|Advantages||Quoting Attributions||Not Knowing is OK|
|Disadvantages||Email Address||It’s OK To Ask|
|Newsreaders||Post the Code||Email Replies|
|Java Newsgroups||The Lutus Objection||Read All the Answers|
|Invalid Newsgroups||Homework||Avoid Desperation|
|Getting Responses||Entitlement||Why Don’t You|
|Mimic Others||Gift Horses||Primate Psychology|
|Choosing a Handle||Public Conversations||Thanking|
|Avoid Text speak||Avoid HTML||Don’t Abuse Anonymity|
|Check the FAQs||Watch your Spelling||Parting Shot|
|Old Messages||Ask Where, not How||Links|
click the corresponding orange star to view that newsgroup via a previously installed conventional newsreader.
The main Java newsgroups ones are:
|alt.html||HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and browser problems|
|comp.infosystems.www.authoring.stylesheets||CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) style sheets|
|comp.lang.java.3d||3D Graphics API (Application Programming Interface) ’s for the Java language|
|comp.lang.java.announce||Announcements re the Java System. Moderated. Discontinued then revived. Not very active.|
|comp.lang.java.advocacy||Support for and criticism of the Java System. Java politics, comparisons with other languages, exchanging juvenile insults, suggested changes to the language, arguments about the best way of doing things in Java.|
|comp.lang.java.beans||Java software components. JavaBeans and similar component frameworks.|
|comp.lang.java.corba||CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) and Java.|
|comp.lang.java.databases||SQL (Standard Query Language), JDBC (Java Data Base Connectivity) and other databases.|
|comp.lang.java.gui||GUI (Graphic User Interface) toolkits and windowing, intermediate and advanced AWT (Advanced Windowing Toolkit) and Swing questions, IFC (Internet Foundation Classes).|
|comp.lang.java.help||Officially Set-up problems, catch-all first aid, however, in practice it is used for newbie questions. Don’t post your homework assignments verbatim. You will get your head bitten off. Ask specific questions about what you don’t understand. Don’t play helpless! Avoid using any language that even remotely smacks of a homework assignment. Don’t use the imperative, e.g. write method that… Only profs imperiously command that way. If you are in doubt about where to put you question, or if you are new, put your question here.|
|comp.lang.java.machine||JVM (Java Virtual Machine), native methods, hardware, JVM internals, garbage collection, Java chips. This is very technical group. If you are in the least unsure if you question belongs here, don’t post it here.|
|comp.lang.java.programmer||Programming in the Java language. This is a catch-all for pretty well anything but beginner questions. It handles advanced programming questions not about the GUI, e.g. serialization, RMI (Remote Method Invocation), reflection. It also handles server side questions about Tomcat, servlets and EE. Please keep newbie questions in comp.lang.java.help . Please put your JDBC questions in comp.lang.java.databases .|
|comp.lang.java.security||Using Java securely, Applet jar signing, certificates, encryption, login, passwords, digital signatures, cryptography, JCE (Java Cryptography Extension), policy files, Applet sandbox, JWS (Java Web Start) sandbox. Tends to be highly technical. Introductory questions should go in comp.lang.java.programmer or comp.lang.java.help .|
|comp.lang.java.softwaretools||Tools and libraries. Bugs in various IDEs (Integrated Development Environments). IDE (Integrated Development Environment) s, browsers, compilers, other tools. Installation problems. Where can I find a tool that will do X?|
|comp.lang.java.developer||DO NOT USE, unofficial group for Java developers. Seems to duplicate comp.lang.java.programmer.|
|comp.lang.java.setup||Getting Java installed|
|Sun Develop Forums||These are not newsgroups but Sun-sponsored web-based forums. They are moderated, so have a higher signal to noise ratio.|
|About.com||Not a newsgroup, but a web-based forum. You access the forum with a web browser.|
Traffic in the Java newsgroups has dwindled substantially. I see four reasons for this:
As of 2012-02-25, most of the newsgroups are dormant except for comp.lang.java.programmer and comp.lang.java.help
|See which posts are getting answers. Do what they do. See if there are discussions of your problem already posted. Ask your question in that context. You make a total ass of yourself if the first question you ask in a newsgroup has already been answered ten times before that day.|
|Newsgroups are international. Customs in your country may not go over well in an international newsgroup. I suggest not starting your posts with phrases like, Hi, I’m John from… or Greetings and good wishes to you and your family. People want you to launch immediately into your question since often there is so much traffic to sift through. It you want to share personal information, it is best not to do it in your first post, and then to weave it into your narrative, not lead with it. In Indonesia, for example, even to cash a travellers’ cheque, you spend a hours or so having tea and learning about each others’ family. You must do this to be polite. On the newsgroups, however, to be polite, you must get to the point of your query in the first sentence.|
