Learning to ask for help while working with FOSS projects

Does asking for help feel like a sign of weakness sometimes? Why is that so? In this blog, we'll explore a simple, four-step process to make asking for help less difficult and more fun.

 · 2 min read

Learning to ask for help.

Reaching out for help to others is always hard. I feel it could be because of our relationship with "asking for help" - which usually denotes a sign of weakness culturally. So its always difficult to ask for help, especially publicly.

The good thing is that like most other skills. this can also be practised and mastered and need not feel uncomfortable or difficult.

Here is a 4 step process we could follow to get better at asking for help with FOSS. FOSS communities are always super helpful. What they sometimes lack in good documentation, they make up for by being there for each other.

Step 0 is to google because most probably someone has faced the issue and you maybe be able to find their solution helpful.

But if Step 0 was not helpful then, move ahead

Step 1: Write down the problem that you are facing in a simple and clear way. Add some context also (why were you using that feature) and a few screenshots/diagrams or code snippets where necessary. if you are describing a bug/issue - make sure to write how to recreate the issue. This will give you also clarity about the problem. This is the most important reason why most problems may go unsolved, unseen.

Step 2: Post in the relevant forums. Most FOSS projects have discourse or other forums where the community interects. Or Github Issues/Community/Discussions. Post your problem from Step 1 to the forum.

Now, just because we post on a forum does not mean that someone will pick it up. right?

Step 3: Share the Forum Post warmly and freely on Social Media platforms, Messaging Groups where the FOSS project, its users are active. This will make it visibile. Make sure to tag their company pages, usernames (even if you dont know them but feel that they can help). Trust me, it gets easier with time.

Step 4: Engage with user replies to your post, try out the suggestions and respond. Dont forget to thank all those who participated (not just the solution giver) for their support.

These are some starter points. Please do leave your comments on how we can make this process better. This is me asking for your help :)

Inputs from friends:

Lazim ~ Seeking help is an act of courage or critical part of growth as a dev or any vertical of life in general.

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Shemeer is obsessed with tech for social good and has 12+ years of experience in leadership, design thinking and impact technology.

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Puja Singh 4 months ago

Nicely explained. Segregation is best in your content.