PDA

View Full Version : Do you learn or just copy/paste?


esmith
November 8th, 2013, 10:02 AM
Over the 5 years that I have been a member on this forum, I have received a lot of help with custom coding solutions. If not for the helpfulness (and patience) of my colleagues here, I would never have made it in my variable data role. To show my appreciation, I have tried to "pay it forward" by helping other members with their coding needs.

However, sometimes I get the impression that members solicit help with their projects (regardless of complexity) and just copy/paste the offered solutions into their project. Often these users keep coming back for more help and don't seem to be advancing in their understanding of the software.

I can not speak for other helpful members, but if I get the impression that I am doing your job for you (rather than helping you improve your skills), I am less inclined to respond to your problem.

Please make sure you understand how/why someone's solution to your problem works. If the code is confusing, ask someone to clarify how the code works. Until you understand what the code is doing, you'll never be able to modify the solutions you receive to address new requirements on your own.

If instead you prefer to repeatedly ask for custom solutions and never offer your own suggestions (to either your own problem or someone else's), please do not be surprised if your questions go unanswered. There are many people here willing to help (best user forum I have ever been a part of) but no one wants to feel like they are being used.

Please learn to fish rather than continually begging for sardines. :)

Dan Korn
November 8th, 2013, 11:31 AM
Thanks for your thoughts, Eric. I share most of them.

Your participation in this forum, this community, over the years has been a huge part of its success, and I would like to personally thank you, Eric, and also thank you on behalf of the other folks here at PTI. You're the only member (other than me) with over 800 posts, which is almost twice as many as rpaterick (http://forums.pti.com/member.php?u=671), who is in third place with just over 400:
http://forums.pti.com/memberlist.php?order=DESC&sort=posts&pp=30

I understand all too well how it can be frustrating when people sometimes just want to have you give them the answer, and not try to understand it so they can make changes without having to come back to you. (Thus the need for my lengthy signature.) It's especially tough when you see that someone has just copied some other code they found, which may not even apply to the problem they're trying to solve, and then have tried to "fix" it without understanding it. On the other hand, most people are under the gun with some kind of deadline, and they have a customer of their own who just wants a job done.

While I might be a person who can answer most questions here on this particular forum, mainly because I've worked on this product for 15 years, I'm also on the other end, when I have to go ask questions on a forum like the Xcode user's list about how to make our GUI work on yet another version of Mac OS with its ever-changing APIs, or a forum about a technology like JDF, or when I'm talking to a tech support person from a printer/RIP manufacturer about how to get our output to render on their hardware. So I see both sides of this.

Also, I get paid to do this, while you do it out of a sense of community and helping others, which is incredibly admirable. (Well, technically, I don't really get paid to hang out here on the forum; I get paid to do actual development work on the product, and sometimes to assist our Graphics team with complex template-building projects. However, I enjoy helping out when I can, and I find it valuable to interact with users and see what kinds of problems they're facing, because that ultimately helps make the product better. And I value the community as well.)

I also realize that not everyone has a "knack" for coding or being able to look at a problem in an abstract way, even though I'm lucky enough to have skills like those, which enable me to have a career where I get paid pretty well to push buttons all day. But while those skills are, in part, something that some people just seem to have innately, they're also like muscles that can be strengthened through exercise. I think that almost anyone can have the ability to approach a problem logically and learn enough about the syntax of a language such as JavaScript to get things done, if they apply themselves and commit to spending some time to learn.

Even the task of asking a question effectively is something that requires a bit of skill and care. Thus the link to How To Ask Questions The Smart Way (http://www.catb.org/%7Eesr/faqs/smart-questions.html#before) in my signature. I recommend everyone read that. A lot of it boils down to "RTFM," but, having asked, and been asked, lots of technical questions over the years, its true that you're more likely to get a helpful response if it seems like you've made an effort to at least describe the issue accurately and unambiguously, and it's even better if you've shown a bit of initiative and describe some of the things you're already tried.

