I was developing some personal .NET projects when I faced some problems. Probably they are usual problems during a .NET development, but I had to ask some questions on the .NET Community. Where could I ask some .NET questions?
First place I looked for was TechCommunity. However, to my surprise, TechCommunity doesn’t have a hub dedicated to .NET. It would be great if we could use TechCommunity as a place for .NET community as well.
My second attempt was Stack Overflow. Sometimes, Stack Overflow works. However, many times it can be frustrating.
In my case, my question was closed with an unjustified explanation. What would happen if I had no other place to ask the question? Imagine the frustration of someone with the work blocked by this?
In my humble opinion, Stack Overflow tries to be two different things at once: A forum for questions and replies and a huge database for technical information. The site uses a lot of gamefication techniques to achieve this, offering badges to everyone able to edit and moderate questions.
Stack Overflow is so concerned about the quality of the questions that it lost the work as a forum. It’s difficult to exchange comments and ideas to reach the final problem as we would expect in a regular forum. Some of the rules for a good question are very correct, but you can’t reach a good question without some amount of back-and-forth messages.
Of course, each one of use may have different experiences not only on Stack Overflow but on every forum
Rules for a Good Question
Let’s analyse some rules for a good question.
The question should include steps to reproduce the problem.
This is one rule enforced by Stack Overflow. There is no doubt that a question which include steps to reproduce the problem is a good question. Clear steps to reproduce, sometimes a sample code to reproduce as well.
However, this is only one kind of good question. There are other questions where the user is not able to reproduce the behavior. In many situations, the user can’t provide reproduction steps and he only expects to find someone who faced the same challenges. As long the user follow other good practices to build questions, the question will still be completely valid.
Include the error message and details about the error message
The exactly error message is essential to understand what’s happening. A terrible question would be a question including only “I have an error” or “It’s not working” but without any more details. Even if we can’t reproduce the question, it should include the precise error message and the piece of code/execution that’s causing the error message.
Is the error caused by intellisense? Does the error appear only during build ? All this information is essential for the question.
Some people may argue these are not good questions because they are not reproducible. However, some questions are not intended to be reproduced, they are only intended to find people who had similar experiences and can provide some steps as a guidance to find further clues and solve the question.
That’s exactly the benefit of a flexible forum: These questions need some exchange, small question an answers before reaching the final result and that’s perfectly normal.
Always google your question first
It’s very unpolite to use a forum as your first choice. You should first google your question, focusing on the error message and the line causing the error may take you directly to many option to solve your problem.
The question should include all the attempts you made to solve the problem.
Your google search will provide many clues about the problem and some suggestions for solution. You may test each possible solution and provide a detailed result explaining why the solution didn’t work, including what changed after these attempts.
By doing so, anyone trying to help you will be understand the differences between your problem and other similar problems and why the usual solutions haven’t work.
The questions need to be specific.
Things like “How do I build a Power BI Dashboard?”, “How do I connect to a SQL Database” or “How to create a facebook app” are impossible to reply and very frustrating to serious forum contributors. Don’t be the kind of guy who ask these questions.
If you have these questions, google them. You will find so many results you will be able to proceed with your task and forget about the forum until you have a detailed question for the forum.
Forums and Places for Help
Using private channels I asked about what options are being used by .NET developers to interact and ask questions. Here are the options I received:
I confess I still feel more comfortable with online forums instead of applications such as discord or slack, but this is a matter to adapt myself to a new world.
We have new .NET communities to interact with and although they may be very welcoming, we are still obliged to make the better effort to write a good question and in this way receive a valid answer.