Welcome to a tutorial on how to ask for programming help. Yes, this is one that I never thought I would be writing about. But so often on this blog, I get questions and comments like “not working”, “don’t know why”, “help me do it”, “there’s an error”, and “I want this feature”. I know it is tough for beginners, but those are not the way to ask programming-related questions.
When it comes to asking for help with programming, it is best to:
- Do your own due diligence first – Research, study, code, test, and debug.
- Document and keep track of the stuff that you have tried and failed.
- Be specific – What are you trying to do? What problems are you facing? What is the “exact error”?
- Keep the question short & precise where possible.
- Share the error message and possibly code snippet.
Yes, if you want answers to your programming questions, it is best to learn the proper ways to ask first. Read on for more details!
1) DO YOUR OWN DUE DILIGENCE FIRST
Fools hate wisdom and teaching.
– Proverbs 1:7
In other words, do your homework. Don’t just flash the “it’s not working” and “I don’t know” gold cards – These won’t help you if you don’t help yourself first. I have lost track of the number of poor souls who didn’t even bother to read, do their own research, do simple debugging, or even write a single line of code.
I mean, someone is definitely smart and resourceful enough to do an online search for the topic they are unclear about. But the questions they ask already have an answer somewhere on the Internet, with a step-by-step video provided, all complete with the red carpet rolled out.
So why? It baffles me to the ends of the galaxy. With just 5-10 minutes of reading and debugging, they could have solved the so-called “problem” by themselves. Why do they still choose to flash the “I don’t know” badge, and wait for days expecting someone else to fix their “problem” for free?
2) DOCUMENT YOUR PROCESS
Following up with the previous point, it is very important to document your process in the world of programming – What have you done to lead to this situation? What have you tried, what are the expected results, and where exactly has it gone wrong?
3) BE SPECIFIC
Have you ever:
- Went to a doctor and said, “I am sick but don’t know where”?
- Went to a mechanic and said, “cannot drive”?
- Called customer support and said, “cannot work”?
It is sad, but this lack of common sense is the reason why some people are not getting answers… What exactly is “not working”? Give more specifics – What are you trying to do? What have you tried? What error messages are you getting? What results are you getting?
When it comes to the world of programming, it is best to do your own simple testing, troubleshooting, and debugging first. Only then, will you have an idea of what is “not working” and can ask for help properly.
4) BE SHORT & PRECISE
This is kind of difficult at times, but try to keep your questions as short as possible. Directly go to the point, and avoid grandmother stories. Also, don’t ask people to “walk me through everything” and “fix my project for free” – You already know the answer for those. Getting ignored.
5) SHARE YOUR CODE SNIPPET (IF ANY)
Short snippets are fine most of the time, but if you have to share a substantial code snippet – There are plenty of websites and “code playgrounds” for you to share your code snippets for free:
Just do a search for “share code snippet” and there are a ton more.
6) BE PATIENT. DON’T BE SELF-ENTITLED.
I guess this is where the bad reputation of the strawberry generation and snowflakes “shine” the most – They make a lot of noise and demand you do things for them for free. When things don’t go their way, they go running back to mommy and threaten “legal actions” (or “I will post this on Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/Do A Dance On TikTok”).
Don’t be a self-entitled piece of s*** to expect people to work for free, demand others to fix your problems, and do so immediately. The people on the forum/blog/community don’t owe you anything. If you want immediate answers, go hire yourself a freelancer or programmer.
P.S. Thankfully as a blogger, I can ignore this kind of sh*t. 😆
7) ASK NICELY
I have yet again, lost track of the number of pitiful people who just want to throw childish tantrums. You are angry, you are frustrated. I get it, I used to have a lot of work pressure too. But keep your anger to yourself, keep your head straight. You are the one lacking technical knowledge and need help.
Ask nicely if you want answers, or feel free to waste your own time with useless angry comments – They will get 3 seconds worth of “this message is spam” attention. Don’t expect the Internet to always give you the best answers, reply in the nicest manner too. Ask stupid questions, get stupid answers. If you stepped on the nail yourself, chill and just laugh it off.
“HOW TO ASK” EXAMPLES
Maybe a few examples will help…
- BAD – I am working on a charity website to accept reservations for free lunches. But after selecting a date and time slot, I need the user to also fill in a form with their name and email. Can you walk me through the process or help me do it?
- GOOD – How do I show a form after picking a date/time?
- BAD – Not working.
- GOOD – I have tried running the tutorial on an “ABC” server, and I am getting this error message “XYZ”.
- BAD – I am a beginner, I don’t know how to add a button to the image. Can you help me?
- GOOD – I am trying to add a button to the image. Can you point me to some good tutorials?
LINKS & REFERENCES
- Websites To Get Help With Programming – Code Boxx
INFOGRAPHIC CHEAT SHEET
Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end. I hope that it has helped you to ask better questions, and if you want to share anything with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and happy coding!