Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Importance of Message Boards

Do you visit message boards for the software/frameworks that you use?  I do, but not as often as maybe I should.  I use two frameworks, Visual Fox Express (VFE) and Web Connection; so I visit their message boards occasionally.  I use to visit the Universal Thread (UT) too, but I haven't visited there in a while.

Basically there are two reasons to visit message boards: 
  1. You have a problem you can not solve and need help to find a solution.  So you reach out to the community for help hoping to find a solution to your problem.  
  2. You want to give back.  You have received help and therefor feel a duty/desire to help others.
  3. Documentation... This is a third reason which I explain near the end of this post.

The Web Connection message board is one of the best and looks very nice.  Rick Strahl has also created an application for the desktop that comes with Web Connection so you can download messages in the topics that you are interested in and then view them on your desktop computer.  I prefer this over searching messages through the browser.

Years ago I made a suggestion to a user trying to help.  His reply to me was very sarcastic; so I made a mental note not to help him any more.  That can happen and I just brushed it off.  I have received a lot of help over the years via message boards.

The UT is huge.  I find it difficult to find information and there is a lot of chatter and clutter.  I believe it can still be a useful tool, but for me I like the framework message boards better.

The VFE message board doesn't see much activity anymore, but there is still a core group of users that visit regularly.  Since this is the framework that I work in most, I try to visit about once a week.

Just the other day I had a problem in my application that looked familiar to me.  I've been converting my primary application from VFE6 to VFE9.  I've been experiencing a few problems with the conversion.  When I saw my problem the other day I believed I had seen this same problem before but couldn't remember the solution.  I knew I had posted the problem on the VFE message board before, so I went to the message board and searched on my name.  I found the post I had made with the problem, which later also included the solution.  So, I found the solution to my current problem to which I had posted the solution to a couple of months ago.

That brings me to a third reason to use message boards.  It is a good way to document a problem and a solution.  By using a message board in this manor you are also potentially helping others.  I am glad that I had posted my problem as well as the solution.  Did it help others?  I don't know.  But, it sure did help me later when I forgot the solution and needed a memory.refresh().

So, if you are not using a message board I encourage you to do so.

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