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When someone asks, 'Why does this wall of JNI code get a SIGSEGV', the answer that springs to fingers is 'here is how to use a debugger on JNI code.' I'm feeling somewhat inhibited from this approach, insofar as it does't directly answer the question.

Somewhat relatedly on another question, 'There's a strong user mailing list for this open source component, you're likely to get more effective assistance there.' In the later case, I went ahead with an answer, because I know how thin the crowd of potentials helpers on this topic is on SO.

Should I have posted JNI debugging advice as an answer to this?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Sometimes a process is an answer; however in my mind it's best to frame the process with question-specific help and guidance. In other words, if you can directly answer the question, do so first, then add the process piece at the end.

More information is rarely a bad thing. But pure process answers -- when the question is not a process question, of course -- are in my mind only a few steps above LMGTFY or RTFM answers.

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If you can actually read the code and answer the question, then do so. Why not?

If you can't, because there's just not enough information there, and it's unlikely that including enough information is even a feasible task for the OP, then sure, go ahead, teach him to debug.

IMHO, if it's programming-related and the author provides enough information for you to answer, you shouldn't ever feel bad about answering (unless the question itself involves something morally distasteful for you like abusing users or working with Crystal Reports).

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In this case ... no, I couldn't. Maybe someone else could. But if I had his problem, it would be off to the debugger with me. – Rosinante Jan 18 '10 at 18:46

I don't think it matters what the contents of an answer should be, as long as it's useful and helpful in solving the problem that the question asks.

I won't pretend to know what the linked question is talking about, but I think your comment there is entirely reasonable. It seems like another one of those "here is the code, solve my problem" type questions.

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In general, I think what the Skeetman has done here is exactly the right thing. It's okay to hint at debugging possibilities, and if the OP follows your suggestion and updates their question to include helpful debugging information, update the answer if you can.

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This wasn't intended, but now I have "If the Skeetman can do it, brother, so can you" running through my had... – balpha Jan 18 '10 at 18:40

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