View Full Version : Tech Support Do's and Don'ts (for both sides of the equation)

06-06-09, 14:13
For the topic starters:

Types of Questions Not To Ask

Q: Where can I find program or resource X?
A: The same place I'd find it — at the other end of a web search.

Q: How can I use X to do Y?
A: If what you want is to do Y, you should ask that question without pre-supposing the use of a method that may not be appropriate.

Q: How can I configure my shell prompt?
A: If you're smart enough to ask this question, you're smart enough to RTFM and find out yourself.

Q: Can I convert an AcmeCorp document into a TeX file using the Bass-o-matic file converter?
A: Try it and see.

Q: My {program, configuration, SQL statement} doesn't work
A: This is not a question. On seeing something like this, the reaction in peoples' minds is normally of one of the following:

do you have anything else to add to that?
oh, that's too bad, I hope you get it fixed.
and this has exactly what to do with me?

Q: How can I crack root/steal channel-ops privileges/read someone's e-mail?
A: You're a lowlife for wanting to do such things and a moron for asking a hacker to help you.

Good and Bad Questions

Stupid: Where can I find out stuff about the Foonly Flurbamatic?

This question just begs for "STFW" as a reply.

Smart: I used Google to try to find “Foonly Flurbamatic 2600” on the Web, but I got no useful hits. Can I get a pointer to programming information on this device?

This one has already STFWed, and sounds like he might have a real problem.

Stupid: I can't get the code from project foo to compile. Why is it broken?

The querent assumes that somebody else screwed up. Arrogant git...

Smart: The code from project foo doesn't compile under Nulix version 6.2. I've read the FAQ, but it doesn't have anything in it about Nulix-related problems. Here's a transcript of my compilation attempt; is it something I did?

The querent has specified the environment, read the FAQ, is showing the error, and is not assuming his problems are someone else's fault. This one might be worth some attention.

Stupid: I'm having problems with my motherboard. Can anybody help?

J. Random Hacker's response to this is likely to be “Right. Do you need burping and diapering, too?” followed by a punch of the delete key.

Smart: I tried X, Y, and Z on the S2464 motherboard. When that didn't work, I tried A, B, and C. Note the curious symptom when I tried C. Obviously the florbish is grommicking, but the results aren't what one might expect. What are the usual causes of grommicking on Athlon MP motherboards? Anybody got ideas for more tests I can run to pin down the problem?

This person, on the other hand, seems worthy of an answer. He/she has exhibited problem-solving intelligence rather than passively waiting for an answer to drop from on high.

For the helpers:
How To Answer Questions in a Helpful Way

Be gentle. Problem-related stress can make people seem rude or stupid even when they're not.

Reply to a first offender off-line. There is no need of public humiliation for someone who may have made an honest mistake. A real newbie may not know how to search archives or where the FAQ is stored or posted.

If you don't know for sure, say so! A wrong but authoritative-sounding answer is worse than none at all. Don't point anyone down a wrong path simply because it's fun to sound like an expert. Be humble and honest; set a good example for both the querent and your peers.

If you can't help, don't hinder. Don't make jokes about procedures that could trash the user's setup — the poor sap might interpret these as instructions.

Ask probing questions to elicit more details. If you're good at this, the querent will learn something — and so might you. Try to turn the bad question into a good one; remember we were all newbies once.

While muttering RTFM is sometimes justified when replying to someone who is just a lazy slob, a pointer to documentation (even if it's just a suggestion to google for a key phrase) is better.

If you're going to answer the question at all, give good value. Don't suggest kludgy workarounds when somebody is using the wrong tool or approach. Suggest good tools. Reframe the question.

Help your community learn from the question. When you field a good question, ask yourself “How would the relevant documentation or FAQ have to change so that nobody has to answer this again?” Then send a patch to the document maintainer.

If you did research to answer the question, demonstrate your skills rather than writing as though you pulled the answer out of your butt. Answering one good question is like feeding a hungry person one meal, but teaching them research skills by example is showing them how to grow food for a lifetime

content posted in edited/abriged form from here (http://catb.org/esr/faqs/smart-questions.html#examples)

[mod edit]FAO: all interested - it'll be helpful to read the whole document under the link above for your self education :)[/mod edit]

06-06-09, 14:56
Funny story. Yesterday, a lady came to me because her computer "wouldn't work" ... it was refusing to accept her 5 digit code to let her print a document.

Yeah. Num Lock was off.

06-06-09, 18:02
Nice faq tutorial Spikejones :p

Nice, but incomplete.
I'd have more to add:

You often prompt me to RTFM, well I do have lots of manuals, but I guess I'm missing the ****ing manual.
Could you give me a hint where to download a good, graphic ****ing manual? Also, someone who I could actively practice the manual's instructions with?

Also, don't overlook this please

I once owned a Fender Precision Bass [no BS, I really did] I then sold.
Do you think it would have worked with the Bass-o-Matic Pro Suite software you host on your site and/or maintain? Whatever.
Also, why every now and then when I would play the bass riff from the Beatles' Birthday tune did I botch it and go fuori tempo and get booed at by the audience? A defective pre-amp plug, maybe? Does your shareware program provide a workaround to this?

06-06-09, 21:34
Q. I already read the manual but I don't understand it. Could someone make a video tutorial for me?

A. You're too stupid to do this. Find a new hobby.

Sorry, I guess this is kind of OT. But it seems to fit here. :p

06-06-09, 21:42
Well... I must say a video tutorial is too much, but a graphical one is necessary sometimes. For the newbies or when the language of the helper's software differs from the querent's one (it shows the right direction better).