Using a chat community effectively

As developers, the best support we can get is often directly from the community. In some communities, they might prefer to use Stackoverflow or reddit. Stackoverflow has some decent guidelines on how to ask a question effectively. There’s also ways to ask questions effectively on chat clients like Slack. Here’s a couple of thoughts on something I saw happen recently.

Be specific

I once saw a developer ask “does anyone have experience with React and Redux?” in a channel filled with frontend developers. If you can’t guess, generally the answer to this question is “yes”. The problem with this question that it is a hard question to answer, taking more time to read than it does to answer. We also don’t know what information the asker wants to ask. Is all they need to know if someone in the world has experience with React and Redux?

In reality, the asker had a particular question in mind that they just did not open with. The asker in question may have had a question about server-side rendering. A question like “How do I server-side render a given view using Redux and React?”. That’s a question that we can answer — if someone knows how to do that, then they will. You will get a specific person giving you a specific answer, instead of an entire channel all giving you a general answer — yes.

Answering questions takes time. It takes time to read, and time to reply. Don’t ask to ask your question, just ask your question.

Don’t ping everyone

The user also pinged everyone through using “@here”.

If you are in a new channel, and something is not broken or on fire, don’t use notifications to get attention. In Slack, avoid pinging people via here or channel at all costs. Every time you do that you are saying “my issue is more important than your time”. The people in the community may be working on things on their own, and in a channel with 10000 members, you have just decided that your time is more valuable than the 10000 members.

People will read your post when they get time, and they will reply when they get time. In the Elm Slack, that will probably happen quickly. There is no need to ping people.

Don’t get upset when someone says “please don’t do that”

When you come to a new community, you should not get upset if that community states the rules and guidelines for taking part. You would not get angry at a librarian asking you to be quiet, you should not get angry at a community directing you how to communicate effectively.

tl;dr — chat communities only work if everyone is considerate of the others.

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