How To Best Use Discussion Forums

Our new Fusion Applications Extensibility forum on the forums.oracle.com site are barely two months old and we have seen quite a bit of traffic.  That's great, and we are hoping you find it a useful resource.  Our goal is to make it a must-visit site for the Fusion Applications developer community.  You are, of course, welcome to ask questions, but we also look forward to seeing you chime in with answers and suggestions that can help your fellow community members.  It is important to note that the OTN forums in general (including the one we talk about here) are not a replacement for Oracle Support Services (see Forum FAQ).  For guidance on how to work with Oracle Support you might find this blog post helpful.

To make the best use of this resource, this blog post will document some best practices and tips that we have developed over the years in using and moderating a variety of internet discussion forums.

1. Not every problem or question encountered while working on Fusion Applications is best discussed in the Extensibility, Customizations and Integration forum.  There are dedicated forums covering pretty much every aspect of the Fusion Applications techstack.  For example, if an issue is a generic JDeveloper question, we have a very popular JDeveloper/ADF forum on OTN.   However, the folks reading those forums (from Oracle or otherwise) may not be familiar with the particular usage of the technology in Fusion Applications, so if in doubt, use the Fusion Applications-specific forum and we can redirect you if there is a better place for the topic.

2. The discussion forum software used by forums.oracle.com has a somewhat, uh, rudimentary search feature.  Give it a try anyway; over time it will become quite likely that a problem you're encountering has already been discussed and hopefully resolved.  Be sure to adjust the date range as needed to include older results.  A perhaps better alternative is making use of the power of an internet search engine like Google.  If you use the search option syntax "site:forums.oracle.com" in the search box, you receive results restricted to the Oracle Forums.

3. When asking questions, it is important to find the right balance between too much information and not enough detail.  For instance, it helps set the stage if the question starts out with the basic environment information: what version of Fusion Applications are you using, and on what platform are you working.   If you hit an error, the exact error message is important, especially if accompanied with an error number.  Java errors often come with a lengthy stack, and that information can be quite useful in diagnosing the actual root cause, more so than just "I am getting a NullPointerException when doing XYZ".  Unfortunately the forum software does not allow file attachments, so when dealing with lengthy log file output, try to cut it down to the essential part.

4. Just like the cover and title of a book is a key factor to its commercial success, it is very important to give a forum thread a meaningful title/subject.  "Urgent - Need help" probably will not attract the attention of many busy yet well-meaning community members because there is not enough to help them decide if the thread is something they can likely help with.  Better would be "Customize Menu Option Not Available For EO".  In general, it's understood that most questions are urgent and there is no need to emphasize it in the title. We strive to ensure there will be answers to all well-formed questions as quickly as possible.

5. Making a forum post easy to read and understand is key to getting others motivated to actually read it, and that of course is a prerequisite to getting replies.  Long, long paragraphs are hard to follow. Format your post into paragraphs that clearly make a point or communicate specific information.  Any code snippets or log file output is best enclosed in [code] ... [/code] tags to ensure that it doesn't get mangled by the forum software and is nicely formatted.  You can also use {code} ... {code}:

Did you notice the color coding of "this" in the preview mode? The {code} formatter actually "understands" Java and formats it nicely.  A complete list of forum markup tags can be found here.

6. Avoid veering off topic.  Each thread should be covering one topic/problem only.  If the problem is answered, it's a good idea to state that explicitly, and use a new thread for any follow-ups that aren't directly related.  If needed, you can certainly reference previous threads to set context.  Similarly, don't "hijack" other people's threads.  Anyone is, of course, welcome to contribute to a topic, but don't segue into something unrelated as it makes it very difficult for others to follow the conversation.

7. The forum can be an important knowledge base if the community ensures that valid and correct answers are flagged as such.  This helps future developers coming across the same thread identify the right answer.  The forum software allows you to mark replies as helpful or correct.  You can also confirm via a separate post to the thread that you were able to resolve a problem, and if additional details are needed for someone to understand the solution, it would be very helpful if those were included in that post.  One of my personal pet peeves is coming across a thread somewhere that asks the exact problem I am facing.  But instead of an answer, there is just a short follow-up post by the original thread-starter saying in essence "Never mind, found my answer."  (well... what was it?)


References:

Debugging Series: Working With Oracle Support (blog post)

Oracle Forums FAQ

Forum Formatting Tags Guide

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