Forum Thread

Establishing guidelines for asking for tech support

jkee 4,920 2,044 October 21, 2015 at 02:46 PM
Once upon a time this thread on how to ask for tech support was stickied in this forum. It didn't cover everything but did help some people ask more intelligent questions. The problem was most people, especially those who are bad at asking for tech support never looked at the thread and it was really long. Eventually it was un-stickied. There were also some other stickies including the "tech support master index" that suffered similar fates.

I think we should create a short list of guidelines for posting in the tech support forum similar to those that appear when you post in the hot deals section: http://slickdeals.net/forums/newthread.php?do=newthread&f=9

A number of forums refer people to this essay of sorts on asking smart questions: http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/sma...tions.html
But that wouldn't really accomplish the objective of creating a concise list of guidelines.

Here's a first pass of what this could include, please share your thoughts and ideas:
  1. Search the web and read the manual before posting!
  2. Search past threads in the tech support forum (using the lower search box) before posting! The default search only includes the deal forums.
  3. Describe what's happening or what you're trying to accomplish and troubleshooting you've done, not what you think the solution is.
  4. Be specific! Include model numbers, manufactures, software versions, and other relevant specs.
  5. Give your thread a meaningful title that includes details! Leave out words like urgent and please help!
  6. Participate regularly in the thread you're creating and answer questions when asked!

Community Wiki

Last Edited by jkee October 28, 2015 at 09:13 PM
Add to / edit the wiki as you see fit. Discuss ideas in the thread.
  1. Describe what's happening or what you're trying to accomplish and
    troubleshooting you've done, not what you think the solution is.
  2. Be specific! Include model numbers, manufactures,
    software versions, and other relevant specs.
  3. Give your thread a meaningful title that includes details!
    Leave out words like urgent and please help!
  4. Participate regularly in the thread you're creating.
    Subscribe to the thread if you want notifications of all posts.
  5. Search the web and the tech support forum before posting <--- *the nicest way to do this search would be like the java script search popup you get when you click search this forum

18 Comments

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#3
Good list. Given how little people tend to read, it might be a little on the long side right now, but I'm not sure what I'd cut out.

Asking people to read the manual is probably a good idea, although manuals seem to be mostly terrible these days. Thematically it fits with 1 and 2, but I think it's less important than 4-6. In my experience, if I can't find it on Google, I probably can't find it in the manual.

For the example about being specific, do we really need or want all of that information? Every device on their network?

Also, the sentence about using proper grammar contains a comma splice. It should probably just be two separate sentences. Sorry, I couldn't resist Smilie
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#4
Quote from quotidian View Post :
Good list. Given how little people tend to read, it might be a little on the long side right now, but I'm not sure what I'd cut out.

Asking people to read the manual is probably a good idea, although manuals seem to be mostly terrible these days. Thematically it fits with 1 and 2, but I think it's less important than 4-6. In my experience, if I can't find it on Google, I probably can't find it in the manual.

For the example about being specific, do we really need or want all of that information? Every device on their network?

Also, the sentence about using proper grammar contains a comma splice. It should probably just be two separate sentences. Sorry, I couldn't resist Smilie
Thanks for you input. I made some tweaks to pair down the guidelines some, some of the numbers changed I combined what were 1 & 3. the 4-6 you reference are now 3-5
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Last edited by jkee October 21, 2015 at 09:36 PM
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#5
Quote from quotidian View Post :
Good list. Given how little people tend to read, it might be a
. . . pipe dream expecting anyone to read it?


That's not a jab/poke at the post, or your edits to it. People are lazy, and don't want to find the answer themselves. If they're too lazy to sift through the Google search results to put a search string into Google they probably won't read and certainly won't follow simple guidelines.
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#6
1) Define the problem accurately
2) Give examples
3) Don't say "It doesn't work" with no context
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#7
Good idea. All it would take would be for a few of us to refer the OP of inadequate requests to the NEW Guideline Sticky.

I think that in a short period of time many of us would begin referring requester's to the Tech Support Guideline Sticky when necessary.

Quote :
I think we should create a short list of guidelines for posting in the tech support forum similar to those that appear when you post in the hot deals section: http://slickdeals.net/forums/newthread.php?do=newthread&f=9
This is an excellent idea!
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#8
I foresee a lot of TL;DR. Sticky posts rarely affect the outcome of the threads in the forum. I don't think it will change and I don't think this will change it.

The theory is great in concept but the real world application is much less so.

