How Not To Get Technical Help on Usenet
This resource will assist you to not get the help you need. As strange as it may seem to you, this link has been given to you because you posted a question into a newsgroup very much like the ones below, or you have posted something that falls into one of the categories described later:
There are a lot of people with the knowledge or information that you seek, but posting questions like the ones above is a sure fire way of not getting many replies, if any, at all. Newsgroups are manned by volunteers who give their time free to help others. Many of those volunteers are very busy and cannot be bothered trying to decipher what to them looks like sheer nonesense, so your plaintive plea will generally be ignored. Follow these simple tips to help others help you.
Try to get attention with a descriptive subject line. A good subject line will help people to reasonably identify your question or problem and decide if they can help you or not. A subject line of “Help!!!!!” pr "It's broken" says nothing at all about your problem. However a subject line of “Problem installing win98 programs on XP” lets everyone know basically what information you are seeking or what you need assistance with. Those who feel they have experience in that field will immediately have their attention drawn to your post.
If you feel that your question is unimportant, just make up a bland, non-descript subject line and post away.
This may be somewhat difficult to achieve since you can't fix the problem yourself, you cannot be expected to know what information to include.
"My computer freezes" is a woefully inadequate description of a problem and you are guaranteed virtually no replies. At the very least, you need to say under what circumstances a freeze occurs. Is it with one application? All of them? Some? Which ones? Does the freeze occur at regular timed intervals or seemingly at random?
Similarly, "I get a blue screen with some white writing on it" is also unacceptable. The average helpful Usenet reader will just laugh and move on to try and help the next person. What does the writing say? Is there anything there that looks like it might be important? Record it using the tools of a bygone era, a pencil and paper. Then include that information in your post.
The minimum information you need to include consists of hardware, OS and recent change details. If it's a video problem, what motherboard and video card are you using? Make and model? What steps have you taken so far, if any, to rectify this issue?
Here is a fine example of how not to post about your problem. The poster in the real example below, spills the beans and shares the ins and outs of his chaotic family life with the world. He could have trimmed the entire post down to "How do I establish network drives through remote administration?":
Well, at least his family life is intriguing.
If you know the exact steps needed to recreate the problem that you are experiencing, then state them. “My icons don't work” doesn't mean anything. What icons? Are they in a menu? What menu? On the desktop? For what application? The clearer the details about your problem, the quicker you will get a reply.
Some people will tell you that there is no point posting about your problem if it ocurred two weeks ago on a friend's computer because you can't reproduce the problem and provide any additional meaningful information on the symptoms. Well, tell them where to go and post your question anyway, even if it's just to see if some fool will reply to you.
If you have a problem, cross posting to relevant newsgroups is good. Don't stand for anyone telling you otherwise. However you can expect some vigorous feedback if you cross post a Windows XP qestion into a Windows 98 group, for example. You have an issue that needs resolving and you are entitled to the widest possible audience.
Posters make two big mistakes with cross-posts. The first is, they don't cross-post. Instead they post the exact same message to five different groups in five different posts. This is totally counter-productive because nobody in the other groups is aware of any advice you may have received, so those who have the answers all spend their time answering the same post and not knowing about any questions you may have been asked by others or provided information on. Posting in this way is an excellent method to get yourself "twitted." Being twitted by those who can help you is not good. The next time you need help, those experienced people who have twitted you will be reluctant to help you.
The second is, they don't cross-post. Instead they post the exact same message to five different groups in five different posts, but this time they post the same series of messages one week apart and don't mention what advice they got previously nor why they feel the need to repost the same question again.
If you are unfortunate enough to have an ISP who only lets you post to one group at a time, you need to make sure that you say what groups you have posted to in your message, otherwise you can expect to get twitted if those who can help you also subscribe to those groups.
Don't ask for replies by e-mail. Nobody benefits from any advice you may be given and nobody learns for the next time a similar problem comes along. Besides, if you can't be bothered reading the group, why should anyone bother helping you?
Sometimes you'll get lucky and someone will send you an e-mail, but mostly the people who reply to you in e-mail generally don't post into the group because the other posters in the group deride them for their often silly and stupid advice.
Keep all of your replies within the one thread that you started. When you are asked to provide additional information, do not start a new thread. This only scatters information about the the place and makes it almost impossible to go back through history to review for missing clues. If your newsreader allows you to mark your message as being watched, use it so that you can find it again later. technical people being what they are, do not take kindly to being forced to read bits of detail here and bits there.
If you are hell-bent on getting nowhere in a hurry with your issue, break your posts into little bits and create new threads all over the place to see if you can get someone to do a merry jig down the garden path, prancing and dancing and leaping and praising nature behind you as you prance and dance yourself to the tune of your own scatterbrain posts by giving your helper the run-around with useless details and drawing obtuse conclusions from broadly general information. It means you cannot focus on the task at hand, which is trying to fix the problem. In which case, you'll just get ignored, or abused.
Don't get over enthusiastic about snipping. In fact, don't snip. You are the one with the problem that you cannot solve, therefore you are not in a position to know what should and should not be snipped. If snippage is needed, let the people who are helping you decide what isn't required. They'll snip if it's needed.
