Top Tips : Getting the Gist of things in Support

I’ve spent the best part of over two years working in various guises of technical support, from 1st line, through to senior technical consultant, and have seen my fair share of methods, techniques, tips and tricks both shared and applied.

Working closely with several APIs and sharing code examples there is one pet annoyance I come back to again and again. Both colleagues and clients including code in emails via our good friends copy and paste.

Unfortunately for us email clients haven’t quite got the grasp of syntax highlighting, and neither has ZenDesk unfortunately – although I’m tempted to make a feature suggestion to them on the matter.

So what can we do to remedy this? What’s the best way to share code examples, snippets and log text with one another?

Enter stage left -> GitHubs clever Gists :


Why is this so good?

  • Firstly you can add a description, filename and the syntax is automatically implied from the filename – so the syntax highlighting is automatically applied.
  • Next you can download the file as a file, if required – which is handy.
  • You can have multiple files in a single gist, so say you wanted to illustrate and MVC framework with 3 php files – you can.
  • All Gists are Git repositories in their own right, so they have history, can be forked and usable from Git.
  • These Gists can be both private and public, allowing you to share them securely with clients if dealing with private code.

I enjoy the fact that it just works – as long as you have a github account, and they persist in a handy location – no need to tread through email chains, or ticket histories.

The next time you are looking to share a code snippet with a client, or with a support team – look no further – Gists!

Top GIST tips….

  • Unlike normal programming projects, over comment here – we want this to be as clear as day.
  • Don’t worry about re-usability or optimisation, readability and understandability come first and foremost explaining a concept.
  • Don’t be afraid to iterate with the client, refining and re-factoring with them to make the code more optimised.
  • Collaboration and consideration, always consider the clients changes before making your own changes.
  • Always keep the history of the gist, both you and the client will benefit from the history down the line.

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