In your coding journey as a beginner, you're sure to need help with something, whether it's becoming more familiar with a programming language you're trying to learn or simply getting an explanation of how to accomplish a task. In order to avoid unnecessary frustration, it is important to ask good questions. Here are 4 tips to consider when seeking for help online:
- Don't ask to ask, just ask: A wrong way of asking for help is to ask if you can ask questions. Remember nobody is obligated to help you so don't ask for help in a way that is designed to waste other people's time. Something like 'Is there any Ruby expert here?', is not cool. By doing this, you are questioning people's abilities and unnecessarily excluding others, it's like you're essentially saying;
Well, see I have a problem Involving Ruby but I don't think I want your help if you're not only a Ruby user but also a Ruby expert.
Similarly, don't just say 'hello' or 'Hi, can I ask a question?' Just ask already. Nobody would respond to you when you ask for help this way, because it's not efficient. Go straight to the heart of the problem and ask your question, you do not need to ask for permission to do that.
Don't ask people to solve your problem for you, instead ask for guidance:
Keep in mind that the overall purpose of seeking help from others is to learn and improve. This goal would be defeated if you're asking people to profer solution to your problem. Rather, ask about the particular thing bothering you about the problem. Say for instance, you're trying to build a website, don't ask "can someone teach me how to build a website?". You are expected to have researched how to do this then come back and ask about the specific issue you encountered in the process of building a website. While asking your question, explain what you've done and the steps you've taken so far to resolve that issue. This way, people will know that you're respectful of their time because you've already tried to solve the problem yourself and will then (probably) proceed to help you from there.
Provide as much (relevant) details as possible about your problem:
When seeking help online, remember that no one can read your mind or anticipate what your issue is without getting the necessary information from you, so try to provide some relevant details when asking your questions. If this means you have to take a screenshot or include sample code in the question, then do it.
Additionally, remember to explain the context so that people can identify exactly what your problem is. Try not to keep your questions vague, help people to help you by explaining yourself very clearly and in great detail. Ask informative questions. Furthermore, when asking questions online, go straight to the point, don't beat around the bush or ask indirect questions as you will only end up wasting everyone's time (including yours) by doing this.
- Be courteous, remember to provide feedback and thank people for responding: Always endeavour to provide feedback to everyone who responded to your question. Even if they ended up not being able to help, still thank people for responding because they didn't have to do so. Keep in mind that you might still have more questions in future so showing people that you appreciate their efforts now will encourage them to come to your aid next time. The fact that someone's response now isn't the help you needed doesn't mean that a response from them in future will not be the exact help you need. So always be courteous and remember to respond to people and say thank you.
For tips on asking smart questions, consider checking these out 👇
How to be great at asking coding questions by Gordon Zhu.
Frustrations of the XY Problem.
How to ask a good question on StackOverflow.
Tips to avoid becoming a help vampire by Amy Hoy.
How to ask questions the smart way by Eric Steven Raymond.
As always, thanks for reading! 👋 👋