The courtesy of explaining your issue properly to a developer

I don’t mind people emailing me about issues they are having with my code. Whether it’s some old snippet I posted on a GitHub gist, or when people contact me about something they stumbled upon with WooCommerce (even though I’m no longer working for WooThemes).

Sometimes I know the answer, sometimes I can only point them in the right direction. I my best to make sure they can overcome their issue, whatever it is.

In order to continue doing this, I maintain one strict rule: Explain the issue properly. Emails that just say “it doesn’t work” are likely to get trashed. You don’t drive you car into the garage and tell the mechanic that.

It’s a courtesy

Before you email me, put yourself in my shoes. Think about what information I’m going to need to solve your issue, or at least point you in the right direction.

Think about things like:

  1. Steps to reproduce the issue. If it’s a technical issue and you know how I can see the issue for myself, tell me!
  2. Things you tried to solve this issue already. In the case of WordPress issues, have you tried disabling all plugins and (custom) themes to check for potential conflicts? Show me you have at least tried.
  3. It might seem obvious to include version numbers or even a link to the code you are referring to, but still a lot of people fail to do this. Sometimes I have absolutely no idea what they are struggling with.
  4. I hope this goes without saying, but it really helps if your email uses proper punctuation and grammar. I’m not going to freak out about typos, but emails are a lot easier to read if they have been written with care.
  5. Keep your email short and sweet. I’m not going to read a 3 page long bug report that basically comes down to saying there is a conflict between x and y. If you need a lot of text to describe the issue, please provide a (tl;dr) summary at the top of your email.

If you stick to these rules, chances are that I (or any developer you are ever going to email) might be able to point you in the right direction.

Do the right thing

Every time you email a developer, you are claiming some of their time. Most developers will help you out, if you take the time to properly describe the issue you are having. Most of us are actually nice people, you know? 😉

From now on, I’m simply going to reply a canned response that links to this post, whenever someone fails to provide even the most basic information in an email.

Let’s see how many of those requests actually come back with the right information next time.