Python support – Ask wisely, ask nicely
What do you do if you need some Python support, from a quick answer to affordable regular mentoring or tutoring?
Python has a very friendly and helpful community. I have heard it said that people come for the language but stay for the community. There is even a conference talk about this. Here is how to tap into this.
Where to ask
Here are some of the main places where Python developers hang out:
- Stack Overflow. If you’ve done any online search for a Python problem you probably found a link to a Stack Overflow question. It is the number one place for technical questions with many keen users giving helpful replies. Just be aware that some users don’t like it when someone seems to be wasting their time, for instance by asking a vague question or something which has already been answered. To get the best replies, and to avoid upsetting the SO members, check out the ideas in this article “How to write a great Stack Overflow question“. And thanks to the excellent PythonBytes podcast for bringing this to my attention.
- Python Discord. A very lively Discord community. Personally I don’t spend any time here. I can only concentrate on one community at a time, which for me is LinkedIn. But it sounds like a great place to be. For a bit of background listen to this Talk Python To Me podcast episode.
- The LinkedIn Python Developers Community. Messages are checked by the moderators before becoming visible to group members, to make sure only relevant messages are posted. It has around 400,000 members (September 2021), ranging from absolute beginners to highly experienced Python developers. Members post questions and share useful articles. It only takes a couple of minutes a day to scan the new messages for anything interesting. Questions are answered quickly and you will see many different ways to solve a coding problem.
Asking a specific question
If you have a specific questions, such as “Why doesn’t this code work?”, “How can I improve this code” or “How do I solve this coding problem”, try:
- First search on StackOverflow (SO) or your favourite search engine. If that doesn’t help, try one of the communities listed above.
- For SO questions, use the guidelines shown above.
- Before asking a question on the LinkedIn Python group or any other community, first spend a bit of time hanging out. Get a feel for the tone (e.g. friendly or directly, short or long) and the types of questions members ask. For questions in a LinkedIn group many of the suggestions in the “How to write a great Stack Overflow question” are still relevant, although try to make it shorter. SO is a very technical community and is designed for long technical discussions. LinkedIn is more general.
Asking a general questions
If you have a more generic question, such as ‘How do I get a Python job?’, ‘How do I learn Python’ or ‘How do I become a better Python programmer’, the following tips may help you to get more or better answers:
- Think how you can turn your question into something more interesting or personal. For instance: “How did you get your first Python job” or “What do you look for when recruiting a new Python developer”
- Or, say something about your personal circumstances and make your question more specific. For instance: “I just graduated from a … degree with … Python experience. I’m based in … and am interested in … I have already (spoken to recruitment agencies, searched for jobs, etc). What else would you do to get a job working with Python?”
- Or, try to find someone a few steps ahead of you who is interested in helping you on a more regular basis. For instance “I understand and work with the Python basics. I am now looking to improve my code quality. Who would like to support me for a while, maybe through brief weekly phone/chat/video sessions?”. And try to offer something that you could do in return. For instance. “In return I could help you test your code”. Or “I have experience with video and sound editing. Perhaps I can help you with something you’re working on in return”. Or “I would love to return the favour. Please check out my profile to see what I can do for you”
Good luck on your Python journey. I hope you found these tips helpful