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A study in how to turn people off to the mainframe...

 
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Andy Robinson

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Joined: 04 Apr 2013
Posts: 5
Location: US

PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 6:21 pm    Post subject: A study in how to turn people off to the mainframe...
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I have 33 years of VM and 15 years of MVS systems programming experience. I started programming 360 and then 370 assembler in high school. I have always loved the IBM mainframe as a platform, and as a consultant encourage companies to adopt it (or keep it when they are trying to kill it, again).

That said, I just joined IBMMAINFRAMES.COM, and I am disappointed to see that the same xenophobic and entitled attitudes among big iron folks in the 1960s still persist in the 21st century.

First, there is no reason for this forum to require any approvals for membership.

Second, the group rules are an affront in and of themselves. Specifically, if you are creating a forum like this you (forum users and moderators) have to prepared to answer the same question, over and over, whether it's been answered before or not, no matter how many times it's been answered.

Third, the forum should be open and inviting, rather than consistently using language (such as a topic for "useless posts") that encourages people with ignorant questions to remain silent. Climbing the mountain of mainframe knowledge is forbidding enough without everyone on the trail acting like they'll kill and eat you for opening your mouth.

Fourth, the few threads I've researched since joining are replete with defensive and cryptic answers and "it's that way because that's the way it is." Especially in response to people coming from Unix or other backgrounds asking why doing something trivial for every other platform is so difficult on the mainframe. I went from VM to Unix to MVS, and I find both Unix and MVS to be absurd operating systems compared to VM. Unix with its chronic twittiness (grep? cat? awk? seriously?), and MVS for its ponderous obtuseness.

You want new and mainframe-ignorant people to ask "dumb" questions and feel welcome, because the mainframe user community is shrinking. While that may seem like a good deal for the people who know the platform, it isn't. How many colleges have students start out on the mainframe? How many even offer mainframe courses? In the 1980s and 1990s it was hundreds in the U.S. alone. Today, none of the schools I worked with still put students on the mainframe for anything.

Get over yourselves, and work to promulgate the mainframe rather than accelerating its demise.
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dick scherrer

Site Director


Joined: 23 Nov 2006
Posts: 19270
Location: Inside the Matrix

PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:09 pm    Post subject:
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Hello and welcome to the forum,

We also have a forum specifically for "Beginners and Students" . . .

Suggest you consider an attitude adjustment . . .

Often we answer the same question multiple times. We DO expect people to search within the forum before posting. Repeat offendersw often get flamed.

If we were a pay-for-service forum, i might agree with some of your issues. We are not and the moderators are free of charge.

If you really cannot abide by the way things are here, some other forum may be better suited to you.

d
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enrico-sorichetti

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Joined: 14 Mar 2007
Posts: 10203
Location: italy

PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply to: A study in how to turn people off to the mainframe
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if You do not agree on the forum <organization> and rules
You are free to setup one yourself with any <organization> and rules that make You happy icon_cool.gif
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expat

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Joined: 14 Mar 2007
Posts: 8593
Location: Back in jolly old England

PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:35 pm    Post subject:
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Quote:
First, there is no reason for this forum to require any approvals for membership.

Disagree totally with that view. If there is no control over who posts what just think of all the rubbish / spam that could be posted here with no control.

Quote:
Second, the group rules are an affront in and of themselves. Specifically, if you are creating a forum like this you (forum users and moderators) have to prepared to answer the same question, over and over, whether it's been answered before or not, no matter how many times it's been answered.

The idea is to get people to do their own research or even testing, which is probably one of the best ways to learn something. Trial, error, trial, then ask.

Quote:
Third, the forum should be open and inviting, rather than consistently using language (such as a topic for "useless posts") that encourages people with ignorant questions to remain silent. Climbing the mountain of mainframe knowledge is forbidding enough without everyone on the trail acting like they'll kill and eat you for opening your mouth.

We don't mind "ignorant" or "dumb" questions. We also take into account the language differences involved. However, we do take exception to people wanting their work done by the forum, or questions where it is evident that zero investigation has been performed by the poster.
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enrico-sorichetti

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Joined: 14 Mar 2007
Posts: 10203
Location: italy

PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 7:44 pm    Post subject: Reply to: A study in how to turn people off to the mainframe
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to make the most out of forum participation
it would be very useful for You to read and meditate on ...