|Avoid a cutsie handle (e.g. Fritz the Cat, Sally Suckemsilly) because it implies disrespect, that you are not taking the discussions seriously. It is best to use your real name, or a pseudonym that sounds real. You might pick a name from the ethnic background of the main question answerers to bypass their conscious or unconscious prejudices. On the Internet nobody knwws you are a dog.. Choosing a female name has advantages to inspire gallant assistance and forgiveness for incompetence.|
|Most of the people answering your questions will be considerably older than you. They either don’t understand or refuse to understand text speak aka dude speak. By that I mean words like, i, wanna, u, cud, nd, abt, ur… Some people will be outright hostile at what they consider a lack of respect — deliberately making your question obscure. Do your best to use conventional capitalization, punctuation, spelling and grammar. Further, be considerate of those for whom English is a second language. They can’t look up your hip vocabulary in their dictionaries. If you want to use them for typing shorthand, fine, but use some tool to expand them into standard English.|
Check the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) s
|Check the FAQs to be sure your question is not already answered there. If you ask a question that gets asked ten times a day that is already in the FAQ s, you will make a very poor first impression, and will likely get your head bitten off. Most questions asked by newbies have been answered hundreds of times before.|
|Use Google groups To Find Old Messages. groups.google.com (née Deja) archives and indexes all the newsgroups. Check there before asking a question you think may have any chance would have been answered before. You can even use Google to post and read messages without a newsreader, using just your browser. Messages get lost in the rickety NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol) newsgroup protocol. You can find the lost ones at Google. Unfortunately, no newsreader is yet smart enough to seek them out for you automatically. You can limit your query to a particular newsgroup by appending something like newsgroup:comp.lang.java.gui to your search criteria.|
|Some people are insanely egotistical and get very upset if you don’t attribute everything you quote that they say, or if you attribute the wrong person, sorting out whether they said something or quoted something somebody else said. I consider these people obsessive. I allow my newsreader to do the attributions. When it screws up, I let the chips fall where they may. To me, it rarely matters who said what, only what they said, and whether it is true. Quoting is an informal system that breaks easily. Your newsreader is supposed to precede a quoted line with >, and a quotation of a quotation with >> etc. I propose a more rigid protocol.|
|Check your Email Return Address Configuration Make sure both the FROM and REPLY-TO are configured correctly in your newsreader. Dump the antispam modifications to your legitimate address, e.g. JungleGeorge@a ol.com You don’t want to lose any email responses. It is surprisingly easy for spam harvesters to undo such techniques. The only hope is to use one no one has every used before. Send mail to yourself and reply to make sure all is configured correctly. Unless you can automatically mark all your email duplicate courtesy copies of your public posts as such, don’t send them. They just confuse the recipient. If you don’t want to use your real email address, don’t post with a phony or inaccurate email address unless it is clearly non-functional, e.g. JungleGeorge@NOSPAM.invalid. The TLD (Top Level Domain) .invalid is specially reserved for deliberately invalid email addresses. If you make up an obscene name even if cleverly disguised obscene name, some people won’t take you seriously and won’t answer your questions.|
|Be specific in the header. If you just say Help me puleeez, people won’t know they know the answer to your question and thus may not even read the body. If you can encapsulate the question in a few words, you will grab the attention of all those that know the answer. There are way more questions that most people have time to even read much less answer.|
|This is magic. People will go to great lengths to help no matter how awful your code is. It at least
shows you made some effort. Your code often asks your question far more eloquently than you could in
words. It makes abundantly clear your misconceptions. Cut and paste your complete
precise code. If there any error messages, include them verbatim. If stack traces or error messages
mention a line number, recall that your audience does not have the line numbers. You will need to
annotate. Don’t retype anything!!. You may unconsciously correct errors or introduce new ones in
the process. Your transcription typos will infuriate those trying to help you.
With complete code, people can use compilers and debuggers to help track your problems, not just their eyeballs. You need enough to run the program, not just compile it! Further, often the problem is not in the part of the program you suspect. Do your utmost to get rid of compiler-detectable errors before posting. See this list of error messages to figure out what the compiler errors mean. Try to prune your code to the smallest possible program that still displays the problem before posting. This process will often help you solve your own problem by gradually whittling away the distractions and irrelevancies.
