Asking Questions

For some unexplained reason it’s hard for some developers to ask for help. There seems to be this unspoken stipulation that asking for help shows that you might know less than the other person. This might come off as a bit of a rant, I just want to explain some strategies that I’ve learnt that will help you interact with others.

Always Be Interested

First off, whenever you can, try and learn something from someone else. This means when talking to another developer, if you get the chance, try and ask them what they’re currently working on, and what kinds of development issues they encounter and overcome on a regular basis.

I’ve found that when I talk to new people, I try to be as interested in what they’re currently working on as possible, if they’re okay with talking about it. I feel as if I have managed to bypass this whole concern over not knowing something, and I’m willing to just sit and listen to all of the pieces of information I would otherwise miss out on.

This has led to a ruby developer explaining the ins and outs of a C powered web framework to me, a python fanatic explaining list comprehension to me, and also absorbing much more information from my tutors. I realised early on while at university that the tutors are smarter than me. Weird thought for some, but pretty obvious once you give them a chance to help you.

Right Kind Of Answers

Some people think solutions are answers. They solve the problem but they don’t always bridge the gap in your mental model of how things are working. I started noticing this on some online code chat rooms where some people just getting started with code would ask for solutions to problems they were having, just to have a fellow helper provide the exact solution to the problem.

I’ve questioned a few of these people and some believe that you just need to see the final code to understand how the solution works. I would argue that sometimes you just need to work through the problem yourself, with a few hints given. You have to really understand how the solution solves the problem to further yourself as a developer. Arguably it is hard to help people over text with their coding problem without giving too much away, but at the same time there is room to leave a few things for the questioner to work out for themselves.


This is a short post, I just wanted to put some thoughts out there on how people usually ask for help and ways to approach giving help to others. Hopefully this can help some people and make you feel better about approaching other developers, because we’re all out there together trying to understand a lot of different concepts. Most of all if you don’t know how something works, just ask.

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