5 tips for getting quick help on E2E

Guest blog post by , Award-winning TI Community Member, E2E MVP and ordinary guy from Ratingen (near Dusseldorf) in Germany
 

Don't go the easiest way directly - you should always try to solve your problem on your own.

Make use of all the information and auxiliary material TI provides for every product.

These are:

  • Datasheets: Specifications of the device
  • User's Guides: The instruction manual
  • Code Examples: Small working programs for almost each module
  • Erratasheets: Known errors of the device
  • Application Notes: Detailed description of a specific application
  • Reference Designs: Complete products based on devices

Most of this information can directly be found on the product website. Download this material and go through it. A lot of questions in the Forum are answered with a link to a document and the advice to read a specific chapter or have a look at a particular table. Datasheets and user's guides might look deterring at first sight because they provide tons of information, but there is no need to read all of it. Reading a single chapter in the user's guide might be enough and in datasheets, searching for a keyword will possibly lead to the right information.

The code examples for processors provide ready to use code lines that show the basic handling of the different modules. If there is a malfunction you cannot understand, first look into the device's erratasheet. Maybe your device has a known issue and a workaround for it. Application notes can help you to implement or at least give you an idea of a desired functionality. They describe working principles and their realization. The reference designs show complete products based on specific parts. They can be a good starting point for designing own electronics.

Helping yourself will teach you the most, of course. Anyway, sometimes everyone just needs help.



Search for similar questions. And don't stop searching if you didn't find a helpful thread after the first try. It may take a while, so invest some time in it. This might lead to a faster answer than directly opening a new question - keep in mind that you probably won't get a response immediately. Depending on the topic of your question, getting an answer can, in some circumstances, take a day, especially when your question is very specific and needs information from a Texas Instruments employee. So do an extended Forum search. Even if finding the answer took an hour or more, this is still faster than waiting a day. Imagine you wait a day for getting a link to another thread that exactly describes your problem and has the solution - you could have solved it already if you had searched yourself.

An example is the timer module and it's interrupts on the MSP430G2553 that comes with the MSP-EXP430G2 LaunchPad. A Forum search could lead you to this answer which explains a lot already. Maybe your question is answered as well.

 

Choose the right Forum and prepare your question carefully. Don't just throw some words into the edit window. The more information you provide, the sooner you will have your problem solved. Select a thread title that explains your problem. Simply writing "Problem - need help!" isn't a good title and some people might not even open your thread because of that. Even worse if it was written in capitals only, having the connotation of screaming out your request.

Specify your problem - you should be able to explain what specific part does not work properly. That means you have to investigate the problem yourself first. Don't post hundreds of code lines and add one single sentence saying "The processor shall send data to the PC, but it does not. Why?". These requests are totally annoying and the chance of getting a helpful response will be very small. Instead you should do some tests first to isolate the problematic part of the code. Tell the community what you have tried so far, explain what is working and at which specific point your source code starts to behave different from what you expect.

Always remember you are asking for help - and help does not mean that others will do your work. Believe it or not, but figuring out who simply wants to get his work done is easy. And please don't ask for free sample code that fits for your specific application - there is none. You have to write it on your own. But if you then have problems with it, you are welcome.

As said before, providing more information will make things easier, but this does not mean you should include everything you can find into your request. Imagine you have written a program that has 1000 or more lines of code - if you would post all of this, it would be very confusing. Post the portion of code where the error is located. You can additionally attach the complete code as a file.

Make use of the features the rich formatting brings along - especially for code you should use the Syntax highlighter. Simply inserted code lines are unreadable and your request could be ignored by many users. In rich formatting you can also add files, insert pictures, make use of bold, italic or underlined text, highlight phrases by changing the color, create enumerations and so on. The style of your question is important, too.

You should use English for any communication. If you natively speak another language, then try to translate your text using a translation software like Google Translate. No problem if the translation is not perfect - in most cases the keynote remains identifiable. I'm not a native English speaker as well, so if you can read this text, everything is fine.

 

Be patient and don't become unkind. Always keep in mind that most of the Forum members answer your question in their free time and they are not paid for it. You want something and they give it to you for free. As mentioned before, getting help might not happen immediately. Maybe a day has gone, but this does not mean no one has read your request. Maybe just the right person did not read it yet. Also think about the fact that the Forum members come from all over the world, living in different time zones. Possible that the one who will answer your question just woke up while you are already going to bed. And who knows, someone might have forwarded your request to the appropriate person already. Especially for those more specific problems that need assistance from inside TI, this could take a while.

It is OK to push your entry up again when it hasn't received any response after some time, but don't push it over and over again. If there is no response then the kind of your question might be the problem. Reformulate it and add additional information, but no need to open a new thread. And don't start annoying people by writing personal messages saying things like "Please look at this thread and help me - it is urgent!". No thread has a higher priority than another one - if it is urgent, then your scheduling is wrong.

Solving your problem means working together. People trying to help might ask you to do things like testing another setup or providing them additional information. Do it, don't refuse because it means further effort for you - you want the problem to be solved. And don't feel insulted if someone only calls you to read the manual. The person might be right, so read it, at least the respective part of it. If things are still not clear come back and discuss it, but don't wait for others doing the work for you.

If you participate in finding the solution, then you will receive help until your problem is solved. In such a case I am absolutely willing to invest even more effort like building up a test circuit, do some measurements, explain basic electronics or whatever.



You should always share the result of the process, so tell the Forum how you got your problem solved. This will help others having a similar problem who will read your thread. Even if you found the answer yourself, please take these few minutes, come back to the Forum and write down your solution. Keep in mind that maybe others still work on your problem, so letting them know it is done is just fair because they offer their free time for you.

Mark your thread as answered. Pick the answer that solved your problem - others will benefit from it. If you found the answer yourself, then simply mark your own one.

Here is an example of such a situation.



  is a Award-winning TI Community Member, E2E MVP and ordinary guy from Ratingen (near Dusseldorf) in Germany.

He works as a hardware designer and embedded software developer with focus on 2/3-wire (4/0...20mA) transducers for industrial process control, mainly for the food and beverage segment. The transmitters range from pressure, temperature, turbidity and conductivity to volume flow or simple level detection. He has a deep knowledge in the design of analog and digital circuits and is also experienced in industrial communication systems like HART. His focus is on the development of digital, loop-powered devices.

He can draw back on eight years of experience in MSP430 microcontroller programming and has worked with several derivatives so far. His first contact with the MSP430 was the Ez430-F2013 development kit.

In his free time he addresses himself to R/C models and he also builds his own ones. Many of the models contain MSP430 based electronics as well. Mostly for collecting live data and stream them to the remote control. In holidays he likes travelling to far off destinations with exciting places for scuba diving. The last three years he has been to various islands of Thailand.