Thanks, Max, for Not Emailing or Messaging Me!

Yihui Xie 2017-09-29

Last month I wrote about why you should ask questions on Stack Overflow before (or instead of) emailing me. Today I saw an excellent question on Stack Overflow from Max Kuhn, and I truly appreciated it. Why?

As some of you may know, Max is my colleague at RStudio now. He could have easily messaged me on Slack or shoot me an email. Messages and emails from colleagues are often processed more quickly than random strangers. But he chose to ask the question on Stack Overflow instead, and did not even notify me. That was very, very considerate of him!

The question itself is also of high quality. Apparently he had done his homework before asking, which gave me a helpful clue about the possible underlying problem. More importantly, he provided a reproducible example based on an example I created. All I have to do is clone the repo he prepared, and try to compile it. Indeed I was able to reproduce the issue. No further questions need to be asked. This is an extremely pleasant experience for me to deal with questions, and especially bug reports. Most of time, I have to ask users for more information (what is your session info? where is your reproducible example?…). You cannot imagine how much patience a developer has to have to ask these further questions over and over and over again.

I feel quite stressful in the past few weeks due to something personal and time-consuming, and yet I have to deal with it. I haven’t been productive in my work for a couple of weeks, which makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m particularly grateful to Max for not dragging me into the sea of emails or instant messages.

force a cat to bathtub

Update on 2017-10-01

I just realized Max had sent a pull request to fix the issue he reported before I posted an answer on Stack Overflow! That is even better!