More and more people are taking the cattle drive challenge and as a result, Marilyn is getting pretty swamped. Some of the other JavaRanch bartenders have volunteered to become masters of particular assignments and do the nitpicking. In order to efficiently process these assignments, I'm thinking we might need a new strategy. Maybe we should create a collection of javaranch e-mail addresses and with each assignment you will see where that assignment is sent. Perhaps firstname.lastname@example.org? Does this sound like a reasonable plan? Another thing is that I want to regroup the assignments. Furst, we will eliminate all extra credit and simply renumber the assignments. So 1.1 will become 1.1a and 1.1b. 1.4 will become 1.4a and 1.4b. Further, we will change them so that the first part is no longer a number, but reflects the material. 1.1a will become Java-1a. What is now 3.1 will become OOP-1. We will also have Servlets-1, JDBC-1, XML-1 and EJB-1. Before we start implementing these changes, this is your opportunity to comment. Maybe there is a better way?
Originally posted by Paul Wheaton: Further, we will change them so that the first part is no longer a number, but reflects the material. 1.1a will become Java-1a. What is now 3.1 will become OOP-1. We will also have Servlets-1, JDBC-1, XML-1 and EJB-1.
If there will still be a required progression (e.g., We have to complete 1.1 before doing 1.2), I think it would cause less confusion to keep the current numbering system. Or if there comes a point where the basics are still required but after that it doesn't matter what comes next (whether XML comes before JDBC or vice versa), then it could be done like in college where there are 100, 200, 300, and 400 level classes. A student has to finish certain required 100 level assignments before going on to 200 level assignments. The assignment names could be something like Java-101.1, Java-101.2, Servelets-201.1, JDBC.301.1, XML.301.1. I think some kind of number indicating the level is helpful.
I'm thinking it is possible that we will return to numbers, but one of my goals is to make what is now 2.x go back to 1.5 through 1.8. And to make the 3.x stuff be 2.x, etc. Without these alpha transitions for at least a month, I think there could be a lot of confusion.
Joined: Jan 05, 2001
I'm sure you have probably thought of this, but can any of the nitpicking process be automated more than it is to take some of the load off of Marilyn and others who may nitpick? I'm sure there are certain mistakes that Marilyn sees over and over again. One idea is for there to be a pre-nitpick page where we put our code in a form something like this one. After submitting it, a servlet could read through it and find any common errors and either show us the results right away on another page or email us the results. Then when the code has been pre-nitpicked, we can send it to Marilyn and she would not have to deal with as many common errors. She could deal with the more interesting parts of the code. For some of the simple assignments, if the code matched a template exactly, there would be no need to send the assignment in. We would get a pass to go to the next assignment. Of course it would be a challenge to design an automated pre-nitpicker, but with all the Java experts around the ranch and because of the time it would save a person nitpicking, it might be worth a try.
I see some people refer to "the nitpicker" instead of to "Marilyn" in their posts, and I personally think this anonymity is a good thing. Perhaps Marilyn will want to move on to other adventures some day, and if the Cattle Drive grows more successful, there will be many to take her place. Could you think of a way for all submissions to go to a generic "nitpicker"? Here's a possible solution that probably has many problems, but at least it's an idea:
Provide a submission form on the Cattle Drive page that gets handled by a servlet on the JR server.
Only registered greenhorns could submit.
The form could include option buttons with plain english labels (Assignment 1.1 - Hundred) for indicating which assignment it is, thus ridding us of messy names and numbers.
The servlet could replace all tabs with 4 spaces, eliminating that little nuisance.
Once a submission is accepted, the servlet could post it to a private forum that could only be read by official nitpickers.
Nitpickers could easily select those posts that they are assigned to check. There could be one forum for each assignment, if you like.
Responses would be made by email to the registered greenhorn's address.
Maybe responses could be posted to another servlet who sends them back from one anonymous "nitpicker@javaranch" email address.
Responses could also be updated on the private forum, to give nitpickers a chance to view one another's work.
New nitpickers-in-training could post their responses on the private forum for a senior nitpicker to review before replying.
It has potential. The trick is in the implementation. For now, I think e-mail is the best route. One good reason is speed. A central e-mail won't work in the long run because it would have to be forwarded when the primary person gets a chance. This could add an eight hour delay.
Joined: Nov 13, 2000
A couple more improvements that could come from this approach (see my previous post):
With a little modification of registered greenhorn records, you could keep track of what assignments they have successfully completed, and disallow submissions out of sequence.
