Help Me! I’m Stuck!
A comprehensive guide to asking for help when stuck in programming.
If the life of us coders was a movie, the most common scene would be us banging our hands on the desk.
Why? You ask. Bugs, I answer. What is a Bug? Yes, it is a small insect that you know about, constantly being an integral part of our ecosystem. But no, I am talking about bugs in programming, which get in our way of making awesome websites and apps.
Bugs are errors, as simple as that. These are faults in code that break the code, and you don’t get your desired output. It is really frustrating, trust me, and you’ll be feeling helpless a lot.
But not to worry, my friend, your community has got your back? Haven’t joined one yet? Join a community. Though there are online forums, a community is in a better position to adhere to your problems.
Now, we have got the community/forum along with our nasty bug. What now? Let’s ask for help.
As usual, this ‘but’ is bold, so don’t ignore it.
There are 5 steps to asking for help. What are they? Read on and treat them as laws of asking for help.
1. Before asking for helping
Make sure you’ve done everything in your power to solve the bug. “No, Karen, I don’t have time to look at your typos because you failed English in High school”.
- Check for typos — Make sure your code is free of typos. Noone likes to go through a code, just to find that you misspeled a variable.
- Google — If you get stuck on a concept, a quick search will definitely help. Read the documentation, blogs, articles and watch some YouTube videos to grasp them better.
- Check online forums — There is a reason StackOverflow is our best friend. Understand that the problems you are facing, have been faced by someone else in the past. How was it solved? Search in online forums for possible answers. Most of the time, you’ll get your bug solved.
- Value the time of others — Understand that whoever is going to help you will be putting effort and time which they don’t need to in the normal course of their day. Appreciate their time and try to make helping you as easier as it can be for them.
2. Asking for help.
Yes, we developers are very kind and helpful. We constantly try to help other fellow coders in any way we can. But there is so much we can do.
“Help us help you"
- Explain your problem in a gist — Get straight to the problem, no one should spend time searching for your problem. Keep the problem statement as concise as possible.
- Provide all information — If you believe a fact (or a piece of code) may be important to solve your problem, provide it beforehand, don’t wait to be asked about it. Make life easy for everyone.
- What have I tried — Share what have you tried to solve the problem. It’s as said, “God helps those who help themselves”. Only you are responsible for yourself, don’t expect someone else to solve your bug, while you Netflix and Chill. Also, I would hate to hear this personally “Oh, I’ve tried what you’re suggesting, it doesn’t help". If you have tried something, clearly mention it.
- The source code — There is absolutely no reason to flaunt your new camera phone, don’t take pictures from your phone and ask for help. Always share the source code.
- A screenshot — If and only if your problem is a visual one, share the screenshot, not a picture from your iPhone, not ever. But it is no substitute for source code, regardless of thescreenshot, the source code is mandatory to be shared.
3. After asking for help
Shared your bug? Great. Now, let’s watch the latest episode of your favorite series. They’ll get back when they’ve solved the bug. Right? HELL NAH.
- Stick around — Given you have provided all the info, it may happen that whoever is trying to help may need some more facts. Stick around, discuss with them. Don’t just run away after posting your question.
- Discuss — Talk with your peers about what else may be done to solve the bug, it’s a team game. Doesn’t matter who solves the bug, in the end, everyone has learned something new.
- Try possibilities — Whatever you come across, try to put in work, maybe it’ll help. Constantly, keep trying to solve the bug. I understand your frustrations, but we’re trying to help you only.
4. YAY! It’s solved.
A hearty congratulations. (:
“Wait, where are you going?” Just because it is solved, doesn’t mean it’s over.
- Show gratitude — Someone who is neither your acquaintance nor your friend has put in efforts and time which would have been otherwise used more efficiently had it not been for your nasty bug. Respect them. Heartfully thank them for helping you out.
- Let others know it’s solved — As soon as you solve it, let everyone know it is solved, and thank those who tried too, maybe their solution was not apt, but they have put in their time too. There’s a possibility that you have asked in multiple forums, go to each one of them and post about you getting the solution. If possible, provide the solution that worked for you.
And now, the most important of steps
5. Pay it Forward
You have learned something new out of your chaotic day solving your nasty bug. Understand that you’re not the first, nor you will be the last. Whatever you have learned out of this chaos, put them in words, a blog, a LinkedIn article or a simple tweet should suffice for this.
Try to help the next person who faces the same grave error as you did, it’ll save their time and solidify your knowledge of the concept which revolved around the bug.
As it is said in philosophical language
“Pay it forward”
And that’s it, if you’ve stuck around till now, you have mastered the art of asking for help.
As I’ve said, pay it forward, share this article with someone who has just started to code.
Over to you. Share your funniest encounter with us developers' mortal enemy, “Bugs".