I never respond to direct unsolicited email

Despite me placing a warning to this effect in my newsgroup signature, I still get regularly bombarded with emails containing attached code and plaintive requests for help. They all end up in the bit bucket - I am not a free consultant. I and others will try to help people if - and only if - they post publicly so others get the benefit of seeing both the problem and the solution. Note that people will not tend to help you if your posting meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • Insulting. You wouldn't believe how often you see the "bet none of you know-it-alls can solve this" tactic tried. It's usually met with a deafening silence.
  • Profane. This simply demonstrates childishness.
  • Clearly a test set by a class teacher. Maybe somebody will take pity and give a hint, but don't expect the answer on a plate.
  • Solvable simply by reading the on-line help. It is truly amazing how many questions on the newsgroups could have been solved by two minutes spent in the tender embrace of the help system.
  • Will cause the responder to violate NDA. Many frequent posters here are on Microsoft beta programs, some of us are on multiple betas. Don't ask us about the stuff we're beta testing - we're under NDA and can't reply. Anybody who does reply is either a know-nothing wannabe with a bootleg copy of the software, or is deliberately spreading misinformation (yes, there are folks who do that kind of thing, sad little gits that they are).
  • Has a subject line consisting of "HEEEEEELP !!!!" We have about a zillion messages to wade through, and need a subject that tells us roughly what the problem is, so we can zero in on those we know about.

The perfect question would be phrased something like  

"I have a problem with symptom <precise description of error symptoms>. I have searched the online help, and trawled MSDN, to no avail. I have checked groups.google.com for previous reports of this in the newsgroups and found similar problems with solutions <X> and <Y>, but these do not work in my case. I have traced the problem using a minimal repro program, and the bug occurs at line 14 in the following twenty-line code section, reproduced below. But I don't understand why. Can anyone help?".

If I ever see this perfect question, I'll let you know :-)

For a better understanding of the software group-help ethos and how to make it work for you, see here (I am indebted to Rufus Smith for that link).