Tips on posting your questions to discussion group

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Tips on posting your questions to discussion group

Postby webmaster on Thu Feb 24, 2005 1:14 pm

In the Internet world the kind of answers you get to your technical questions depends as much on the way you ask the questions as on the difficulty of developing the answer.

Before asking a technical question in the discussion group it is a good idea to first check the following:
1. Try to find an answer by loong around and searching at site
2. Try to find an answer by searching the Web for example using Google
3. Try to find an answer by reading the manual / FAQ
4. Try to find an answer by inspection or experimentation
5. Do your archive-searching before asking (similar questions might have been asked earlier in the forum)

When you ask your question, it is a good idea to display the fact that you have done these things first. This will help establish that you're not being a lazy sponge and wasting people's time. And you will not get the rude answest like just "just use Google".

Prepare your question well. Think it through. Unclearly formed questions get answers that are not usually useful to you, or none at all. Include the necessary background information related to your question. If you are asking a question about some circuit design you have seen on Internet, specify the circuit you are talking bout clearly. When referring to a document or circuit on the Internet, it is a good idea to post the name of the circuit/document and the link URL to it. In this way the readers can easily find the circuit. The link URL will lead directly to the circuit exactly, if for some reason it did not work the exact document/circuit name will help to find it with Google if it is at some later time on some other address.
Questions like "I saw an interresting alarm cirucit at site and I would like to know how to adapt it to have longer operaging range" will not get many useful answers, because looging at to search for the circuit you described takes time (many will not bother), and you have given so little information on the circuit that the other people lookign for circuit might get lead to other circuit than you were talking agout (for example if had many alarm circuits). You need to be precise and informative.

Never assume you are entitled to an answer. You are not; you aren't, after all, paying for the service. You will earn an answer, if you earn it, by asking a question that is substantial, interesting, and thought-provoking — one that implicitly contributes to the experience of the community rather than merely passively demanding knowledge from others.

Making it clear that you are able and willing to help in the process of developing the solution is a very good start. “Would someone provide a pointer?”, “What is my example missing?” and “What site should I have have checked?” are more likely to get answered than “Please post the
exact procedure I should use.”

Know what your topic is! Choose your forum carefully. Post your question to a forum where it belongs. Do NOT post your question to a forum where it is off topic. Do not post your questions to too many groups. The first step, therefore, is to find the right forum. Then verify that your question is on-topic and has not been asked there many times before.

On Web forums, the subject header is your golden opportunity to attract qualified experts' attention in around 50 characters or fewer. Don't waste it on babble like “Please help me” (let alone “PLEASE HELP ME!!!!”). Use the space for a super-concise problem description.

Finishing your query with “Please send your reply to... ” makes it quite unlikely you will get an answer. In Web forums, asking for a reply by email is outright rude, unless you believe the information may be sensitive (and somebody will, for some unknown reason, let you but not the whole forum know it). This forum has "Notify me when a reply is posted" function that allows you to get notification when your question has been answered. Then you can read the answer in the forum. When the answer is in the forum, you and maybe any other people can read it and maybe benefir from the information in it.

Expressing your question clearly and well is important. If you can't be bothered to do that, we can't be bothered to pay attention. Spend the extra effort to polish your language. It doesn't have to be stiff or formal - it has to be precise; there has to be some indication that you're thinking and paying attention. Spell, punctuate, and capitalize correctly. If you are asking questions in a forum that does not use your native language, you will get a limited amount of slack for spelling and grammar errors. If you make your question artificially hard to read, it is more likely to be passed over.

English is the working language of the Internet and the laguage used in discussion groups.

Do not abuse “smiley” and “html” features. A smiley or two is usually OK, but colored fancy text tends to make people think you are lame. Seriously overusing smileys and color and fonts will make you come off as kid with no sense.

Be precise and informative about your problem:
1. Describe the problem or bug carefully and clearly.
2. Describe the environment in which the problem occurs or you want your circuit to work at (in many questions knowing which part of world you are from is useful information)
3. Describe the research you did to try and understand the problem before you asked the question
4. Describe the diagnostic steps you took to try and pin down the problem yourself before you asked the question

If your question has anything to do with regulations, telephones, radio communications, electrical power, where to buy some components/products, etc. then remeber to specify the country you are in. Internet is an international forum, but there are many things that differs on those fields between different countries.

Grovelling is not a substitute for doing your homework.
Don't waste your time, or ours, on crude primate politics. Instead, present the background facts and your question as clearly as you can.

If you are trying to find out how to do something begin by describing the goal. Only then describe the particular step towards it that you are blocked on. Many people who need technical help have a high-level goal in mind and get stuck on what they think is one particular path towards the goal. They come for help with the step, but don't realize that the path is wrong. Telling the high level goal will get you towards to goal. There could be other and maybe better techniques to do what you want to do than what you have tried and run into problems with.

Many Web forums have separate places for newbie questions. This system has also one. Even the most basic newbie questions are wellcome in "Electronics Basics".

Hackers and many other people using Internet forums believe that solving problems should be a public, transparent process during which a first try at an answer can and should be corrected if someone more knowledgeable notices that it is incomplete or incorrect

Think expertise as an abundant resource and time to respond as a scarce one. The less of a time commitment you implicitly ask for, the more likely you are to get an answer from someone really good and really busy.

Be courteous. Use “Please” and “Thanks for your attention” or “Thanks for your consideration”. Make it clear that you appreciate the time people spend helping you for free. Politeness does increase your chances of getting a useful answer.

Don't post homework questions. Many readers are good at spotting homework questions; most of us have done them ourselves. Those questions are for you to work out, so that you will learn from the experience. It is OK to ask for hints, but not for entire solutions.

It is a very good idea to send a note after the problem has been solved to the discussion group. Let the people that helped you to know how it came out and thank them again for their help. Last message on the discussion thread from the original poster telling that problem has been solved and what from maybe many ideas worked is a good note for anyone reading this discussion later. The new reader, who might have similar problems as you, later will see from your answer which one of the given ideas (there could be many mentioned in the answers) solved the problem. Message telling that problem is solved will tell other people that the problem has been solved and there is no more point in spending time in writing more answers to this specific question. Your followup doesn't have to be long and involved; a simple like "it was a failed resistor R2 that caused the problem" is enough. A short and sweet summary is the best. Besides being courteous and informative, this sort of followup will help others searching the archive of the forum to know exactly which solution helped you and thus may also help them.

If you don't understand the answer, use the same tools that you used to try and answer your original question to understand the answer. If this does not help, then ask for clafication with a well formed question.

If you can't get an answer, please don't take it personally that we don't feel we can help you. Sometimes the members of the asked group may simply not know the answer. And sometimes the experts who know the answers are unable to answer at this very specific time (they are tto bysy at their work, their personal life, they are away from Interner in vacation). No response is not the same as being ignored.

There are also plenty of commercial companies you can contract with for help. You can't expect that consulting and support will always come for free.

More reading:

How To Ask Questions The Smart Way ... #easyreply

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