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Some thoughts on asking questions the right way

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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

Tarique Sani:
Also read

How To Ask Questions The Smart Way : By Eric Steven Raymond  and Rick Moen

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 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.

Joachim Müller:
@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


Great to hear that, GauGau! :)

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


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