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Whatever Happened to the Coder Code?

February 8, 2011

There’s a good chance this post will make me look like an idiot. But in my defence, you should know that I’m just a normal idiot like everyone else.

Every time I need to search for something relating to development, I end up getting agitated by the same thing. It’s the needlessly snobbish coders you find on technical forums, and for some reason it seems particularly prominent in iPhone development. I see it ALL the TIME these days. Come on guys, we’re on the same team! Whatever happened to the spirit of co-operation? The ‘Coder Code’!?!

“Read the manual before asking your stoopid questions. Nerf, nerf.”

Take today for example. I want to know, simply, how to stop the screen from dimming on an iPhone while my game is running. Quick Google search for “Stop iPhone Screen Dimming”, and the top hit gave me the answer. Easy… apart from it’s accompanied by what I see EVERY SINGLE TIME I search for things these days. It’s a snobby guy telling the original poster to read the manual… (second comment).

Aside from being pointlessly obnoxious, none of these guys stop to think WHY people turn to forums in order to find out this shit… There’s a very good reason. According to that poster, the answer to this simple question is “plastered all over the most basic of Apple Development Documents”. Let’s put this theory to the test shall we. Firstly, remember I got an answer in a few seconds before… Let’s take a little look at the iPhone Developer Portal user journey.

I’m going to do this live, right now. If you’ve got the internet at home you can play along by going to

OK, your first screen looks like this…

The iOs developer portal home page

All the ‘Blue Links’ seem to be jumping off platforms, I already have a game up and running, I just want to stop the screen from dimming. So… this reference library looks like what I need right?

Yes, that sounds like just what I need!

Clicking that link takes you to a page like this…

Reference Library Front Page

It’s a bunch of blue links, none of which are going to obviously lead to the answer I want (One of them might, I have no way of telling which). The issue here is that they’re all too broad. For example ‘Creating an iPhone Application’? Well, I guess that’s what I’m doing?!? But do I think I’ll find my answer there? Well… confidence isn’t high.

The menu on the left is just a list of frameworks, again, pretty unhelpful to me because I don’t know which framework handles what I want to do here. None are jumping out. And besides, clicking them just changes that context sensitive list in the middle to a different set of sample code / technical notes.

I have a feeling I’m in the wrong place now…

OK, look, I don’t care about all the intricacies of the platform, I’m not going to research the ins and outs of every facet of iPhone development. I just want to know how to STOP THE SCREEN FROM DIMMING.

Because nothing has jumped out at me, the next obvious step would be to try a search.

No results for ‘Stop Screen Dimming’

Maybe they refer to it as a backlight?

Nope, no results for Backlight either

Surely if I type ‘Dimming’?

Some Results!

Typing simply ‘Dimming’ does lead to some results. Unfortunately, one of them is a sample project about network streams, and the is to a document which tells me everything I need to know about iOS application design. Except of course, how to stop the screen from dimming.

there’s a section called ‘Implementing  common application behaviors’, that’s surely my best bet. Nothing about dimming though…

Wait… what’s this?

At the bottom of the list, somethign about Screen LOCKING. Of course! Turns out they refer to screen dimming as ‘Screen locking’. This is the second major problem with this documentation, how was I supposed to find out that this functionality was referred to as ‘Screen Locking’ if I didn’t already now? Although this may not have taken you long to read, it took a good while longer to find that section.

The answer certainly wasn’t “plastered all over the most basic of Apple Development Documents”, and it will take me 5 seconds to type the question into Google or ask someone on a forum. And so, that’s obviously where I’m going to go for my answers from now on. Especially if it were something more complicated than this!

If forums and newsgroups are jam-packed with people asking questions about a platform, it’s because the platform documentation has failed… So give them a break right!

Stu xxx

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    February 9, 2011 1:48 am

    Nice article. I hope this becomes the standard thing to link to when a programmer is snotty in response to a question. I had sort of hoped that people had grown out of that after the Bad Old Days of (it seems to have got a lot better in recent years).

    Offtopic: Is the mildly insulting mis-spelling of your link to Increpare’s site deliberate or accidental?

  2. February 9, 2011 8:52 am

    “how was I supposed to find out that this functionality was referred to as ‘Screen Locking’ if I didn’t already now?”

    It’s plastered all over the iphone manual, you really should give it a read! (satire) And why haven’t you read it? The reason is that apple are constantly waxing lyrical about how intuitive their device is they make you believe that you don’t need to read it.

    Seriously good points made here, the snobbishness has got to go!

  3. Daz permalink
    February 9, 2011 8:55 am

    Ive talked about this before, but the problem is that questions generally fall into three categories:

    Valid questions (ie, how do I calculate collision detection between two circles)
    Too large questions (ie, how do I write a physics engine)
    Stupid questions ( )

    In my experience, around 50% of all questions are stupid. Programmers are expected to do a little learning under their own impetus, and if you cant be bothered working out the basics yourself, you’re not going to do well once you have to do something more complicated. In the place I frequent, its not uncommon to see Indian programmers come in and ask for help with some really trivial task. And explaining can be a chore.

    It seems to lead to “unhelpful programmer syndrome”, where after having do deal with lots of stupidity, they end up just treating all questions as stupid.

    And the other thing to remember is that these people are still offering help: if you’re not frequenting the forums and offering solutions to peoples problems, you’re not really any more useful than the people you’re complaining about.

    Postscript; besides, this is the apple forums. Its like complaining that xbox live is full of 13 year olds.

    • February 9, 2011 9:30 am

      Mild racism aside (How do you know the race of people on forums?!?), yes, I agree with your point, but still think there’s no need for a rude response. Just walk away!

  4. Steve Parkes permalink
    February 9, 2011 9:38 am

    The Apple documentation is fantastic. The taxonomy applied to that documentation is fucking awful.

    I’ve lost count of the timesI found a clear and succinct answer to my question on the Apple developer sites mere weeks after I discovered the answer the hard way and while searching for something completely different.

    I think part of the problem with iOS stuff is the old-timer apple developers get pissed off with us relative newcomers to ‘their’ system asking questions they consider basic. But then you see the games these guys create and they could do with less of the attitude and start asking questions of the old-timer games devs moving into Obj-C circles 😉


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