Exchanging Stacks: My Strange Addiction

The other night while I was researching a question posted on the Salesforce Stack Exchange, my husband asked me if I was working, my answer was no. His followup question, are you “Exchanging Stacks”? I told him I was, and that I couldn’t figure out the answer. Then he asked if I was going to pull an all nighter working on someone else’s problem, I laughed and said maybe. The next day, I still hand’t figured it out, so I reached out to another Salesforce Developer friend, @lifewithryan a.k.a. my Kevin (by the way, if you don’t have a Kevin, I highly recommend getting one), to see if he had any ideas. When I explained that I was working on a Stack Exchange question, he immediately responded with “addict!”.  It’s true, my addiction started just over a year ago.

I remember my first encounter with the site like it was yesterday. A colleague was trying to find a way to prevent auto-complete from occurring on an encrypted input field on a Visualforce page. I instantly turned to Google for an answer but only found similar questions that mostly pointed to using browser settings. At first we went with changing the user’s browser settings but found that was not an acceptable solution. Once again, I turned to Google and just kept trying different search terms and that was when it happened; I found the answer on the Salesforce Stack Exchange. I’m sure I had used the site before without even realizing it, but that day I signed up and became an active member.

I was so grateful — the person who posted the question and had later posted the answer — I just had to thank him; but, when I tried posting a comment, I  couldn’t, because I didn’t have an account. I immediately signed up, only to find out that I still couldn’t post a comment because I didn’t have enough rep points. Of course, I wasn’t going to let that stop me!

I started answering as many posts as I could; creating posts is “the most basic privilege of all”. It took me two weeks to earn enough rep points to finally post my thank you comment (I found out later, an upvote is a more appropriate way of thanking someone). At that point, I had accomplished my mission and could have stopped there but it was too late, I was already hooked.

I remember telling pretty much anyone who would listen how much I loved this site. In a way, it helped me validate what I had learned since I started working on the Salesforce.com platform. I realized, although I don’t have all the answers, I had some, and that there were people out there that I could help. It was so incredible to not only help others, but to also expand my knowledge-base while doing it, truly a win win. I will admit that it always wasn’t a bowl full of cherries, there were also times where I found myself frustrated while using the site.

In the beginning, some of my answers were recommended to be closed because they were “not an answer” to the question. You see, in my haste to answer the question, I wasn’t always the most thorough; I didn’t always provide the why or an explanation to go along with the answer. Other times, I would get downvoted and there was no comment to help me understand why. One time, I got so frustrated and irritated that I fired up my Development org — in the middle of the night — to try and prove out my answer, but instead, just ended up proving myself wrong.

It wasn’t until later on when I earned the privilege to review that it really hit me what was happening. Ultimately, the site is moderated by other community members. Sometimes, posts are flagged for deletion for various reasons and when you select that reason, it becomes a comment related to that post. I then realized, that these were static responses that tried to help the poster understand why their question was being closed. This review process is designed to help other members learn to use the site and raise the quality of their posts. Unfortunately, if you are a newb like I was, it can seem a little cold or harsh, but in reality, it’s the most effective way to keep the site useful to future members. If you have a post closed, you can always edit it with additional details to try and help clear up any confusion.

My suggestion to new users asking questions is to pretend you are walking up to a complete stranger, that has absolutely no idea what you are working on; give that person as much background information pertinent to the question at hand as well as everything you have tried so far up until this point. Also, try to breakdown your problem into smaller chunks that is easier for another member to replicate. Make sure to include any errors or the expected behavior versus what is actually happening. Most importantly, do your research; posting the question should come well after searching the site/Google for similar problems.

When answering a question, don’t get discouraged if your answer is not selected as the “Best Answer”; remember that the person asking the question decides which answer helped him/her the most. However, your answer still might be useful for future members trying to solve the same problem. Also, try to remember it’s OK to be wrong, sometimes a wrong answer can still be helpful in finding the right answer.


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