5 Ways To Get Help and Get Unstuck

When learning DevOps or System Administration or just general automation, it’s easy to get stuck. There’s a lot of material out there, and a ton of examples that may or may not relate to your problem. With the abundance of (and potentially mixed) information out there, two problems usually occur:

  1. The examples don’t always pertain to what you’d like to learn
  2. Having too much information can make it hard to process any information at all, as counterintuitive as that may seem

When you’re stuck, instead of just googling around looking for more examples, here are five ways that you can get unstuck:


IRC is a great way to get help, especially if there is an active community around your software or problem set, because it is interactive and allows you to ask questions and get (in most cases) relatively fast feedback.

If you don’t have an IRC client installed and don’t want to set one up, Freenode, the network that is likely to be the most help to you also has a web client you can use.

Mailing Lists

Mailing lists are another great way to get help. One of the most valuable parts of a mailing list is its archive. While it’s possible that you may have stumbled upon a new problem, it’s more likely that you’re experiencing some facet of an issue that at least one other person has experienced.


Another, more recent, place to get help can be Reddit. I think of it as a bit of a hybrid between a mailing list archive and IRC in terms of usefulness. Often times robust communities develop around topics in or around your field and consequently people can have lots of results already pooled, creating a more curated experience for you .

Instead of being dumped in a mailing list or approaching an unknown channel, you can search the archives or look at posts that have been upvotes the most.

Read a book

A book can help give you a more complete understanding so you can see the whole solution or better conceptualize the problem.

Often times having a more indepth understanding of the moving parts can help you to a solution better than bite size bits of information.

If you’re looking for ways to stop wasting time and start automating with Ruby, then you can checkout my book, Ruby For DevOps and Automation

Ask me

Finally, if you’re stuck and just don’t know what to do, feel free to ask me! All you have to do is drop me an email: Thai@ThaiWood.IO.

I may not know the solution to your problem, but chances are I can help you find some resources to help or point you in the direction of someone who can

A note on forums

If you’ve read this far, you may have noticed that I didn’t really include any true forums (though some mailing list archives do masquerade as forums)

This is because I personally, haven’t found many that are helpful in this space for truly solving problems. That’s not to say there aren’t some forum posts or posters that aren’t extremely helpful, just that I haven’t experienced them.

A note about StackOverflow, ServerFault, et al.

You may have also noticed an omission of the StackExchange groups of sites. Does that mean I don’t use them?

No, of course I do, I use them all the time! While they’re great for very specific problems, I want to leave you a list of resources for when you’re learning or just truly stuck, not just trying to solve a quick problem.

Did I miss something?

Did I miss your favorite place or community? Shoot me an email and let me know, I’d love to hear about it.