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How to ask about programming problems

March 15, 2022

Updated: How do I ask a good question? - Help Center - Stack Overflow has already explained almost all things this article says.


This article explains some things you should know when asking programming problems such as “X is not working” or “What’s this error?“.

  • This article mainly explains superficial and formal techniques that make the questions readable and likely to get responses.
  • This article is NOT focusing on soft skills or moral advice like “be polite.”

The most important idea

The principle is to pay as much effort as possible to save the respondents’ time and effort to understand and solve the problem.

The problem-solving process they may do includes, for example,

  • reproducing the bug in their own environment by running the actual code
  • reading the logs
  • googling the error messages

Things to do and not to do

So, you should be aware of the following things to support solving the problem.

  • Do research and try possible solutions by yourself beforehand as much as possible, and post the progress and results.
    • Information such as “I tried X but it didn’t work” or “I think Y may be the related topic, but couldn’t find a clear answer” is a good starting point for problem solving.
    • Incidentally, such your effort motivates respondents. People want to support those who pay efforts.
  • Do provide all the information for the respondents to reproduce the problem.
    • It includes, but is not limited to, source code, assets, and/or environment information.
    • Think whether it’s possible to run the code and encounter the same problem from zero only with the information you post?
    • If the amount is huge, consider to
      • upload them to GitHub and post the link.
      • create a shorter code snippet that reproduces the same problem and post it.
  • Do share the background or the high-level requirements.
    • Why do you want to solve this problem? What do you want build after solving the problem? What kind of software/product are you developing?
    • Such information is sometimes much important rather than the specific error description itself. Do not omit it just by your decision.
  • Do format the source code and the logs.
    • For example, if Markdown can be used in the forum, put ``` (three backticks) surrounding the code or logs1.
    • Markdown can be used in many web forums. Learn Markdown syntax. You have to use at least code blocks. See
    • Non-formatted code and logs are very hard to read.
  • Don’t post the source code or the logs as screenshots.
    • They cannot be copied to the clipboard. It takes much effort to run the code or google the logs. It’s so annoying.
  • Do paste the images or the screenshots if you have visual results related to the problem.

I will be adding the list items. If you have ideas to add to the list, please let me know through Twitter or by creating GitHub Issues or Pull Requests.

More resources

  1. Precisely, the code block with ``` is an extended Markdown syntax, such as GitHub-flavored Markdown (GFM). Anyway, many web forums are supporting it.

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