And to further moot the point, the whole concept of a tech or any help forum is to repetitively answer the same questions over and over again. If this wasn't true, then I'd like to challenge you to a Google competition where I'm certain I will defeat you. And if you don't like that, we can have a SlickDeals forum hunt for the same router or laptop questions over and over and over and over and over and over again. Forums exist for interaction among a group of people with an affinity for something (in our case deals). This doesn't mean the forum is not helpful, it is; but only because people like to ask here rather than find out the answer themselves or to ask people they have affinity for. I have long loathed the "RTFM" response in forums and chat channels as the point of the forum is to ask questions that we all know exist somewhere that we can find it but don't want to.

So at the end of my post, I'm going to TL;DR myself. Have a great day!
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#9
I think the concept is great, but hard in practice. I agree we want the guidelines to be short so they will be read. The link that was posted in the OP is way too long for most people to read.

Perhaps some type of template?
Do you have a computer problem? Answer these X questions in your post.
Do you have a home problem? Answer these X questions in your post.
etc
etc
etc
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#10
Quote from dale_101798 View Post :
Good idea. All it would take would be for a few of us to refer the OP of inadequate requests to the NEW Guideline Sticky.
Quote from eekthecat View Post :
I foresee a lot of TL;DR. Sticky posts rarely affect the outcome of the threads in the forum.
I don't want to make this a sticky as I agree stickies are rarely read. Click the button to make a new thread in the hot deals forum or the 2nd link in my OP and you'll see what I'd like this to be.

TL;DR is certainly an issue and the people who need the guidelines the most will be the ones who read them the least. However, if even 20-30% of people who post here read them it would probably help.

Regarding my list, even though 5&6 (the ones on sentences, paragraphs, bullets, spelling, & grammar) serve a purpose they could probably be eliminated. The people who need these guidelines are probably the least likely to read them. These were aimed at posts that contain 5000 word run on sentences or are otherwise so poorly written that they're hard to follow, which we see every now and then.

Quote :
And to further moot the point, the whole concept of a tech or any help forum is to repetitively answer the same questions over and over again.
You're right to an extent. It's often variations on similar problems. Even if they still create a thread, encouraging the OP to do a little research helps. It improves the odds that they ask their question intelligently.

1&2 on STFW, RTFM, and search SD probably don't deserve to be at the top of the list. RTFM does have it's place in forum responses, but it is often used when it isn't quite necessary. The version in the wiki reflects these changes. Encouraging people to search the tech support forum comes with a trade off, the odds of people adding to old threads when they should just create a new one increases.
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Last edited by jkee October 22, 2015 at 11:26 AM
#11
It isn't like this sub-forum gets a lot of traffic anyway.

How about you just help people as best you can... Or not, depending on how you feel that day.

The first time someone posts "Didn't you bother to read the sticky" into someone's trouble thread, I for one will be more annoyed than if the poster was just a regular moron.
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#12
Quote from TeeDub View Post :
It isn't like this sub-forum gets a lot of traffic anyway.

The first time someone posts "Didn't you bother to read the sticky" into someone's trouble thread, I for one will be more annoyed than if the poster was just a regular moron.
You're right of course. I would also be annoyed by calling out people over a sticky. I'm not advocating a sticky, just a tips/guidelines box like this:
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#13
Quote from jkee View Post :
You're right of course. I would also be annoyed by calling out people over a sticky. I'm not advocating a sticky, just a tips/guidelines box like this:
I've never seen that before.
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#14
Quote from Foreveryours View Post :
I've never seen that before.
Seriously though, people who would read that would figure out the solutions on their own 99% of the time. Perhaps those responding to the inadequate posts should respond with the template.
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#15
it would be interesting if you could tell from the subject heading or tags if the template/guidelines were followed, and then those topics tend to get prioritized higher by the experts who are looking for questions to answer, and then people learn they need to follow the template to get priority. for example, if the template says to use the "?" icon on your thread, you can quickly scan for "?" threads because they probably read/used the template.

so it's all voluntary and self-motivated, you are just rewarding compliant behavior.

if the bad cases are the exception and not the rule, you could just respond with a stock "Please explain your question and what you've tried in more detail so that we can help you better. Here is (or a link to) a helpful template" Then you can also see how engaged they are. if they never respond, you didn't waste your time. also, other experts would recognize the stock answer and prioritize elsewhere until new info comes.
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Last edited by Damocles October 23, 2015 at 07:28 AM
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