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How to ask questions on the phpbuilder board

By Roel
on March 14, 2001

How to post a question to phpbuilder.com forums (and other forums, as well)

Roel – [email protected] – 20000213

I have spend some amount of time today answering some questions on the
phpbuilder.com forum. It seems that most questions there, like on most
‘general purpose’ webboards and mailing lists, are from people who are
relatively new to php, some even new to programming at all. This is
ofcourse not a problem, these boards exist to help people solve their
problems, and not only very complicated/advanced problems. However, I
couldn’t help but noticing that most of these questions are much harder
to answer then the more ‘advanced’ questions. How is that, you ask? Well,
because they are asked in a completely wrong way. Therefore, I have
decided to put together some guidelines to help people getting faster,
better and more appropriate answers to their questions.

1-) Choose a clear title for you question.

The subject line is the first thing people will see when they load
the forums page. You have to remember that people’s time is limited;
if they do not understand what you’re asking about by just reading
the subject, they might not take the time to click on the link and
read further. I have seen quite a few subjects like ‘HELP!!!’,
‘Newbie question’, and ‘php question’. Well sorry, but duh, all
people posting are looking for help and have a question about php,
and the newbie thing is not very relevant either. So try to describe
what your question is about, without details: ‘Security/Cookies’,
‘multiple picture upload’, ‘cookies won’t die’ are good examples.
By reading this, people can tell ‘ah this about a subject that I
know about’ or ‘i’ve never heard of that function before, so I won’t
waste my time reading the question.’

2-) Describe your application and what you are trying to do.

It might seem a lot of work, typing in 5 whole sentences to describe
what you are actually trying to achieve, but it will help people
reading your question to form an image of the sort of application
you’re building, why you make certain design decisions etc. Don’t
make this too long either ofcourse; be brief and precise.

3-) Describe what the problem is and what troubleshooting steps you have

If you get any error messages, copy and paste them into your posting,
and don’t say ‘it says it can’t find it’ or ‘it won’t work after
that’. Check your error logs, both the php error log and the apache
error log. Include relevant parts in your posting. Also shortly
describe what you have already tried – ‘I tried using this-and-that
function instead, but I had the same problem’, ‘I have changed
permesssions on that file, but php still says ‘Can’t read file’.

3-) Don’t use leet speak.

‘if ur tryin’ 2 b short, ur text is hard to read’. Please use normal
english like you learned it in school. If your mother tongue is not
english and you don’t know a certain word, try to construct your
sentence different with words that you know.

4-) Reread before you post.

Before you hit that ‘send’ button, reread your text and put yourself
in the shoes of someone who has never heard about you or your
program, who just happens to be surfing phpbuilder.com a bit and who
accidentaly stumbles upon your question. Would you understand it if
you would read something like this? Also check for spelling errors
and typos. Everyone knows what you mean, but it doesn’t look good.
Take some time for your post, you’ve probably already spend hours
solving this problem – those 5 minutes to rethink your post won’t
make the difference, and they might actually help you to get a
better reply and thus solving your problem earlier.

5-) Do not tell how important your question is.

DEPENDS ON IT.’ Everyone thinks their problem is the most important,
and quity frankly, if your job depends on an answer that you may or
may not get from a complete stranger on some anonymous webboard,
you shouldn’t have that job in the first place.

6-) Search the archive and articles

It is surprising how many times the same question come up. Please,
use the ‘search’ box on the left, and browse through the results.
It is likely someone else had your problem before, you can save
yourself (and others!) a lot of time by reading those answers first.

NOTE TO EDITOR: I’m not sure if this next thing is possible on phpbuilder.com. If
not, please implement it 🙂 and delete this block.

7-) Put code in < pre > tags.

Make it easy for people to read your code. Use < pre >< /pre > and
indent your code properly. Use clear variables, and do all the nice
clean programming things you should do anyway.

In short, all these things come down to the same thing: use some common
sense, and try to be short yet complete. Happy posting 😉