Frankly, one of the best skills to have when you're a developer (whether you're doing actual coding or just using a tool like FusionPro or Photoshop or anything else), and I think I'm pretty good at it, is "Google-fu." That is, I don't really know much, but I know how to search effectively to find stuff. (Those of you with good Google-fu either have already heard of this, or you're presently Googling "Google-fu.") And if I can't find the answer myself, I think I'm also pretty good at knowing how to find someone to ask, and then being able to ask a question in such a way that someone can understand it and be able to answer. (Although perhaps I'm not always good at being succinct. :p)

The bottom line, like my signature says, is that this forum is not a substitute for Support, nor for professional template-building solutions. When people like you, Eric, and rpaterick, and even folks like me who are PTI employees, step up and answer questions, that's great, and that's the whole point of having this forum. (Though there are some questions, like "When will you support the newest version of Acrobat/InDesign/Windows/OS X?" which only PTI folks can answer, or at least try to answer.) However, there's no guarantee that you'll get any answers here. But you have a better chance of getting answers if you ask good questions and show some interest in understanding the answers and learning.

Thanks again, Eric, and everyone, for making this community a success.

esmith
November 8th, 2013, 12:34 PM
You're the only member (other than me) with over 800 posts
LOL. Hopefully you remember that if I ever lose my job and apply for a FusionPro support position!

I may have a record number of posts, but numbers can lie. I'm sure that if you broke that number down between questions I've asked and answers I've offered, you'd find that I am not necessarily the most helpful user here. DSweet routinely posts complex questions/solutions that I have to work through to fully understand, and ste and dreimer have been much more active (and helpful) here recently.

My favorite threads here are the ones that have several members offering solutions. I may initially roll my eyes when Dan posts a solution after mine that makes my answer seem juvenile, but honestly it is how I learn of new features and more efficient ways to solve my problems.

So kudos to everyone who gives of their time and talent to make the overall community better. Hopefully newer and less experienced users will commit to "paying it forward" as they LEARN how to customize FP to solve all their variable data needs. :)

Dan Korn
November 8th, 2013, 01:31 PM
LOL. Hopefully you remember that if I ever lose my job and apply for a FusionPro support position!
I'm sure that you, or any of the other users you mention, could get a job, or at least some good consulting work, doing FusionPro template-building, especially since you have built up such good reputations here in this community. I would love to have any of you here at PTI working Support (but that's not up to me).
I may have a record number of posts, but numbers can lie. I'm sure that if you broke that number down between questions I've asked and answers I've offered, you'd find that I am not necessarily the most helpful user here. DSweet routinely posts complex questions/solutions that I have to work through to fully understand, and ste and dreimer have been much more active (and helpful) here recently.

Yes, all of the users you list make invaluable contributions here as well.

My favorite threads here are the ones that have several members offering solutions. I may initially roll my eyes when Dan posts a solution after mine that makes my answer seem juvenile, but honestly it is how I learn of new features and more efficient ways to solve my problems.

I'm glad that you take my posts as helpful hints on how to do things more efficiently; that's the intent. The only reason I'm an "expert" is that I've been working on this product for 15 years. (Well, that, and I have the source code.)

Some technical forums, like Stack Overflow (http://stackoverflow.com/), give points to users for good answers. This forum doesn't do that, but contributions are appreciated nonetheless.

So kudos to everyone who gives of their time and talent to make the overall community better. Hopefully newer and less experienced users will commit to "paying it forward" as they LEARN how to customize FP to solve all their variable data needs. :)
Yes, kudos all around!

MeeshKB
January 24th, 2014, 12:53 PM
I know this thread is now a few months old, but I wanted to post with my sincere appreciation for the support and collaboration that happens on this board.

Dan and Eric, you have both helped me deal with some very perplexing (at least to my novice brain) challenges. I hope that I have asked thoughtful, coherent questions, as that is always my intent. I do endeavour to find the answers to my questions in existing information before asking, and I have often found the answers I sought in other users' experiences. What a fantastic resource this board is.

So, a sincere thank you to both of you and all the others who contribute so generously here. Thank you for teaching this newbie to fish. :p I hope to continue learning from the great minds here, perhaps even enough to "pay it forward" myself.