How to get answers on the comp.lang.java.* newsgroups

The comp.lang.java.* newsgroups are incredibly helpful resources whether you're relatively new to Java or whether you have a difficult question on a tricky topic. However, if you're not careful, you can end up having a tough time getting the information you want in a pleasant way. Here are some guidelines which should help you to get the maximum benefit out of the groups. I have no more power than anyone else on Usenet, and these guidelines aren't rules - but I maintain that if you follow them, you're more likely to get positive results than if you ignore them.

General newsgroup etiquette

  1. Don't multi-post. Multi-posting is the act of posting an identical message to two or more newsgroups, with each message just going to one newsgroup. This means that those who read all the newsgroups you've posted to end up seeing the message several times (as newsreaders won't know it's the same content) and the discussion of the problem will be spread between the groups without being unified. If you really want to post to more than one newsgroup, cross-post instead. However...
  2. Don't cross-post. Cross-posting is the act of sending a single article to two or more newsgroups by putting all the groups in the Newsgroups: header of the article. This is better than multi-posting in general (when the groups are related) but still not as good as just choosing a single group and sticking to it. If you're going to cross-post, at least make sure you set the Followup-to: header so the discussion doesn't stay on all those groups.
  3. Don't post to non-existent newsgroups. Many people still post to comp.lang.java, comp.lang.java.misc and similar groups despite the fact that newsgroup deletion messages were sent out for them a long time ago. At the time of writing (December 3rd 2001), the following groups are "valid" comp.lang.java.* newsgroups:
    comp.lang.java.3d	3D Graphics API's for the Java language.
    comp.lang.java.advocacy	Support for and criticism of the Java System.
    comp.lang.java.announce	Announcements re the Java System. (Moderated)
    comp.lang.java.beans	Java software components (JavaBeans).
    comp.lang.java.corba	Topics relating to Java and CORBA.
    comp.lang.java.databases	Databases, java.sql, JDBC, ODBC.
    comp.lang.java.gui	GUI toolkits and windowing: AWT, IFC etc.
    comp.lang.java.help	Set-up problems, catch-all first aid.
    comp.lang.java.machine	JVM, native methods, hardware.
    comp.lang.java.programmer	Programming in the Java language.
    comp.lang.java.security	Security issues raised by Java.
    comp.lang.java.softwaretools	IDEs, browsers, compilers, other tools.
    
    Servers carrying any other comp.lang.java.* groups are probably ignoring RMGROUP requests. I strongly recommend that you stick to the semi-official (which is as official as Usenet gets) groups. See ftp://ftp.isc.org/pub/usenet/CONFIG/ for an up-to-date list.
  4. Be polite. This is especially important when you're the one asking the question. No-one is under any obligation to answer you, and they're more likely to do so if you seem appreciative and willing to learn.
  5. Check to see if your question has already been asked. Google indexes newsgroups as well as websites, so check Google first.
  6. Don't post HTML or use MIME attachments. It may benefit some people, but it will make your post very hard to read for others - and some might not even see the post at all if their server filters such a thing. If you want people to be able to download a particular large or binary file, put it on a web site and post a URL.
  7. Don't ask people to reply by email - especially if you have an anti-spam mail address set up. Usenet succeeds because everyone gains from the answers - if you can't be bothered to check the group for follow-ups to your post, why should anyone be bothered to reply in the first place? Note that if you only have intermittent access to a normal news-server, groups.google.com is your friend.

Programming/Java-specific etiquette

  1. Where possible, post code. Posting a short but complete program which demonstrates your problem is much more likely to get a good set of answers than posting, "My code doesn't work - what's wrong with it?"
  2. Follow Sun's naming conventions unless you have a good reason not to. Most people are by now quite adept at reading that convention even if they don't use it themselves.
  3. If you've got an exception, post it. Cut and paste the detailed error message (and the stack trace) into your post. Don't just type it out - you may "correct" something inadvertently.
  4. Post what your code should do, and what it actually does. If you post a program that prints out the numbers 1 to 10 but don't tell us it's meant to print out the first 10 prime numbers, we're not going to know what to do.
  5. Note that Javascript is not the same as Java. Use comp.lang.javascript for Javascript questions.
  6. Read How To Ask Questions The Smart Way by Eric Raymond. Some of the above advice may be in there too - that just means it's doubly important.


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