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How to Ask Questions the Smart Way

David O'Meara
Rancher

Joined: Mar 06, 2001
Posts: 13459

I had someone post a link to this site as a response to a question in the JDBC forum. Any way we can paraphrase and incorporate into the FAQ or Javaranch culture?
Obviously it isn't directly relevant to the ranch, it would be nice to refer someone to a link when they post a topic like this: HELP!!! [URGENT]

Dave
(you can knock me back, but you can't stop me from enjoying the article)
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
I couldn't agree more.
Dave Vick
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 10, 2001
Posts: 3244
I like it. Maybe a little too much for us, we'd have to tone it down a little to keep up the 'friendly place for greenhorns' image. But I really hate the 'URGENT, need help' posts too. They are right up there with the 'cant figure this out' post that you see posted by the same person in 6 different forums.
The problem is that even with a set of clearly defined rules and guidelines for posting, they don't help if no one reads them or ignores them when they do read them.
Dave


Dave
Jason Menard
Sheriff

Joined: Nov 09, 2000
Posts: 6450
Originally posted by Dave Vick:
Maybe a little too much for us, we'd have to tone it down a little to keep up the 'friendly place for greenhorns' image.

How about 'PSTFW' and 'PRTFM'? Saying "Please Search The F'ing Web" makes it friendly, right?
Pauline McNamara
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 19, 2001
Posts: 4012
    
    6
Originally posted by Dave Vick:
... we'd have to tone it down a little to keep up the 'friendly place for greenhorns' image...

More than a little, I think.
Pauline
Kyle Brown
author
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 10, 2001
Posts: 3879
Yes, we'd have to tone it down but maybe distilling it into a "10 top things to do before you post a question" would be good, as would some examples of questions that are likely to be answered (well-phrased questions).
BTW, we would also need to be sensitive to language issues here. Command of the English language is not a prerequisite, but command of the ways in which technical questions are answered (read a manual, read the FAQ, ask a friend) should be.
Kyle
------------------
Kyle Brown,
Author of Enterprise Java (tm) Programming with IBM Websphere
See my homepage at http://members.aol.com/kgb1001001 for other WebSphere information.


Kyle Brown, Author of Persistence in the Enterprise and Enterprise Java Programming with IBM Websphere, 2nd Edition
See my homepage at http://www.kyle-brown.com/ for other WebSphere information.
Carl Trusiak
Sheriff

Joined: Jun 13, 2000
Posts: 3340
I guess that would be the UBB FAQ page. And, if you think it needs a few more, let me know in MO and we'll workout adding them

[This message has been edited by Carl Trusiak (edited December 03, 2001).]


I Hope This Helps
Carl Trusiak, SCJP2, SCWCD
David Weitzman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 27, 2001
Posts: 1365
bump (new people need to see this every once in a while )
Francisco A Guimaraes
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 20, 2002
Posts: 182
I couldn�t find the UBB faq, my browser showed me a frustraiting 404 error does this faq really exists?
if so, is this the right address?
http://www.javaranch.com/ubb/faq.html
thanks,
Francisco


Francisco<br />SCJP<br />please use the [code][/code] tags when showing code.Click <a href="http://saloon.javaranch.com/cgi-bin/ubb/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=ubb_code_page" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">here</a> to see an example.
David Weitzman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 27, 2001
Posts: 1365
This is the FAQ. The link above was posted before some semi-recent software upgrades.
Rick Moen
Greenhorn

Joined: Sep 10, 2003
Posts: 5
Originally posted by David O'Meara:
I had someone post a link to this site as a response to a question in the JDBC forum. Any way we can paraphrase and incorporate into the FAQ or Javaranch culture?

