We all need help at times, but sometimes we ask for help too soon, or we just find it hard to ask for help

In this post I give you my opinions and experience about when I think you should ask for help and with a checklist of things you can do first before you do ask for help.

1. Debug

Please don't ask for help before you have tried to debug it yourself.

2. Check the logs

Check the application logs, web logs or even the System Event logs.

3. Isolate the code

Can you isolate the code and write a unit test for it? This will make fixing it a lot easier, because it makes testing it much quicker, and you don't have the overheads of an application needing to run, just to test a certain piece of code.

4. Google the error

Don't ask for help without googling the error yourself. You don't want the person to send you a 'Let Me Google That For You' link. Google is your friend, you should know how to use Google effectively to help you solve problems. Other people will have experienced the same problem and asked a question on sites like Stack Overflow or the ASP.NET forums. Make sure you search for the exact error message without your environment specific details. Look for recent results, and don't just copy and paste the code from somewhere unless you understand what it is doing. It is important that you understand what the problem was and how they solved it.

5. Find an example

Usually if you are struggling with something, you might find that the problem has already been solved in a different part of the application, or in a different application which you have the code for. Try looking for such examples to help you get through it without help.

Now you can ask for help

If you've done all of the above and you still need help then go ahead and ask. At least when you ask you won't come across as too lazy or inexperienced to try and solve it yourself.

If you work on your own or remotely and you have no one around to ask. Then isolate the code into a simple example console application or something and write a question on one of the helpful forums like Stack Overflow. All of the research you did above will help you write a good question so you don't get shot down.

Paul Seal

Umbraco MVP and .NET Web Developer from Derby (UK) who specialises in building Content Management System (CMS) websites using MVC with Umbraco as a framework. Paul is passionate about web development and programming as a whole. Apart from when he's with his wife and son, if he's not writing code, he's thinking about it or listening to a podcast about it.

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