March 06, 2004
How to Write a Bad Forum Post
In the spirit of Gunnar Kudrajvets's Complete Idiot's Guide to Opening Bad Bugs (see yesterday's entry), I was inspired to address a similar area that is also close to my heart. I spend a lot of time on the ASP.NET forums sifting through questions, so I feel like I can offer some suggestions for the Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing Bad Forum Posts. Here's a start:
I could go on. (And probably will.) However, before I leave the impression that all posters are inconsiderate morons, let me note that most people are not. I particularly admire three classes of posters:
- Write a useless title. Create a title that says nothing about your question. The best possible title is "Help!" so that people looking through the new postings will understand that you need assistance, unlike everyone else who's also posted a question. Corollary The title "Help!!!" instead of "Help!" shows that your post is three times as urgent.
- Do no research. Although there are 500,000 posts on the asp.net forum, no one has ever had the same question as you.
- Ignore the FAQs. Ditto.
- Don't use Google. Ditto.
- Blame the software. The likeliest explanation for your problem is that ASP.NET has a bug, or .NET, or even Windows. After all, that explains most problems that people have. So when you post your problem, be sure to note that this seems like a bug to you.
- Post a 300-line example. People who answer questions on the forum clearly have nothing to do. So they'll be happy to parse your enormous example to see if they can spot that elusive problem.
- Let someone else devise a repro case. When the button click handler isn't called in your sample, by no means should you try to create a smaller repro case. All you know is that your sample doesn't run.
- Post a sample that depends on a resource you don't describe. Be sure your sample reads from your production database. Don't worry, people will figure out your schema.
- Don't format your code. Indentation is overrated.
- Use a single run-on sentence to describe your problem. You're in a hurry, after all, so who's got time to describe the problem carefully? PS How long does it take to get an answer on this forum, anyway?
- Sprinkle your post with typos. People who get distracted trying to figure out what you're saying aren't real programmers.
- If people don't seem to get your problem, get mad at them. "Ok, let me explain my problem again, you dummies. There, understand? Now, where's my answer?"
- Post in the wrong forum. Post your question in the FAQ forum. After all, it kind of relates to something that it says in one of the FAQs. Or post everything in the Getting Started forum, what the hell.
- Complain about the product. Ask people what's so great about this product, anyway? "In PHP I could do this in three lines, ya know. But my stupid boss is making me use ASP.NET. So how do you this in your stupid language?" Corollary When people jump through hoops to get you an answer, tell them "That's ok, I decided to go back to PHP."
- Keep posting new questions to the same thread. Hey, people really jumped on that first question, so why not ask some more, now that you've found some people who will answer?
- People who post questions and get answers when English is their second (or third or fourth) language. The posts aren't always easy to figure out, but they're doing their best.
- People who follow up and report on the results of a suggestion. "It worked" or even "That didn't work." Either way, all the lurkers can keep tabs on the problem.
- People who say thank you.