If you’ve ever used a search engine to look for answers to your development questions, you know there are a lot of people out there talking about Android who aren’t too interested in development. You’ve probably also found that the reference documentation for the Android platform isn’t terribly helpful without some context.
Sometimes you just want to ask questions and get answers. Here are 7 ways to do that.
This is the canonical source for all things related to Android development and an obvious starting point. The site gets changed around occasionally – there used to be a “Community” tab with links to get support, but as of this writing the “Resources” tab is the place to start if you’re looking for answers to questions. Some of the following items are listed there, but this would be a short post if it were a complete guide! Anyway, check back there for further developments.
Of course, the site also has a pretty good search box to find help among the tutorials, blog posts, and documentation there.
2. IRC – #android-dev on freenode; developer office hours
As detailed in that “Resources” tab, anyone can join an ongoing chat on the freenode network – see the link for more information on how. For application development, the most relevant channel seems to be #android-dev; there are frequently several fairly knowledgeable developers (including ones that work at Google) lurking in that channel, and many are pretty helpful, even with “dumb” questions, as long as they are asked sincerely and follow netiquette. There are a few other channels for folks to talk about Android in general, about Android’s OS development, about root and ROM hacks, and so forth, but you’ll know when you need those.
Recently, Google developers have offered “office hours” on this IRC channel. It remains to be seen if they’ll keep doing this and how useful it will be, but give it a try. Questions may be asked (and later, answered) via the Moderator sessions that are set up for each session of office hours.
3. Twitter – #androiddev
The “Resources” tab notes that you can follow AndroidDev on Twitter. I haven’t found much benefit from it yet, and it’s been pretty quiet lately, but perhaps it will pick up.
Of more interest are other developers who are tweeting. Many are beginning to use the #androiddev hashtag when tweeting about application development (#android is pretty much dominated by speculation about hardware, OS, and app releases). Follow them, ask questions, and contribute to the conversation.
4. Google groups
Google groups are like mailing lists with better-than-usual web interfaces. A number of these are listed on the “Resources” tab, and you would do well to read the guidelines there. Probably the most immediately relevant are android-beginners and android-developers.
5. Stack Overflow
The Google groups are pretty great for conversations, but when you’re asking questions involving code and looking for detailed answers, a general conversational tool may not be optimal. Recently Google officially recognized that the Stack Overflow website was becoming popular for Android programming questions, promised to work with the site, and encouraged asking beginner questions there.
Do books answer questions? Well, not directly, and furthermore you may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of Android books on Amazon. However, books have authors, and these days authors are often answering questions about the books on the book website. Of the very limited sample of books I’ve encountered, I’ve found Hello, Android to be helpful and relatively current. The book’s website has a link for discussions, and the author (by the way) runs the Planet Android blog aggregator. No, I wasn’t paid anything for that mention!
7. Local meetups
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where there is already an Android meetup (or even a mobile development meetup) then you can join and try your questions in person. If no one has created one near you yet, create your own! You don’t need to be particularly experienced with Android to do it – create the event and people will come. I started one for the NC Triangle – if you’re in the area, come on by.
8. Bonus: the blogosphere!
There are a lot of blogs related to Android development; the best place to find them is on the blogroll for Planet Android. Some of these blogs will fill you in on information you can’t find anywhere else; for instance, I know of no one except Diego Torres Milano that’s talking about testing Android applications and TDD. Go to the relevant blogs and ask questions in the comments if you can. And if you can’t find anyone talking about what you want to know, become part of the solution and start your own blog! Discuss what you’re trying and the problems you’re having, and link to other blogs with pieces of the puzzle.
I hope this helps. Feel free to respond to this post with your feedback and ideas!