Whenever you ask for help about an exception on a newsgroup make sure you include the following:
SSCCE (Simple Self Contained Compilable Example)
Polish the code a bit before posting. Indent properly. Follow the proper coding/naming conventions. Clean out any easy compile errors and typos. Add comments about what you hoped the code would do and what it appears to be doing. This bit of extra work will greatly increase your odds of getting a response. If even you are not prepared to do work on your problem, why should anyone else?
|Don’t just lamely say My code is broken, please fix it Daddy as so many newbies
effectively do. Make sure you clearly state:
|Don’t expect people to do pour homework. Don’t post your homework assignment verbatim. Don’t even dare direct quote a phrase from your assignment. You will get you head bitten off. People will be angry with you for cheating and for your anti-learning attitude. Ask some specific questions. Post some code, at least the parts you can do. Demonstrate you have put some effort out already. Playing helpless just brings contempt. See homework for some hints on what to do. If you insist on playing helpless, use a female signature, something that subliminally suggests youth, incompetence and sexual availability, e.g. Brandi, Sherri, Rykkii or Beertha de Bourbon. There are still suckers for that lame dodge.|
|Posts of the form "I asked this question a hour ago and I still have not got an answer. This newsgroup sucks." are more likely to get you put in killfiles than to spur an answer. Get it into your head. You are not entitled to an answer no matter how badly you may need it. If you receive one, it is because some stranger decided to give you a gift of his or her time. Everyone who answers questions is giving you a gift that would you have to pay perhaps for from a subscription help desk. If you act like some precious little prince ordering his servants about, you will soon find your questions ignored.|
|Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Nobody owes you an answer, much less a perfect one. Experts
volunteer their time to answer. If you are the least ungracious about an answer, even one that rudely
chastises you for not knowing the answer already, you may find yourself ignored in future. Newbies are
sometimes unspeakably rude when someone points them to a URL (Uniform Resource Locator)
or a FAQ for a detailed answer. Such an answer reduces
bandwidth while simultaneously providing a more detailed and polished response. It never seems to dawn on
the ungracious newbie that every time they receive a FAQ
link as a response, it
is because the question has already been asked hundreds of times before and the newbie had no business
asking it yet again.
Some people spend many hours a day answering newbie questions. They don’t have time to thoroughly analyse every word in every question. They often make wild guesses at diagnosing the problem based on a few clues in your post and dispense pat advise that handles most newbie problems. Don’t bawl out your responder for failing to notice the fine nuances of your question. At least he tried to help you; nobody else did. Just point out tactfully how that advice was not applicable and ask if, on second look, he has any other recommendations.
When your responder tells you something you already know, don’t berate him for his failure as a mindreader. Consider that he was answering for more than just your benefit. He may have been intentionally providing background for other readers. From his point of view, your role is merely to bring interesting problems to the table for general discussion. If you say anything that hints you believe the newsgroup is a personal service for you, be prepared for stinging barbs. People will go tremendous lengths to help you, but will throw cold water on you the instant you take them for granted.
Avoid comparing the responses of various people, praising some for being useful and others not helpful. Everyone contributed their valuable time to you, even the ones that chastised you for your foolishness. Often it is pure luck which information happens to be the key, not the skill of the responder. With evaluations, you just set up resentments. If someone in particular went out of their way to give you large amounts of help, offer special thanks, but don’t do it in a way that denigrates the others. A general thanks won’t offend anyone, and programmers, being the egotists they are, will assume you meant the lion’s share of the praise for them.
If responders give you irrelevant responses or responses way over or under your head, consider your part in creating this by not making your question clear and giving sufficient background information.
If I have directed you to read this paragraph, it means I thought you were showing signs of a lifetrap called entitlement. In its extreme form, you see other people as existing only to serve you. It is not your fault; it is caused by conditioning in childhood. It poisons your entire life and all your relationships making you miserable. The good news is, that as an adult, you can free yourself of it. Check out this book:
There are some people who get a kick out of telling you to look up some word in Google that generates over a million hits and congratulate themselves that in there somewhere must be the answer to your question if only you were not such a lazy bastard that you failed to read it all before posing a question. These are simply crazy people. Just ignore them. If you bark at them, others will avoid you. It is like berating homeless people who point at the sky and jabber.
|Don’t act huffy if someone mistakes your skill level. It is hard to judge in a short post.
Sometimes you may get responses over your head. Other times, your extremely complex question may be
mistaken for the confused ramblings of a newbie. Just politely restate your question in a way that makes
your skill level more obvious. There is no shame in being new. Every Java programmer was a newbie once.
