How Not to Respond to Someone Learning

DayCamp

Member
Is it just me, or is the first impulse everyone has when you ask a question on any community forum to be condescending and rude? I am very new to GameMaker and making games in general, therefore discouragement comes easy when someone of much greater experience responds with nothing more than "read the manual" or sums up your overall worth in a matter of a few keystrokes. It is my assumption that if someone has put in enough effort to make a well thought out posting related to any aspect of Gamemaker, surely they have ALREADY read at least SOME of the manual, if not all of it. Sadly, I am not a computer, nor is anyone else, therefore my rate of retention for new information is still growing.

Does everyone here respond to inquiries like a jerk, or is it something that just happens from time to time and mostly everyone is sensible?
 

Mercerenies

Member
Do you mind if I ask what bad experience you've had here? I see one topic you've made, which was efficiently handled by FrostyCat, and I don't see any ill will or mistreatment happening there. You asked a question. He told you not just the answer but how a programmer should approach the problem. Teach a man to fish and whatnot. It doesn't strike me as condescending, simply educational.
 
He's got a point about forum etiquette. You can get those sort of responses on any forum. You can get veteran users, sick and tired of the same new threads asking the same obvious questions from 'im a noob' members and give a reply that is both helpful but also comes off as frustrated.

Happens all the time. Text can be read from so many view points. Hell even I can come over as an arrogant git if my post doesn't read clearly.

Everyone in the world writes these days but that doesn't make us best selling authors.

Best mindset to have in these situations is, whatever you need help with, write it out then reread it if you were someone who was considering replying to it. What things may you have missed off? What things have you said that could be misinterpreted?

Then post it and see if you get a response that comes over as unhelpful to you. If it does, don't rise to it thinking the member is attacking you personally, just politely remind them you are new, haven't honestly looked at everything but will heed their advice and wait. If no-one else answers, then take the advice, have another look at the manual for example, then come back with some evidence you looked, that will show people you have tried but you clearly are struggling to help yourself.

Then I'm sure someone will help out some more.

You have to remember, especially as a forumite who logs in everyday, it must get tiring seeing the same stuff over and over. People just diving in to making a new thread hoping to get the help they seek. If everyone got that, alot of us wouldn't learn much and alot of us with more unique threads may go unnoticed due to the many threads asking the same thing such as how do I fire a bullet from my player.

And lastly this is the internet, if you get emotional on it you're opening yourself up to being trolled and nit taken seriously. Just the way things have become unfortunately.

So take a step back, accept you haven't had a good first hand experience. Do some searching of the forum, read some threads, even if they aren't anything related to what you want to learn about and get a feel for how the good threads are compared to the not so good ones and you'll pick up on the local etiquette.

I myself have jumped the gun before with a helpful user merely because I thought they were purposely being difficult but then after realising I had written some code in error, upon removing it I realised the user was correct all along and I made a right tit of myself. But hey some of us take things differently to others.

You're welcome here as much as anyone else reading this. Just try to be mindful before posting new threads and worse case scenario you don't get the help you want and you have to learn it yourself.... Challenge accepted? I would. No greater feeling figuring it out for yourself 😁

All the best 👍
 

DayCamp

Member
"Being new does not give you an excuse to skip this." How is that a measured response? I don't even know what I did wrong. I didn't intentionally skip anything. Sounds like typical mansplaying to me that one
Which is it?

Condescending or not condescending? 🤔
My response was flawed and unproductive; therefore, I consider whether or not I personally found it to be condescending irrelevant in retrospect.
 

DayCamp

Member
He's got a point about forum etiquette. You can get those sort of responses on any forum. You can get veteran users, sick and tired of the same new threads asking the same obvious questions from 'im a noob' members and give a reply that is both helpful but also comes off as frustrated.

Happens all the time. Text can be read from so many view points. Hell even I can come over as an arrogant git if my post doesn't read clearly.

Everyone in the world writes these days but that doesn't make us best selling authors.

Best mindset to have in these situations is, whatever you need help with, write it out then reread it if you were someone who was considering replying to it. What things may you have missed off? What things have you said that could be misinterpreted?

