How to Ask for Help

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When someone needs help with their particular use of one of the widgets, a lot of messages go back and forth trying to pin down the context of that use. So, just to condense those conversations a bit, here are a few tips for when you're asking for help. Remember:

The easier we can reproduce and see the problems you're encountering for ourselves, the faster you'll get the help you want.

  1. Provide live web pages where the problems you encounter can be seen by other people who try to help you. That means including URLs in your email.
  2. If the data in your web pages is confidential, then make up some fake data and use them in a copy of the problematic web page and show us that instead.
  3. If you don't have any public web space to put your data and web pages, then include those files in your email, but make sure they are just small files. And make sure that they are sufficient by themselves, so that we can simply save them on our own computers and open them and see the problem.

Because of the complexity of web deployment environments, it is very hard to debug without actually seeing live web pages where the problems occur. Note that including code fragments in your email is good, although they don't always help because some of the complications causing the problems you see are actually coming from outside those code fragments (e.g., other web APIs that you use, CSS rules that you include, your intranet settings).

  1. Be specific as much as possible when stating the situations in which you observe problems, e.g.,
API: timeline as checked out from svn/timeline/trunk
Platform: Windows XP only
Browsers: Firefox 2.0, Safari 3.0, IE8 emulating IE7
Extension: with Firebug enabled
Consistency: problem occurs every time (as opposed to randomly)
  1. If you are asking for a new feature, and it's something visual, it'd good to draw it (in something like Paintbrush on Windows) and include that image. If not, sketch it on paper and take a picture. If it's something non visual but hard to imagine, see if there is any existing web site that does something similar and point us to it.

Please use the simile-widgets Google group to ask for help (by emailing Please do *not* leave comments on this page.

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