How NOT to ask for help

Md. Abu Taher πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’» on April 05, 2019

Stack Overflow Isn’t Very Welcoming. However an environment does not become toxic on it's own. The people who uses the platform along with unwritte... [Read Full]
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I heap plenty of the blame on S.O. They have so much data on users and their interface looks like it did 10 years ago. They could be channeling the OP into great answers with some machine learning and the community could be much more effectively directed into areas that match their skills.

Instead, everybody is dumped into this giant free-for-all board where the signal to noise ratio has reached such a high level the service's very utility is being questioned.

They are a victim of their success which is great, but they need to innovate their way out and stop blaming their community and new contributors for the problems.

 

when I start typing stackover... into my URL bar, it already suggests stackoverflow.com/questions/tagged/lua, because that's what I usually browse. Stack Overflow offers you the possibility to filter content however you want already; there's really no need for them to assist you even more in curating the content. It's Stack Overflow ffs, not facebook ;)

 

It's my fault for focusing on SO. I got similar questions on Facebook, Twitter, email. People asking for help in the wrong style. They assume if it takes so little time, them I should just help them by doing it for them.

Helping one or two doesn't matter much, but it definitely adds up.

The reason I reply on GitHub issues and various questions I'd because someone else will be greatly helped in future.

I went back and used those answers for myself many times.

Did you ever got a request like, "Can you Google about fetch api and explain the whole thing to me?", I got few of them.

How can machine learning help here on my personal inbox πŸ˜…?

 

Depends how you look at those type of things - I've gotten them too (especially from my students). If you see one request here and there, it's hard to make sense of it. But look for patterns. It's telling you there is a hole in the knowledge graph of code out there. You can help fill it.

Biggest category of need I see right now is with serverless, GraphQL, AWS Lambda, DB-as-a-service (like Firebase). Also animation is hard, anything with CSS transforms/transitions, @keyframes, D3 will get attention. Lots of people are embracing these technologies, resources aren't good enough yet.

I agree on knowledge gaps in new things. I try my hardest to understand and answer them.

I don't agree on knowledge gaps on things like promise.all, fetch api etc. There are hundreds of tutorials available.

I have gotten responses like, "if you can explain in 10 minutes, why should I watch a 15 minute video? Why can't you explain instead of giving me a link?"

Internet made some people assume everything is easy and everyone has freaking free time in their hand.

Right now there are little resources about Nim language, not even a crash course on YouTube. I can request others to make a video/tutorial for me but I definitely cannot curse them for not helping me rewrite my python code into a Nim code.

 
 

My current view towards SO.

  1. Stop contributing in SO.
  2. Write or cast tutorials as I solve problem.
  3. Ask for help in forums, blogs and communities like dev.to by providing as much data for the question.
  4. Avoid communities that tell me Rust will replace C++, Node is dead and Golang is future.
  5. Place like SO is more of political propaganda machine that is misguiding newbies on languages, demands and the real world.

This is just me. Some still choose be part of SO because they respect people like Jeff, John skeet and other elites. I don't have that patience nor inclination for idol worshiping.

 

This is a much angrier version of how I feel sometimes.

My biggest gripe is asking for help in the wrong place. In other words not knowing the boundaries between different technologies.

I'll still help them because I happen to know the answer even though it isn't directly related to what I am there to help with.

It gets worse because in many other situations I just Google the answer and tell them. Whereas if they knew the boundaries between what different tech does they could have done that themselves.

All comes with experience I guess and I'm pretty sure I must have done that when I was starting out.

 

IMO, It's okay to ask for help in wrong place, but it's not okay to waste others time.

Everyone was politely asking,
-"Can you share exactly where you are stuck?"
-"Can you share your code so we can take a look?"

If we do not know the problem how the heck we solve it?

People on the internet are people too. If someone on dev.to asked for help but refused to share details or to curse and waste time just because they thought everyone should just work for free for them, then it's not the platform or people's fault.

I felt really dumb when I answered but got a harsh reply that all the time we were just playing in his hand.

I felt stupid not because his harsh reply, but I could've used this time to help someone else who really needs the help.

 
 

I here that a lot this day and I happy I got a place to share what I feel.
stackoverflow made me the who I am now.
I have a custom filter and I go through it every day like a twitter feed.
I try to answer questions. but even if i dont know the answer- i still pick up some new terms to google over the night.

newcomers should go through the CoC. If they dont- well, they get reminded. sometimes in less sugary way that they expected. but thats because, by neglecting their responsibility to read the coc and ask a proper question, they are waisting the precious time of thousands of people who go through their SO feed, just like me.

I am a woman, but I never felt inconvenience at SO, and thats actually because of the rules you are so against of. they help to keep the conversation practical.

I learn something new every time I visit stackoverflow, I love it, and I wish it would stay exactly like it is now.

 

Great post!

For anybody who's has some free time for entertainment, Joe Spolsky, the CEO of StackOverflow, had a very energetic and fun talk on this exact topic at the WeAreDevelopers conference in Berlin a few months ago:

Great quality vid:
youtube.com/watch?v=tWKh95Kio38

 

When I am "Googling" for an answer to a coding question, I skip right over the Stack Overflow results because of such toxicity. I'm not the only one either. Being a newbie coder is difficult enough without having to worry yourself sick about being crucified for asking a newbie question. Just my two cents.

 

This is very true. Even stackoverflow itself mentions about the toxic environment.

It's also true someone's brave question saves everyone's time. :D

 
 

Stackoverflow newbies need to first read the How To Ask page. It's a shame that it doesn't appear first when an SO newbie clicks on the "Ask a question" button.

I can say from experience that when enough time goes by, you get less and less patience for SO newbies that asks the same "write my code for me" question over and over again, or those that asks a debug question, when the solution is a single search away and often can be found in the first 3 or 4 results when searching the exact title of the question.

 

You talk about its "unwritten laws" but really every rule for SO is clearly stated up front. Even ones about etiquette.

 
Sloan, the sloth mascot Comment marked as low quality/non-constructive by the community View code of conduct

You are, indeed, very toxic.

 

Kindly tell me how should we deal with these kind of questions.

Unfortunately I was not the first to respond him, I came very late to party when one of his questions got -5 downvotes already and everyone was asking him to share the actual problem.

Let us discuss how to avoid such situation.

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