Please Help Me Help You

Over the last 2 years, I have been lucky with work with/teach hundreds of students who I reckon will be the next torch bearers of this exciting but young industry. There has never been a better time to be a developer and I hope that they all succeed in their onward journey.

This blog post is not about that but a recurring theme that I hope they can address while they are right at the onset of joining this industry rather than realizing painfully later on. This is not to say that experienced professionals in the software industry do not suffer from it, but I rather prefer to work with people whom I can mould to be better representatives of this art. Yes, you guessed it right … it is about communication. You could have predicted it, right?

However, I wish to stress here on a narrower point especially when you are requesting support. One of the things I promise to every single student of mine is that I shall do my best to respond to your query post my training / teaching on the topics that are relevant to what I teach and do claim a certain amount of experience.

My preferred communication medium is email, especially when it comes to addressing a specific problem that is being forwarded to me. I make it very clear that I am ready to help you but only if you can help me. And by that help, I mean you have to be very specific and give as much detail as you can, so that I can even attempt to address the issue.

When I mean specific, you need to at least give the following details:

  • What is your environment
  • What are the tools you are using, versions
  • Describe the problem
  • What is the piece of code giving you the problem ? Provide support material in the form of code files, project files. Maybe even throw in some screenshots and video (Never underestimate the power of using video as a medium to show code that is not working)
  • Attach Exception Logs, Stack Trace.

This might not be a complete list, but you get the drift of what I am trying to say here. In essence, having all this information gives me a better chance to recreate the problem that you might be facing and frankly will at times make me really want to help you because I am seeing the effort you are putting in to describe and put forward the problem in as much detail as you can.

And trust me, what I am saying here should be a part of effective technical communication.

Enough of a sermon, here enjoy this clip from the hit movie Jerry Maguire, where Tom Cruise uses the term “Help Me Help You!”

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2 thoughts on “Please Help Me Help You

  1. 100% agree with your post.

    Let me add some words which I have experience and came across while supporting Android community on Stackoverflow:

    I saw many developers asking questions without showing:
    1. What have you tried so far?
    2. Logcat output and error logs
    3. Have you done debugging before posting a question?
    4. possible code

    Without knowing above things, how can one or you or me help them out from the issues they are facing.

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