Admittedly, this is a slippery slope, but unless this site is only for Developers, the likelihood of "How can I..." questions is quite high. I'm not sure that there has been a lot of consideration for non-technical users and their questions - is the site intended to house answers for non-developer Joomla users at all?

Even as a developer of 35+ years, I've been faced with no idea how to jump into something, and have been berated when asking an abstract question without having tried something yet. Any thoughts on how these kinds of users and their questions will be received?

  • 1
    I think that a search is mandatory before posting a question, and then trying something. The main objective of that expression ("what have you tried") is to prevent users to come here and expect a quick answer without any effort, so I say we honour it. – jackJoe Apr 24 '14 at 13:40
  • Are you concerned about people asking "What have you tried to do X?" or people answering "Have you tried X to solve your problem?"? – Andrew Eddie Apr 27 '14 at 23:11
  • There is likely to be a great many more general questions because there will be great many more non-technical users for the site. Unlike programming questions on SO, where the typical question comes from a programmer type, we're bound to see many more "how do I...". Are we enforcing programmer-esque standards? Joomla is an application, not a development tool, so I think this warrants some thought. But more importantly, the tone of responding - will we alienate non-programmers, or will this truly be for technical questions/answers? – GDP Apr 28 '14 at 14:03
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    Joomla is both an application and a development tool; that's why this a is a reasonable topic to be concerned abut. – Elin May 2 '14 at 1:30

It's a great question for Meta.

I think the best answer is to approach each question with an attitude of,

"How can we be as helpful as possible?"

Knowing when to ask "What have you tried?"

We are not here to chastise anybody, so asking, "What have you tried?" is fair to ask if the intention is to get information that helps to clarify the question or provide a better answer.

Asking questions at the outset of an endeavour is just fine - and often a very smart approach.

The basic tenets of Free Software's Four Freedoms is to use, study, share and improve software. Joomla! was founded with that in mind.

Joomlers have a tremendous amount of knowledge and insight - and Joomla SE allows for anybody to quickly scan and answer questions - if a question is not well-formed or researched, you can choose to skip it entirely or to provide some guidance and assistance.

Keep in mind also that the goals of open-source communities are not so much to learn 'self-sufficiency,' but to provide an 'opportunity to collectively learn from others.'

...and how many times do we say, "Don't re-invented the wheel!"

For many, figuring out solutions collectively - and helping each other (often complete strangers) - is one of the greatest joys that involvement with an open-source project can provide.

This is a markedly different circumstance than, for example, a junior programmer in a company constantly consuming the time and energy of their co-workers and superiors because they lack the tenacity to research and solve problems on their own - instead, we provide a space that is conducive to co-operative learning.

One of the greatest advantages of Joomla! is that you don't have to be afraid to ask!

Being too Needy: Knowing when to be self-sufficient and knowing when to ask for help.

Where is the exact line between spending enough time researching a problem and knowing when to ask for help? I do not know and I doubt anybody can provide a definitive answer.

I think this is different for everybody and a self-learned skill - and I am convinced it comes down to self-confidence. Build up people's self-confidence, and they will automagically become more self-sufficient - they will even want to help others!

Also, from personal experience, when I need help, often the key problem is that I don't even know what the right questions to ask are! (Once I find I'm asking the right questions, the answers are easy to find).

"Have you tried...?" (a slight variation of "What have you tried?") is a great question to ask because it will often help people figure out that there may be solutions and approaches to their problems that they haven't even thought to consider.

It will not only help that person, but others researching the same problems.

We are all ambassadors of Joomla!

Most of all, we are all ambassadors of the Joomla! Project. Good diplomacy dictates that we should strive to create as positive experience as possible.

In this sense, it doesn't matter so much what somebody has tried (that's the past), but how we help them on their journey (the present and future).

is the site intended to house answers for non-developer Joomla users at all?

Of course! Why not? Everybody starts somewhere - and think of how 'snooty' and what bad ambassadors we'd be if we excluded non-community members from Joomla SE.

