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March 06, 2004  |  How to Write a Bad Forum Post  |  11076 hit(s)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Do no research. Although there are 500,000 posts on the asp.net forum, no one has ever had the same question as you.
  3. Ignore the FAQs. Ditto.
  4. Don't use Google. Ditto.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Don't format your code. Indentation is overrated.
  10. 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?
  11. Sprinkle your post with typos. People who get distracted trying to figure out what you're saying aren't real programmers.
  12. 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?"
  13. 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.
  14. 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."
  15. 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?
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:
  • 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.

Colt   08 Mar 04 - 5:55 PM

That's VERY true.. I 100% agree on your points. :-)

Just a simple word - Thanks - is the best acknowledgement / reward for the answerer.

David Gottlieb   11 Mar 04 - 7:59 AM

This is so true. I used to be a moderator on the .NET forums and everything you just explained, I have seen 100 times over. Maybe we should pin this as a post on the forums for people to get a clue!

Craig Stuntz   13 Apr 04 - 9:07 AM

It also helps if your 300 line example won't compile.

Joe Brinkman   14 May 04 - 11:17 AM

Don't forget my favorite: Open a new account, and in your first post (5 minutes later) blast Microsoft, ASP.Net, ADO.Net, Visual Studio or any specific person on the forums. When people note that you just joined the forums and this is your first post claim that you have been lurking for the last 6 months and therefore you are not really a newbie and are actually an expert on the topic of your rant.

Bruce Hopkins   14 May 04 - 3:38 PM

Right on the money. Great post perhaps we should pin this in the top of all the forums.