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Are we helping...?

beginner observing
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#1 Mark326

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:14 PM

Are we, the CN community, helping or confusing beginners who are asking what scope to buy, people seeking mount, eyepiece, camera, software advice?

 

Reading through many post on several topics where advice is sought, the good intentioned information overload becomes overwhelming, and at times far beyond what is useful in the scope/context of the question asked.

 

Various forms of Bias regularly appear in such advice needed threads, whether it be brand loyalty, design preference, technology used, observering techniques prefered.   i.e.  “Get a 8in Dob”, “Get a 80mm Refractor”, “Collimation is too hard”, “1sec/pixel or else”, “>5 Min is not EAA”, ect ad nauseum.

 

Speaking for myself, Im always happy to provide a good review of equipment, software I own or have used that works well for me. After all, its something Ive had first hand experience with...Thing is, my user experience is subjective and is nothing more than an opinion. When adding my 2cents, it just floats out there with all the other opinions, usually all lacking any type of quantitative supporting data.

 

In moments of self reflection on the appropriateness of how my opinion relates to the scope of the question or discussion, I find that im also guilty of presuming too much, as in the users experience and future desire for upgrades, hobby budget, progression in hobby will somehow mirror my own experience and aspirations.  This is obviously not a good assumption.

 

There is certainly a great wealth of advice, user experiences, opinions, objective data to be found in CN forums.  So much so that nearly any search on any topic will result in numerous

threads. While each thread usually has merit and adds to the body of knowledge, not all topics reach a plurality of conclusion.  

 

This already has turned into a wall of text, TLDR post.  

 

Thoughts?

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#2 Astroman007

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:20 PM

Well, we're not obligated to help.

 

So the question (as well as its implied fears) is ultimately meaningless.

 

I pretty much figured everything out on my own. I never asked any questions (fix: launched attempts at socialization thinly disguised as legitimate questions) of anyone here to get to where I now am; I simply read. Lots of reading.

 

Every question that one can now think to ask has been asked...and answered...before. The search bar is your friend.


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#3 rustynpp

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:29 PM

Well, we're not obligated to help.

 

So the question (as well as its implied fears) is ultimately meaningless.

Presumably those who choose to spend their time answering beginners' questions would actually like to help. Not to mention, it's in the interest of everyone who enjoys the night sky to encourage participation in our hobby.


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#4 Geo31

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:31 PM

Excellent post IMHO.

 

I think more often than not, we do confuse the beginner (vs novice).  I could go on quite a bit about this, but for my own reasons, I won't.

 

The less research a beginner has done, the more confusing it is.  In some way that's the beginner's fault, but in most ways it's ours, for many of the reasons you mentioned, not the least of which is most of us forget what it was like to be a beginner.  We tend to be more helpful if a beginner has done some sort of research and/or has prioritized their interests.  That always makes it easier to point someone in the proper direction or give them good choices.

 

Any telescope is better than none.  Most beginners don't really know what they want to see until they've been doing this for a little while.  I think our best first advise is to explain what the different telescopes are (refractor, reflector, cat) and the different mounts available (alt-az vs Eq) and the advantages and downsides of each.  Then they can either ask better questions or do some research.  The question of "What is the best telescope for a beginner?" is a terrible question (although valid in the eyes of the beginner) because it's not possible to really answer correctly.

 

In summary, I think it's better to explain the basics of the telescope choices out there.  The advantages and disadvantages.  Perhaps ask a few basic questions, certainly the expected budget is a good one as well.  But remember, any telescope is better than none.  Darn near any telescope available today (even cheap junk) is better than what Galileo started with.  And a great many of us started with a 60mm refractor.  Many still use them today.  So DO NOT tell someone it's not worth their time if that is all their budget will allow.  My 60mm Jason opened the universe up to me and I'm still at it 45 years later (with a bit less energy, ugh).


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#5 csa/montana

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:33 PM

 

 Every question that one can now think to ask has been asked...and answered...before. The search bar is your friend.

Yes the search bar is available; however, the interaction of members asking/helping for advice is what CN is all about.  If every question asked was responded to with "use the search bar"; then CN has lost what has made it such a great community for all!


