a post from 2002/3 where somebody explained database/servers or you find that crutial bit of information about callbacks on MVC. These posts can be extremely useful and should be marked as outstanding. The downside, as you pointed out, is that it removes new candidates initiative. Would I have struggled so hard if I'd had all the answers given to me on day 1?


    From looking at other BBS's experiences, the moderators at JavaRanch are firmly against having any sort of rating system. Unfortunately it always seems to end up with ratings wars, where (some) people vote for their own / friends posts, and vote against those people they dont like - regardless of the quality of the message.

    An extreme case was the comments on the Dilbert comic of the day - I gave up reading the comments years ago because there was a rating system on the comments, and the "top" 30 comments all seemed to be "I'm first" with 1000+ votes :roll: .

    Originally posted by Steven Hoodless:
    Would I have struggled so hard if I'd had all the answers given to me on day 1?


    Good comment - I would vote for it

    Seriously, for all others considering this question, would you have learnt as much if you had all the answers in a FAQ?

    Originally posted by Steve Taiwan:
    The problem I faced when I used the search engine is I can't find a "correct key word" to search old threads related to my question. Therefore, If FAQ is not possible, could there is a page containg "titles and keywords" for others to easily find out old theards. And then to save your time?


    I like this idea, and I have thought of a similar concept in the past. Javini Javino did create such a list a while ago, but unfortunately he decided to delete his list of interesting posts.

    The main reason I have not done this is, again, I don't want to stifle discussions in this forum. "Want to know about locking? Read thread 'x'" pretty much stops the discussion IMHO.

    Originally posted by Olivier Dumont:
    As (AFAIK) our FAQs are organized as Wikis (the pages are editable by anyone), it would need some moderation of course.


    We do watch the FAQ to ensure that nothing untoward is posted there, but you are correct - anyone can add anything they like to it. Go for it

    Originally posted by Olivier Dumont:
    I don't see Phil on this forum for a few days now, but I guess it's very temporary.


    Unfortunately Phil has been away on holidays, came back for a week or so, then got sick. He should be back soon.

    Originally posted by Paul Bourdeaux:
    While FAQs are a VERY good idea, I think some things are better left to discussion. For instance, the recurring question about the meaning of "server" "alone" and "client" would do well in a FAQ because there is a definitive answer to it. However, other topics that are discussed again and again, like tier design, locking, etc should remain discussions because there are differing views on the correct solution.

    Personally I enjoy it when a new thread is posted on a topic previously discussed. It gives new ranchers the opportunity to weigh in on the discussion, and it is also easier to follow a discussion as it evolves instead of reading through a 30+ post discussion all at once.

    Don't get me wrong. I really think this forum could benefit from a FAQ, but some recurring topics don't really belong there!




    Originally posted by Hanna Habashy:
    IMHO, FAQ is a good idea for static questions; like where can I see my grade, or how much the certification cost. Everyone of us has his own unique experience, and hence his own unique questions. I found the discussion board is greatly usefull for gaining knowledge by extchange ideas from wide range of developers, who might came form different backgrounds. The forum already has FAQ, and it is a great help for starters. However, when the work starts and it gets deep and dirty..it is much better to talk to people.




    Regards, Andrew


    The Sun Certified Java Developer Exam with J2SE 5: paper version from Amazon, PDF from Apress, Online reference: Books 24x7 Personal blog
    Robert Konigsberg
    Ranch Hand

    Joined: Jun 23, 2004
    Posts: 172
    Yeah, well then, that was a good discussion. Someone else will probably bring it up in about two months.



    ( All of a sudden I feel like I'm part of The Matrix Reloaded. )
     
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