Tips for posting in the Wrox Forums

I am an active contributor to the Wrox P2P forums, where I support readers of my books and other programmers that go there with programming related questions. I try to answer as many questions as I can but I only have a limited amount of time. This means I'll give preference to questions that are the easiest to answer. This is not related to the technical difficulty of the problem discussed, but to the quality of the question. Obviously, if you post a clear and concise question, you increase your chances of getting a useful and quick reply as it takes less time to understand the question and come up with an answer. Unfortunately, I see more and more people posting vague questions, and posting them in the wrong category. To avoid typing the same response over and over again asking for clarification, I decided to write a short blog post with a few tips for proper questions in these forums where I can refer to when unclear questions come up. If you get sent to this page, it's not that people don't want to help you; it's that they can't help you because the question is unclear or posted in an inappropriate location. Follow these tips and you'll improve the chances of getting the answer you're waiting for.

Choose an appropriate forum

If your question is about a specific book, post your message in that book's forum. If the question is not directly related to a book, choose a general forum for the technology your question is about. For example, if you have a question directly related to the book Beginning ASP.NET 4 in C# and VB, choose the forum BOOK: Beginning ASP.NET 4 : in C# and VB. For general question about ASP.NET 4, choose ASP.NET 4 General Discussion. Other books and technologies follow a similar pattern.

You can find the forum for your book on the main forum list, or from the book's details page which you can find using the book list page. Here you can search for your book by its title, author or ISBN number.

Specify chapter and page number and other relevant details

When you post a question about a book, please specify both the chapter number and the page number, if available. This makes it easier for an author to look up the stuff you're talking about in digital versions of the book, or in source code. Additionally, provide other relevant information such as "Try It Out Exercise, step 4". "I have a problem with chapter 12" makes it time-consuming to find the relevant part of that chapter you're talking about. Likewise, "on page 236 I run into problem XYZ" makes it difficult to find the associated source for that chapter. Specifying both makes these things a lot easier.

Post relevant code

This sounds obvious, but I see many questions about code without code examples. The typical response you get to questions like these is often "can you please post the relevant code" which just delays your answer, or you may get the following:

>> The error is on line 11
> How do you know? I didn't post any code

In other words, we can't say anything useful about your code if we don't see your code.

Make your code easy to read

Don't just copy and paste code from your editor but spend some time to make it more readable. It's in your own interest that the reader of your message can easily understand and read what you've posted. Due to an annoying bug in the forum's post editor, code pasted from Visual Studio gets screwed up if you don't remove the formatting first. To post readable code, try this:

  • Paste the code in a Notepad document and then copy it from there. This removes all color coding.
  • Paste the code in the forum's post editor, select it and click the Remove Text Formatting button on the toolbar
  • Wrap the code in a pair of [code] tags by clicking the Wrap Code button (with the # symbol on it). This ensures that code is not mangled when displayed and keeps stuff as spacing and line breaks as you post them.

Post relevant code only when possible

When you have a question about a button's click handler, post only the code relevant to the button. There's often no need to post the complete HTML for the page including embedded CSS and JavaScript and what more. If more code is needed, you can always post a follow up message with the relevant code.

Ask relevant questions

Just before you hit the Submit button on your post, look back and see if your question makes sense. More often than not, people reading your question don't have the book or source code you're talking about. This means you need to provide detailed information about the problem so it can be understood by people unfamiliar with what you are working on.

Be concise

Try to describe the problem and any behavior you witness as detailed as possible. "I am getting an error" or "When I apply that attribute it doesn't take" provide no meaningful context. Explain what "doesn't take" mean in your case, and post the exact error message and stack trace when available.

Check your spelling

Don't use MSN speak, but try to write in plain English. "i wnt 2 knw" does *not* mean "I want to know"; all it does is show you're too lazy to type. Readers of your post will think you're lazy in general, think you may have not researched your own topic, and will generally ignore the question.

Where to Next?

Wonder where to go next? You can read existing comments below or you can post a comment yourself on this article.

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Written by Imar Spaanjaars
Date Posted 08/16/2010 11:06

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