Forum Antics: A Rant about Programming Forums

I love helping people with PowerShell questions because I’m a PowerShell geek. I actually care a lot that not only I get better with PowerShell but others do to. That’s why I’m a Microsoft MVP.

I care that new people are getting into PowerShell every day and love it. I absolutely love it when I give an up-and-comer help on a PowerShell question. These people ask smart questions and come back with code examples of what did work and what didn’t work.

These people are going places. They don’t just care about solving the immediate problem. They actually care about how to solve the problem and what to understand why it works. These people are amazing and it makes me proud I’m able to give them a helping hand along their journey.

All walks of life show up on various programming forums from up-and-comers to people just looking for free consulting. It gets frustrating weeding out the bad from the good and taints the pleasure I receive in helping people who want to learn. I’ve compiled a small list of the five types of people who I see on various forums that really get to me. Why? Because it’s going to make me feel better to rant!

The piggybacker is one you should watch out for. You spend a significant amount of time crafting this elaborate script for an answer. It’s a complicated problem but you vie to take whatever time is necessary and post a solution. Because you’re not getting paid to do this, you solve 95% of the problem and leave it at that. Perhaps the code could be improved slightly but overall it works. Someone comes along, tweaks your script every so slightly to eek out another 5% performance boost on an already 50ms script and the original poster (OP) gives the other guy credit for the question. You spent 20x as long on the question and the piggybacker takes the credit.

Some OPs are these types. They come to a forum with absolutely no intention to learn. They simply want the script, will work with you a little bit to get it working and then bounce without even a kiss goodbye. They show no thanks to what you have helped them with. As soon as the script is working for them you’ll never hear from them again.

The perfectionist is similar to the piggybacker but to a whole other level. The perfectionist is the type that will meticulously argue with you over the teeny, tiniest details. The OP has long since left and had his problem taken care of. The only ones left posting in the thread are two perfectionists arguing over petty things in the code. The point of a forum thread is to assist someone with a problem they’re having, guys. If you must go OCD on something take it offline and bicker ’til your hearts are content.

When I drive into the drive thru at a Mcdonalds I know what I want to eat, I order it and then leave happy (typically). It’s a simple transaction. I tell them what I want, I give them money and they give me my food. Simple. Some people treat forums like a Mcdonalds drive thru. They expect to just roll up, post a couple of sentence “question” like “I need a script that does this and that and oh yea, it can’t do that…with fries please” and expect a happy forum answerer to greet them on the speaker asking them if they mean a combo #1. These people have no intention of learning. They just want a script and leave.

There are a lot of people on forums that are also consultants. We charge lots of money to our clients for our services. You’re just getting lucky enough to where we feel like helping the community and assisting others for free. Why would you expect for me to give you the same level of service I give someone who pays me $120/hr? I’m going to give you a script that might or might not be perfect. It just all depends on how interested I am in the question. Perhaps it’s late and I’m tired and I’ll get you 75% of the way there. That’s better than nothing! You’d be much better off actually learning about the script you’ve been provided than pestering people for improvements.

Do you have any other types to add that you’ve seen?

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