If you can’t say something constructive…

For the last 6 months I've been contributing to the TinyMCE forums. In this time I've noticed a couple of disturbing trends, one of which became quite evident in a recent members post to a very old thread.

From time to time people will ask questions about how to make TinyMCE do something that it's not really designed to do. This is mostly to output non-standard HTML and is usually due to the "client requirements". The most common one is the use of <BR> tags instead of <P> tags.

I'm not going to join into the argument of using <P> tags as a good friend and colleague posted a great round up of the importance of P tags already. What I'm interested in, is the way people respond both in terms of the initial question, and the followup responses.

From what I've seen, the response to these sorts of questions can occasionally be quite harsh and usually question "why" the person is even contemplating doing this. Now while I don't always agree with the tone of the responses, I can empathises, especially if they've had to answer the 100th question that has been addressed elsewhere, including the documentation.

The disturbing trend I've recently seen however is in the reaction of some people to this "criticism" or questioning. It appears people believe we should ignore the reason why someone is doing it, and simply answer the question. I tend to disagree.

As a developer I believe it's my duty to educate, as well as assist people. This includes both other developers and clients.

I believe that there are a lot of people out there who don't know any different with respect to the choices of output. By questioning why they are doing this and ideally providing the more acceptable alternative, the respondent is potentially educating them. Now it may be that the developer knows this already and is unable to educate their current client, but for others, they may now know an alternative. They still mightn't be able to change their clients mind this time around, but they will be better armed for future engagements.

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