As one of the co-authors, I'd love to see that paraphrase come about, no matter how watered down for reasons of local culture.
I'm actually here because I saw the thread while trying to hunt down why Eric Raymond and I keep getting really wacky requests for technical help with Java problems in our private mailboxes. We always try to be sympathetic but inquire as to where on earth they got the notion to send us their Java coding problems. And the odd thing is that they either don't answer that question or give really vague and nonsensical answers. I've had two just this morning. One declined to state where he'd seen my (and Eric's) e-mail address, and just reiterated his question; the other claimed (incorrectly) that he'd seen me post on the java-struts mailing list and though I might be able to help him.
So, I'm left wondering what in the world is going on. Is someone telling all the Java newbies of the world "Hey, if you have any Java questions whatsoever, lob them over in private e-mail to Rick and Eric, because they're cool guys and really helpful"? If so, it's flattering, but not an effective way to get these people relevant help.
If on the other hand, this is the result of people actually reading the Smart Questions FAQ, but just not "getting" almost the very first part of the document (about "choosing your forum"), then the sheer irony leaves me at a bit of a loss.
Any clues as to where this barrage of misdirected e-mail is coming from would be most welcome.
-- Rick Moen
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30


Any clues as to where this barrage of misdirected e-mail is coming from would be most welcome.

I'm certainly not the luminary that either you or ESR are, but I get these too. I've eventually resigned myself to just ignoring them; seems like this is the best way to get them to go away.
Why a barrage right now? It's back-to-school time!


[Jess in Action][AskingGoodQuestions]
Rick Moen
Greenhorn

Joined: Sep 10, 2003
Posts: 5
Originally posted by Ernest Friedman-Hill:

I'm certainly not the luminary that either you or ESR are, but I get these too. I've eventually resigned myself to just ignoring them; seems like this is the best way to get them to go away.
Why a barrage right now? It's back-to-school time!

Ah, SeptemberNet!
Anyhow, you're welcome to feed my ego any time, Ernest, but what's really perplexing about this is that I've never done Java at all, have never even written about it, and basically haven't a clue how to solve J. Random User's "struts" problem.
Also, I just cannot imagine attempting to lob a complex technical problem into the mailbox of a total stranger -- with not even "pretty please", an offer of free beer, a date and a movie, or whatever. That mentality is just completely beyond me. (Old-fogyism strikes!)
-- Rick M.
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30


Also, I just cannot imagine attempting to lob a complex technical problem into the mailbox of a total stranger -- with not even "pretty please", an offer of free beer, a date and a movie, or whatever. That mentality is just completely beyond me. (Old-fogyism strikes!)

Yes, I'm similarly astonished, especially given I'm twenty years or more uphill from them. I believe it's a phenomenon born of the Internet. Everybody looks the same when you've seeing them via ASCII. After all, you and I have never met, but here we are, having a friendly chat.
I imagine it'd be really different if they had to call me up on the phone; harder to imagine them saying "Help me please, i got a Java q 4 u!!!" out loud.
Francis Siu
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 04, 2003
Posts: 867
And the odd thing is that they either don't answer that question or give really vague and nonsensical answers.

I would be disappointed if I face the similar event in javaranch.
Actually, I face some people who send some e-mails to me to ask some JAVA programming questions,I answer them post it in the forum if I do not know or busy. (Sometimes I can answer if simple)
As a author, all the people know who you are, they know what knowledges you know and hope you can answer their questions. May be they hope more free lunch too.... :roll: It must produce some annoy which can not be avoided.
Hope you enjoy the culture and relax from here
Rick Moen

[ September 10, 2003: Message edited by: siu chung man ]

Francis Siu
SCJP, MCDBA
paul wheaton
Trailboss

Joined: Dec 14, 1998
Posts: 20271
    ∞

You should see the steps that Marcus Green has gone to to control this. Go ahead. Write him an e-mail and see what happens!
Since this is my site, I always ask these guys "Did you post in the big moose saloon and not get a response? Can you e-mail me the URL?" That's usually the last I hear from them. But a few times I get an e-mail back saying something like "I don't want to do that. Why don't you just answer my question? I'm in a hurry!" Usually I just ignore it from there, but one time I said "I charge $275 per hour to help with things like this. That looks like about three hours of work, so I can send you a paypal invoice for three hours and if it goes over I'll just send another invoice." (for those people that actually pay me for stuff: no, I don't ever really charge anybody that much money for my time) Didn't hear back! Another guy kept insisting that I needed to send him my Java books. To India! And when I suggested Amazon or eBay, he started calling me a capitalist asshole!


