I recently spent over a week trying to resolve an issue with my website business (http://sannsack.com). During my troubleshooting, I spent hours upon hours searching through forums, refining my search terms, reading through posts, over and over. First, I do want to say, if it weren’t for forums, I would still not know how to do more than half of what I know how to do on the web – building websites, configuring web servers, designing graphics, creating site templates – all products of information I found in forums.
Having said that – the number of people out there that are quick to respond without reading or understanding someones issue is beyond ridiculous! From simple questions like “how do I create blah” to complicated queries like “in cpanel version 11.25, with apaches 2.2 and php 5.3.x, I am having an issue with the domain addon feature” – if you can think it, someone has asked it. But my current frustration is with people that reply with smart butt responses like “RTFM” (read the f**king manual) or respond “can’t you just click next?” and my personal favorite – the amens “yeah, I had that problem too, but I don’t remember what I did to fix it”…
Most recently I had a question (too technical for you to care about) and I found a forum where a user had the exact same question – why can’t I do I do X and if I can, how? He even gave the error he got while trying to do “X” and why he wanted to do “X” in the first place. One helpful respondant actually wrote: “who said you couldn’t do it? I think it will just work” … the computer said he couldn’t do it – with the ERROR included in the orginal post!!! Another person responded with “you can do that, you have to change a setting” … REALLY?!?!?!? Lets play 20 questions – I’ll start with “is the setting on my server?”; is the setting in the cpanel; is the setting blue? wait wait… this could take a really long time – how about you GIVE THE SETTING IN YOUR RESPONSE!!!
I know I could be considered not grateful that someone has taken time to respond to questions – but is it really too much to ask that the responses be helpful? I have a few guidelines I would like to see followed on the web while answering questions:
- Read the question completely BEFORE you click reply
- If you feel the need to reply “RTFM” – close your browser and stop reading forums – like someone in customer service that hates customers, you will never be happy reading forums to help people and should just stop trying.
- If the question does not make sense, ask followup questions if you want to help
- If you don’t want to help, don’t click reply
- If you don’t know why a person could possibly want to do what this person is trying to do, don’t click reply
- If you have the same problem, feel free to ‘amen’ with “I have that problem too” but if you USED TO have that problem, but don’t remember ANYTHING about how you fixed it – do not bother telling us – its not helpful.
- Do feel free to give partial answers – something like “sorry, I don’t remember exactly what I did to fix it, but I do remember it was a check box in the cPanel” could be very helpful.
- If you know the answer, give it. Its not helpful when you say “its a setting” – tell us what the setting is, or don’t reply. It is however completely acceptable to post a link to a prior forum post where the same question was answered and could have been found if the poster had simply done a search before posting. For some reason Google likes to send me to forum posts where there is a link to a forum that actually has the answer I’m looking for – usually I think its because the second poster worded the issue better than the first.
That’s it. I know a list is usually 10 items or more – but I only have 8. If you don’t like it – blog about how horrible my post is (and feel free to link to it in the process).