Friction Between Programming Professionals and Beginners
It’s not obvious that professional programmers are the best people to answer questions for beginners, yet that’s often recommended as a strategy for providing support to CS students when there are too few teachers. The below article gathers some stories about user experience, and offers advice on how to make the interaction of programming professionals and beginners more successful.
Where is the most obvious place to ask a programming question? Stack Overflow.
Stack Overflow is a community of 4.7 million programmers, just like you, helping each other. Join them; it only takes a minute. Join the Stack Overflow community to: Ask programming questions, […] — Stack Overflow (the front page)
It sounds like exactly the right place to be. It even sounds friendly. But actually asking questions on Stack Overflow is often far from friendly, for a beginner programmer.
“I gave up programming after the last time I asked a question on StackOverflow.”— commenter on reddit
Stack Overflow users ands moderators are quick to downvote and close questions, for a multitude of reasons. These reasons are often surprising to first-time users.
I’m going to pick on Stack Overflow as an example in this article, because it is the most obvious place to ask questions, but the same problems can be seen anywhere that beginners ask questions.
“I must have gone to a couple dozen IRC rooms, whatever online communities I could find. Everywhere I went people shat on me, and I never got an answer to a single question.”— commenter on reddit