Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Advice for the aspiring phylogeneticist: Part IV

Ask questions of developers, but only if you know what you’re talking about. One surprisingly common impediment to progress is the reluctance of end-users to seek support, or their inability to get this support when its needed. One problem is that developers tend to get unresponsive (or pissy) when consumers of their applications are constantly asking them questions that are mundane or naive. To a degree, this is reasonable. These people have already put a ton of time into helping you, and are justified in recoiling if you seem unwilling to put the same time into helping yourself. As a matter of respect, you should read over the instructions and try some basic trouble shooting on your own before asking the developer for help directly. We don’t learn programs with someone holding our hand, we learn them primarily through experimentation, trial, and error. Having said this, of course, some developers may deserve a bit of hassling if they haven’t taken even the most basic measures to make their software accessible to the public. Moreover, its important to remember that most developers are your colleagues and are eager to communicate with informed users of their applications. They’re even hoping for you help spreading their methods, extending their application, and catching bugs.

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