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Show Some Effort

An important thing to remember when posting a question to Java Ranch (or any other forum) is that the people who will help you are not getting paid to do so. They're going to take time from their own work (or from their free time) to help solve your problem. For free.

While it's nice to SayThanks, the best way to show your gratitude for their effort is to be respectful. What does that mean? Take some time and try and find the answer yourself first. There are a few ways you can do that.

Seek and you shall find (the answer)

SearchFirst before posting your question. Tap into the wealth of knowledge found on the internet. Google is a great tool, use it! The ranch also has it's own built in search feature that lets you limit your search to specific forums. Often such a search will give you results faster than waiting for someone to reply. If you do search and don't understand what you find, post what you found and explain why it doesn't make sense or why you think it's wrong. Making an effort shows folks you care about learning and not just the answer. Furthermore, learning how to research problems is an important skill for any developer and this is a good start down that path.

Run it and see for yourself

Another way you can show effort is by trying something out yourself. Don't just post some code and ask what it does; run it and see for yourself! Nine out of ten times, running the code yourself will give you an answer a lot faster than just posting the code and waiting for someone to give you the answer.

Don't post something like this:

So new Object[2] will have all nulls in it?


when all you have to do is write this, run it, and see for yourself:

Make it easy for people to help you; don't make them work too hard to help

Give as much detail as you can. If there is an error message, post the ENTIRE error message. Paraphrasing doesn't help much, especially since those messages give you details on the line and even the exact spot where the compiler thinks the error is.

Don't cross-post. Read the FAQs

Please, CarefullyChooseOneForum. Cross posting and not reading the FAQ section before asking a question that's been asked numerous times are some examples of being disrespectful.

Be clear and precise in how you post things

By far, the most common way to show disrespect is to skimp on punctuation or to not UseRealWords. It's much more difficult to determine the nature of someone's problem if you have to burn your brain's CPU cycles translating contractions like 'ur' instead of 'you are' or 'plz' instead of 'please'. It's also very draining to read a block of text if there is no punctuation at the end of each sentence, especially if there is no capitalization at the start of the next sentence.

There is a phrase in the English language called "A Red Herring" (see link below) used by lawyers to describe the practice of planting false evidence thus distracting police from finding the real evidence that could help them solve a crime. Take the utmost care not to drag a red herring across the path of someone trying to help you. (See: AvoidRedHerrings) Doing so will almost certainly cause them to walk away from your thread in frustration. This can be tricky for beginners, since you may genuinely think you are providing an important tip, so at least consider carefully what you post.

For example, saying:

'My class files are under /myapp/web-inf/classes'

instead of saying:

'My class files are under /myapp/WEB-INF/classes'

This will waste the time of someone trying to help you. That person will assume that you've accidentally created the 'web-inf' directory with lower case letters (a bug in J2EE app servers). They will spend their time pointing this out to you only to find out later that the directory name really was 'WEB-INF' but you didn't hold down the caps lock button when typing your question. If you're lucky, that person might continue to look at your problem to see what else might be wrong. More likely, that person will just move on.

Cut-and-paste is your friend

Instead of:

'I've added all the necessary properties to the config file.'

It would be just as easy, and a lot more useful, to cut and paste the relevant parts of the config file into the message. This would allow the person helping you to verify that you have, indeed, added the necessary properties without needing to take the time to ask you and wait for you to post the contents of your config file.

'Golden Rule:'

Put as much effort into presenting your question as you would hope someone will put into answering it.

Do not presume that other people's time is so much less valuable than yours that you can afford to take shortcuts when typing your question - especially if doing so causes them to have to expend more effort just to figure out what you're asking.

See the other tips on HowToAskQuestionsOnJavaRanch.


See also

  • TellTheDetails
  • UseRealWords
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_herring
  • Before posting example code, be sure to see: The SSCCE
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