Technology Troubleshooting

I often receive emails asking for my help in troubleshooting a technology issue where the sender says, "it's not working. I did exactly what you/the book/a website said to do. what am I doing wrong?" (often, in those very words!)

Such requests aren't actionable.

  • I can't know whether something is working unless you tell me what you expect to happen and what is actually happening. Sometimes, the problem is in our expectations, not the technology.
  • I can't know for sure what steps you've taken, unless you tell me what you've done, show me your source code, etc. In my experience, "I did exactly what you/the book said", is almost never true.
  • I'm likely to offer suggestions starting at the most likely root cause based on my mental model of the technology in question. But if you've already tried to solve the problem, I may be repeating steps you've already taken, which is a waste of both your time and mine.

Without a complete understanding of what you're trying to do, what you expect to happen, and what is actually happening, I can only guess at what's going on, and that doesn't help either of us.

Your First Name (required)

Your Last Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Help Request

If this is a website-related issue, what is the site's address (URL) (required)
either an address that begins with http://.... or enter "none" if non-Web-related

What is your system's configuration? (required)
For example, tell me what operating system you are using, what web browser, what version of Java, etc. as is appropriate for this issue

What is it that you're trying to do? (required)
e.g., "I'm trying to read CSV text from a file into an array"?

What do you expect to happen when it works correctly? (required)
e.g., "the CSV data should be available in the array variable gradesArray[ ]"

What is actually happening? (required)
e.g., "When I double-click the application icon, I see the software's logo for a few seconds, but then an error message pops up and the application seems to quit."

What steps have you already taken to try to troubleshoot the problem? (required)
Have you tried viewing the page in different browsers? Have you rebooted the computer?

Provide the EXACT text of error messages you're seeing, if any
Even better: take a screen shot of the error(s) and upload/attach it, below. This is probably the single most important piece of information you can provide. Vague recollections of "it said something about..." are unhelpful.

Do you need to share any files with me?
If you have screenshots, console logs, or other diagnostic information, please submit it to me electronically. If you have multiple files to submit, please ZIP (or compress or archive) them into a single file for uploading. (Instructions for Windows and Instructions for OS X.)

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