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Best Ways to Ask for and Provide Help on DIC

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The other day in the Java forum, a fairly typical student request with the question in the title and a smiley in the body type thread was opened, but it took a unique turn for the worse. When a couple of the regs gently reiterated the rules to the OP, another member (with only 11 posts!) came in and started flaming them. It then bled out of the thread and into the PMs, to the point where not one but two Admins got involved. While it is unfortunate that this thread turned into a flame fest, it presents a good opportunity to go over how-tos for asking and answering programming questions on DIC. Before anyone asks, Im not linking to this thread as we dont need it necrod if it is still open by the time you are reading this.

For those asking a question, please post the long, detailed description of your problem/question in the body of the thread, not the title. When you create a huge title (more than 3-5 words safely), you run the risk of having your title cut off. Next, ask your question succinctly. Remember the skirt rule- your post should be long enough to cover the point, but short enough so that people will actually read it instead of just glance at it then move on. Smileys, emoticons and tween-speak (lol, gr8, brb) do not qualify as a description. Use regular English and good grammar, as if you were trying to get a point across to your parents or grandparents.

If you have a problem with a program you wrote, post all relevant code using code tags like so: :code:, not just the line or two in question. Half the time, the error is created in another part of the code and the line in question just can't process it further. Also, please remember to describe the error in question. This includes but is not limited to describing the expected output/result vs. the generated output/result, or just posting any compiler errors or warnings. By doing this, you are providing those who are trying to help you with the necessary information to help you solve your problem. Also, keep in mind that the members helping you are doing so on a volunteer basis, so when in doubt, err on the side of professionalism and consideration for those helping you. If you are really on the edge, PM a team member and ask. Remember, it is better to have asked privately and been told no than to have posted it without asking and getting nailed for it being in violation of the rules.

When responding to a question, try to be professional and helpful, but don't take away the thrill that comes from solving a problem that has been eating on you :). Point the user in the right direction. This could include possibly linking to an outside resource if appropriate, commenting the code to point out syntax errors or describing the (errors in) logic flow. Try to avoid outright fixing their code (for example, correcting one or more syntax errors in a line due to lack of capitalization or parentheses is one thing, but fixing buggy code and handing it back working to specifications only servers to hurt the OP, not help him or her) or providing a solution or components of one unless there is a clear purpose in doing so, like to illustrate a concept. When you come across users who want a handout (notice I said when and not if), it is okay to reiterate the rules, which is why there is the rules tag. Again, be professional and avoid flaming. If it gets to the point where you run across a habitual offender or something outrageous (like was seen in the thread being alluded to), report the topic in the Report Post/Topic forum or to a team member personally if a little more discretion is required.

And lastly, remember to have fun while helping other members. We are a community after all, so get involved and find your niche to contribute. :)

2 Comments On This Entry

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Dogstopper Icon

06 January 2010 - 06:05 PM
Very good points there again. Keep up the good work!
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Quabid Icon

06 May 2010 - 08:05 PM
very good...i am with this
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