Then post it and see if you get a response that comes over as unhelpful to you. If it does, don't rise to it thinking the member is attacking you personally, just politely remind them you are new, haven't honestly looked at everything but will heed their advice and wait. If no-one else answers, then take the advice, have another look at the manual for example, then come back with some evidence you looked, that will show people you have tried but you clearly are struggling to help yourself.

Then I'm sure someone will help out some more.

You have to remember, especially as a forumite who logs in everyday, it must get tiring seeing the same stuff over and over. People just diving in to making a new thread hoping to get the help they seek. If everyone got that, alot of us wouldn't learn much and alot of us with more unique threads may go unnoticed due to the many threads asking the same thing such as how do I fire a bullet from my player.

And lastly this is the internet, if you get emotional on it you're opening yourself up to being trolled and nit taken seriously. Just the way things have become unfortunately.

So take a step back, accept you haven't had a good first hand experience. Do some searching of the forum, read some threads, even if they aren't anything related to what you want to learn about and get a feel for how the good threads are compared to the not so good ones and you'll pick up on the local etiquette.

I myself have jumped the gun before with a helpful user merely because I thought they were purposely being difficult but then after realising I had written some code in error, upon removing it I realised the user was correct all along and I made a right tit of myself. But hey some of us take things differently to others.

You're welcome here as much as anyone else reading this. Just try to be mindful before posting new threads and worse case scenario you don't get the help you want and you have to learn it yourself.... Challenge accepted? I would. No greater feeling figuring it out for yourself 😁

All the best 👍
Yes, challenge accepted, Lance :). Excluding video games, I lead mostly an analog lifestyle (no social media or smart phone, though this forum is technically social media I suppose) so communicating online in this day in age is something I have largely avoided, but this has been a great learning experience and helped guide me to a more patient and kinder way of communicating.
 

woods

Member
The thing about having a global community is there are sooo many different cultures that are mashed together. A thing may be considered an everyday phrase in one part of the world, and totally unacceptable in another. The same is true for different cliques and communities.. the jocks act differently than the skaters...

With all of us mashed together in this huge melting pot, there WILL be misconceived perceptions of appropriateness. While some people are callous and rough in thier delivery, they still are trying to deliver helpful information.

"if you looked in the manual it says ...blah blah........" i didnt understand the manual so am asking for an in your own words reference.. Some could take this as rough and blaow in your face dummy... the thing to take away here isnt the raw interpreted angst, but rather the information they are trying to pass on to you. ;o)


it gets frustrating for sure... from both sides of teh fence.
 

TheouAegis

Member
To be fair, the manual was written in someone's "own words" and that someone is a regular on this forum, as well.

To be fair, most of the time when someone says, "read the manual," or something similar, it means that person thinks your question is answered in the part(s) of the manual relevant to your question. When someone says, "Google it," it means your question was answered hundreds or thousands of times across the interwebz. When someone says, "search the forums," it means there are hundreds of posts pertaining to your question already. To be fair, the "search the forums" answer is occasionally incorrect, since many of us were regulars on the defunct forums and some of the topics we may be thinking of may have been on those forums. The fact remains that someone wrote thousands of pages of content for the user manuals for Game Maker 8, Game Maker Studio 1, and Game Maker Studio 2, all of which were written in that person's own words -- not always perfect or correct -- to teach beginners and veteran coders how to use each version of Game Maker. Reddit also has tons of threads about Game Maker coding. YouTube has a bunch of videos about Game Maker coding. There are even published books about coding in Game Maker. The simple fact of the matter is a lot of people learned how to code in Game Maker with just the manual and no help from the forums or even a live teacher. It seems as well that even the live teachers aren't teaching even 5% of what the manual has to offer.

Now, FrostyCat lives up to the moniker. When FC doesn't appear to be even the teensiest, tiniest bit condescending and I see it, I'm just like, "Whoa! Someone's in a really good mood today!" There have even been times where FC was not condescending at all and someone still complained and I had to step in like, "Hold up, you're wrong there, snowflake." To be fair, though, the hsp=(right-left)*spd question was just basic 6th grade mathematics.
y = (a - b) * x
If a and b are the set {0,1}, solve for all y. The answer is ix, where i is {-1,0,1}.

