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How to ask a "good" question -- READ BEFORE POSTING

Curtis Rutland
3,256 Expert 2GB
Remember that the people here helping you are not getting paid. They have no real incentive to help you beyond the desire to help others. So, if you make it difficult for them to help, there is a good chance they will just skip your thread and go on to the next one.

So, how do you ask a good question? There are a few rules:
  • Clarity -- Possibly the most important. Explain your problem clearly. without rambling about unrelated details. Proper language greatly improves your clarity. We all understand that English is not everyone's first language, but you can do better than "pls cn u send me teh codes?"
  • Brevity -- "Brevity is the soul of wit." We don't need to see your entire 800 line source code when the problem is with one small method. Also, we don't need a super-wordy question.
  • Technical Details -- There must be a balance between brevity and details. Be as brief as possible while providing us enough details to help solve your isses. Here are a few details that are almost always import:
    • Compiler errors! Just saying "I get an error" is never good enough. Visual Studio provides you the means to copy/paste the full error text. Use it!
    • Runtime errors! Same thing, we can't help you if you're not descriptive.
    • Your .NET version. This is a simple thing to mention at the beginning of your post, but can save us some time in helping you, as things have changed significantly over the years.
    Beyond these, use your judgment. If you feel like we should know something, include it. Just try not to bog us down with unnecessary extraneous code. We probably aren't going to take the time to read your entire source file if it's huge. It's your job to identify the error in question.
  • Formatting -- This forum has several text formatting options to make reading things easier. Ordered/unordered lists, indention, hyperlinking, embedding images, and most importantly, the [code] tags. Always enclose your source code in [CODE][/CODE] tags, because it preserves whitespace and adds line numbers.

So now that you know what to do, what shouldn't you do?

  • Ask basic introductory questions -- "How do I add two numbers in C# ??" -- We're here to help, but we can't teach you the language all by ourselves. There are other resources out there for that.
  • Ask questions that are easily answered by a search engine -- "What does a NullReferenceException mean?" -- The information on a large percentage of questions asked is already available on the web. Forums can take hours, google takes seconds. I would recommend googling your exception text before coming to us. You may find your answer quicker than you thought.
  • Ask questions with a huge scope -- "How do I write a photo manipulation program like photoshop in C#?" -- We can help you with specific issues, but we can't give you a college course on a topic. Think about if what you are asking can be solved/explained in a few paragraphs. If it can't, you're probably asking too much.
  • Ask for someone to do your "homework" -- "Can someone send me the codes to make a sudoku puzzle?" -- We can't do your homework for you. It's dishonest and will give us a reputation as a cheating site. We can help you solve specific issues with your homework questions, but we cannot do it for you. For the record, homework doesn't only mean coursework. We also won't write your application for your company for you either.
  • Break the Posting Guidelines -- These are not difficult rules to follow. Please briefly read them over before you post your question. You may be doing something wrong without realizing it.

Again, remember that the people helping you are unpaid and uncompensated. They just like helping people. If you don't make it easy for them to help, they might skip you for the next question.
May 12 '10 #1
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