Asking Code Questions.

Some suggestions to get better answers.

Keno Leon
Keno Leon
Jul 16, 2020 · 4 min read

Sometimes ( well many times ) your code is not working and you’d rather it worked, you then decide that asking the Internet or a coworker for some help is the best course of action and well crickets 🦗🦗🦗 you get no love, even worse no answers/angry answers and your code is still not working.

It is not you.

Maybe It is you.

The honor system: Whenever I ask and get an answer I feel compelled to answer someone else's question, that's my honor system... Sometimes I answer questions because I am bored, because they are interesting or I want to reaffirm my knowledge, getting a thank you also feels good. I am not immune to fake internet points but in my experience this leads nowhere, so yeah, ask questions but also answer them. 

Ok, let’s get down to business, the number 1 reason your question is not being answered is because you want someone to do the work for you, not only answering the questions (that’s easy), but understanding your question in the first place.

Take for instance this seemingly decent ( innocent ? ) set of questions:

 I want to do X or am getting Y error, how would you do it ? How would you fix it ? Why is this not working, look at my code. 
Help me !

If I wanted to answer these questions ( which I don’t) I would start by asking you another set of questions:

What have you tried ? What is the context ? Have you googled it ? How can I reproduce your error ? Can you be more specific ? Your code is 2 pages long !  Help me !

It all boils down to time, if you want to save time by asking a question, chances are I am the sucker that is spending my time doing your work.

Asking good questions.

Everything needs to be right, the title, the introduction to the problem, the research, the explanation and crucially a small snippet of code that I can use to troubleshoot your issue on my own environment, it also needs to be compact. Questions like this are rare.

I think Stackoverflow’s guide on how to ask good questions covers a lot of the above in detail so I’ll just point you to it, read it when you are done here:

Simply ask yourself how long did it took you to write and research the question ? About half an hour is the correct answer, seconds or a couple of minutes is probably not.

Unless is it... Notable Exceptions: Stackoverflow gets a bad rap because it is not a very welcoming place for new users and part of it is that you need to spend a good hour or so reading the rules which are then liberally interpreted.  Some questions no matter how they are asked seem to be popular and gather a lot of answers due arguably to how useful an answer is, here's one:How do I redirect to another webpageAnd another one:How do javascript closures workShort, simple, profound and popular yet seemingly going against everything we just said !

Chat/Coworker

The inverse also seems true, if you bring a very general and/or long question to either the water cooler or some chat room it might not fare so well…

Even then, small hints that you’ve done some research and focusing can work on your favor:

I followed X tutorial and got an error "#error 102" after googling it says my arrays are in disarray, what could it be, can share a snippet of code.

Contrast that to something more general and aimless :

Teach me how to javascript !

Finding answers on your own.

Help centers

And that’s it, keep it short , to the point and user friendly and your questions will stand a better chance of getting answered, if I miss something please let me know down in the comments.

Thanks for reading !

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Join The Startup’s +724K followers.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store