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How To Get Programming Help In Forums And On My Blog

So I answer enough forum, Stack Overflow, and blog questions to feel it is now necessary to teach people how to properly seek programming help using these outlets or similar. I feel it is necessary because so much time can be saved for everyone when this is done correctly.

As someone who provides free resources and programming help, I often get a ton of questions that annoy me. Everyone like me understands that people want help, but may not know the best ways to get it. We’ll see the correct way to go about getting it.

Think of this as more of a list for good practice and etiquette in various forum boards and blogs. The following are, more-or-less, actual comments that people leave me in the comments section of my blog or in other question boards.

Your Tutorial Isn’t Working, Please Help!

Well I’m sorry the tutorial isn’t working for you, but I can’t help you based on this limited amount of information. Why don’t you be more specific include details on what exactly isn’t working. Is it printing hello world when it should be printing dlrow olleh or is it doing something else? There are too many possibilities for someone to spend their valuable time guessing on. In addition to explaining what exactly isn’t working, why don’t you give details about your test environment? Are you testing on Android, iOS, or Windows Phone? Are you using a Mac, Windows, or Linux computer? There are too many platforms out there and each might get different results.

In addition to providing details about what isn’t working and how you’re testing, it is very important for you to provide logs. Even if they aren’t error logs, you’re still going to end up with logs. Doesn’t matter if you’re developing web applications, mobile applications, or games. If you don’t know how to check the logs, simply state so, or do a Google search to determine how.

I Need Your Help On This ASAP For My Time Sensitive Project!

Cool, you’re in a hurry. I am too, but it is not a hurry to help you. Everyone, like myself, has their own things going on. It is rude to even ask for expedited help. Many are happy to help when time permits, but if we’re helping you for free, we’re not on your schedule. If you need help on your schedule, your best bet is to hire a consultant. Otherwise sit patiently for someone to jump in.

Can You Look At My Code? I Can’t Get It Working.

This kind of question is a bit different and really comes down to you feeling the energy of the place you’re asking the question. In all scenarios, this goes hand-in-hand with the first bad question that I listed. If you’re providing logs and problem descriptions, it may be acceptable to list source code as well. It is never acceptable to paste a block of source code and say it isn’t working. Developers don’t like troubleshooting their own code, so why would they troubleshoot yours without getting all the details?

The preference I have for my blog is, never post source code unless I specifically ask for it. The comments section of my blog doesn’t handle syntax highlighting well, and it is likely the case with other blogs. Save us both the trouble and don’t bother pasting code because we’re not going to look at it.

This question is horrible! You’ve come to my blog or forum to ask for help, but you’re having me / us go elsewhere to view the question? I can tell you’re just spamming a question around various help outlets in order to try to expedite a response. Thats cool, but your response won’t be coming from me.

Instead, why not write out the question and state that you’ve also asked it at [LINK_HERE] for further reference? This way the blog or forum community can answer your question in the place you typed it, but also refer to this third party link if they need to.

Conclusion

To summarize what I’ve mentioned here, pay attention to the following to get the best responses to your programming questions in various forum boards, blogs, and help outlets:

  • Explain what exactly isn’t working or what is happening.
  • List the platforms you’re using and what your testing environment looks like.
  • Show your logs, whether they contain errors or not.
  • Don’t demand speedy responses from the people trying to help you. Specifically people trying to help you free of charge.
  • Don’t post code snippets unless specifically asked to, or unless you’ve provided all other necessary information.
  • Don’t redirect the people trying to help you to questions you asked elsewhere. Ask the question where you want to receive the help.

Doing all this will put you in pretty good shape and may even lead you to solving your own problem.

Nic Raboy

Nic Raboy

Nic Raboy is an advocate of modern web and mobile development technologies. He has experience in Java, JavaScript, Golang and a variety of frameworks such as Angular, NativeScript, and Apache Cordova. Nic writes about his development experiences related to making web and mobile development easier to understand.

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The Polyglot Developer
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