I'll even be nice and explain why that code even came about: In arcade and console gaming, directional controls were simple -- you could move left, right, up, down, or diagonally if allowed, and only in one of those directions at a time because the input controllers only allowed one direction at a time. When gaming took off on the PC, it was now possible for input controllers (i.e., keyboards) to allow conflicting directions. A gamepad could allow left or right direction, but not both; a keyboard could allow both left and right direction at the same time, and that posed a serious conflict for programmers. You could waste the CPU's time calculating which input to use and which to discard, or to use one and enqueue the other, and it would be tedious to code. The solution was to reduce each direction input down to 0 or 1 and then use simple subtraction to reduce code by 90%.

The rest of the code in that one thread was pretty well commented already, although if you confused aeronautical "drag" with PC slang "drag", that would be understandable.
 

DayCamp

Member
Sadly, I always struggled with mathematics, so understanding the logic of the code sometimes leads me to second guess what I know and don't know. If I think about it too much I tend to panic or ridicule myself to the point where I think the only way find an answer is to reach out to someone. You're right that some of it was just basic sixth grade mathematics, and perhaps the biggest underlying issue with my original post was that I wasn't really asking the right question. What I really wanted to ask was for something I mostly understood to be explained to me in a different light through someone elses words. It was moreso looking for reassurance due to my own self-ridicule, so I was looking to boost my confidence by hearing someone else reaffirm things so I knew I was on the right path. Of course there is no way anyone replying could have known the deeper context of why I was asking, so when users saw my message they likely saw someone embarking on their first stab at code.
 

TsukaYuriko

🌠
Forum Staff
Moderator
In general, it is incredibly hard to sense what another person knows based solely on a single post, which is usually all the context we get when responding to help topics. It's even harder to sense what they don't know, and attempts to figure out either of these frequently tend to be taken the wrong way. Having watched over this community for years now, this is something I see happening again and again - assumptions or inquiries regarding what someone knows or doesn't know, or what they've done or haven't done, are a hit or miss type of situation with the potential to cause unnecessary tension due to miscommunications or misunderstandings. :/ It's also helpful to keep in mind that while you know what you know and don't know, or what you struggle with, those who respond to you will not know unless you tell them. Chances are they'll take it into consideration once they know it, but they can't really do so beforehand.

Often, there's an inherently positive intent behind that one reply among the masses that just sounds like some grumpy professor who's having a bad day having a go at one of his students for asking what he deems to be a simple or obvious question he expects the student to know the answer to. Quite frequently, it's the subtle nuances in such replies that can make the difference between appearing rude and appearing helpful.

Examples:
"Have you read the manual? This is demonstrated quite clearly in the example section of function XYZ."
"This is demonstrated quite clearly in the manual's example section of function XYZ."
"The example section of function XYZ demonstrates how to do this. Have you seen it already?"

The worst way I could possibly interpret those as is:
"I don't think you read the manual. Are you stupid? This page clearly explains it, why didn't you read it?!?"
"Have you read manual page XYZ already? It explains what you're looking for and I think you'll understand it if you look at it."
"Here's where to find the solution to your question. Is this sufficient, or should I explain it more?"

Omission of ambiguous key phrases or needlessly eloquent or formal wording can go a long way to make something appear at least neutral rather than hostile. Additional hints of intent, which is otherwise difficult to guess based on an inherently monotonous block of text that can be read in various ways based solely on the reader's interpretation and imagination, can help to establish that you want to help and not mock the user who's asking the question.


Another set of examples:
"This is an extremely rudimentary question you would know the answer to if you had read the manual page of function XYZ."
"This is a very simple question. The manual page of function XYZ explains it."
"This is pretty basic stuff. Check the manual page of function XYZ for an explanation."

Again, my worst possible interpretations:
"This is extremely simple and you're stupid for not understanding or knowing it."
"This question is very simple. Reading manual page XYZ will probably help you understand it."
"Check out this resource to learn how this works. Don't worry, I'm pretty sure you'll understand it and can move past this problem soon."