I like to think that the Joomla! Project will, in someway, be responsible for many people who've never coded to get inspired to become 'full-stack' developers - and even core-contributors!

That first-step may likely start here.


Very good question. I admittedly find myself asking people what they have tried so far quite a lot. However it all really depends on the question.

If the user asks something along the lines of a 1 line question with minimal detail then I will ask what they have tried so far. This is usually my first response as I've found a lot of times that the user has actually tried something, but simply not provided the code for it. The majority of the time it's for database query and jQuery related questions.

If the user asks the question in-depth, giving details about what they are trying to achieve then I will (if I know the answer or believe a method will suffice) answer the question.

  • Because this isn't necessarily a programming site, I think we'll see more questions that "what have you tried" doesn't necessarily apply. I agree that doing the work for someone should be out of the question, but at the same time, someone who is seeking advice about approach, or where to begin shouldn't be chastised for asking a non-specific question. Not a good way to grow a source for answers (IMHO). – GDP Apr 25 '14 at 18:39
  • Totally agree. I would be a fair bit more relaxed abput questions like this – Lodder Apr 25 '14 at 21:31

No matter how high your technical understanding, anyone who develops long enough is going to run into situations where they need a helping hand. It may be because the documentation doesn't provide the clarity required or simply because the appropriate resources cannot be found due to a lack of proper terminology.

When I am feeling out of my depth and have little or no coding attempt to post with my question, I try to go out of my way to pack my question with "proof of research". This can mean linking to Joomla Docs, Joomla Form threads, and related posts on JSE or the greater SE Network ...then isolating the sections that I don't understand or that don't work properly for my case.

This often means that each of my questions takes a long time to write -- but this is how I show how much I care about this place.

This is how question posters anywhere in the SE Network can post with confidence even when they have made minimal progress on their own. The net effect is win-win for everyone in the community because:

  1. The poster is crafting a question with lots of content and context -- this means that future researchers and search engines will have plenty to sink their teeth into when trying to determine if this is a relevant page for the issue/solution being searched.
  2. Answerers will have a greater understanding of the question being asked because there is a fully fleshed out issue statement and expected outcome. Furthermore, when some aspects of the coding attempt are "correct", then answerers can avoid posting information that is not necessary. Alternatively, if any of your attempts are bad practice or insecure, volunteers can put you on the right path.
  3. Linking your post with other JSE posts creates meaningful relationships between pages and improves the overall value of JSE in terms of speed of navigation for researchers.
  4. Crafting an articulate and fully explained question will invariably improve the speed, quality, and volume of replies that your question receives. Why not risk getting excellent support?!?
  5. Even "face-palm" questions don't need to be embarrassing. Even if your question/issue is super basic to most people, the fact is, it wasn't obvious to you. That NEEDS to be okay here. By laying out everything you know and found, there is no reason to feel shame. There is no reason why a super-basic question can't be upvote-worthy.

Posting a 2-sentence question is a sure-fire way to irritate the JSE citizens that are trying to curate high quality content. These questions are rightly replied with: "What have you tried?" If you tried something, why didn't you express it BEFORE clicking Post?

There is a derogatory term used at Stackoverflow Meta called a "Help Vampire". These posters don't seem to do any of the legwork themselves, post low-quality questions, receive piles of downvotes, and those with close voting powers will focus additional energy to finding a way to close a Help Vampire's page. There is a percentage of the community that refuses to offer their support to these types of posters because giving them what they need will only perpetuate a cycle of poor posting practices.

If everyone has the intent of being honest, thorough, caring, and fair, we can all be contributors to an amazing collection of knowledge. Despite all this cheer and positivity that I am sprooking, downvoting "bad posts" is a necessary thing on SE sites -- it is not an attack on the user, it is an assessment of the post. Posting mindfully and voting appropriately is the natural way to improve JSE and Joomla in a profound and timeless way.

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