How to Ask Questions in Developer Community Spaces

Version 3

    squishy-face-350.pngHave a problem  you can't figure out yourself and want to ask other users for help? We've all been in that situation! Even the veteran users (like myself) run into such problems. We all are glad that the OTN Community Spaces exist, where we can ask other users for their input and help.

    Sure, it’s easiest for you to just open a question in OTN or (MOSC):

    “I have a problem fitting my QTY_X  into the pivot”

    But then you'll draw plenty of fire from other users who don't really know what you're talking about. After a couple of days of back and forth questions and answers the thread could be 8-10 posts long before anyone has a basic understanding of your problem.

    This is what I call waste of time.

    It would have been easier if you had given the full use case at the beginning. This would have cost you a couple of minutes work (max. 30 min), but would have saved 24 hours in question and answers.

    So, here are some basic rules of how to ask questions:

    1. Search the forum to see if your question has already been asked (and answered). The forums search isn't bad.
    2. Search again using Google. Don't give up after reading the first hit.
    3. Give information about your environment, such as versions of software you use. This is essential, as versions change and other users might run into a similar problem never knowing if the thread they read was about their version.
    4. Give a full, understandable use case of the problem. The process of formulating a good forum question will force you to think more clearly about the question yourself.  Sometimes in the middle of writing the question the answer might come to you because you've restated the problem in terms an outsider can understand.
    5. Tell us what you have already tried to solve the problem. Help the others to get the big picture and show that you haven't just dumped your work on the forum users.
    6. Give information about the technologies you use in your application. For example, if you POI to generate native EXCEL files and this is related to your problem, provide those details. If you use PL/SQL to make changes in the DB, provide that information as well.
    7. Provide code snippets and any other information that might help us to understand the problem and what you've done to try to solve it.
    8. Screenshots help to understand visual problems. It’s hard to describe problems with are only visual like “my fields are not aligned”. Make screenshots and add them to your post.
    9. Provide stacktraces as text if you are asked to provide one. This way we can look at each part.
    10. Format code you provide. This make code readable, regardless if it’s Java, PL/SQL or the source of a .jsff page.

    The list above is not complete,  but it's a starting point. Providing the information described above will help you get an answer to your question.

    Also, please remember that all users have normal jobs to do to get the bills paid. Phrases as ‘ASAP’, ‘urgent’ have no meaning at all . There is no ‘Service Level Agreement’ attached to the OTN Community Spaces. If you need urgent help you should use, the paid support Oracle offers.

    About the Author

    Oracle ACE Director Timo Hahn is a principal consultant for virtual7 GmbH, an Oracle Platinum partner based in Germany. He is a developer and software architect with extensive expertise in Oracle Fusion Middleware and deep specialization in the Oracle Application Development Framework.  Timo is a blogger, a frequent presenter at conferences and special events, and is well known in the OTN Community for his extensive help in the JDeveloper and ADF space.