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"It still doesn't work!"

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This is a companion article to a previous one I wrote, entitled "It doesn't work." That's not good enough!

So, now that you've read the other article, you know how to help us help you. You're a good forum-citizen now. You provide full error text, and line numbers.

Now I'll address another issue. People that do nothing but try exactly what is suggested as a fix, then come back to report the results. I think it has something to do with being part of the copy/paste coder generation, but some people don't seem willing to experiment at all.

It's like these people are scared of breaking something. News flash: you can't break what's already broken. Keep snapshots of your code in text files (or in source control, preferably) if you need to be able to revert to a state, but don't be afraid to experiment!

I swear, I've learned more about programming from just trying things than I ever have reading books or tutorials on the internet. Those books and tutorials enabled me to start learning, but the act of trying is what made me learn. I find out what works, what doesn't, and what seems to work, but differently than I expected. I learn some common patterns that are useful, and some to avoid. I make mistakes! But I learn from them, try not to repeat them, and get better at what I do.

If all you do is copy the code provided to you, paste it into your program, hit "Compile", and then copy and paste the new error, what are you learning at all? Nothing, except perhaps how to leech help from suckers. What you should be doing is trying to figure out why the helpers thought this code would work, then trying to modify it to fit your situation better. Then searching google or MSDN or Java's documentation or whatever for something similar. Then, when you've tried everything and still come up empty, go back and post what you've tried.

That way, you're not just a middleman. You're a contributing part of the team effort to debug your program. If you're not trying, then you might as well be replaced by a remote-desktop-connection.

Side note: this seems to be an epidemic among the languages that first-year colleges teach, like Java, C#, and VB.NET. Which makes absolutely no sense to me, since these languages have some of the best IDEs ever created. These IDEs include so many debugging tools, as well as code completion like IntelliSense or the Netbeans/Eclipse equivalent, as well as the greatest online documentation, that it boggles my mind that anyone would simply refuse to try to solve their own problems. As much as I've learned from trying things on my own, it was because I had IntelliSense and debugging tools to help me.

7 Comments On This Entry

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iniaes Icon

02 May 2011 - 01:51 PM
An other great blog entry, saying exactly what a lot of the senior members are thinking. I'm still learning and take it as a personal insult every time the compiler throws up a syntax error. Like you said, the help documentation is there for you to help yourself, if you can;t even do that then why should someone else?
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WinkyCode Icon

09 May 2011 - 01:46 AM
Great article/blog :yes: !
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BobRodes Icon

06 August 2011 - 12:00 PM
It makes sense to me, actually, Curtis. Most students are focused on finishing their assignments with the minimum possible investment of time, so they can focus on their number one priority of socializing. I don't intend this as anything but an observation--I had pretty indifferent study habits myself back in the day.
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negligible Icon

17 November 2011 - 09:49 AM
I've observed the same as Bob, a lot of people generally have that attitude.

A lot of people are only concerned with getting a pass and a piece of paper they believe will get them a good job later, rather than the developing the actual skills.

The pass mark on assignments at my University was 40%, and the average grade was 50%. Which speaks for itself in my opinion, these year one assignments where not hard.
I was a total noob as well, but I was actually interested so I experimented and through that provided a little more than was asked of me. Scored 80%, through not much extra effort.

I was enjoying myself though, which was good incentive for that project. I will confess to doing just what BobRodes described for some other subjects work. ;(
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general07z Icon

12 October 2012 - 09:48 PM
Absolutely and agreed %100 "but the act of trying is what made me learn"
Trying to fix the errors for people helps the programmer to improve himself and it is even better than reading a thousand of books! #fact.
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Darkvoice Icon

25 December 2012 - 10:29 AM
I never had programming classes.when i was 10 and got my first mobile with internet the second thing i searched for was: "how do they make a wapsite" then i was like "learn html"
and then i knew the basics,started experimenting,saw that cool forum and i got interested in php,then perl and sql,now im folowing c++ and python(python is a lot easier) tutorials,but not that often couse my studys take up all my time.i cn create a simple python snake,hangman game,create my own website. I started making websites and python scripts with my symbian phone and sometimes if im bored when im on the road i take my symbian phone and experiment with the code .i am also working on my own server for a mobile game now,but i never want to work in the ict sector couse i hate deadlines,i do it as a hobby

sorry for going offtopic,but i wanted to share my experience of how i became interested in programming
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Darkvoice Icon

25 December 2012 - 10:34 AM
And i have noticed what negligible said . My friend went to programming school(so sad it came 3 years after i went to college) becouse he heard that it pays a lot. He is always complaining that the lessons are boring,too much to remember,ect.and if im in a good mood i help him with his homework but i always say to him that he shouldnt have chosen for a career becouse it pays much but for a career he loves.for example chemistry is the only thing i love more then programming,so im studying that(im 16 years old)
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