Though the content is the same each time (problem is simple - read this resource to understand it), the wording makes the difference here.


One part of my day job can essentially be summarized as "remote IT support". We were trained to keep all correspondence between us and our clients as clinical as possible to appear professional in order to improve the company's image as a professional business. Things like showing emotions or - dare I mention them - emojis are greatly discouraged. However, I personally have found this to be ineffective in the long run. I often have to deal with frustrated clients who are under strict deadlines or have been failing to resolve something on their own for hours or even days, so the atmosphere often starts out tense and heavy from the get-go. Rubbing people who are already feeling down the wrong way tends to send them off on a tangent because they feel wronged by whom they expected to be the solution to their problem, not an additional problem, on top of already feeling bad due to having the problem in the first place.

Forum members are much like these clients. Usually, they've been trying to fix stuff on their own for a while, got frustrated because they couldn't and resorted to asking the community. This is why I tend to bring emotions into many of my replies (often even a bit more than necessary) - in an attempt to convey the intent better. It's much harder to feel offended by something that sounds friendly than by something that sounds neutral, and it's hard to teach something to an angry or distraught student.

It's also easier to avoid conflicts than to resolve them, so if I can avoid people getting enraged because they don't like my wording, etiquette be damned, I'll throw in an emoji and resist using advanced vocabulary at the risk of somehow appearing less knowledgeable or damaging the company's reputation, which our codex wants to make me believe will definitely be the outcome. My primary intention during an initial response to help requests is not necessarily (only) to get started on resolving the problem, but to establish that I am someone who can be approached for help and will gladly do so - not someone high and authoritative who knows better than you and will look down on you for not knowing or understanding what they deem to be simple or obvious. Better for the company's image in the long run, too, if you ask me.


To demonstrate... take the two example scenarios above and just add an emoji.
"The example section of function XYZ demonstrates how to do this. Have you seen it already? ;)"
"This is pretty basic stuff. Check the manual page of function XYZ for an explanation. ;)"

We're taught that this makes us appear less professional... but just try to find ANY trace of hostility in these. I dare you to find a reason to get mad at me for telling you either of these two. :) This is precisely what makes the difference between a neutral reply that can be interpreted in multiple ways and a reply that is clearly intended to be a not so subtle hint about where you can (probably) find the solution on your own - and if it's not sufficient, you can reasonably expect that the person who sent you there is approachable enough to explain it more thoroughly when prompted. Explicitly stating the latter goes the additional step and ensures there's absolutely no room for interpretation:

"The example section of function XYZ demonstrates how to do this. Have you seen it already? ;) If you still have questions, don't hesitate to ask!"
"This is pretty basic stuff. Check the manual page of function XYZ for an explanation. ;) If you still have questions, don't hesitate to ask!"


The question "Have you read the manual?" can be interpreted in MANY different ways... but every time I ask this question, the intent is 100% either to find out whether the user in question has already read specific parts of the manual and has therefore already either exhausted this option or is at least on the same page as me, or to throw a hint where the solution can be found so the user can find and figure it out on their own (and learn from it rather than having the answer handed to them). In verbal conversation, this intent is usually easier to convey. Making the transition from what would sound perfectly acceptable if tone and intent were more apparent (as they would be in verbal conversation) to explicitly declaring each of these was difficult for me at the start, too, but it's something I eventually got used to. It's pretty much second nature to me by now (to the point where I tend to over-do it), but I can relate very well to anyone who fell into this pitfall already.

I sort of understand both sides here. I've been on both. While a condescending-sounding reply is certainly not the most pleasant thing to receive, someone still took time out of their day to try to teach me something I don't know, or at least give me a push in the right direction, and I'm grateful to them for that. Communication is not easy on either side. In fact, on-point communication is something I'm naturally incapable of according to the definition of one of my medical conditions... so if even I can learn it, I have strong reasons to believe that anyone can! :)


... case in point, this even sort of works on the two examples I intentionally tried to phrase in the rudest way possible.

