Let's Make Robots!

Duane “Duane Degn” Degn

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I occasionally get private messages requesting technical help. I'd much prefer offering technical assistance in the forum. If you have a question you'd like me to see, you're welcome to send me a private message with a link to the question.

There are several reason why it's generally bad etiquette (as defined by me) to request assistance in private correspondence. Here are the main reason I think it's not a good idea.

1. IMO, the main reason it's not a good idea to request assistance via private communication is the help provided only benefits a single person. People with technical questions generally search the internet on a whole and Let's Make Robots specifically for answers to questions before they ask the question in a forum (or they should). If a question has been answered in a private correspondence, then the person searching for an answer will not be able to find the previously provided answer. I think this reason is likely the biggest reason to discourage people from seeking private assistance.

2. On a public forum incorrect answers have a chance of being corrected. We all make mistakes and if incorrect advice is given in a public forum others have a chance to point out the error. I know I feel better about giving technical advice when there's an opportunity for others to correct it.

3. I think it's kind of presumptuous to ask a stranger to spend time solving your problem. Many of do this sort of technical work in our occupation and find it fun to assist in various forums in our free time. When a private request for assistance is received, it can feel like someone is asking for your professional services without offering to pay for them. This reason seems kind of cynical but I know some people feel this way and I admit to occasionally being one of them. If you're friends with the person you're asking assistance from, that's different. There are plenty of people on LMR I'd be willing to help in private for free but in general I think it's a better idea to offer technical assistance in a forum since reasons #1 and #2 still apply.

4. This is another selfish reason. As I mentioned, many of us have day jobs where we apply our technical knowledge. Some of us do free lance work and rely on people, looking for our services, being able to find us on the internet. In these cases, our answers on technical forums can make it easier for others to find us. I doubt there are many of us who consciously think of this as we reply to a question but I know I have several customers who found me by reading forum posts.

As I said at the beginning or this post, if you have a question you'd like me to see, you're welcome to send me a private message with a link to the question.

I sure feel pompous for having wrote this post. I do not consider myself a robot expert. I do think I'm pretty good at programming the Propeller microcontroller in Spin and PASM. My consulting jobs these days are generally for writing software on the Propeller. 

As an additional note, I'm not mad at anyone for having sent me private messages. No one on LMR owes me an apology.