How To Ask Questions The Smart Way
http://catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

it seems that Your Forum experience does not match Your VM and MVS ones ...

most of the technical forum around are not forgiving as these and flaming is much more common.
and/or the RTFM/STFM are much more used
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Andy Robinson

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Joined: 04 Apr 2013
Posts: 5
Location: US

PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 8:13 pm    Post subject:
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Ah yes, adjust my attitude, meditate on how to ask "smart questions," go start my own forum. Two out of three I wrote down as likely responses before I posted.

I am willing to bet I have more "forum experience" than most of you individually, and probably several of you collectively. I ran and moderated open Internet forums running on mainframes before most mainframe wonks knew what TCP/IP or Usenet were.

RTFM is the most useless response of all. If it's so easy to find the information, it's just as easy to tell someone the answer rather than telling them to go look for it themselves.

This does not encourage intellectual laziness. In fact, responding with "RTFM" or "beat your head against the wall some more" is intellectually lazy. People coming up to speed on the mainframe have a huge learning curve. It's literally a paradigm shift for most people.

The whole reason user groups exist is to provide the benefit of expertise, not to create barriers to learning to weed out those you consider unworthy. Answering questions is not "doing the work" for someone, it's helping them get over the hump of the learning curve without getting frustrated with every detail of what they are doing and giving up.

But "you" structured the forum this way, so I don't really expect "you" to agree, much less change this self-destructive attitude--but instead of reflexively responding with the same old B.S. I've seen and heard since the 70s, you might consider introspection.

In any event, I will subside.
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Ed Goodman

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Joined: 08 Jun 2011
Posts: 556
Location: USA

PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 8:22 pm    Post subject:
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Which other forums did you run/moderate.
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dick scherrer

Site Director


Joined: 23 Nov 2006
Posts: 19270
Location: Inside the Matrix

PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 8:28 pm    Post subject:
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Hello,

Quote:
I am willing to bet I have more "forum experience" than most of you individually, and probably several of you collectively. I ran and moderated open Internet forums running on mainframes before most mainframe wonks knew what TCP/IP or Usenet were.
You may well have more "forum experience" than many (most) people here. There are several of us i'd take your bet. Personally, i've been supporting online forums when they were done using BBS software. Before that ad-hoc support was done by being available for various local/national user groups and students at university.

Quote:
RTFM is the most useless response of all. If it's so easy to find the information, it's just as easy to tell someone the answer rather than telling them to go look for it themselves.
Largely, i agree. When i tell someone to read a manual, i either tell them where to find it or provide a link. I believe it is a complete waste of time to copy/paste the manual content. One of our main (if not The Main) goals is to help people learn.

Quote:
But "you" structured the forum this way,
The forum was "this way" long before i volunteered.

If you are leaving, Be well,

d
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Pandora-Box

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Joined: 07 Sep 2006
Posts: 1529
Location: Andromeda Galaxy

PostPosted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 8:38 pm    Post subject:
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Whats the point of all these discussions?? icon_neutral.gif

I see some one or the other is being pointed out

Quote:
Get over yourselves, and work to promulgate the mainframe rather than accelerating its demise.


It sounds "to me" as-if the forum is stopping Mainframe opurtunities all over but no its not

I frankly learnt a lot of things here and I believe I just followed the basic rules here

Ok , If someone is here to bring something new or promulgate mainframes really appreciate it and wish you good luck in helping out the people in their queries and helping them learn icon_smile.gif
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jasorn

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Joined: 12 Jul 2006
Posts: 153
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Jul 07, 2013 6:20 pm    Post subject:
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Like many of you I've been using forums for muliple decades, too. My time and expertise is roughly evenly split between the mainframe and the *nix world. The same holds true for the questions I've asked and answered on forums. So I have intimate first hand experience asking and answering questions in this and other mainframe forums as well as unix/linux forums.

I think both sides have valid points. This forum is probably not as friendly to new people as it should be but it's not as unfriendly as it might appear to some either.

I suggest the harsh oldtimers consider ways to get the dumb new user to feel welcome here. But I also suggest that person new to this forum respect the time of the experts by reading How to Ask Smart Questions, too.

Reasons I've come to this conclusion include:

1) Too often when I suggest this forum as a source of knowledge, the response is something like, "I refernece that site all of the time. But I wouldn't post a question. They are so mean to newbies." Or, "I tried to ask there but they didn't like the way I asked the question. I even got an ugly red warning."

