Misc

Help me to help you! Help me to help you! Help me to help you!

I’m a fan of the comedy-drama show Scrubs and Dr. Cox repeatedly tells young Dr. Dorian “Help me to help you! Help me to help you! Help me to help you!” And I think that is excellent advice for people who want help in forums. (And after my stressed out day yesterday you can probably see a rant coming).

Now, I guess I can understand why some people might want to hide what they are actually doing. They have code that is being written under an NDA or is somehow comercially sensitive. However, if they need to ask for help on forums then they have already implicitely admitted that it it isn’t that sensitive because they think someone else may already have solved that particular problem. Unfortunately, they haven’t admitted that to themselves yet and it makes it much harder for someone who really really wants to help to… well… help.

People wrap up their problems into abstractions and post that. Or they type up code that should have the same problem, but doesn’t. Or they do some other strange thing which hides what their actual goal is and scuppers many chances of getting the help they need.

For example. One poster said they wanted to manipulate some data from one table into another table. He showed some sample data in the first table. But the columns were called “az” and “azz”. What does that mean? The values in the columns didn’t mean anything as there wasn’t an explanation. Perhaps one was a primary key… perhaps it was something else… In the sample set of data some values were a dot. Was it really a dot or was that being used as a stand in for null. Only the original poster knows. When it came to putting the data in the new table there wasn’t an obvious relationship. How can anyone figure out what the rules are to manipulate from one to the other with such scant information?

So, in the words of Dr. Cox: Help me to help you!

NOTE: This was rescued from the Google Cache. The original date was Thursday, 4th May, 2006.

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