permaculture Wood Burning Stoves 2.0 - 4-DVD set
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30

I used to say things like "You could ask your question on such-and-such a newsgroup" and, believe it or not, this would lead to follow-up emails like "Great! I have this other question, where should I post it?"
Rick Moen
Greenhorn

Joined: Sep 10, 2003
Posts: 5
Paul --
Wonderful stuff. I like it.
Mostly, I was bewildered, not being able to figure out why we've been getting this stuff, and so very much of it. (I got two fix-my-Java-for-me e-mails yesterday, for example.) It was difficult to believe all that was happening without somebody, somewhere, posting a hyperlink saying "Send all your Java problems to Eric and Rick; they'll help you for free!"
But apparently not. The one link I finally got a questioner to 'fess up to following was the one to "Asking Questions the Smart Way" at http://jakarta.apache.org/site/mail.html -- which ought to be perfectly innocuous as worded, but I've asked the webmaster to please append "Note: Do NOT send your Java problems to that FAQ's authors. They welcome feedback on the FAQ's contents, but are simply not a Java help resource." (I also asked him to fix the omission of my name as coauthor.)
-- Rick M.
Rick Moen
Greenhorn

Joined: Sep 10, 2003
Posts: 5
Originally posted by Kyle Brown:
Yes, we'd have to tone it down but maybe distilling it into a "10 top things to do before you post a question" would be good, as would some examples of questions that are likely to be answered (well-phrased questions).


Hello, back again. (I'm one of the two authors of "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way", at http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html, which we originally created in 2001 and has been linked to by a large number of sites including JavaRanch.)

What brought me back here is the nice little essay you've posted since my last visit at http://faq.javaranch.com/view?HowToAskQuestionsTheSmartWay, as a primary self-help link from http://faq.javaranch.com/: "Before troubling Mr.Hatfield or your co-Ranchers, please reflect on HowToAskQuestionsTheSmartWay....."

I like the essay a lot, and hope/expect that it meets the forums' needs nicely. It expresses a lot of Eric's and my suggestions, plus some of your own, in a different and Java-centric way -- and much more concisely than our original. (Ours needs to go on a diet, I think.)

You might have seen this coming, though: I wanted to ask JavaRanch to fix a problem.

People have started to write to me about the essay at http://faq.javaranch.com/view?HowToAskQuestionsTheSmartWay: These are people who know I co-wrote "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way" -- or in some other way get the two works confused. So: I'm certainly not trying to suggest that Eric and I own that essay title, but (he says, slapping his saddle for emphasis) it would be right neighbourly of you to switch yours over to a slightly different title (and URL).

Thanks.

Best Regards,
Rick Moen
rick@linuxmafia.com

[ EJFH: Fixed links. ]
[ July 08, 2005: Message edited by: Ernest Friedman-Hill ]
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30

Sure, Rick, we can do that.

Update: It's now called "HowToAskQuestionsOnJavaRanch"; the old page still exists but only as a pointer to the new one.
[ July 08, 2005: Message edited by: Ernest Friedman-Hill ]
Layne Lund
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 06, 2001
Posts: 3061
Originally posted by Rick Moen:


Hello, back again. (I'm one of the two authors of "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way", at http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html, which we originally created in 2001 and has been linked to by a large number of sites including JavaRanch.)

What brought me back here is the nice little essay you've posted since my last visit at http://faq.javaranch.com/view?HowToAskQuestionsTheSmartWay, as a primary self-help link from http://faq.javaranch.com/: "Before troubling Mr.Hatfield or your co-Ranchers, please reflect on HowToAskQuestionsTheSmartWay....."

I like the essay a lot, and hope/expect that it meets the forums' needs nicely. It expresses a lot of Eric's and my suggestions, plus some of your own, in a different and Java-centric way -- and much more concisely than our original. (Ours needs to go on a diet, I think.)