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#6 Geo31

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:33 PM

Well, we're not obligated to help.

 

 

Oh boo, hiss!

 

Obligated?  No.

 

But what are we doing here if we are not interested in sharing what we know?  Bragging?  Trolling?  What?

 

Not obligated, but I'd think most of us would like to help a beginner get off to a good start instead of going away in frustration, never to return or ever look through a scope.


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#7 csa/montana

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:35 PM

Moving to Equipment for better fit.



#8 Astroman007

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:35 PM

Yes the search bar is available; however, the interaction of members asking/helping for advice is what CN is all about.  If every question asked was responded to with "use the search bar"; then CN has lost what has made it such a great community for all!

You mean, the community becomes quieter, frequented by only the core members?

 

I wouldn't mind that at all.

 

At least no FE questions...



#9 Geo31

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:36 PM

Searching is indeed a great benefit for a beginner.  Some don't even know what to search on.  We should, as a community, endeavor to help them along in positive and helpful ways.

 

There are topics I am desperate to learn about, but don't even know where to start or turn (not in astronomy).  Some I'd even pay people to help me with the first step up to the learning curve.  Sounds stupid, especially for someone who tends to jump straight into things, but there are topics that just seem like a mystery to me.


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#10 aatt

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:37 PM

People give good advice and bad advice and some bad advice can be taken to heart or vice versa. Follow up is always the next thing after getting "advice". For example folks encouraged me to get an Orion14" and that optics would be fine. That is not always the case with the larger Orions. I went with Discovery instead and got a fantastic mirror-way better than 1/4 wave-so I consider that advice bad in retrospect, but it could have been fine too.Advice on buying from Discovery is almost universally negative and yet people such as myself could not be happier with the decision. One piece of advice for when I dropped something on my mirror was to ignore the dings and observe-good advice and 100% correct. No issues are perceptible with the three dings. It is better to have more information than not enough. I think the member who wants to weigh in should take the position that the noob is into account and pitch it accordingly.


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#11 csa/montana

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:39 PM

 

 You mean, the community becomes quieter, frequented by only the core members?

I wouldn't mind that at all.

At least no FE questions...

Just remember, the "core" members were all beginners at one time or another.  If any of the forums are too busy for you, feel free to skip over them.

 

CN is not just for "core" members, but for everyone.


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#12 Ishtim

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:39 PM

So, how did beginners/novices educate/familiarize themselves with astronomical equipment before forums like CloudyNights were available? 


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#13 Astroman007

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:40 PM

So, how did beginners/novices educate/familiarize themselves with astronomical equipment before forums like CloudyNights were available? 

They read. Books and magazines.

 

Modern beginners can't read anything that doesn't glow.


Edited by Astroman007, 19 February 2019 - 12:41 PM.

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#14 ngc7319_20

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:42 PM

So, how did beginners/novices educate/familiarize themselves with astronomical equipment before forums like CloudyNights were available? 

Books, local clubs, magazines, conventions, trial and error, stupid mistakes...


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#15 Vondragonnoggin

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 12:47 PM

It’s not uncommon to see someone ask a question in the beginners forum and a week later there are 4 pages of similar posts usually consisting of the escalation of the 8” dob to the 12” dob and no further responses from the original poster.

 

Additionally there is a lot of “my way or the highway” type posts in regards to equipment and a push to get the top of the line equipment from the get go.

 

Not sure this type of posting is actually encouraging for a beginner or even experienced user with smaller budget.

 

I do believe that there is a lot of help on the forum and if someone really has an interest and is willing to do some reading and research, there are answers to a heck of a lot of questions available. A lot of people just want an easy solution starting out though and it can be confusing to get more technical answers mixed in with more beginner friendly answers. 

 

I think picking telescopes that are in the less popular category and wanting to post how much you enjoyed your “outside the box” choice might be prohibitive for some also as it often times brings up debates that have been ongoing for years on this forum. Bottom line is many people take it as a personal attack when their equipment choices are picked apart or given warnings against.

 

It might even be as simple as posting your own negative or positive experience but it isn’t in the majority and what seems like a small mob of posters then post direct opposite experiences. You might be left wondering what the use was posting about it your own experience.

