Online experiment #1 – Getting programming help

Saturday

Last Saturday I was getting my daily dose of JavaScript (and TypeScript) when I noticed that a post kept repeating itself in the SERPs, appearing on different programming forums: CodingForums, Dev Shed, Digital Point, SitePoint.

As far as I can tell, forums have not been the most lively places lately. All the new social media waves, the popularity of StackOverflow, have changed the landscape considerably.

So it got me thinking. Which one would be the place where one would get its problem solved fastest?

New helpers – Reputation system and social media

And so I took it upon myself to post the question over at the StackOverflow on his behalf (it seems that our user got used to ask his questions only on forums).

StackOverflow folks reacted pretty fast (even though it’s Saturday at the time of my posting). They didn’t provide with an answer, but the original post got edited pretty quick, properly marking some coding parts in the post text.

On StackOverflow you can propagate a post to Google+ or Twitter. And so I did.

Sunday

The number of views for the post is somewhere between 30 and 130, though is not something I would swear by.

Most views seem to be on SitePoint (130), followed by CodingForums (115). Dev Shed displays 82 views while Digital Point shows 60 views. StackOverflow says I’m in for 35 views.

Dev Shed forums finally got something moving, in terms of responses. CodingForums and Digital Point users are quiet. SitePoint folks are asking for clarifications. StackOverflow has nothing for me yet.

Google+ seemed OK for me to include as a possibility to get help, but it has nothing going on for me so far. I didn’t consider Facebook to be a viable venue in this case. Twitter seems also like the wrong place for this kind of stuff, I twitted it only because it might speed things up over at the StackOverflow.

Up the ante – More forums, please

Things are quiet, the user, even with my help, didn’t receive a definitive solution.

And so I took it to the next step. I did a quick search on javascript programming forums and I randomly added the question on a few other forums: ProgrammersHeaven, NeoWin, DreamInCode, Codecademy.

This time too, some forums seem to be more helpful than others. DreamInCode got a pretty quick reaction, the rest of the forums and places are still waters.

Help struggle

Even though it’s Monday now, judging by the answers the user (and I) got so far, there seem to be some other factors slowing the process of getting a resolve on the problem.

First off, the problem seems more like a homework request, or a request from someone not bothering too much with actually learning programming. This is a huge put off.

Then, the post lacks in clarity and conviction. Narrative style and indecisive tone are not the most appealing ways of presenting a problem.

If somebody was to help you, don’t make them guess, show them they’re not wasting their time and don’t make them feel like you’re using them or playing them.

Forums tend to blur the lines and seniority or post count may be mistaken for skills.

On StackOverflow, unlike with the forums, the reputation system is true to its nature. One either has the skills to help or not.

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