Are you getting unfair comments in the Games?

I continue to be amused by folks' reactions to the Games this year.

There's been some buzz on Twitter this morning from folks who feel some of their comments - and the corresponding low scores - aren't warranted. In a couple of cases I've looked at, they're right - their entries are being downrated for reasons that are actually not best practices; by following the best practices, these entries are getting lower scores.

This reinforces a point I keep trying to make: The Games aren't about YOU. They're about US.

Let me put it another way: if you're getting comments from folks whose opinions are founded in a misunderstanding or misconception, that's an opportunity to educate. Not to attack that commenter - which is why commenter names aren't shown - but to educate the community in general. The community took the time to give you comments, and although some of them might be misguided, you can take the time to offer a productive counterpoint and perhaps lay some misunderstandings to rest.

That's the point of the Games: to learn. Maybe not for you to learn, but maybe for you to help someone else learn. Or to put it another way, I haven't received Microsoft's MVP Award for ten years straight because I got a good "score" on something. I got it because I look for teachable moments and try to offer explanations. Being able to teach something shows that you really know it.

Think of your Games entries as a honeypot. If you can attract some folks who don't quite get what you're doing, then through the comments you'll spot broad areas of educational opportunity, or what I call "teachable moments." Seize on those and help bring the community as a whole to a higher level.

Does that mean the educational opportunity has to come at the cost of you getting a lower score? Yup. Will that score in any other way impact your life? Nope. It's not going on your permanent record. Human Resources will never know. It won't affect your salary, or your ability to choose which movie you will see this weekend (Iron Man 3, BTW). Thicken up that skin a little - every vote isn't a personal attack on you. Every "unqualified" comment is not a stain upon your honor.

I really wish I could use some of the cooler interjections from Spartacus here, but none of that stuff is suitable for a professional environment :(.

In short: Cool yer jets. Take the opportunity to educate. Not on Twitter. Man, you guys with the tweets. You don't have a blog, drop me an e-mail and I'll give you authoring permissions right here on PowerShell.org. Help us, as a community, educate each other.

And hey, remember not ALL of your comments are non-constructive. Learn from the ones you can, tune out the rest. Like watching CNN. Ever notice how, on a slow news day, the talk about Atlanta's traffic? Exactly.

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About the Author

Don Jones

Don Jones is a Windows PowerShell MVP, author of several Windows PowerShell books (and other IT books), Co-founder and President/CEO of PowerShell.org, PowerShell columnist for Microsoft TechNet Magazine, PowerShell educator, and designer/author of several Windows PowerShell courses (including Microsoft’s). Power to the shell!

9 Comments

  1. Maybe there needs to be some open discussion threads in the forum. In the games venue, all the comments are anonymous, and all the discussion is one way. It's pretty hard to 'educate' someone who's left a bad comment based on a misconception on their part if you don't have any way to know who they are, and don't have a venue to do it in.

    I think the comments left on Twitter are at least somewhat in the hopes that the people leaving these comments will see them and recognize themselves.

    • You're not talking about educating, you're talking about firing back. When guys like me, or Kirk, or Jeff post an article, do we start with, "Hey, Tom, you idiot - I saw you do this and I'm gonna set you straight?" No. We see people doing stuff, and then offer an explanation to everyone. That keeps it polite, forces us to write something broadly relevant, and makes it educational. Conversation is fine, but there's WAY too much room for flame war here. Some folks are FAR too concerned about a single-digit number somehow summing up their entire life's work. So I'm not going to do anything to enable conversations at that level.

      Blog here. I'm offering a venue. Blog, then tweet about it. Paste the comment, and explain why you think it's a misconception. You don't have to call someone out in order to educate. In fact, NOT calling people out is the absolute first, inviolable rule of adult education. That's why trainers never call on people by name except in the oddest of circumstances.

      And you can start whatever discussion threads in the forum that you'd like, if you prefer that venue. Heck, paste the comment, link to your script (we provide a permalink on all entries for this specific reason), and tell your side of the story. Ask for others to offer their opinions. Use Twitter to draw attention to it, if that works for you. Be the brave one and MAKE it a conversation, not just a comment.

  2. So far all of the comments I've received have been educational. I'm not saying that some of them didn't sting (they did) but at the end of the day, I'm a better scripter and that's all that really counts.

  3. The thing I find about most comments (I've only looked at some) is that they're mostly about the language, and less about the problem being solved.

    For example, I would have loved to have gotten a comment like, "Okay, Mr. I-want-to-make-2-functions-instead-of-1, your function breaks when I use these inputs, and for most uses, Get-ChildItem is way faster than your function." And then they would go on to describe some of the test they performed to reach those conclusions.

    Although that comment would be a bit snarky, anyone reading it can actually do something with it.

    However, I do realize that writing such a comment would take a long time to take a deeper look at the script.

  4. I suggested the forums be cause you've dedicated a section there to the Games, and at least on the old forums it had become something of community communication channel. If you'd rather see that discussion in a personal blog on the forum I'll use that, or I can take it off-site and use my own blog.

    I'm not entertaining any notions about "calling people out". The comments are all anonymous, and I think they probably need to be left that way, so I wouldn't know who to rail at even if I wanted to.

  5. I certainly disagreed with some of the comments left on my Event 1 entry, but I wouldn't say they're unwarranted. And even the ones I disagreed with were still learning experiences, even if it was just to get some different perspectives of what people consider important.

    As an example, my test data was a folder structure with .doc files to test my submission and, well, I kinda forgot to change my filter to '*.log' before submitting. I realized my mistake right after clicking "submit", and several people pointed it out in their comments, but they tended to fall into two different camps. There was the "it's a silly error, stuff happens, people make mistakes" camp that still gave me decent/good scores and then there was the "it's a silly error that should have been caught before submitting" camp that judged me more harshly for it. I may not have agreed with that latter group, but it did get me to test the heck out of my Event 2 entry before I submitted. 🙂

    And with the comments I've been leaving (especially for Event 2), I've been trying to take the "teachable moments" approach. I'm not just pointing out what I think they did "wrong" or what I would have done differently, I'm also trying to give a bit of explanation so they understand where I'm coming from.

  6. I've noticed now that many of the scripts for event 2 getting the high marks don't actually meet the event criteria because of the criticism and this whole idea that the best scripts are 1 liners.

    Maybe its just me but who cares if the script is a 1 liner or not if its going to be reused a hundred times. Its not just the scripting games though, any kind of open community voting often has these issues and often something that doesn't fulfil all the requirement can win, because the people voting vote for what they like! I guess you just have to be aware and decide for yourself, I'm learning a lot more just seeing the variety of styles in scripting and some ideas that most of the scripts never thought about except for 1 or 2.

    • Yes but... in the Beginner event, at least, *concise* is part of the goal. That's why in that track people are pushing toward one-liners. If you're writing complete advanced functions, you're in the wrong track, is the general feeling I'm picking up. When the event says, "if you can write this as a one-liner, awesome," that's a goal.

      And voting for what you like is completely legit. They're not telling you you're WRONG, they're telling you what they LIKE. If you don't care about someone else's opinion, then the community voting bit shouldn't matter to you. And the VAST majority of the prizes are awarded by our judges, not by the community score - a fact I've been at pains to point out nearly every single day for two weeks now. So you're totally correct - you have to decide for yourself. But isn't that always the case when you get a dozen opinions on nearly anything?

      I'm THRILLED that you're learning a lot by seeing different approaches. THAT is the whole point. I hope at some point you'll have time to blog about what you learned, what you saw, and what YOU liked or didn't like. That helps everyone move up a level.