2) Searching this forum for multiple keywords is hard. Maybe I'm dumb and missing something obvious but every time I search for multiple key words I get a long list of replies that don't seem at all to sorted well. Rather than searching the forums I resort to google. Sometimes googles points me here sometimes it points to another site. But very seldom do I find what I'm looking for by actually using this forum's search feature. Several people have asked me unprompted how to get better search results here. So I'm not the only one.

3) How To Ask Questions The Smart Way should, of course, be followed by anyone asking questions. However, it doesn't really address what I think a good forum welcoming to newbiies should know: How To Answer Dumb Questions The Smart/Friendly/Inviting/Grow Your Forum Way.

In my experience this includes embracing there are no dumb questions and there are no dumb answers. Remove the barriers to asking and answering questions and let the community strengthen the new askers and answers by relatively gently correcting the mistakes.

4) Replying harshly when someone asks questions using the wrong terms is counter productive. The newbie often doesn't know the correct terms. That's one of the reasons he's asking here. He probably tried to search but didn't know what to search on. Or, he might be talking about the same thing but his shop uses different terms.

The classic example in this forum that grates on my nervers is, "How do I do X using only JCLs?" I've worked in a couple of shops where 'using only JCLs' is commonly used to mean, 'using only the common utility programs that are likely to be installed' rather than writing a program to do it. Sure, there are many who really don't understand the concept that JCL is a language used to call programs and it's ok to educate them. But many do know that and are just using the terms their shop uses to mean standard utility programs.

In my personal FAQ I ask people to state how they searched including the search terms used and that they've searched my FAQ before asking the question. If needed I update the original question to include the terms they searched on. My thinking is that other people, also not knowing the proper terms to search for, will search with the same terms and the hit rate will improve over time with this approach.

5) Many people really don't search. It really is rude not to search first and to let us know that you searched and even how you searched. While it does sometime seem in this forum that the replies are harsh when it seems the OP hasn't done some homework, there is usually someone that will reply with some friendliness and the original poster will do some homework. So this forum doesn't usually totally shun the person who doesn't 'Ask Smart Questions' as is the practice in some forums.

6) While I do agree that often it seems people are asking here when the question is best suited for someone in his own shop, sometimes the experts in your shop are even meaner that the people in this forum! Or don't really know enough or maybe don't want to be helpful. I have first hand experience.

From time to time throughout my career I've seen something I wanted to know about in one of the expert's held output queue. When that happens I will do some homework and if needed I will call and ask questions on where to find more information and usually for links to the applicable policy for our shop.

You might not believe this but too often if I don't mention the fact that I saw it in his held output queue, he'll tell me he doesn't have any information 'regarding that'.

Sometimes the reply here is simply, "Talk to your shop's lead regarding this." But more often it's, "Talk to your shop's lead regarding this. But here are some considerations..." So that's not so bad or harsh.

7) Sometimes your shop's experts are wrong or don't want to help. Here are 3 things I asked all of the experts I could get my hands on. My experts were wrong on all 3.

a. Do you have to load a dummy record in a vsam before your cobol program tries to access it? You don't but all of my experts told me you do.

b. Is there a way to have many jobs scheduled using CA7 write to the same gdg base without scheduling conflicts and be certain not to overwrite generations upon restart that another job created while a job was down due to an abend? There is but the answer I got repeatedly was there was no way to do this. Actually, many of the experts I know still say there is no way.

c. Can a cobol program with one input dd name read an FB dataset with different lrecls for each run without changing the program between runs? For example, read in a dataset with lrecl=70 the first time and then run again and read an fb datast with lrecl=80 the next? I was told many times this was not possible.

But it's been possible for a long time. And it's quite easy. Even in this forum the experts claimed it was not possible long after it was possible.

So don't be so hard on someone asking in different places. Sometimes you have to ask the right person to get the right answer.

Bottom line is that I think we call could benefit from a little introspection from time to time.

8) This forum has slapped me down a time or two but still tolerates me. To be fair I deserve to be slapped down and sometimes didn't Ask Smart Questions. I"m thick skinned but those who aren't might decide not to give this forum the thing it needs most, Questions.
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dick scherrer

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Joined: 23 Nov 2006
Posts: 19270
Location: Inside the Matrix

PostPosted: Mon Jul 08, 2013 6:46 am    Post subject:
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Hi Jasorn,

Good to see you again! Missed ya icon_wink.gif

Thanks for "chipping in".

d
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