Forum Helping

So a forum ‘How to act / ask’ is done – for now.

What we need (cheers Root !) is some guidelines on how to help those people that ask.
Helping on the forums is not the exclusive terrain of those of us who post the most frequently – anyone can help, and you do not need to know masses of things to start that ball rolling. I actually have a text file which has several answers / urls already written so I can just cut and paste straight into a reply (I did have a much larger file, but in one of my recent mass deletions of stuff, it went that way too…), but they are the easy ones to answer – I will publish this file when I publish the guide. We need guidelines so that help offered is done so consistently, constructively and in such a way that our collected knowledge is disseminated between us as widely as possible.

So…….where to start ?

My initial ‘literally off the top of my head’ thoughts would be:

  1. Do not assume too much, but do not patronise either. If someone posts that their styleswitcher is not working, that tells us very little. Even if you do not know the answer yourself, you will have seen that pretty much the first thing we ask for is more information:
    Which version of WP ?
    Which styleswitcher ?
    Is the plugin activated ?
  2. Be explicit when talking about changes. Say what has to be altered and where – if you can, give a code snippet to demonstrate this.
  3. Do not be condescending toward people. Yes you may know more, but you knew squat at one point too.
  4. Register
  5. Be prepared to take something to email or IM’s and if you are comfortable with this, suggest it to the person should they be responding quickly to your answers.
  6. If you are contributing to a thread and it suddenly goes into territory you know nothing about, then say so. Someone may not want to ‘jump in’ on a thread you appear to be sorting out, so you saying that you are of no further use gives the green light to others who may be able to assist.
  7. Try to go back through some threads you have helped in to see if a topic has been resolved. If it hasn’t consider posting to that thread asking if the original poster has got everything sorted.
  8. Read threads – you will learn a lot and be able to help more. Bookmark any useful stuff.
  9. Have a good look around the Docs link on, the wiki, the faq and sites such as weblogtools and wordlog. Just saying to someone “You might find something there” and giving them a link won’t help and will increase their frustration. Point them to a specific place.
  10. Be prepared for the occasional ‘anon’ posting which either insults you, or the person being helped. Ignore it. Try not to rise to the bait. If they are not prepared to register, then they are not worth considering.
  11. Don’t feel that just because you started answering, that you are obliged to keep contributing to that thread. If things being said are annoying you, leave it for a while.
  12. My FAQ’s are too long 🙂
  13. If a person has a site that has many validation errors, you may want to point that out, but address their problem FIRST. If their problem will not be impacted by the validation, then tell them the answer – we are not here to be evangelical.
  14. If a person’s site looks odd in a certain browser, then be prepared to help that person in fixing the error. Simply telling them to learn more stuff isn’t the way.
  15. Let’s all start ignoring the single (or double) word posts.

What needs adjusting, and what is missing ? Once comments either dry up or said ‘Go’, I’ll stick it next to the other sticky.

5 thoughts on “Forum Helping

  1. I haven’t posted in the support forums for months (not since I was told that Typepad would be a more suitable tool for me, so I am utterly with you in asking people not to be condescending) but when I did answer posts I generally didn’t have the time to help people individually on email or IM. It’s great if you have the dedication to do that but I’m not sure you can demand it of everyone. Plus I generally felt that answers were more useful in a place where everyone could see them.

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