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How To Ask Questions The Smart Way
February 1, 2006 9:51 AM   Subscribe

How do you get help on a web forum? RTFM.
posted by Roger Dodger (38 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
It may not be flashy, but it should be required reading.
posted by Roger Dodger at 9:52 AM on February 1, 2006


Problem is, the kind of people who post "HELP MY INTERNET EXPLORER IS BROKN" on forums are exactly the people who aren't about to read a 10,000 word article about how to ask good questions.

Still, I've always had a soft spot for this piece, probably only for the fact that it makes me feel smart.
posted by chrismear at 10:00 AM on February 1, 2006


How come I can never get my 8-tracks to go into the player door on the front of my computer box, no matter how hard I push them?
posted by HTuttle at 10:00 AM on February 1, 2006


Sad pretentious pricks write long boring screed for other sad pretentious pricks to read and feel smug about.
posted by mad judge pickles at 10:02 AM on February 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm with the mad judge.
"We're OK, you're not OK" dept.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:04 AM on February 1, 2006


htuttle: because that's the cupholder, you dumb bastard.
posted by keswick at 10:05 AM on February 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Good gibberish, though. "Obviously the florbish is grommicking, but the results aren't what one might expect."
posted by Gator at 10:06 AM on February 1, 2006


Actually, I think its more along the lines of "We CAN help you, but only under these conditions." And, if they are willing to help you with your problem, can't you at least phrase your problem in a way that makes easy for them to help you? ("They", of course, refers to the socially inept, but technically advanced haXX0rs)
posted by Roger Dodger at 10:11 AM on February 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


The article is a good one, but has downsides. It's NOT a declaration of "what you must do for some vaguely defined 'us' to help you." It's closer to: "The best ways to successfully get help from a community of people that has no obligation to actually help you."
posted by verb at 10:18 AM on February 1, 2006


More like "How To Answer Questions Like A Wanker".

Obviously no one wants to waste their time answering the same old newbie questions for the 1000th time, but the fact that you know how to use a computer and others don't doesn't give you the right to be an arsehole about it. Maybe I'm confusing cause and effect - perhaps the fact that you are an arsehole means you spend more time with computers than you do interacting with other people.

If someone asks me a computer question, I try and answer, but if I can't be arsed I will direct them (politely) to Google or a relevant FAQ - hopefully one that doesn't have answers such as "Throw out that Microsoft trash and install an open-source operating system like Linux or BSD."
posted by Orange Goblin at 10:19 AM on February 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Sad pretentious pricks write long boring screed for other sad pretentious pricks to read and feel smug about. posted by mad judge pickles

Interestingly, the document in question has solid advice for dealing with you, mad judge pickles. Under the section titled "On Not Reacting Like A Loser":
These flamers are either lamers who don't have a clue but believe themselves to be experts, or would-be psychologists testing whether you'll screw up. The other readers either ignore them, or find ways to deal with them on their own. The flamers' behavior creates problems for themselves, which don't have to concern you.

Don't let yourself be drawn into a flamewar, either. Most flames are best ignored — after you've checked whether they are really flames, not pointers to the ways in which you have screwed up, and not cleverly ciphered answers to your real question (this happens as well).
It might be a long document, but having proved its usefulness, it's certainly not a screed in the invective sense.
posted by boo_radley at 10:22 AM on February 1, 2006


Author's ability to interact with humans - is misshapen
posted by staggernation at 10:24 AM on February 1, 2006


Hey how do you post in a small font . . . oops.
posted by Eyebeams at 10:29 AM on February 1, 2006


I am new here. Perhaps this is not the right place to post my question. But what is MetaFilter?

Thnx.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:48 AM on February 1, 2006


But what is MetaFilter?

You know what? Post it in the grey and I'm sure you'll never forget the answer.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:54 AM on February 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


It might be a long document, but having proved its usefulness, it's certainly not a screed in the invective sense.

There's some nuggets of wisdom in there, to be sure, but it still comes off as a screed. Maybe not in the invective sense, but everything Eric Raymond writes has a high level of screediness. Something tells me that if that guy was in front of me in line at Starbucks, it would be annoying.
posted by fochsenhirt at 11:04 AM on February 1, 2006


Astro Zombie....click HERE
posted by alumshubby at 11:06 AM on February 1, 2006


Something tells me that if that guy was in front of me in line at Starbucks, it would be annoying.
Well, yeah.
posted by boo_radley at 11:12 AM on February 1, 2006


How do I click on one of these "links"?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:21 AM on February 1, 2006


the fact that you know how to use a computer and others don't doesn't give you the right to be an arsehole about it.

