Question & Answer

Titanium Q&A: How to ask a successful question

What is the Q&A?

If you have yet to use Community Questions & Answers then it is where you go to find out answers to problems or create your own new question. This is what the Q&A is for;

  • Find answers to problems you are working through
  • Ask a question of your own that does not have an existing answer
  • Help out the community by providing answers to those asking questions

Does your problem already have an answer?

Before you even consider writing your own question, check that it has not already been answered. Quite often the same questions keep coming up – time after time.

This is because the author of the question has not taken the time to look for someone else’s question that has already been asked many times before. This is a waste of time for all involved in the Q&A, including yourself. As there are often answers already available, you do not have to wait for someone to answer your specific question, you can move on to the next stage of your app.

So what makes a successful question?

This is very easy but so often ignored – information. In order to help you find an answer those who provide answers need as much useful information about the problem and your development environment as possible. Some examples;

A good question title

This should include a quick summary of the problem, so if it is; table related include the word ‘table’, if the problem only occurs on ‘Android’ mention that in the title.

Examples of bad titles; (all from the past 24 hours)

  • titanium gps not working
  • textField input
  • XML Parser
  • Can’t find variable Uint16Array
  • Facebook Login
  • Update Studio (or what..?)

The reason these titles are bad is because they are either too generic or they fail to include more relevant issues from the actual problem.

A good description

The description should include as much detail as is required to explain the problem to a stranger in as concise a way as possible.

Code

If the problem is likely code related – then include some code that can be quickly pasted into a test app by those offering assistance. This way it is very easy for someone to test what you have and see what the problem might be. This should NOT be the entire app code. It is very common to find the code has an obvious typo or misunderstanding, so the provided snippet helps to identify that.

Modules

If the question relates to a module you are using then name the module and provide a link to where you obtained it. This way it can be downloaded and tested along with the code snippet.

Relevant Information

If the problem relates to a third-party API, mention that and if possible provide an example snippet from a successful API call. If the problem only occurs once in a while or after a set of other steps are performed first then point those out.

Your System

Many questions are dependant on which operating system you are using, the Titanium SDK version number, what target devices you are building for and if you are using Classic or the Alloy framework. Here are some details almost every single question should include;

  • Titanium SDK version
  • Target platform (Android, iOS etc)
  • Your operating system (OSX, Windows, Linux)

Tags

Each question should have at least three tags entered to help organise the question. Imagine your question is – “How do I create a custom row for my table for Android devices using Alloy?”, then here are some example tags that would be very suitable; ‘tableView’, ‘Android’ & ‘Alloy’. You do not need to have a tag for every word – just the big subject ones.

Something too many people miss when asking a question

The Ask a Question page from the Q&A provides many examples of how to ask a question and what information to provide. I am surprised so many questions lack these details as you have to scroll past all the useful information in order to ask your question.

The mark-down editor

When entering a question to be included in the Q&A you do so in the “mark-down” question editor – this has a toolbar above it that provides examples of how to add specific extras like code. Simply tap one of the buttons (for example code) and then see the example of how to add code to your question. Providing code that does not have the correct code syntax markers makes it very difficult to read as it does not respect line breaks and comments can be confusing, additionally the lack of colour coding makes it harder to read the actual code.

Preview is your friend

When writing a question, always make sure to use the preview option as you go, this will show you how your question will look to those who will later read it. If your code does not display correctly or you have no distinct paragraphs then you have made your question harder to read. This means it may not have as many people as it could have providing suitable answers.

Owner of Core 13 Ltd a UK based mobile app development agency. Malcolm is affectionately known by Appcelerator and the big wide world as "The Oracle". With 25 years commercial software development experience from desktop apps to web sites for single users to large enterprises.\n You may have seen some of the many contributions provided within the Titanium Q&A.


Comments

  • Wienke

    Hi Tony,

    Did Appcelerator consider stepping over to the StackExchange system? Connecting to the entire StackOverflow community would be a huge opportunity.

    Cheers,
    Wienke

  • Atul Kumar

    Hi All,

    We are building new app in titanium “Vehicle Inspection”, I need your feedback on this so please let me know if anyone is interested in this app.

    Regards,
    Atul Kumar

  • Malcolm Hollingsworth

    Hi Atul

    I am not sure if you are asking for people to say it is a good idea or if you are asking if people will help you build it.

    Malcolm

  • Matt Bourne

    Please, please replace the Q&A with stackExchange its terrible. Really it’s unusable if you search for ‘test’ you will get results that are four years old at the top. If you click recent you will lose your search terms this is broken.

  • Malcolm Hollingsworth

    Hi Matt

    I am a very active member of the Titanium community and a very active contributor in the Q&A. I state this to support what comes next.

    The Q&A is not perfect – but then what is. The Q&A is one part of the support network, which includes; Q&A, documentation, blogs, GitHub and other services including stack overflow.

    The Q&A is not the only place to look and assuming that it is – or in fact any other services is the only place is – simply limits your ability to gain an answer.

    Personally I only ever use Google to search for answers, many come up in the Q&A but others come up all over the place. I always start a search as follows “Appcelerator …”. Google yields excellent results and the top ones are always from the Q&A – this should give you a good idea how good the information is is the Q&A.

    The Q&A has a wealth of information and a significant number of people supporting it. This is a good thing a great thing even. One shortcoming of the Q&A is the limited search ordering when you use the internal search. This is a known issue and one being worked on, work already completed has improved the situation and this improves time goes on.

    So I am disappointed when people suggest that the baby should be thrown out with the bath water. The Q&A has assisted countless people and without it many people would have gone without suitable information. The link directly to Appcelerator is a huge benefit.

    As you suggest you cannot find an answer – why are you not asking a question? I or someone else will be there to help – as we do day in day out. As you will see from the article I wrote – there are ways that authors of questions can help themselves – unfortunately many questions are asked with missing information, a poorly thought out title and description. Even after an answer is provided the question may never be marked as answered.

    So no matter what service you hope to use, be it the Q&A, SO, SE – it is the quality of the information itself that can hinder you finding the results you are after.

    If your needs are to gain information – use Google to perform your search, after all you will see other very worthy sources of information being included to work from. If your aim is to make a better Q&A through adding your own answers to questions – then come and join the rest of us who are doing just that – as I for one would welcome your support.

  • Wienke

    Hi Malcolm,

    I totally agree the community and the people adding the knowledge are the most important thing about any knowledge platform.

    My point was not really with regards to the disfunctioning of the Q&A, the examples you give with regards to searching etc. But more with regards to leveraging a larger community and that is present on the stackexchange system. Also there are new people joining the community everyday. Providing them something familiar like stackoverflow will help a lot. Also with regards to people unfamiliar with Q&A sites. Stackoverflow does a great job in teaching you the principles. As it is possible to export the entire Q&A to a stackexchange system I am in favor of that. For future and current use.

    Cheers,
    Wienke