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Author Topic: Some thoughts on asking questions the right way  (Read 31643 times)

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MaThIbUs

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Some thoughts on asking questions the right way
« on: December 30, 2003, 05:46:47 PM »

I think the text below goes for the moderators and other great helpers from the Coppermine Photo Gallery support board. I realize I didn't always ask questions the right way :oops:, so I hope this thread can be some kind of guide on this matter.

As persons who mostly participate here in the question-answering capacity, rather than as the ones who ask, we feel like we're not always getting the kind of treatment we think we deserve. This doesn't mean people have been deliberately rude or anything. Simply that we feel like some need to think more about the relationship between themselves and the people whose assistance they are requesting.

This is something we've been mulling over a lot lately, particularly in light of a number of recent threads we've been involved in. Now importantly, we don't want any individual to feel that they are being singled out for abuse. These are issues we feel are important for EVERYONE to bear in mind. And while you may think "Hey, he's talking about me!!!" in all probability, there are others who are committing/have committed the same "misdemeanors". We think that addressing these issues makes for a stronger community, and a better venue for receiving assistance. And if nothing else, it'll keep me around trying to help.

Here are my key thoughts:

Write intelligibly
When you ask a question, take the time to write a properly formed sentence. If you can't be bothered to take the time to ask the question clearly, why should others waste time on you to answer? You do yourself a disservice by omitting capitalization, punctuation, or anything else that might assist in comprehension. I, for one, WANT to help...but if I'm knocking my head against a wall, that's just too much effort.

Keep the conversation ON THE BOARD
Don't e-mail anyone on this board without asking first. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten e-mails from people in response to a post. My e-mail is for my friends, my business and the 37,000 companies that spam me each day. If it's necessary to e-mail anyone (e.g., to send a .php file), first ask if it's OK. No one should assume that just because a person assists you on the board, that person wants to be bothered in their inbox. More importantly, when a thread leaves the board, you lose the participation of others in the community who might help you, and the community loses the most important part of the thread: the resolution. Which leads to the next point:

Always resolve your thread, if possible
If you find an answer to your problem, return to your post and explain the solution. If someone else solves it, return and let everyone know that it worked. The whole point of a community board is to provide answers to everyone in the community. If someone else comes here in a day, a month or a year searching for the answer to the same question, they'll find it in the resolved thread. Or they'll find stumps of conversations. Either way, they'll get a pretty good measure of what kind of community we have here.

Thank people
If a person helps you repair your car for no charge, you'd say "thank you," right? Shouldn't you do the same here? This is elementary courtesy. Besides, as mentioned above, it lets people know whether the solution was correct. And it wouldn't hurt to thank people even if the solution doesn't work. At least they tried. In any event, when a person thanks me for my assistance, I'm more likely to assist that person again in the future.

The reason for this is legibility. We want to help you. That's why we're here (no pun intended). But it's a pain in the keester to try to read long blocks of code without formatting. If your code is difficult to read because you've neglected simple formatting, we might just stumble on to the next post.

Try searching the forum to see if your question has already been asked
The vast majority of questions we are asked have been asked and answered many times. This gets a little tedious. I, for one, don't mind answering the same old question again...but it's nice to know that you at least tried to help yourself.

Don't hijack other people's threads...or even your own
Most people answering questions don't want to have to read a novel in order to help you. If you attach your question to an old thread, or a thread on an unrelated topic (even if you were the originator of that thread) many people will quite understandably decide that it's too much work to get up to speed with your question and simply pass you by. In general, the idea of one person, one question, one thread is a good idea for all concerned.

Title your thread descriptively
Don't know why this one didn't occur to me before, since it's such a common problem. It may seem like "HEEEEEEEEEEEELP!!!" and "BIG PROBLEM!" are great ways to attract attention, but they are often counter-productive. Many people here will scan over headlines to see if the problem described is something they know about. If they don't see something familiar, they'll keep right on going. A short description of the nature of your problem is always the best way to get the help you need.

