As a Developer it can be very easy for you to turn to Stack Overflow to solve your problems, but sometimes the answer isn't there or the answers don't apply to you? Maybe you have to solve this one yourself.

Ok, so you've been trying to solve this one yourself and you just can't do it. You've ran out of ideas and no one around you knows the answer. You've searched online for the answer, but everything you find is either wrong or doesn't apply to your situation.

What should you do?

The best thing you can do is try to write out a detailed question to ask online. My particular scenario was for a problem I had with Umbraco. I had been struggling for a while with this issue and I decided it was time to ask someone.

At first I thought "oh I will just ask in the slack group", but then I thought, "No there are more people on the forum who could help, and if my problem gets solved then other people can read the solution, rather than it getting lost in the archive of a slack channel."

So I started to write out a detailed question. I wanted to make it clear to the person taking their time to read this, what the problem was that I was experiencing. Explain the context of what I was doing, and describe what I wanted to achieve.

Tell them everything you have tried already

I needed to let them know what I had tried so far, so they don't waste their time making suggestions of what I could try. This was the key part for me. By writing down everything I had already tried, it made me try them all again to be sure.

Because I was writing it down, it made me think of all sorts of scenarios and edge cases I could try, and eventually by testing these things out as I wrote them, I found a way which I thought I had tried before, but hadn't actually done. It was a slight change to something I had tried out. This led me to solving the problem myself.

The moral of the story

Try everything you can think of first, before you ask for help

Write down what you have already tried, to save time for the reader of the question

Test out the things that you have written down, before you submit the question

And finally

Now that I have solved the problem, I don't need to actually submit the question. That means people won't see me asking the question and they won't see the answer.

So the best thing to do in this scenario is to either post the question anyway and follow it up with your own answer, or to publish your findings as a blog post.

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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