"Have you read the manual? This is demonstrated quite clearly in the example section of function XYZ. ;) If you're still unsure afterwards, let us know what you're having difficulties understanding and we'll try to explain in greater detail."
"This is an extremely rudimentary question you would know the answer to if you had read the manual page of function XYZ. ;) If you're still unsure afterwards, let us know what you're having difficulties understanding and we'll try to explain in greater detail."
 

kburkhart84

Firehammer Games
@TsukaYuriko I work IT for a company that owns several fast food franchises(Burger King, Arbys, Popeyes are 3 or them). I 100% know how you feel as far as dealing with people, as I deal with them daily, both on site and remotely.

My thing about forums, and internet in general, is simply to follow advice when it makes sense, and ignore what doesn't. Common advice is to RTFM, google, and search the forum...I try to follow those before I ask questions. I also can't hold any expectations about how I will receive a response, or if I will even ever get one. I also realize you never know how someone is really thinking when they type something as it just doesn't come across correctly regardless. That said, since I've typically done my first steps before even posting here, I don't think I have ever actually had anyone be condescending to me at all here. I've seen plenty of very direct responses(as in without all the "fluff") but I honestly prefer that. I've also had people disagree with me, which is part of life regardless of whether you are typing, talking, texting, whatever.

As far as trying to answer forum posts to help people....sometimes its hard to do. There really are people that simply expect you to do the work for them. There are people that are completely unwilling to do the bare minimum and just post away. In general, I simply refrain from responding to those, as I find it easier to just not participate.
 

ElectroMan

Jack of All Shades
To be fair, though, the hsp=(right-left)*spd question was just basic 6th grade mathematics.
y = (a - b) * x
If a and b are the set {0,1}, solve for all y. The answer is ix, where i is {-1,0,1}.
To be fair (TM) that is an obfuscated way of coding that for movement. Yes, I have learned that trick and it's neat and all, but it is not immediately readable, even for veteran coders. It's not obvious why it functions correctly and that works against it as high quality code. The golden rule is "code is meant to be read by humans and only incidentally for computers to execute". You can reach a degree of balance between readability and code compactness, but for maintenance purposes, and specially for teaching purposes, obfuscation for sake of reduced code size is a no-go.

We're coding in GML, if you want that sweet perf, you can either do low-level C or go with assembly. Boolean arithmetic is good and all but should be used with caution, or by experts. And not for tutorial-level code. If you gotta draw up Karnaugh maps to explain to a newbie simple movement code and acting like it's the most basic thing in the world you're doing something wrong.
 

TheouAegis

Member
To be fair (TM) that is an obfuscated way of coding that for movement. Yes, I have learned that trick and it's neat and all, but it is not immediately readable, even for veteran coders. It's not obvious why it functions correctly and that works against it as high quality code. The golden rule is "code is meant to be read by humans and only incidentally for computers to execute". You can reach a degree of balance between readability and code compactness, but for maintenance purposes, and specially for teaching purposes, obfuscation for sake of reduced code size is a no-go.

We're coding in GML, if you want that sweet perf, you can either do low-level C or go with assembly. Boolean arithmetic is good and all but should be used with caution, or by experts. And not for tutorial-level code. If you gotta draw up Karnaugh maps to explain to a newbie simple movement code and acting like it's the most basic thing in the world you're doing something wrong.
I wouldn't call it obfuscated at all. If someone never understood the logic of basic mathematics, either because their brain couldn't grasp it or they had inadequate teachers in school, that's their problem. It's a completely logical interpretation, which is why it has persisted. Admittedly, it circumvents variable typing rules, treating those booleans as integers, which the GM manual even advises against, although the developers have refused to actually implement strict bools into GM's code.

Code:
move = 0;
if right
    if left move = 0;
    else move = 1;
else
if left move = -1;
Code:
move = 0;
if right move = !left;
if left move = !right;
Code:
if right ^ left
    move = right | (-left);
Code:
move = right - left;
 
I've been told to read the manual or google or search the forums in past, usually in a diplomatic way. My issue with those responses is that I did do all those things, but sometimes I'm not sure what I should be looking for. It can be hard to find answers when you don't know how to phrase the question succinctly enough for a search engine to understand you.
 
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