 

Sometimes it is good to take a little step back and come back to posting with a refreshed, more tolerant view.

 

Nearly all hobby forums I’ve been on are like this. Change the equipment and hobby but the type of postings are the same. Human nature I guess because it happens so often it seems like normal communication on forums.


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#16 Starman47

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 01:40 PM

My experience (and that is all it is) is that CN is mostly helpful. I have read other books, talked to others and read CN. Then I have tested things for myself. And I have looked at other telescopes and accessories at star parties etc. In other words, I have evaluated things but then taken responsibility rather than just trust every talking head that wants to pontificate.

 

And occasionally I just wonder (or is that wander) foreheadslap.gif but I always return because CN is still the best online forum. bow.gif

 

P.S. only three years in this hobby.


Edited by Starman47, 19 February 2019 - 01:42 PM.

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#17 StrStrck

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 01:52 PM

They read. Books and magazines.

 

Modern beginners can't read anything that doesn't glow.

I think the amount of available stuff nowadays, counting both hardware as well as software, would make it quite difficult, if one had to wait for a magazine print or a book for that matter to pop up on the store shelf explaining all the latest.

Printed books for beginners are promoted all the time here. Personally I prefer a printed book, but am guilty of downloading astronomy books, as they come both cheaper and faster. As such I think a printed book is no more noble than a digital one. Reading and sharing knowledge, regardless of pace or format, is the the noble thing.


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#18 WadeH237

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 02:17 PM

I think the amount of available stuff nowadays, counting both hardware as well as software, would make it quite difficult, if one had to wait for a magazine print or a book for that matter to pop up on the store shelf explaining all the latest.

Printed books for beginners are promoted all the time here. Personally I prefer a printed book, but am guilty of downloading astronomy books, as they come both cheaper and faster. As such I think a printed book is no more noble than a digital one. Reading and sharing knowledge, regardless of pace or format, is the the noble thing.

New gear comes and goes, but the fundamentals don't change.

 

Part of how we make it complicated is by trying to incorporate "all the latest" into our answers.  For visual astronomy, you can go pick up a copy of something like "Turn Left at Orion", and it's plenty relevant today and does a great job of helping a newbie to get started.

 

Imaging is a bit more difficult to explain because, unless you are talking about holding your phone camera up to the eyepiece, there is a lot more to know before you start spending money.  Even then, you could pick up a copy of "The New CCD Astronomy" (and old book, despite the title) and just about everything it says about capturing the data still applies.  Just about every piece of gear has been replaced by new stuff since it was published, and people are using newer software for processing.  But the basics still apply.  If you read that book, you would be well on your way to getting a solid start - and you would know enough to know how to get lots more out of the discussion on the forums.


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#19 sg6

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 02:20 PM

Many times I do not think we help a great deal.

Usually the first 3 replies are Get a Dobsonian, I have read "Get a Dobsonian" even when the OP has said thay do not want one. I guess the first is from someone that has missed that bit of the question and after that others presume that suggesting a Dob is fine.

 

Some years back, 3 or 4, someone suggested that a Dobsonian be classed, and treated, as a specialised scope. I would say it takes around a month to get "comfortable" with one and that is a fair time not really observing a great deal. Oddly I guess about the time it appears to take a person to get easy with a goto.

 

Many years back someone here in the UK asked, it was about the height of "Get a dobsonian" time here and he got flooded. Assumed he was being told the right stuff, and so dutifully bought a dobsonian, if I recall a nice big dobsonian. My post, in the flood, was that it was the wrong scope - he wanted to do AP.

 

6 weeks later I had a PM from him asking what he could do as he had found the hard way that a dobsonian and AP were sort of mutually exclusive.

 

People will ask about a scope for planets - all 3 of them - and that elicits "Get a Mak". I have one and unless the person got a goto I suggest to avoid. The inherent narrow field of view is the reason. Again entering the "specialised" area.

 

Refractors are more costly and heaven forbid have CA and in general smaller in aperture. Not impressive by comparison.

 

I notice that in many "What scope", there are 2 pages of replies and often none from the OP. I am one that guesses the overload makes them give up. Maybe we are too keen to offer/suggest only the type we have and use. And as there are a lot of us with every form of scope the person gets told to get each and every one.

