Asking for Help Threshold

Posted on November 8, 2017 by Richard Goulter

I think my experience is probably similar to other talented programmers fresh to the workforce: To not ‘ask for help’ with a problem until too much time has been spent stuck on the problem.

This isn’t too strange.
As hobbyists, or as students in school, we program and learn individually. I think ‘talented’ really means ‘has made more mistakes’. Surely you can’t be ‘talented’ without having curiousity to understand how the tools/programs you’re using work.

For what it’s worth: Personally, I’m not curious about everything. I find git a tool where add/commit/push/pull covers 95% of what I do, 5% is Googling for how to undo some mistake.

On the other hand, there are people who apparently lack all curiousity (or capability) to investigate how to self-correct.
My experience is they’ll ask for help as soon as possible.
Which is fine for project-specific knowledge which I know and they don’t. And ‘okay’ for things which they might not have known.

But “asking for help without trying” is just irritating. I like the admonishment “don’t ask the same question twice”. (I mean, I’ll answer it, but eventually the asker loses my respect).

I saw some tech-culture discussion complaining about this kindof thing:
“no one is really ‘self-taught’; e.g. communities like StackOverflow involve people”.
I think that’s a somewhat disingenuous point. – If the programmer attitude of ‘I shouldn’t have to bother learning it to know how to do it’ weren’t so prevalent, then StackOverflow wouldn’t be so popular.
It’s fair to say the process of ‘try it’, ‘search it’, ‘try that again’ (without asking someone else directly) is ‘self-taught’. Since anyone can do try doing that. By themselves.
– On the other hand, it’s interesting to point out that “on the shoulders of giants” does include someone else who had the same stupid question you’re googling for.

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