This goes both ways, though. Having worked on open source projects, for example, I've run into more people than I can count who view 'receiving personalized training by a free volunteer' as their God-given right.

The fact that I don't have time to help user X edit their php.ini file does not give them the right to call me an asshole.
posted by verb at 11:25 AM on February 1, 2006


Wow, boo_radley, that really hurt.

Like I pointed out, it's for sad pretentious pricks to read and feel smug about. You read it. You proved my point.
posted by mad judge pickles at 11:30 AM on February 1, 2006


mad judge pickles: Can you teach me how to be a smuggy pretentious prickle like you?
posted by mullacc at 11:41 AM on February 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


URGENT: IS THIS A GOOD POST? SHOULD I CLICK THE LINK?
posted by 31d1 at 11:47 AM on February 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Can you teach me how to be a smuggy pretentious prickle like you?

RTFM!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:50 AM on February 1, 2006


You know what? Post it in the grey and I'm sure you'll never forget the answer.

If you really want to remember, make it a FPP on the blue
posted by jeblis at 11:51 AM on February 1, 2006


Sure thing, mullacc, but first I'm gonna need your credit card details.
posted by mad judge pickles at 11:52 AM on February 1, 2006


Thank you for a wonderful round of "YUOR REFUTATION PROVES ME RIGHT SIR". You really turned that around; lemons into lemonade and such; made me look in the mirror and see that I was, indeed, the monster. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
posted by boo_radley at 11:52 AM on February 1, 2006


So much anger in this one there is.
posted by mad judge pickles at 12:11 PM on February 1, 2006


Where’s the ‘any’ key?

Remember kids: these flamers are lamers
posted by Smedleyman at 12:13 PM on February 1, 2006


Have you tried turning it off and on again?
posted by Grangousier at 12:54 PM on February 1, 2006


I was somewhat disappointed in this. A document like this is actually a really great idea, and I was hoping to send this to some friends and family members, but the attitude just gets in the way of what they're trying to accomplish. Telling people that they're losers is not a good way to make them behave like winners.
posted by selfnoise at 12:55 PM on February 1, 2006


I am endlessly hopeful that someday ESR will write something that doesn't make me want to punch him repeatedly in the neck.

Or that he'll shut the fuck up.

Sadly, I am not optimistic that either will happen anytime soon.
posted by phearlez at 1:08 PM on February 1, 2006


Everybody Loves Eric Raymond.
posted by brownpau at 1:49 PM on February 1, 2006


Slightly more idiot-friendly: Posting and YOU (Flash 1.5MB, sound)
posted by nielm at 2:32 PM on February 1, 2006


Something tells me that if that guy (ESR) was in front of me in line at Starbucks, it would be annoying.

Oh yeah. I find it difficult to be in the same room with him. I manage though, because there's usually more than one conversation going on, and I just avoid whichever one he's in. I have been known to leave a room when he starts talking.
posted by jlkr at 3:24 PM on February 1, 2006


I have to agree with mad judge here. "We're special people, here's how to talk to us" is definitely the gist, no matter how useful the data.
posted by Dunwitty at 4:02 PM on February 1, 2006


I'm surprised at all the attacks on this article. It may be a little misdirected, the article seems to be more about how you should go about asking for help if you are a technical person, but it does contain some decent advice.

It is wise to try and get young IT folk to try and realise where they are. It also tries to promote people thinking about how to answer their own questions.

Surely people here have someone who they provide free advice too and they keep trying to get them to think about what they are doing and try and solve their own problems better. It's a hard task.
posted by sien at 3:04 PM on February 2, 2006


I'm surprised at all the attacks on this article. It may be a little misdirected, the article seems to be more about how you should go about asking for help if you are a technical person, but it does contain some decent advice.

That's as may be, but the article is imbued with an attitude of "what do you mean you don't know that! Boy, are -you- stupid!" (Much like my kids when talking to each other. "you don't know this (trivia about Bionicle)? You're stupid!" "you don't know this (trivia about Artemis Fowl)? You're an idiot!") It's a common fallacy among computer geeks that this stuff is easy, and anyone should be able to do it. Maybe it is, but not everybody wants to do it.

Yeah, it would be nice if people could ask better questions, but giving them the impression that they're stupid because they don't know the jargon is probably not the way to go about it.
posted by jlkr at 7:52 AM on February 3, 2006


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