Dorward's Ramblings

Getting HTML Help On IRC

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This is a set of guidelines designed to allow you to get help on IRC as quickly as possibly while irritating the least number of people. While this document is HTML specific, most of the principles can be applied to other topics.

You can usually find me on the #web channel on Freenode.

Some questions get asked time and time again. Answering them over and over gets tiresome. Rather then waste people's time, read the FAQ.

Use a machine to identify problems before turning to people

A lot of problems are caused by syntax errors, they can be found using automated techniques. Make use of them before asking people to help you find what you did wrong. Mark has a better explanation as to why you should validate.

Make it easy for people to help you

The more effort people have to make to solve your problem the less likely they will do it. Reduce the amount of work they have to do as much as possible.

Most of the suggestions on this page are specific examples of this.

Get to the point

If you have a question, please just ask it. Do not look for topic experts. Be Specific, Informative, Complete, Concise, and On-topic.

Do not ask Can I ask a question?, Can anyone help?, or Does anybody use/know about foo?.

This comes under making it easy, don't make people work to find out what your question is.

Don't address a specific person

If you are asking a general question, don't address it to a specific person. Its quite possible that someone else in the channel has a better answer then the person you guess might be able to help you.


Respond to a person, not to the channel

If you are responding to something that someone else has said, address that person directly. It is more likely to be noticed.

Use the accepted standard (otherwise they might not notice). The standard is the users nick, followed by a colon (:), followed by a space and the response. (Be careful to spell their nick correctly, it is on the screen in front of you and most IRC clients have some form of (usually tab-based) nick completion built in, so misspelling is quite likely to offend.)

IRC is not a helpdesk

It is unlikely that anybody helping you is being paid to do so. Don't be demanding or insulting, even if you don't like the answers you are given.

It belongs in the channel

If its on topic, then it should be in the channel so that other people can benefit. If it is not on topic then it may be appropriate to move to /msg or another channel. Ask permission in channel from a user before you /msg them.

Context is important

Most problems involving code that is not working properly are easiest to troubleshoot with access to the complete code in context. Before asking why something does not work, make it publicly available over the web, then you will be able to give a URL.

When dealing with client side code (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc) a real URL is much better then a pastebin. With a real URL people can quickly run tests on it without having to copy the data into a document of their own. So help them to help you and don't use a pastebin for client side code.