No lost or delayed inbound emails.
Nitpickers could help each other out when one is on vacation, sick, etc.
the main thing i would say is i don't think we want a app that will modify code for us. even if it is just one that takes out the tabs and replaces them with four spaces. if it's important enough to be in the style guide, then in my opinion, it's important enough to make the students redo. everyone needs to write readable code and i don't think having an app to automate that would be a good idea. just my two cents!
I, too agree with Mr.Olsen on the subject of renaming the assignments. Something to the effect of a "College type" naming system such as 100, 200, 300 level classes, while keeping the identifying name, such as Java, EJB, etc. In addition, even though I was nitpicked on my "style" for the first assignment, I believe people should be able to hold up their end of the bargain on that issue. see y'all later. Mike
I agree with Norman. I've learn by going back and re-writing a lot of code that I didn't think was good the first time around. I don't think we should take this iterative approach out of the learning process. It's what we have to do in the real world, so we might as well simulate it close as possible here. If the students can't handle constructive criticism via a posting, how will they handle it during a formal code review with a small group of people sitting across from them! -Peter
I like your ideas JC. I havent started submitting assignments yet but I think is must be pretty dishearteining for a person that submits an assigment and it takes days before he/she gets a response because the "nitpicker" is overworked, sick etc. What has been decided to help Marilyn Paul ? I get the feeling she still is the only nitpicker around. JdJ
There is one nitpicker in training, and there are a few other people that are going through the cattle drive so they can be trained as nitpickers.
Johannes de Jong
Joined: Jan 27, 2001
Great. Ultimately I'd like to volunteer as well. But heck my journey learning Java has only started. My short term goals are - Finish the Cattle Drive end of May. - Pass SCJP (2) at the end of October 2001.
Marilyn de Queiroz
Joined: Jul 22, 2000
Originally posted by Johannes de Jong: I haven't started submitting assignments yet, but I think it must be pretty disheartening for a person that submits an assigment and it takes days before he/she gets a response because the "nitpicker" is overworked, sick etc.
I think, when you begin submitting your assignments, you'll find that it very rarely takes "days". Although, I've had quite a few (conventional) college students tell me that they would be thrilled to get a response to their homework in less than a week.
Joined: Jan 05, 2001
Originally posted by Marilyn deQueiroz: I've had quite a few (conventional) college students tell me that they would be thrilled to get a response to their homework in less than a week.
That's true. I have had professors who took weeks to get papers back.
I think in today's fast food society we almost expect people to respond within a few seconds. I too understand how someone can be a anxious to see if they can get past the "nitpicker" but a little patience sure does go a long way.
I have just submitted my second version of assignment 1.4 and I have never had a problem with delays in getting responses back from the nit-picker within a day or two at the most. I understand that this site is starting to get more and more popular, with good reason. Most of the people working this site, if not all, I'm sure have other jobs too and are doing all of us a great service by helping in the ways they do, especially Marilyn. I don't mind waiting, I'm greatful that you are able to help as much as you do.
I second you, Brian. I have been here for only a couple of weeks and am already hooked to this site. The ranchers are doing a real great job. (i have been fwding this site to all and sundry).
As a greenhorn, i would be more comfortable with the number associated with the assignment, rather than the topic name. It makes more sense in terms of progressing from one to the next. What say ?
Originally posted by Brian Tomlin: I have just submitted my second version of assignment 1.4 and I have never had a problem with delays in getting responses back from the nit-picker within a day or two at the most. I understand that this site is starting to get more and more popular, with good reason. Most of the people working this site, if not all, I'm sure have other jobs too and are doing all of us a great service by helping in the ways they do, especially Marilyn. I don't mind waiting, I'm greatful that you are able to help as much as you do.
Johannes de Jong
Joined: Jan 27, 2001
Its good to hear that the "nitpicker" is fast in reponding I for one also appreciate the people involved's dedication, still can figure out why they to it though I also wish to stress that my comment : think it must be pretty disheartening for a person that submits an assigment and it takes days before he/she gets a response because the "nitpicker" is overworked, sick etc. is based on Paul's original comment that Marilyn was getting pretty swamped. It was in no way meant as criticism, heck I have no experience as I am only submitting my first assignment this weekend. Good luck with it by the way Marilyn.
I feel very fortunate to have found the JavaRanch. It is a wonderful resource. I bet there are a lot of us who would like to work through the assignments more quickly. This is not a criticism just a preference. I will volunteer to help once I get to that point. So I am all for automation, where ever it may appropriately work. ~Ed