< Asking questions in a discussion forum - 1.0 >

An easy way to get help with your Linux problems and meet other Linux users is to post a question in a discussion forum. Just remember that in real life no one wants to talk to you if you don't listen to others, if you're not acting politely, if you're ranting and shouting all the time, if you talk about wrong things in the wrong place, or if you insult poeple who are trying to help others. Things are the same in the discussion forums. Everyone will be happy if you know the basic discussion forum etiquette.

Author: Nana Långstedt < nana.langstedt at gmail.com >
tuXfile created: 14 October 2002
Last modified: 22 September 2005


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< Post in the right place >

Maybe the most important thing is to post in the right forum or mailing list. For example, if you have a problem with your printer, it's no use posting your question in an X Window forum. People who are reading an X Window forum are interested in discussing things related to X, not printers. Your post is likely to be ignored, or even worse, you may get flamed. In a hardware forum people are more likely to have interest in your printer problem.

Another important thing is to post in a place that suits your experience level. If you're a newbie and are asking very basic things, post your questions in a newbie forum. In a newbie forum the more experienced people are friendlier and more helpful because they keep in mind that Linux is something new and unusual to you, and you're more likely to get helpful answers. And many of the newbies who've just had the same problem as you are more than happy to explain how to solve it.

< No spoon feeding >

Search before asking. The people at the discussion forum aren't getting paid for answering your questions. They're hanging around there to learn new things and help others when they feel so, and they don't like seeing the same "How do I change my default window manager" posted a million times.

Most likely many people have had the same problem as you, and there is excellent documentation answering your question. Google is your friend. Use it before abusing any discussion forum.

The discussion forum where you're about to post probably has a way to search the topics posted before. Use it. Chances are that somebody has asked the same question before. If someone's asked the question recently, the people at the forum don't feel like answering a lazy person asking exactly the same thing.

Show you've searched. If, after searching, you haven't found an anser to your question, then post. It's a good thing to mention in your post that you've searched for the answer but haven't found it. For example, a post starting with something like "I searched Google, relevantwebsite.com and relevantwebsite2.com and this forum, but didn't find anything..." gives a good impression.

If you found documentation about your problem but following its instructions didn't help, or you didn't understand it, mention that in your post too. For example "I followed the instructions described in website.com/helparticle.html but using command XYZ like they suggested didn't help, instead I got an error message saying this..." or "I found some good instructions with Google, but they were too technical and I didn't understand what they meant. Could someone explain to me what they meant by XYZ or could you point me to a more newbie-friendly resource..."

< Use a descriptive title >

The title of your post is what draws others' attention. Use a descriptive title so that others can see if they should bother reading your post or not. A title saying something like "Please help" or "This thing doesn't work!" doesn't tell anything to others and many people ignore such posts.

Include info. If you have problems with KDE, don't use a title saying "It doesn't work!" Instead, a title like "KDE crashes while booting up" is more descriptive and it's more likely that people who are interested in your topic will read your post and help.

No crap. Don't use questionable methods to make your post stand out. Never, ever use ALL CAPS for your post's title. Don't use weird things to "decorate" it, either, like "--=*Help me*=---" or something. It doesn't make your title more interesting, unless the forum is full of 12-year-old kids.

< Be specific >

The people hanging around at the forums can't read your mind, and they don't know what kind of a system you're running Linux on. So, when posting a question, be sure to include enough relevant info. You don't have to post every little detail about your hardware, but post the info that has something to do with your problem, like your distro, the version of software you use, or details about the hardware that has something to do with your problem.

Tell others what you're trying to do, how you're trying to do it, and what happens when you do it. Include error messages or other output if you get any. You can cut and paste it into your post, as well as the contents of a config file that has something to do with your problem.

< Speak English and DON'T SHOUT >

n0 0n3 w4nn4 741k 2 1337 h4x0rz 0r 5cr1p7 k1dd1ez wh0 7h1nk 7h3yr3 u63r c00l and i think ppl aint gonna talk 2 u much if ur lazy and dont wanna use punctuation markz and dont even try 2 spell correctly cuz it just showz that ur 10 yr old moron who no 1 should listen 2 cuz u hav no brainz in ur head.


Others are more likely to respect you if you speak properly. And if English isn't your native language, it isn't an excuse for being lazy. Hey, I don't speak English natively and I know I make errors, but at least I'm trying to speak properly. Being lazy isn't the same thing as making mistakes, and I'm sure the people on Linux forums can tell the difference.

Of course Linux discussion forums or mailing lists aren't English classes, so people still pay more attention to what you say, rather than how you say it. But if you write your message in a language that clearly shows you're not respecting others, don't expect others to respect you. On the other hand, if you write your message in a language that is easy to read, people are more likely to think you're cool.

What is considered good English, may depend on the discussion forum, but the universal rule is: NEVER EVER SHOUT AT OTHERS!!!!!

< Be patient >

If no one answers your post in 5 minutes, there's no need to start posting questions asking why no one's answered your post. Wait at least for a couple of days - some people may answer a bit late to your question. And while waiting, you can always try searching for the answer!

< Reply to answers >

If someone answers your post and gives you a solution to your problem, remember to reply to that person. If you face some problems when implementing the solution he's given you, ask further questions so that he or someone else can give you more instructions. If you do so, remember to be just as specific as posting any post: what you're trying to do and what happens when you're doing so.

If you get your problem solved, remember to post at least a "Thank you" note. No replies from you keeps the person who replied to your question wondering what happened to your problem, or makes others thinking that your problem didn't get solved and they'll still answer to your original question. This makes everyone wasting their time with a topic that already got answered.

< Where to find forums >

I know, I listed a scary-looking pile of instructions in this tuXfile, but they're mainly things that can be figured out with common sense (unfortunately, there are many people who haven't figured them out). Don't be afraid to ask questions in a discussion forum. Mostly the Linux geeks are fiendly, especially those hanging in newbie forums. And when you get your questions answered, nothing prevents you from helping a newbie out. There are numerous Linux discussion forums out there, but these are some of my personal favorites:


Linux help > Getting more help > Asking questions in a discussion forum

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