It is often wise to preface questions with sentences like this when you first start posting in a
newsgroup to help people judge how to phrase their answers:
People sometimes get huffy when you tell them something they already know. They forget that newsgroups are not private email, but public Q & A sessions, where responders are talking primarily to the audience, not to the questioner. If responders are doing their job properly, they include sufficient background for the majority of the audience to follow, not just the questioner. Responders also need to emphasise important points made earlier. Because there are so many boobs offering advice, it helps to say, I agree with X to add your weight to a responder’s credibility, especially if that person is not well-known.
People sometimes get huffy when you agree with them! This sounds bizarre until you realise that many people spend their entire lives on the net trying to put down others and prove them idiots by means fair or foul. When you actually agree with someone or expand on something they said, they are baffled because it happens so rarely. They will get upset thinking you are trying to steal credit for their idea, or that you could not possibly have understood them, and are hence criticising them for lack of clarity, or you are trying to pretend they do not exist, or that you have no right repeating their idea they have already stated, and hence now own, even if they did not originate the idea. Of course if you disagree with them, they will personally attack you, so there is no pleasing these folk.
|Keep in mind that newsgroups are public conversations. If you answer someone’s question, you are also speaking to hundreds of other people. Don’t tune your answer too finely to the original questioner’s circumstance, skill or knowledge. Make sure everyone else can also understand your response. Conversely, don’t act huffy when someone responds with information you already know. He was not talking just to you. Many newbies are under the delusion that newsgroups exist for their convenience, that the newsgroups are like a heavenly help desk with dozens of people eager to serve. A better analogy would be, that you are permitted to toss ideas into the ring for others to discuss to allow them to share their knowledge with each other, and to entertain each other. As a special privilege, you are allowed to watch and even participate. The performance is not entirely for your benefit. You really get people’s backs up when you suggest the discussion is a command performance solely to please your Royal Highness.|
|Many newsreaders cannot deal with HTML-formatted posts and the people using them won’t even be able to make sense of your post. Don’t attach graphics or files. Most newsreaders can’t handle these, yet they greatly bulk up your post. Post code inline as text, preferably with short lines, rather than as attachments, or post a link to where they can be downloaded from a webserver.|
|If you can’t even spell words like deprecate correctly, there is a tendency to dismiss you as less worthy of attention than someone who can. Unless you spell words correctly search engines are hobbled. When you don’t spell correctly, people can’t find your posts and you can’t find theirs. Any decent newsreader will have a spell checker. You then have no excuse for a post containing non-existent words. Granted, it is still possible to write your for you’re, or that for than. When you don’t use the spell checker you are broadcasting the hidden message My time is infinitely valuable. Yours is worthless. This is hardly the best attitude to use for begging free help.|
|If you ask where you can find out how to do X, you will get a much better response than if you ask how to do X. Asking how makes you sound lazy, that you want others to do your research work for you. A good opening question is "where can I find the best FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) for this newsgroup?" You are thus soliciting opinions on which are most accurate and up to date, information you could not easily find yourself, or information that would likely be stale if you did find it.|
|Don’t bawl people out for not knowing something already. It is impossible for someone to know something without first going through a stage in his life when he did not know it. Believe it or not, this rule also applies to you. You have just forgotten that you were once just as ignorant. If someone asks a question, give them the credit for doing something to remedy their ignorance.|
|Don’t bawl people out for asking questions. This is what the newsgroup is for. If you don’t like answering them, don’t answer. Posts of the form RTFM (Read The Fine Manual), enlighten no one. You can make the same point more palatably by saying see x or on page 125 in the book A ISBN (International Standard Book Number) B where it says C, or I fed these keywords to Google and found the following URL s, or ahem see newsgroups in the Java glossary at http://mindprod.com/jgloss/newsgroups.html. If people ask seriously off-topic questions, just refer them to the correct newsgroup. There is no need to lecture them on a first offense.|
|Crossposting / Multiposting: post Your query to Only one Newsgroup. People who answer questions subscribe to nearly all the newsgroups and are rather impatient with cross-posters, especially when the cross posts have nothing whatsoever to do with the charter of the newsgroup. It’s rarely necessary to post to more than one group. If and when you do, please cross-post (a single article which goes to more than one newsgroup) rather than multi-posting (multiple articles, all containing the same text, which each go to a different single group). Multi-posting splits the discussion into the separate groups (so readers of one group may not see that readers in another have already answered your question) and means that those who read both groups see the article twice. See Indiana University for more information.|
|This will get people quite angry with you. Why?
