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We’d love to help you. To improve your chances of getting an answer, here are some tips:

STOP!

Programmers is primarily about software design. We don't do code troubleshooting here, so if your question is about how to fix your broken code, ask it on Stack Overflow, making sure that you provide a minimal, complete, and verifiable example.

Search, and research

...and keep track of what you find. Even if you don't find a useful answer elsewhere on the site, including links to related questions that haven't helped can help others in understanding how your question is different from the rest.

Keep in mind readers (other than you) have to be able to understand your situation. They don't know what you've researched, tried, or the details driving your problem. No one here can read your mind.

Write a title that summarizes the specific problem

The title is the first thing potential answerers will see, and if your title isn't interesting, they won't read the rest. So make it count:

  • Pretend you're talking to a busy colleague and have to sum up your entire question in one sentence: what details can you include that will help someone identify and solve your problem? Include any error messages, key APIs, or unusual circumstances that make your question different from similar questions already on the site.

  • Spelling, grammar and punctuation are important! Remember, this is the first part of your question others will see - you want to make a good impression. If you're not comfortable writing in English, ask a friend to proof-read it for you.

  • If you're having trouble summarizing the problem, write the title last - sometimes writing the rest of the question first can make it easier to describe the problem.

  • Make sure it is relevant to the actual problem you are having. Many times people will read the title and answer that question without reading the rest of the body of the question. If the title and body of the question don't match, it is likely that the answers that you get will be confused and go off on tangents that aren't ultimately helpful to solving the problem.

Examples:

  • On floating point errors...

    • Bad: C# Math Confusion
    • Good: Why does using float instead of int give me different results when all of my inputs are integers?
  • On redirecting in php

    • Bad: [php] session doubt
    • Good: How can I redirect users to different pages based on session data in PHP?
  • On flow control and equality

    • Bad: android if else problems
    • Good: Why does str == "value" evaluate to false when str is set to "value"?

Introduce the problem before you post any code

In the body of your question, start by expanding on the summary you put in the title. Explain how you encountered the problem you're trying to solve, and any difficulties that have prevented you from solving it yourself. The first paragraph in your question is the second thing most readers will see, so make it as engaging and informative as possible.

Help others reproduce the problem

Many Programmers.SE questions don't significantly benefit from including code. But if your problem is with code you've written, you should include some. But don't just copy in your entire program! Not only is this likely to get you in trouble if you're posting your employer's code, it likely includes a lot of irrelevant details that readers will need to ignore when trying to reproduce the problem. Here are some guidelines:

  • Include just enough code to allow others to describe the design. For help with this, read How to create a Minimal, Complete, and Verifiable example.
  • If it is possible to create a live example of the problem that you can link to (for example, on http://sqlfiddle.com/ or http://jsbin.com/) then do so - but also include the code in your question itself. Not everyone can access external sites, and the links may break over time.
  • Remember, we don't fix broken code here. Questions should be focused on design, not implementation. If your question is about your broken code, ask it on Stack Overflow, not here.

Include all relevant tags

Try to include a tag for the language, library, and specific API your question relates to. If you start typing in the tags field, the system will suggest tags that match what you've typed - be sure and read the descriptions given for them to make sure they're relevant to the question you're asking! See also: What are tags, and how should I use them?

Proof-read before posting!

Now that you're ready to ask your question, take a deep breath and read through it from start to finish. Pretend you're seeing it for the first time: does it make sense? Try reproducing the problem yourself, in a fresh environment and make sure you can do so using only the information included in your question. Add any details you missed and read through it again. Now is a good time to make sure that your title still describes the problem!

Post the question and respond to feedback

After you post, leave the question open in your browser for a bit, and see if anyone comments. If you missed an obvious piece of information, be ready to respond by editing your question to include it. If someone posts an answer, be ready to try it out and provide feedback!

Look for help asking for help

In spite of all your efforts, you may find your questions poorly-received. Don't despair! Learning to ask a good question is a worthy pursuit, and not one you'll master overnight. Here are some additional resources that you may find useful:

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