You might have seen this coming, though: I wanted to ask JavaRanch to fix a problem.

People have started to write to me about the essay at http://faq.javaranch.com/view?HowToAskQuestionsTheSmartWay: These are people who know I co-wrote "How to Ask Questions the Smart Way" -- or in some other way get the two works confused. So: I'm certainly not trying to suggest that Eric and I own that essay title, but (he says, slapping his saddle for emphasis) it would be right neighbourly of you to switch yours over to a slightly different title (and URL).

Thanks.

Best Regards,
Rick Moen
rick@linuxmafia.com


Rick,

Usually I answer questions here at the Ranch and I really like your article. However, when I tried to use the links in your post above, I kept getting errors (404, etc.). It took me a while to figure out that the problem is caused by some of the punctuation marks following the URLs. It sure would be helpful if you can edit your post and use the UBB URL tags so that the link doesn't include the spurious punctuation marks.

Thanks,

Layne


Java API Documentation
The Java Tutorial
Jim Yingst
Wanderer
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 30, 2000
Posts: 18671
I see EFH has fixed the problem with the links (sorry Rick - if you give a URL followed by punctuation, our software tries to include the punctuation as part of the link). I also like EFH's other addition to the newly-renamed page:
Note: Do not send Java questions to the authors of these documents! If you do, they will flame you and you will deserve it.

[ July 08, 2005: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]

"I'm not back." - Bill Harding, Twister
Ernest Friedman-Hill
author and iconoclast
Marshal

Joined: Jul 08, 2003
Posts: 24166
    
  30

Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
I also like EFH's other addition to the newly-renamed page:


I wish I could take credit for that, but I didn't write it! It was there when I went to rename the page.
Rick Moen
Greenhorn

Joined: Sep 10, 2003
Posts: 5
Originally posted by Jim Yingst:
I see EFH has fixed the problem with the links (sorry Rick - if you give a URL followed by punctuation, our software tries to include the punctuation as part of the link). I also like EFH's other addition to the newly-renamed page:


[ July 08, 2005: Message edited by: Jim Yingst ]


I chuckled over that, myself.

I don't actually flame the poor confused folks who do that, though the temptation becomes significant over time. (I get on average about a half-dozen panicked e-mail help requests every day of the year, perceptibly based on people stumbling through hyperlinks to my and Eric's essay.) But I'll admit to guilt-tripping them a bit.

The ones who repeatedly keep begging for free-of-charge individual assistance after I advise them to go back and review where they found my address (telling them they've made a ghastly blunder and sent me mail inappropriately), those get the rough side of my tongue, a little bit: I tell them why their approach is completely inappropriate and why they should be embarrassed. That's about one in ten. About one in fifty comes back a third time, refusing to get it.

I try to keep my cool.

One irony is that there's a small group of resentful, experienced Linux users, two of them in central Florida and two in California, who've been maligning me personally for about seven years, always behind my back (e.g., on one of the mailing lists of the Suncoast Linux User Group in Florida) as a "flamer" of "Lnux newbies". Even though the malice entailed in their backstabbing campaign is rather palpable, I think even those guys have no idea what I have to deal with -- politely -- every day of the year.

My thanks to Ernest for fixing my post's hyperlinks. (As you say, I didn't embed that punctuation: The forum software's URL parser did.) And a big thanks to Ernest for renaming JavaRanch's essay.

Best Regards,
Rick Moen
rick@linuxmafia.com
Layne Lund
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 06, 2001
Posts: 3061
Originally posted by Rick Moen:

... (As you say, I didn't embed that punctuation: The forum software's URL parser did.) And a big thanks to Ernest for renaming JavaRanch's essay.

Best Regards,
Rick Moen
rick@linuxmafia.com


I didn't mean to imply that you embedded the punctuation in the URL. From my experience most URL parsers don't handle trailing punctuation when the URL is in the middle of some regular prose. Every email client I've used does the exact same thing. Kind of annoying ain't it? I would have a difficult time coming up with a solution to this problem, so I shouldn't complain too loudly...

Layne
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://aspose.com/file-tools
 
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