Help on help.

There’s a certain skill to asking for help. I’m not very good at it. I tend to dislike asking for help, and the reliance on someone else it seems to indicate. Sometimes I manage to figure out the issue myself, and feel slightly more warm and fuzzy than I would have had someone else fed it to me on a spoon. Other times I just take way longer than I need to.

Other’s don’t have that problem, and find it easy to ask for help. Too easy. I have a contact form, linked to from my various articles etc. Quite often I get interesting communication. Other times it’s not so interesting, but I appreciate hearing it. Many times I’m asked for help. Sometimes I can assist, other times not, and then there are those times when I can assist but don’t really want to.

At some point, tired of all the anonymous requests for help, I added this to the form:

I’m usually happy to respond, but if your email contains the words ‘give me’, as in job, code, pictures, assistance etc, please at least give me your name if you expect a response. Thanks πŸ˜‰

In spite of this, some people still don’t bother. Here’s a request I got today:


I need a help, please I need a full comparison between MS SQL server, ORACLE, DB2 and MYSQL.

Thank you .>>i need it soon

Now this is all very well, but the person makes no kind of introduction, gives me no context, and then to top it all effectively tells me to hurry up. I could send them a one page link I have handy, but I don’t really want to. As I mentioned, there’s a certain skill to asking for help.

1) Make it personal. Introduce yourself if I don’t already know you. Tell me a little about what you’re doing.

2) Tell me why you need help. In the case above, are you a student, or working for a company who’ve tossed you in the deep end with a project you have no clue how to do, or what?

3) Don’t expect it. Word your request such that you would be grateful for getting help, not that you’re in a hurry to get help. It’s the verbal equivalent of smiling – you’re much more likely to get what you want.

I recognise that it’s often a language barrier – the person above probably doesn’t speak English as a first language, and caking the request with some sort of flowery fluff was perhaps beyond them. But it’s a simple understanding of human behaviour. I’m more likely to help the animal welfare that shows me the little cats lined up ready for the slaughter, and later sends me an after picture of the cat safely ensconced in their new home, rather than the anonymous bank account with no context.

So, to the author of the above, better luck next time πŸ™‚


  1. Ian,

    I tried to post the following message in response to your b2evo primer article at phpBuilder, but received a 404 error at

    Here’s the comment …


    Excellent tutorial.

    There’s an anti-spam perl script, written for b2evolution, that automatically renames the “htsrv” folder. Run as a cron job, it makes the folder a moving target, putting further distance between your blog and the spammers.

    You can find the script on our website.



    I hate to bother you for help, but I was wondering if there was a way you could post it for me? (b2evo users might find it beneficial) πŸ˜‰



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