Top 10 Tips To Getting Help With Silverlight

Here are 10 tips on getting your Silverlight and Windows Phone questions answerediStock_ Shrugging Man Medium quickly and painlessly.


#1 – Check The Source, Luke

Come to know and love your debugger. Learn all you can about best debugging techniques. Every minute invested in learning to debug well will pay off in hours of saved time.   Before you ask a question, be sure you’ve eliminated anything obvious.

#2 – Bing!

In recent months I’ve found that 90%+ of my questions can be answered with one or two Bing searches.  http://tinyurl.com/37f2t6d 

#3 – Use The Forums

The single best place to get your questions answered are the Silverlight Forums.

(Now, I know that forums are often a company’s way of saving money on customer service, but the dev team and the Community PM’s & Evangelists monitor these forums carefully, so it really is a lot quicker than sending email.)

#4 – Create A Question That Is Likely To Be Answered

Pose your question as briefly and clearly as you can and give your question a great subject line so folks who know the answer are likely to respond.

#5 Summarize the Question In The Subject Line

Most folks are more likely to open a question with the topic “How Do I sort a column in a datagrid” than one with the topic “Help, Urgent!” even though the latter may, in fact, be more urgent

#6 Be Brief

The shorter your message and easier it is to read, the more likely you are to get an answer. Don’t make the people who want to help you work harder than necessary.

#7 Write Down the Exact Message

It is far easier to help someone if they say “The second time I click on the button I get a an exception saying that I’ve tried to access a null object,” than it is to help someone who writes “Sometimes my program blows up and I get an error.”

#8 Provide An Example

The single most effective thing you can do to get help is to write the smallest and simplest example that shows the problem. It should be so small it fits cleanly into your message – not as an attachment (many folks are reluctant to open attachments). It should do only one thing, and that is illustrate the problem, and it should be self-revealing.

#9 Follow Up

Didn’t get an answer after a few days? Try reforming the question or changing the subject line to make it more clear or to appeal to the right expertise.

#10 Write To Me

If after a few more days you still have no answer, drop me an email detailing what happened with the forum (ideally provide links to your messages). I’ll follow up either personally or by making sure the right folks see and respond to your question as quickly as I can.

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About Jesse Liberty

Jesse Liberty is an independent consultant and programmer with three decades of experience writing and delivering software projects. He is the author of 2 dozen books and multiple Pluralsight courses, and has been a Senior Technical Evangelist for Microsoft, a Distinguished Software Engineer for AT&T, a VP for Information Services for Citibank and a Software Architect for PBS. He is a Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer and a Xamarin MVP, Microsoft MVP and Telerik MVP.
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9 Responses to Top 10 Tips To Getting Help With Silverlight

  1. Rizwan says:

    Normally, I type my question on Bing…if there is a solution for that particular problem, I got the answer from there….!!! and yes offcourse-JesseLiberty’s Blog is another source.

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  3. Jason P Sage says:

    I personally can not stand Experts Exchange – not because of quality – I’ll give you that – in a pinch – I’ll jump through the hoops if they are the only answer looking like a potential winner…. but as much as I don’t mind buying software (often enjoy it – a good game etc) I can not even understand why really… but the you have a question I have an answer if you pay now thing – just drives me crazy; Microsoft at least had their (textual) help resources free all along! (just an opinion thing though – they obviously aren’t BAD because they have a pay forum)

  4. Jason P Sage says:

    @Just Me
    No… It’s not Just You… Me too… I agree with you – this article having SilverLight in the title was probably more of a “look at me” thing than a “contextual” one… but… without shame I do declare I ALMOST didn’t open this article BECAUSE it said SILVERLIGHT…. but I’m glad I came anyway – this is a great article to give to every moron who asks questions… not a question here or there.. but those OTHERfolks who call you or IM you for stuff that this article outlines clearly early on:

    MOST PROBLEMS CAN BE SOLVED WITH GOOGLE
    IF YOU CAN’T SOLVE THE PROBLEM WITH GOOGLE – You might have a valid question for your brethren. Do them a favor; ask “Are you in deep?” before asking the question. Failure to do so will result in 100% annoyed response involuntarily: even when I’m trying its perceptable… Why? its RUDE… All the more to a developer or anyone else in deep thought you completely rattle with an interruption like… “What’s Tom’s number? – I didn’t want to look in CRM.” <—Kill Kill Kill Kill

    I literally saw a situation this week where a developer sat in a GotoMeeting for 40 minutes waiting for the client to join. I asked why because… well.. I mean I was like … did you call the client?, "no, I don't have their number" I asked if he checked CRM…..You know the response…

    If it wasn't in the CRM shame on me… If this article is about Silverlight… Shame on me…

    Also – ODD as it may sound to some of the new jacks – General Programming is an actual programming paradigm…which is cool – but – I wish it had another name – because this is the one topic I can think of where putting the term "general" and "Your Trade Here" means something other than "Your Trade Here" would otherwise… at least to the technically correct (always trying to be) diehards or old goats…. (little of this maybe too)…..

    In my opinion:

    For "Programming in General" This article is very well written for both newbies and review by those more seasoned.

    Great Job on the content!

  5. Holger says:

    @Drazen Dotlic
    Drazen,

    the “do their homework” thingy is also obvious on codeproject.com, esp. in “Question and Answers”. Sometimes I have to ask myself what the writer thinks when adding something that would be more sufficent to add in a search machine as the result would come to him immediately instead of waiting for an answer in a forum. This is simply impertinent.

    That overall makes it harder to stay motivated on answering/ helping.

  6. Holger says:

    Hi Jesse,

    did you recognize that 6 of 10 of your hints are about how one should write a message in a forum? Is the quality of the messages in forums that bad?

    Also I would find it helpful if there were some links how to debug silverlight (short google search, okay for you it’s bing I guess that doesn’t matter):
    http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc838267%28v=vs.95%29.aspx
    http://blog.ningzhang.org/2008/12/silverlight-debugging-with-visual.html

    One thing I want to suggest: I recently had some issues with the ValidationSummaryControl in combination with the TabControl. There are some issues with that combination due to TabControl loads the content of not visible tab items on demand. In that environment it would be really helpful to see what is done behind the scenes.

    Also if MS somewhere would add that information and how to get around it. It costed a lot of time to realize that there is not sufficient solution for that. Coming from asp.net/ winforms, it is pretty annoying that a lot of things in Silverlight do feel incomplete and getting information is – sorry to say – not only an issue about your suggestions above.

    But thanks for #10. I’ll get in touch with you certainly, the next issue with Silverlight is guaranteed to come 🙂

    Regards

    Holger

    • Your point is well taken, but the information on how to ask a good question on the forums is also about how to ask a good question anywhere (StackOverflow, etc.). Your links are a great start, and I’ll try to put together a good posting on lots of similar sources.

  7. Just Me says:

    Isn’t the actually valid for general programming ??

  8. You forgot number 0:
    #0 Post your question on Stack Overflow

    While despite voting mechanisms and other “peer pressure” methods SO has a fair share of idiots who want us to do their “homework” for them, for each moron there is a 10 honest-to-God developers who know how to explain their problem, including the steps they’ve tried but still can’t find the answer elsewhere.

    The quality of answers is MUCH higher than SL forums or any other forums for that matter, notably due to the voting system.

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