Sunday, April 5, 2009

Dealing with Difficult Forum Users - The Flip Side

Earlier I talked about dealing with the difficult forum user from the perspective of providing help.  Now let us look at from the flip side of the coin.  You are asking for help and you aren't getting what you want or need.

The first thing you have to realize is that the people who are out there willing to help do it voluntarily.  They are giving of themselves to the community for free.  There are many other things that they could be doing instead, like spending time with family and friends, or learning and developing skills to keep current with changing technologies and career development.  With this simple knowledge, you can combat the difficult forum user.

The first thing, when asking for help with a problem, post the question or problem in the appropriate forum and state the problem you are having explicitly.  Be concise yet detailed enough to be sure that anyone from the novice to the guru can understand the problem.  Doing this gives those who may respond to your question or request for help with a clear understanding of the problem at hand.  A big no-no is posting your question/problem in multiple forums on a single site.  This fragments the possible responses, and you may get multiple responses that say the same thing from different people.

Second, you need to provide as much background information as possible as well.  This means DDL for your tables (CREATE TABLE statements), sample data for the tables (Usually in the form of a INSERT ... SELECT ... UNION ALL SELECT ... statements), expected results based on the sample data, and most importantly your code that you have developed so far.  The sample data should be sufficient to show the issues and provide a decent sample for testing.  Also, the people who are willing to help are more willing if all they have to do is cut, paste, and execute the DDL and INSERT statements to create a test environment.  Remember, the more work you do up front, the more likely you will get well tested results in return.  Although some people will take the time to format poorly provided data, some people will just skip your post entirely.

Third, if you are pointed to Books Online, articles, other threads on the Forum; please take the time to read and research.  If you have problems finding the information in Books Online, come back and say so but be sure to provide information on what you were able to find, or ask what you should look under in Books Online.  With the articles and other threads on the Forum, read them and if you still have questions, ask for clarification.  The worst thing you can do is to ignore the advice.  If it was suggested, there is usually a reason.  I can tell you from experience, it is not to mean, but to help you learn where and how to look for information.  It may still not make sense, but you should hopefully be able to ask more detailed questions that help you clarify your knowledge and understanding.

Fourth, provide feedback to the community.  Wether you solve the issue yourself or use the information or code provided by someone, tell us.  If the solution is of your own devising, show us.  It may help others with a similar problem.  Also, it gives us a chance to see what you did, and perhaps help you improve it as well.

Finally, maintain your cool.  You may get some snide or obnoxious responses.  Let them go.  By maintaining a professional manner, you will demonstrate strength of character.  In addition, you may also earn additional good will from others.

Hopefully this helps when asking for questions or for help.  See you all on Forums!

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