We're Here To Help You

Monday, April 26, 2004 at 11:28 pm | Comments off

Most of us have probably, at some point, been involved with either a forum or mailing list helping people by sharing our knowledge. I tend to spend most of my time in this capacity on the Web Developer Forums, where I am a super moderator. I'm often amazed at people's complete lack of gratefulness for "correct" help. By correct, I don't mean just giving them the answers to the questions that they ask, but actually educating them to the correct way of doing something.

They always seem to have a preconceived idea of in what form help should come. They ask how to do something, and expect that you'll just tell them how to do what they ask. Often, these people will actually get upset if you attempt to teach them the correct way to do what they ask, or tell them they shouldn't do something on their site. For example, JavaScript reliant navigation will often receive this response, with an explanation that relying on JavaScript for navigation (without a backup) results in an inaccessible site. I've seen people get blown off as "rude" or "unhelpful", simply because they attempted to educate the user, rather than posting code to do what they originally asked. It's probably happened to any of us who attempt to show users the root of their problem, rather than simply give them a crutch to squelch their current issue.

Almost worse than this, I've seen the scenario played out where one of us will attempt to help a user in the above fashion, and someone else (often someone who's been around long enough to know better) will come on and ask why we don't just help them by giving them what they asked for. We are helping them. How can they not get this? Pardon my little philosophical aside here, but knowledge is power, and with power comes responsibility. We have a responsibility to provide correct information to the best of our knowledge. When these people provide false/misleading information, they not only hurt the person they are "helping", but also that person's visitors, and the web as a whole.

Come on, people, give us a chance. We are helping you.

Comments

Jebster
April 27th, 2004
1:14 AM | #

What I find even stupider is, people like you are spending your spare time helping these people for free(atleast I would imagine that board is a free one.. most are) and then they go and act like a$$es like that!

I admit when I was more of a n00b to programming I might have been guilty of this once or twice, but never did I get mad at people for not telling me what I wanted to know, I just went looking somewhere else, where someone would tell me(I know, shame on me *hangs head*).

Now, I still know very little IMO(atleast in stuff like CSS and JavaScript) I always search my a$$ off and try, try and try some more to find a solution on my own, because I don't want to ask for help, for fear I will look like a total n00b! Not to mention buying 2 dozen programming books has been helpful :)

And speaking of things I am guilty of, guess I should go fix my JavaScript expanding menu thingy's(On click of a menu item, sub-menu appears)....

Sam Ingle
April 27th, 2004
2:13 AM | #

Do you also find the english language to be stupider?
In all seriousness, there are two reasons most of us help in forums like this:
1) To increase our own programming knowledge.
2) To promote web standards
You really can't do either through providing poor advice to those who ask questions.

liorean
April 27th, 2004
9:18 AM | #

I've been one of the regulars at CodingForums for quite a while, and I have certainly noticed the same thing. However, we had the problem for a time of the regulars overreacting and going into the habit of only making their point, and never actually helping out, as can be seen by a cavalcade of posts on the issue. However, I think things cooled down, especially with the change to vBulletin 3, which has given us other targets for our aggressions...

Ryan
April 27th, 2004
11:09 AM | #

liorean,

That is, of course, a good point. There has to be a balance, and if people post simply to make a point on the issue with no intent to help the individual with the original question, they might as well leave - they certainly aren't helping anyone.

Brandon
April 27th, 2004
5:36 PM | #

Thank you, Ryan, for providing educational help to me many times in the forums. You and the others there have always been wonderful teachers. :)

lavalamp
April 28th, 2004
8:46 AM | #

Sam Ingle said:

In all seriousness, there are two reasons most of us help in forums like this:
1) To increase our own programming knowledge.
2) To promote web standards

So true, I originally went there for help, then I was gone for ages while I learnt some stuff from a few books, then I came back. I started helping people and that helped me, everytime someone asked about something I didn't know I looked it up and provided a solution.
Now I like to think that I also promote web standards as well.

I'm also a member of Coding forums, but the Web-Developer forums will always be number 1 in my book. ;)

Ronald van der Wijden
April 28th, 2004
10:24 AM | #

I often find myself starting answering questions I have anwsered many times before, hammering away at the keyboard, and before finishing hitting the "Back" button thinking "Oh well, let somebody else get that one this time...". Counting to 10 might work, too.

David Brent
April 30th, 2004
10:22 AM | #

Ryan,

I am grateful for all of your help with my web development. I am sure i always try to be polite and thankful.

Many thanks.

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