 

Suppose the OP disappearing does little to help. How many people join and make say less then 5 posts then disappear.

 

Part of what is lost is "Your best scope is the one you use the most".

I still say that is initially at least a simple inexpensive scope, that is maybe better described as good fun.

 

The problem is we try to help, we suggest what we are familiar with. We do therefore overload the person asking.

How many do we "help"? Now that is a good question.


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#20 spencerj

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 02:25 PM

They read. Books and magazines.

 

Modern beginners can't read anything that doesn't glow.

 

And they carried their telescopes on their backs to the observing sites.  Uphill.  Both ways . . . 

 

Everyone has their own preferences.  People from different generations will do similar things in a different way.  I am from an in-between generation.  I personally like books and have a few bookshelves that I have filled up over the years.  But what do you think people 100 years from now would think of such a collection?  "So . . . how many trees were cut down and how much energy was used to generate those paper versions of books that you read once and stuck on your bookshelf for a few decades?"

 

The night sky should be a unifying concept.  Everyone from all walks of life and all age groups can look at and appreciate it--with or without a telescope.  The beginners forums should be a place where there is an overwhelming feeling of welcoming.  Not a place where new people can feel like they accidentally stumbled onto someone's lawn and are not welcome.


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#21 sickfish

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 02:58 PM

Get an 8" dob.


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#22 Ishtim

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 03:02 PM

Excellent question...

 

I never claimed to be the best when it comes to asking question on forums, but I believe the answer to the question needs to be addressed from both sides.

The measure of "helpfulness" is predicated on the questioner's research up front and subject focus.

 

The problem is more often times than not, it's the way the person asks/phrases the question.  e.g. "I want a telescope, what's the best one for me?"   

 

Forums exist to share knowledge and to learn to solve problems faster and more efficiently , duh. (you don't have to read 30 books on telescopes, IF you know what/how to ask your question).

 

Before posting a question on a forum, you are expected to have SOME knowledge on your own so that you can "attract" an appropriate answer.  (Can I use a telescope as a baseball bat during the day?).

 

Choose a good title. (Can you suggest a telescope kit for looking at the moon for less than $250?).

 

Provide context and things you have learned along the way.  (I like to image planets as well as small DSOs. I already have a DSLR, but I'm 105 years old and can't lift heavy objects).

 

Follow Through. (Thanks.  I looked into these telescope models and found that XYZ scope is best for me).

 

Answer...  Beginning imagers have to have an 80mm refractor.


Edited by Ishtim, 19 February 2019 - 03:05 PM.

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#23 Astroman007

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 03:35 PM

Everyone has their own preferences.  People from different generations will do similar things in a different way.  I am from an in-between generation.  I personally like books and have a few bookshelves that I have filled up over the years.  But what do you think people 100 years from now would think of such a collection?  "So . . . how many trees were cut down and how much energy was used to generate those paper versions of books that you read once and stuck on your bookshelf for a few decades?"

Funny.

 

I'm a millennial, and I greatly prefer printed books. Not only that, but I firmly support the harvesting of trees and the manufacture of paper.

 

A computer, no matter how much it is touted as "green" (which is utter lies and nonsense), is much more toxic once it reaches the landfill at the end of its life than a book is.

 

And a book will outlive any computer.


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#24 JeffreyAK

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 03:51 PM

I personally think it's pretentious to assume I'm going to be a guiding light for a poster with a question, and if I'm interested enough to answer it, I'll do so honestly, but with the expectation that the poster will add it to some sort of mix and formulate his/her own conclusions.  That's what I do when I post a question.  Astronomy is a technical hobby that attracts smart people, and people who like to participate in their own ways, and to me the whole notion that anyone is here to "help" anyone else defeats a community spirit and purpose.



#25 Starman47

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Posted 19 February 2019 - 03:59 PM

Just FYI, the opthomologist thinks I spend too much time in front of the screen, which can lead to eye problems. so I need to get off CN for a time and read books until the skies clear, then look at Herschel 400 objects. But that is just me.  And yes  it is a bit off topic.




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