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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More in More Out

I've been busy of late, most of my time seems to be taken up with fixing layout bugs in my web applications introduced when I spend all day testing in FireFox which works perfectly, then only to have a quick test on I.E. to notice that there is a tiny portion of the page which is out and in the most ugly way possible. I then tend to mess the whole page up trying to track down where it might have come from. I suppose I should have learnt to test in I.E. early in the process but that means leaving the debugger and CSS edit facilities of FireFox behind.

Anyway back to the point, this means I have less and less time to devote to MySQL these days, but that doesn't stop me popping into the MySQL forums a couple of times a day (for no other reason than to stop me going crazy messing around with I.E.). I've posted a few times here recently on the need to be as descriptive as possible but one thing that seems to be becoming very important when answering is version information.

Firstly there are many people keen to try the new features of MySQL such as stored procedures, triggers and views, as we know they are only available from version 5 (triggers only from 5.0.3) so if people included the version number when asking a question related to the subject it would be immediately obvious they were using the wrong version. If nothing else it may even prompt the person asking the question to consider if the feature they are using is available in their version.

Secondly there are plenty of questions which relate to fairly complex SQL statements, many of those can be quickly answered using a sub select but as you may know this is only available from version 4.1, many of the people using the forums are using MySQL via their web hosting account and many of those are still on version 4.0 and below. The obvious thing to do in such cases is to give an answer for both 4.0 and 4.1 versions but often I don't have enough time to answer for one version let alone two, especially when the query is complex and needs a bit of care to give a full answer with an example.

This leads to me having to filter the questions based on how much information the user has given or more of a problem the first answer is simply a request for version information, with the way the site operates this means people in different time zones can wait up to a day for a decent reply.

I can see one of two ways to deal with this, try and educate users of the forums to include as much information as possible including the version of MySQL they are using or add a selection box on the forum page to specify the version number prior to asking the question, make this mandatory (with a unknown option, and also a default option in your profile) so that it prompts people to at least consider the question may be version related.

The problem of course with the first is that many people asking questions only do so once, they get the answer to their question and they never come back. The problem with the second is that this is something only MySQL AB themselves can control.


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