Why posting questions to the forums beats private emails

While most of the Q&A about ASP.NET happens in the forums, I also receive a number of direct questions from users (and so do other people on the team).  In most cases, I try to convince the sender to post to the forums instead, and there are a couple of good reasons for it.  And no, the reason is not to just get rid of the user! 🙂

The first reason is that posting to the forum gives you a much larger audience of people who may be able to answer the question.  The answer may come from one of the Microsoft folks who are active there, or from one of the many experienced users from the community.  As a result, you're much more likely to get a quick answer than by sending a private email to one person.

A second very important reason is that posting to the forums builds up the general knowledge base.  Your question and the answers that it receives will be searchable by others for years to come.  So asking your question there can effectively save others from asking the same thing.  Or maybe their question won't be exactly the same, but it will be similar enough that they will post a new question that 'builds' on the previous answers.

Of course, there is no guarantee that every question you post will get answered instantly in a way to fully solves it, and it may take a few iterations to get it there.  But it is your best bet!

Comments (10)

  1. HeartattacK says:

    Yup…I was one of them that mailed scottgu twice. I did post on the forums but weren’t getting replies, and I was infront of a deadline. Scott confirmed that what I was trying wasn’t possible. It seems the forums give very good answers when something is possible, but for really complex stuff, most people avoid the question rather than getting it wrong.

    That’s not to say the forums haven’t helped me. I’ve been a member of the asp.net forums since 2007, but wasn’t that active – more of a consumer! Back in March/April I was in a real tight spot and Mike Banavige helped me out of it. Right then, I decided to help as much as I could on the forums. I remember being something like a 64 point member at that time. I’m now a 8500+ member. I’ve been having a lot of fun helping others and one thing I can tell you is that the community is absolutely fantastic. And I feel great to be a part of it.

  2. Francois Ward says:

    My problem with forums is two fold:

    A) Like someone said before, for complex stuff, you’ll never get an answer. I have over 1500 posts on the asp.net forums, and while most of them by far are me answering people, from the times I asked questions, I virtually never got an answer.

    If you’re not asking yet another "I’m having problems with dynamic controls vanishing because I’m not recreating them in the Init event", you’re not getting an answer.

    My second issue, is that a significant amount of answerers, unfortunately, don’t know as much as they think they do, and often heavily mislead new people. The amount of time you’ll read about how stored procedures are precompiled, or talking about dynamically generating controls on a page without a single mention of CompositeControl, is just crazy. There are a fair amount (fortunately, the majority) of correct answers… but not only you have to GET an answer, but then you have to triple check it. So it gets you leads at best, and make you stray at worse.

    In the end, its still the best source we’ve got, but…

  3. rtpHarry says:

    I have just become active in the asp.net forums and I generally work off the unanswered posts page. A lot of the time it is hard to answer because of my own limited knowledge or poor descriptions. I just spent about 15mins typing out a reply to a question that ended up being totally wasted because thats not what the user meant to ask.

    I think francois is correct in saying that its a bit hit and miss. I think that the creators of the forum could do more to help people solve problems such as providing code formatting tools etc when posting.

    At the end of the day unless its a simple problem I have generally had to solve my own problems. I have had some success with using #asp.net, efnet to throw questions out, but I have never posted to the forums yet because I dont have the patience to wait for an answer.

    All this said, I still agree with David’s comments that everyone should post in the forums not private email because of the reasons of exposure and searchability in the future.

  4. Normally I would never email a developer directly because I know that there is no way they can take the time to help everyone who asks for help. However it’s funny I did email Dave regarding early Beta’s but I think the difference was that HE needed the feedback I was providing and requested that I contact him. If I needed something now I would just post to the forums and wait for an answer.

  5. Kris says:

    I used to be a bit active on the forums when I connected via Outlook to an NNTP server, but with Web Forums I am not so active as I have to browse to the site only to see a limited number of entries and then click around. Especially with ASP.NET forums, I could not find a server to connect to via Outlook reader. Also there seem to be so many sites for Microsoft Products, which makes it even more dizzy.

  6. HeartattacK says:


    There is a code formatting tool on the http://www.asp.net editor. You can’t access it if you hit "Quick reply". If you click "Reply", then the editor gives you a button with "{}". Clicking that will take you to a code formatting tool.

  7. int19h says:

    > A second very important reason is that posting to the forums builds up the general knowledge base.  Your question and the answers that it receives will be searchable by others for years to come.  So asking your question there can effectively save others from asking the same thing.  Or maybe their question won’t be exactly the same, but it will be similar enough that they will post a new question that ‘builds’ on the previous answers

    For the same reason, there are two things that should be remembered when asking a question on the forums. First, if you find an answer to your question on your own, or from another source, post it so that it’ll get archived. And second, if you receive an answer, and it works for you, write a confirmation, so that gets archived too.

    Today’s Net is, in essence, a large ad-hoc wiki, and it’s worth remembering that every time you post on the forum/newsgroup/mailing list.

  8. HeartattacK says:

    That said…I wish the search in http://www.asp.net worked better than it does now. It’s IMO one of the weakest features of that site.

  9. Masaki says:

    I’m sorry, this is machine translation.

    I think that the last method posts a question to a community. Those who are beyond a network cable are not holding in common time. Therefore, it does not serve for the sake of my convenience. However a reply may want me in a hurry, it may be after a deadline passes that he reads post. And isn’t sending e-mail to an individual also the same as for it? I also received mail of the question several times. But, it was after having looked it over passes several days.

    Although it is a complicated issue, why does use a community? Why doesn’t use technical support? Is not Microsoft doing technical support?

    "The community did not reply to my problem." equal to having said, "I did not do duty which I should do", I think so.

  10. Dan Meineck says:

    Everytime I’ve posted a well formulated question and problem scenario to an MS forum I’ve always been really impressed with the help and support I’ve recieved – plus if anyone else has the same problem, they can view the solution 🙂

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