Help and be nice

Those of us who work in the web community are constantly learning. New technologies, techniques, plugins, etc. appear every day, some we ignore others we dive into. As well as official documentation we also rely on the articles, blog posts and coding examples of others to help us get up to speed. When talking about and responding to such writings we should always remember something important: be nice.

I, and I’m sure many of you, frequently search the web for articles and tutorials on how to quickly achieve a task in some new technology or even something that’s simply new to you. We heavily rely on someone else bringing us up to speed and we should be appreciative of people who write such things. We ourselves should be encouraged to write about our findings in the hope that it will help someone else, by either providing them with an instant solution to what they seek or at least pointing them in the right direction.

After reading someone’s article or tutorial you might still need a bit of help and you may decide to contact the article author. I encourage this. I sometimes get people contacting me via Twitter or email requesting clarification on certain posts.

To me, this is good. I am happy to help.

However when asking for such help it’s important to be nice and I recently had a request that was anything but.

Earlier this week I received an email asking for some help in relation to a post I wrote back in on JavaScript and multiple .NET user controls. Back then I was actively using .NET and wrote this particular post in order to perhaps help others with a specific problem I was having.

The emailed request was quite straight forward, I read your post, I have a related issue, here’s my code, can you help? No problem there. I replied in the negative, that due to the fact that I no longer use .NET and have no environment set up to even test anything, I wouldn’t be best placed to assist. I received this as a reply:

Thanks for you[sic] reply. I know it’s not your liability but please take that blog offline because I wasted half of my day thinking you knew what you were talking about. Once again, it will be a favor to others.

Suddenly I’m being accused of causing this person to waste half a day because I apparently don’t know what I’m talking about.

I’ll admit that I was quite angry and responded as such, thus breaking my own rule about “being nice,” which was wrong of me. The reply which followed contained the following:

But you still have an incomplete/invalid (without solution limitations) out there. You have your name on it. It questions web content legitimacy that’s all.

Now I take issue with this also. The solution is not incomplete or invalid as it solves the issue it says it solves in when I needed it. There is a date on the post so this should be taken into account, as with all blog posts and articles. I have no problem at all with having my name on it.

As for questioning web content legitimacy, we are all aware there are many many web technology articles out there that are outdated and contain old and invalid information as things change all the time (e.g. HTML5 and FlexBox) but does that mean we should delete them and allow Google links to 404? Personally I think not.

I asked the emailer if he/she would write a own blog post with his/her solution (as he/she said they solved the issue at hand – possibly based on my blog post – this remains unclear):

May be[sic] I will be one day. When I will be good and ready and have a worthy solution after careful consideration.

Which is a shame, as I would happily link to this post if it was written from my post with the intention of aiding others who may have the same problem.

I write articles, posts and tutorials in order to help others. They won’t help everyone but this is not their aim. Sometimes when reading someone else’s post I get an “aha!” moment and realise what I need to do. Then I usually write about it in the hope that others will have the same.

We write to help and are happy to be asked for help. But we BOTH need to be nice. I failed here and will learn from it. I hope the emailer in question will too.