Keep in mind that you are not the only one being helped. It is not uncommon for a helpful poster to be dealing with five or six other problems at once. Cutting out the entire message and then replying with only your answer and none of the original text is a sure-fire way to get nowhere fast.
Just because you have posted a request for help into a newsgroup does not mean that you are qualified to provide technical advice to anyone you see fit on any issue you desire. Nor are you qualified to provide technical responses just because you know of someone who owns a computer or have heard of rumours of anyone owning computer in your local area, so don't do it. Posters who do this almost always follow the bigjon (jhyatt@NOSPAMtopqualityfreeware.com) rule of technical support:
By applying the bigjon rule, you should be in a postion to reply to the following genuine problem:
If you correctly apply the bigjon rule, your advice would be "Use Norton Ghost."
If you apply the bigjon rule of technical support and get into an argument with the original poster about your reply, you can always apply the gregh rule of technical support:
That's right. The gregh rule of technical support is, "An answer is an answer, no matter how stupid it is and you are a thankless piece of trash for not knowing that."
It is quite acceptable to many people to actually receive top-notch advice but to NOT take that advice and instead accuse the posters in the newsgroup of not knowing anything at all. If you have preconceived ideas of what the fix should be and then proceed to dispute the advice anyone might provide, you're on a fast track to the twit list. If you have no intentions of taking the advice and instead only desire to dispute it, please construct a question that elicits only the reply you are specifically looking for. A good example question is "Do I have to have two different programs or is their a way to put one program on two computers?"
If the advice is good advice, please feel free to indicate your displeasure and that you DO NOT like the advice. Please persist in demanding only answers that would make you feel better and get you on the twit list. An especially effective strategy to getting nowhere fast is if you also ensure that you give absolutely no indication whatsoever about what you are trying to do or achieve or why you think such an such is true, or what led you to your conclusion. Here is a good example of how to get nowhere in a hurry. It categorically, but erroneously, states what the problem is then demands a fix that will stuff the system completely:
Nine times out of ten, posters DO NOT know what a search engine is, let alone know how to use one. This is acceptable only in 24hoursupport.helpdesk, but not in real groups where you might expect to obtain technical support. The losers in 24hoursupport.helpdesk have plenty of free time on their hands and will be very happy to undertake a search for you.
If you are posting into 24hoursupport.helpdesk and you do know how to use a search engine, simply exercise sheer mental laziness and express an expectation that some mug in the group will do it for for you. Don't do this in technical groups unless you want to get twitted.
Posters who offer thanks in advance are indicating that they desire no interaction with the posters in the newsgroup and are only willing to read the replies of others without replying themselves. If you post thanks in advance, please expect to be told to get lost in advance.
It is a generally accepted principle that when you obtain a clear cut solution, you never say thanks, kiss my butt, or even tell the helper to drop dead. Do not reply to solutions with any notion or idication that you are in any way remotely thankful for someone to freely offer you their help and support. Especially do not tell anyone that the solution worked.
Another generally accepted principle is that when you obtain a clear cut solution, which did not work, you never say why it did not work or even hint at what happened when you tried the solution. Under no circumstances should you reply to solutions with any notion or idication of what happened, and you must make it clear to whomever it was that helped you that you no longer wish to accept advice from them. To achieve this objective, simply reply to your helper with "It didn't work. Anyone else got any suggestions?"
If you want a fast response to your plight, always set your PC clock forward by at least 48 hours before posting. This way, your message remains on the top of the stack and guarantees that anyone entering the group will see your message first. It also guarantees you a place on the twit list.
Just because someone was kind enough to help you once, don't ever have any expectations that the helper is at your beck and call. Here are some very common examples of overstepping the mark:
In example 1, the poster needs professional assistance. Many of the helpers on Usenet are also professionals, but you're not going to get the help you need unless you are prepared to fly your helper across the world, business class at least, all expenses paid. However if you have the money to waste, please feel free to indicate just how much cash you are prepared to part with for someone to come over and fix it for you.
In example 2, if the helpers in the group had knowledge or interest in the field of helping people dispose of dead cats then it is reasonable to assume they would more than likely be subscribed to an appropriate group.
In example 3, use a Search Engine (quod vide) you mentally lazy sloth.
A final example of overstepping the mark is in order. The poster in this example seems to change his posting identity every year. Last year he was d2002xx, this year he is d2003xx. d2003xx has a massive noise to signal ratio and has made a complete twit out of himself in his continual quest to perpetuate Linux v Windows threads by posting nothing but poo, bum, wee references into various cross-posted Linux v Windows threads. d2003xx now finds himself needing assistance with Windows XP. Well, at least he says he needs assistance. But nobody in the group will help him now, so he exercises his frustration by accusing people of not knowing the answer. It seems d2003xx has no understanding of the subtle difference between can not and will not.
Five technical people died of asphyxiation trying to read this post. Please use commas and full stops appropriately. Not everyone can read posts like this and still remember to breathe: