Written by Mandy Michael

The only bad question
is the one you didn't ask

No one should be afraid to ask for help or made to feel that they have asked a stupid question, and yet this attitude is more prevalent online than ever before.

What is most concerning is that it is becoming more common in our industry. The web has traditionally been open and supportive, it was easy to see how people did things, learn from their ideas and create something new from it. This was what made the web so exciting, so fun and so innovative. We were free to create and learn. People were happy to share how they achieved what they were doing because we wanted to see the web grow and be a better place.

This has changed and people are losing sight of what makes our community and our industry so fantastic. If we truly want diversity in our industry we need to go back to our supportive, welcoming community.

Not everyone is naturally gifted whether it’s math, programming, art, dance etc. But talent is a something that can be strived for! Anything that someone is willing to put time and effort into is something they can do. But not everyone has someone to learn from, not everyone has mentors, books, or local communities they can go to for help. They rely on things like Stack Overflow, Twitter, Forums and other online communities to provide them the support they need to learn.

Recently I saw some comments about how web developers shouldn’t need high school math explained to them. I think it is important to remember that not everyone is privileged enough to have had a good high school education, and even those who have may not have remembered or even been a particularly good student in high school. What makes our industry so wonderful is that you don’t need a good education to join us, you could have completely spaced in high school and still be an amazing web developer.

The web makes it possible for anyone to learn what we do (if they have access to a computer) because the resources are so freely available online, and this is wonderful! However I believe that it is our responsibility to help those people be the best and most responsible developers they can be.

We shouldn’t be making people feel bad because they don’t understand the basics, we shouldn’t be sarcastic and giving out false information. If someone came up to you and asked you for help would you intentionally tell them the wrong thing? Would you lead them down a false path?

I hope the answer to that question is no. This is just not something people do to each other, so why feel the need to do this online? Why is that okay?

I see so many people criticise a person's questions, judge their use of language even ignoring the fact that maybe english isn’t their first language. But regardless of this, everyone has to start somewhere, remember the first time you wrote markup or code, did it make sense to you? Just because you had to struggle without the resources we have today doesn’t mean you should force others to. We should be giving them a helping hand, making the pathway easier for them, giving them the opportunity to learn from our mistakes. There is no point making someone repeat the same mistakes and deal with the same hurdles you did, that is not how innovation happens, that is how we become stagnant and achieve nothing.

We should be helping each other be the best versions of ourselves we can be, be the best developers, the best teachers and innovators.

So this is my plea to the community:

If someone asks for help on something that is obvious to you, don't judge them, don't make assumptions and don't expect them to have the same knowledge and background as you. Take the opportunity to share what you have learnt and help a fellow lover of the web! When we work together we create a better web for everyone.

Always remember the only bad question is the one you didn’t ask. Because you never got the answer you needed.

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Contact me on Twitter @mandy_kerr, or email me