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If you want help, start by helping yourself

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. :)
Posted: Feb 24 2005, 07:57 PM by Jeff | with 1 comment(s)
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Comments

Humbugs said:

These types really annoy me too. I'm a very helpful person and always very patient even with the little things, but I get bothered by people who just refuse to discover the causes of their errors. You can tell these are non-programmer types who are forced to code.
# February 24, 2005 10:08 PM
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