If you want help, start by helping yourself

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 24, 2005, 8:32 PM | comments: 7

I got an IM today from a guy trying to get POP Forums to work. At first he was just asking if I had the Visual Studio solution file to give him. I insisted he tell me what the problem was first, and after some coaxing, I finally got him to tell me about the error he was getting. One class or another was defined in more than one place, so I knew he obviously had the compiled assembly in there along side of the one he was compiling. Rookie mistake, no big deal. Everyone made it at one time or another.

Then nothing would happen, he'd only get empty UI. He again started asking me for a solution file. He was being persistant and kind of rude, but I told him to ditch the autoeventwireup="false" from the page, as I knew that was the problem. Again, rookie mistake, but also one mentioned in the readme.

Next he started getting an "object reference not set to an instance..." or something like that. I told him to fire up the debugger and see where it was happening. In the back of my mind, I think I already knew it was a missing element in web.config, but again he wanted me to do the work for him, and running the debugger wasn't an option for him. Maybe he didn't know how. Beats me.

Regardless, he then began telling me my install instructions suck and I have no pride in my product and whatever. What good is it if no one can use it, etc. I was more than a little taken aback, considering he got the code for free. I'll be the first to admit it's not something flawless, but a little basic ASP.NET knowledge should get you up and running pretty quickly. I get enough e-mail from people using it that thought install went pretty smooth, so I'm not inclined to think it's a lost cause.

I politely told him that he had a funny way of asking for help and that I was done talking to him.

As someone who has done a fair amount of training for other developers, even at the introductory level, I have a fair amount of patience for people who don't quite get it. Heck, that's why I wrote my book. However, the "teach a person to fish" metaphor certainly applies, and it's one I stick by. I've forged some really good relationships with people that want to learn and help themselves. I have literal tolerance for people that don't want to do the work though.

Anyway, speaking of the book, it looks like it will start shipping in less than two weeks, ready to ship to distributors on or around March 3. I'm really excited, as it will provide some much needed motivation and confidence. Please buy it. Tell a friend. :)


redman_822, February 25, 2005, 4:30 AM #

You'd have a better chance of us buying it and telling a friend if you told us the name of the book and where we can find it... ;) (I just searched Amazon for "Jeff Putz" and nothing was found.)

FreewheelinJoe, February 25, 2005, 6:09 AM #

Having run POP Forums since version 4, including some potentially tricky upgrades, I can honestly say there's nothing wrong with your installation instructions.

People seem to want everything done for them these days. I've dealt with my fair share of it whenever one of my IST classes would require people to code. I'm more than willing to offer my help to people, but some people become too dependent too quickly. For instance, don't ask me what's wrong with your program when it's throwing a ClassNotFoundException.

Anyway, I'll definitely be picking up the book. ;)

CPLady, February 25, 2005, 12:58 PM #

People do not read, especially young people, it appears.

My example is much simpler. I send a letter to students that provides their uniqname and password, and explain the two passwords utilized, both A2's and Dearborn's. In a bolded and highlighted sentence they are told "both passwords are initially set to be the same" with the uniqname and password listed below that.

The are given instructions for using the email system and instructions for resetting both passwords--step by step instructions.

I can't tell you how many call or come to me not realizing they have two passwords and don't know how to use the email system.

I spent 20 minutes on the phone with one student who had the letter and the other documentation in her hand and said she got a letter but didn't know what her uniqname and password was, and wondered how you use the email system.

For every question, I told her where the answer was in the letter and documentation. If she'd simply read the frickin' stuff she wouldn't have wasted 20 minutes of my time.

freeze, February 25, 2005, 6:11 PM #

Lookin' good!!!

Congrats, I'm happy for you. I'll pick up the book to have it signed by the Pizz-nasty.

I would be lying if I said I'd use the book, but I'll try my damnest to read AND understand it. I'm on that below-introductory level type of guys, like "what does ASP and NET stand for?"

Dennis, February 25, 2005, 9:42 PM #

Catchy title! ;)

coasterguts, February 28, 2005, 4:36 PM #

The fact this book is published by Addison Wesley is a big plus and gives you instant credibility and shows you are a master of the subject. Good Work! Addison Wesley is known for producing quality technical books, I expect this book will be a five star book in no time.

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