Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Stackoverflow : How to treat newbies

Joel Spolsky is writing a series of articles on the evolution of stackoverflow.

Part of this is the treatment of newbies; in particular the arrogant treatment of people who genuinely need an answer but don't know how to ask the question.

Jon Skeet wrote an excellent post on how to ask a question.

The problem arises when they don't know enough to do that.

e.g. "My boss tells me that I need to convert my ASP.NET Membership application to SAML 2.0. I've googled SAML for a whole day and am hopelessly confused".

Now, the standard response on stackoverflow is to close this - too broad - not focused - not a programming question.

All of which is true and this question could also go on serverfault.

But that doesn't help the newbie.

My approach is to say something like:

"OK - you need a SAML stack on the client side. Here's a list of SAML clients, Find one that fits your requirements (language, cost etc.) and read the documentation and samples".

Then I ask what IDP they plan to use?

And depending on that, I may have some more suggestions or links to a good post.

The outcome is that the newbie has something concrete to go on.

(I leave the admin. to other people).

In fact, that's how this blog originally started.

I was answering the same question again and again and so I answered the question in the blog and then posted the link. Major time saving.

The other point is that I can't do their job for them. All I can do is point them in the right direction.

The comments section in stackoverflow is for further questions.