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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperTechnical (Moderator: ThemsAllTook)Effective ways to ask for and provide technical help
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ThemsAllTook
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« on: August 30, 2013, 02:07:28 PM »

With that attitude no one should be interested in helping you. I'm not, not anymore.

Were you in the first place? It seemed like you came here with the perspective of "global variables are bad, you're probably doing something wrong if you're using them". Having to justify your choice of tool when asking for help with it is frustrating.

This has branched off topic enough, but my thinking is, people often don't know what their problem is.  They know that they have a problem and they have an idea about what it is, and so they ask for a solution to what they think the problem is, leaving out the details that they think are extraneous.  But those details might be important and might entirely change the context of their problem.  The most common first things I post in threads like this are probing questions to try to understand the nature of the problem.  If a person doesn't want to give up that information, and wants to be snarky about it, I see no reason to devote any time to helping that person.

Discussion split from Global variables in a C++ project. I think this deserves its own topic.

Asking and answering technical questions both involve a level of discipline and effort to be productive. What principles can we follow to make sure that we're providing the most helpful answers, and that we're asking questions that invite them?

For guidelines on asking questions, I usually refer to Mike Ash's Getting Answers article. It's written for IRC, but applies pretty well to forum posting too. Bullet points from it repeated below:
  • Explain what doesn't work
  • Provide everything up-front
  • Post your code
  • Do your research beforehand
  • Do your research during
  • Do your research afterwards
  • Don't post the same question repeatedly
  • Follow up after you get an answer
  • Treat the list like people
  • Always consider the answer

I think it would be helpful to have a parallel set of guidelines for providing answers, and debate any of the above points if necessary. Here's a first pass off the top of my head. Feedback and additions are very much welcome:
  • Provide links to relevant content (documentation, etc.) referenced in your answer whenever possible
  • Don't try to guess an answer if you have no knowledge of the subject (or at least be very clear that you're guessing)
  • If you want to question someone's chosen tool or method, try to provide a helpful answer to the question they asked first
  • If you're not sure about your answer but can verify it easily, do so before posting
  • Ask for clarification when necessary
  • Consider that future readers with the same problem may find the thread, so ensure that your answer will remain visible and relevant if possible
  • Assume the person you're trying to help is intelligent

Any thoughts or suggestions?
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darkhog
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« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2013, 12:05:04 PM »

For answering: Don't post lmgtfy.com links. I know it is very frustrating to get things like that and isn't generally helpful.
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« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2013, 02:07:13 AM »

For answering: Don't post lmgtfy.com links. I know it is very frustrating to get things like that and isn't generally helpful.

I agree. You have to consider future readers as well.

When someone replies "there is already a thread about this, did you even try searching?", that particular thread might have been easy to find at the time. But some time later, it is buried beneath these dead end threads.

If the thread is good, you could throw in a few alternative terms people might search for.
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ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2013, 02:35:31 AM »

sometimes threads are hard to find, but nine times out of ten repeat threads were not searched for before being asked
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Eigen
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« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2013, 02:35:48 AM »

I asked those probing questions because I wanted to understand what the problem was he was trying to solve. I didn't get any answers so I couldn't help. Instead he gave a snarky reply which was rather off-putting.

If these variables were just to keep track of some event in the game or game-logic related thing then the globals approach is wrong, I'm sure you would agree. If it was used to get a random number, then sure, it works. Again, without any background info it's impossible to tell.

I wanted to see him pick a suitable solution early in the project rather than completing the game and asking "so what's the best way to do this or that".

Anyway, if you're just an hobbyist and not at all serious about programming and for you it's just another obstacle on the way of completing the game, then any solution that works is fine I guess.
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ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2013, 02:49:48 AM »

as far as i can see, he was not trying to solve a problem. he was just asking how other people handle globals in their project

the core quote is: "There are a couple of strategies for putting globals in a C++ project so they're accessible to any file, and I wondered what other folks were using."

your answer felt similar to like, someone answering the question 'what are some ways to code slopes in game maker' with the answer 'don't use game maker'
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Eigen
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« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2013, 02:57:04 AM »

Quote
I'm typing code using my nose. I know there are other solutions out there so I was wondering what everybody else was using to input their code.

Quote
Don't tell me to use my fingers! What is this, nose haters club?

Jokingly this is how I see that topic.


Paul, you might be right but .. so I have to keep typing out "global::randomFloat()" and so forth sounded to me like he was annoyed with the solution, so I considered that the problem that needs solving.
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« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2013, 04:21:30 AM »

the analogy doesn't really hold because in your example, he is seeking alternatives to typing with his nose, in the thread, he is not seeking alternatives to global variables. a better analogy would be 'i cook pork in this way, what are some other ways to cook pork that might be better'? answer: become a vegetarian

also there's nothing inherently wrong with such answers (become a vegetarian, don't use game maker, don't use global variables), they're all legit replies since sometimes the best thing to do is something other than what someone is asking, it's just that the implied moral superiority can be distracting
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