Being Stuck Is OK

I’ve heard many times from different people that they had abandoned some task or project because it had been too difficult. This can be a good excuse when the problem is really over-complicated but often what one needs is a piece of friendly advice and encouragement.

I need to point out that when I’m talking about being stuck, I mean that a person has tried to solve the problem by searching for an answer on the Internet, and debugging or decomposing the task (dividing it into smaller doable tasks). First, you should try to find the solution yourself and only then search for help.

So why people don’t ask for help and seem to abandon what they are doing?

I could think of several reasons:

— they don’t know who has relevant knowledge

— they are afraid of being laughed at or rejected

— they don’t know how to describe the problem concisely

— they were told that asking for help is something bad

For me, the most frequent were the first two. When I was learning to code, I asked questions several times in community chats but I often received unfriendly feedback, so I preferred to do as much myself as possible and not to show others that I didn’t understand something.

And I think that it’s totally wrong!

There are many good professionals ready to help. They may be part of another community or chat so it is worth trying again. For example, if someone told you something harsh in a Facebook group, you can ask your question in the relative Slack channel. Of course, you shouldn’t bother people with questions you can easily google yourself (“How to make a string uppercase in JavaScript?” is probably a bad question to ask).

When looking for people with relevant knowledge, you can consider the following channels:

— Slack (for many software communities it is the primary way of exchanging information and networking)

— Telegram (it has both channels and chats and you can find different lists of them by googling something like “telegram chat [name of a programming language, CRM and so on]”

— Gitter and community chats like Rocket chat (you will usually find links to them on GitHub/GitLab repositories under README or Contributing)

— Facebook (it’s not only a network of friends but it also has groups for professionals)

— Twitter (by posting your question on Twitter and adding hashtags you can get many replies from active community members)

These are just some of the resources where you can look for a person who could help. Don’t hesitate to ask even if the problem is very specific: there may be people who have already struggled with the same thing and found a workaround.

Outreachy is totally unique in the aspect of getting help. You have a mentor (or mentors) for your project, which means that there is definitely a person who can (and is willing) to help. It means a lot for me as I understand that whatever difficulties I can have, my mentors will try to figure out the solution with me and I won’t be left alone. It gives me confidence (which is an awesome feeling by the way).

When I had a problem with Python and destroyed Ubuntu on my machine, Robby and Toni were there to help me with re-installing necessary packages and encouraging. They never told me that my questions were stupid or that something was obvious.

I always try to answer questions in community chats when I have time and know the answer even if they seem trivial for me. I suggest that a person has already tried to google or do something to figure out the solution and that didn’t help. Sometimes all you need is to put information from official docs into simple English!

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