|Read all the answers several times before you post any more questions! It is amazing how frequently a newbie will ask a follow-on question that is already answered in one of the responses or in one of the URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) mentioned. It really gets the responders backs up if it looks as if you did not even bother to read their responses. They will become actively hostile at the perceived slight. It is easy to do this if you respond immediately after reading the first response. Read the rest the rest of the responses first, think about them for a while, then reply. Otherwise it will look as if you considered the other responses so beneath contempt you did not even bother to read them or chase the links in them.|
|Saying things like, "I have to have an answer on this within two hours or my boss will kill
me." is likely to be counter productive. Others are not obligated by your deadlines and will likely
resent the implication you don’t appreciate their help as a favour, but consider it an obligation
to your majesty. If you must express your desperation, counter it with some acknowledgement you have no
right to demand a quick answer. Further, people tend to answer as soon as they read your message anyway,
so your desperation can’t very well hurry them up. If you do jitter, you make get a response of
Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.
|Prefacing a piece of advice with Why don’t you… is a great way to
make enemies. It implies:
|Much of the discussion in newsgroups makes no sense at all unless you understand it in the context of primate psychology. There are battles for dominance. There is a pecking order. There are alliance groups. There is a clash of different styles of humour, particularly in international newsgroups such as these. Just keep in mind the creators of all the posts are hairless apes and it will make a lot more sense. The other thing to consider is many of the people on the Internet are social misfits banished from live company. Here, they are immune to violent reprisals to their antisocial actions. You can train your newsreader to just filter these whackos out once you identify them, or you can treat them as just part of the day’s entertainment. Part of the problem comes from expecting posts, which you read on your computer to somehow be more logical, accurate etc. than the equivalent live conversations would be. The other problem comes from reading emotional content into the text. In a live conversation you would hear the jocularity, where you might read in a severe reprimand emotional tone into the bald text. You can also mistake brevity for curtness. A one line response that answers your question is not rude, it is just way of serving more people per day.|
|When you post a message, it will be broadcast around the world. People make comments on your post. The responses eventually wend their way around the globe, usually arriving out of order, and sometimes very late. Responders are in no way required to quote your whole original post, just enough to establish the context for their comments. Your complete post is still available for anyone who wants to review it. Further, just because you started the thread gives you no special ownership or moderator rights to it. People are free to say what they want, and take the conversation off in directions unrelated to your needs. They are not required to answer your question or stick to your agenda. If you start trying to play dictator telling people what they must quote or talk about, you will be very quickly told where to get off. Much of the time the answers you will receive will suggest a completely different approach than you planned. You will be ridiculed if you try to limit the form of the advice you get. Just extract what is practical from what you receive.|
|Keep in mind that nobody was required to respond to your question, so that everyone who did respond, did you a favour, even if it was not quite what you wanted. The normal thing to do in such a case would be to thank them. However, hundreds of little perfunctory thanking posts do little to stroke those you thank and can irritate those who also have to read them. So I suggest that unless you have something particularly heartfelt to say, that you append your thanks to some other post or remain silent. If someone has particularly helped you, has provided a key piece of information, or has gone to a lot of work to answer your question, see if you can come up with a little praise with your thank you. No matter how clumsy it is, they will lap it up. Praise and approval are the primary rewards people have for answering your questions. If you know someone’s email, a private thanks can brighten a day too without cluttering up everyone else’s in box or making them feel bad they did not receive similar praise today.|
|Some mild mannered people, when they get behind the wheel of a car, turn into monsters. Something similar happens when people start debating in the newsgroups. They forget they are talking with fellow humans. They become insulting, demanding, petty and petulant bullies. The goal ceases to be sharing of information, and becomes a completive game of put downs, where the aim is to utterly humiliate their fellow participants. No matter how rude the boors are, anonymity ensures no one will literally punch their faces in. So they can safely relish the opportunity to goad others to a fury. Don’t take their abuse personally; they do it to everyone. You are always at liberty to plonk unreasonable individuals if their insults are not worth the information they share. The way to deal with them is ignore the insults and keep bringing the conversation back to the facts. Zen stories of old dog enlightened beings who slough off any abuse might be instructive.|
|Especially if you are someone with a strong sense of entitlement, these suggestions could really get your back up. How dare I tell you how to behave! You are of course free to ignore all these suggestions. It is just that you will get far fewer useful responses if you ignore them. It is your choice. It is in your self-interest to heed what I have learned from many years on the net watching what works and what does not.|
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