There are probably other things, but those are the ones at the top of my noggin. Hopefully, people will have some feedback on these thoughts, and maybe other ideas to add.

original version found at FlashMXfiles
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Tarique Sani

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Some thoughts on asking questions the right way
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2003, 07:13:08 AM »

Also read

http://linux-bangalore.org/articles/smart-questions.php

How To Ask Questions The Smart Way : By Eric Steven Raymond  and Rick Moen
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SANIsoft PHP applications for E Biz

jason

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Some thoughts on asking questions the right way
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2003, 07:55:01 AM »

good work, but as is usual...the people that need to read it are the same who have no initiative to do so and/or do not appreciate the need.

perhaps boards like this could incorporate extra fields for the initial post of a topic....like instead of just subject and message body, add in some others (perhaps some drop downs) that help to clarify the topic before you even read the garbled thoughts of the op.

fair and wise moderators help of course.
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jason

Joachim Müller

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Some thoughts on asking questions the right way
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2004, 01:14:32 AM »

@MaThIbUs: we used to have some arguments before on this board and I agree that I have been unnecesarily rude to people when replying. Your posting is very good and true, and I will link to it in the future if people behave ignorantly.
I hope you'll stay around and do some support.

Thanks :D

GauGau
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MaThIbUs

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Some thoughts on asking questions the right way
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2004, 11:49:01 AM »

Great to hear that, GauGau! :)

Of course I'll stick around here, and help where I can. :)
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snuff

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Re: Some thoughts on asking questions the right way
« Reply #5 on: September 30, 2004, 12:59:20 AM »

"37,000 companies" ?
Wow, that's more than I get! I humbly bow.... ;)

Well written, and I fully agree. Having only posted thrice so far (but having read and responded in my head countless times) on this forum, I wish to only say "Thanks" for the reminder. A good forum needs maintenance, both of the "tech" variety and that of "proper posting procedures". I frequently post on woodworking forums elsewhere, and there are a few that stand out as the best, due mostly to the same thoughts you wrote for us.

A side thought I had just now-- :D A reward program for moderators and Q-answering folk that have to deal with "bad posts": A fine-levying code that charges a "buck-or-2" to the poster the next time they post, if indeed they posted a bad-past-post and the moderators voted on it as such.

(Gee...I hope this doesn't count as one  ::))
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TranzNDance

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Re: Some thoughts on asking questions the right way
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2004, 01:07:02 AM »

Actually, there is a 'Karma' system in place. ;) It's just not obviously visible to regular users.
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Hein Traag

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Re: Some thoughts on asking questions the right way
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2004, 10:16:05 AM »

Well written set of guidelines ;) makes me wish i had read them earlier *grin*
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Joachim Müller

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Re: Some thoughts on asking questions the right way
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2004, 12:02:45 PM »

Hein,

no need to worry, you have a karma of +1  ;)

Joachim
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artistsinhawaii

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Re: Some thoughts on asking questions the right way
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2005, 11:00:00 AM »

Wish more people would read these topics.

Reminds me of the days when I was a sysop for serveral forums on Compuserve. It's amazing how abusive some people can be.  When you confront them, they reply, "it's a free country and I'm just expressing my freedom of speech."  I'd ask them what country they were in.  They would usually reply, America.  So I would then ask them what country they thought the internet was in.


I would constantly have to remind users that the internet isn't just one country. In fact, it's not a country at all.  Domains are private properties, and each domain has a right to set it's own rules of governing behavior. Just as the head of a household has the same right in his or her own domain.

Each user should remember that s/he is an ambassador of where they are from and a reflection of the people around them.


Thanks for the reminder,

Dennis




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Re: Some thoughts on asking questions the right way
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2005, 09:01:51 AM »

Ganz genau.  (Exactly!).  I agree and do my best to make my statement readable.  Thanks for the suggestion/advice.
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