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Posting FAQ

Posted by admin (Graham Ellis), 17 December 2004
Summary. A full draft FAQ follows directly after this post

Should you be asking this question here?
1. Check already existing sources and answers first.
2. Please don't post urgent questions out of the blue.
3. Please don't post complete homework questions asking for complete answers.
4. Please don't post to advertise.

Making questions understandable.
1. The first language of all the people who answer on Opentalk is English, so please post in clear English.
2. Please add comments to any code and examples you post
3. Please name your variables using English words or Pneumonics that are relevant.
4. Please provide a good title.

Providing the right information.
1. Please provide short pieces of code to demonstrate your question.
2. Please provide sample data if appropriate.
3. Please describe exactly what goes wrong.
4. Please let us know operating system, language and version, additional software you're using if relevant.
5. Please check that you are NOT posting real passwords or copyright material.

Following up
1. When the problem is solved, please come back and tell us how.
2. If you find a solution elsewhere after posting, please follow up to let us know.


Posted by admin (Graham Ellis), 17 December 2004
This Forum is provided to give assistance ... but sometimes questions aren't easy to understand, or don't include the information we need for us to come back with an informed answer.  Everyone who answers here gives their service for free, so please help them help you by following the notes in these guidelines.

Should you be asking this question here?

1. Check already existing sources and answers first. Is the answer very easy to find in a book you have, in the documentation that comes with the programming language you are writing in, or by doing a quick Google search?

It's much better for you to have the answer in a few minutes rather than having to wait up to 24 hours. And it's much better for those peopel who give their time to answer to spend it on new questions. But if you find an answer in another source, you are still welcome to ask for clarification if you don't understand the answer(s) given there.

2. Please don't post urgent questions out of the blue.

All the answerers here work, sleep, have friends and family, and other hobbies - so please don't expect to get an answer within an hour or two.  Our target is to at least review all questions within 24 hours, and to be able to  provide initial guidance within that timeframe to the best of our ability in 90% of cases in that time.  If you do have a crisis, and are known to us (as a regular user of the board, or as a past customer of Well House Consultants), go ahead and post - but email me too so that I'll know the post is there and will benefit from quicker attention

3. Please don't post complete homework questions asking for complete answers.

If we provide a complete answer here, we're not doing you any service - you're still not learning the language. However, problems that you encounter while doing you home work, with samples as described later, are welcome.  We want to help and encourage you to join the open source programming world.

4. Please don't post to advertise.

If you've written a great Perl module on the CPAN, by all means tell us about it - we'll be delighted to hear -  but please don't use this site primarily as an advertising medium.  In particular, if you are posting on behalf of a commercial product please make your connection with that commercial product clear (don't pretend to be just a satisfied user), and don't repeat your post.

Making questions understandable.

1. The first language of all the people who answer on Opentalk is English, so please post in clear English.

I understand that English is NOT the mother tongue of many posters, and we have huge respect for you in coming here and writing in a language that you probably use rarely.  However - with the best will in the world, we can't perform magic in understanding always.  If you're having trouble understanding this paragraph, perhaps you should post to a board which uses your own language?

2. Please add comments to any code and examples you post

Comments are designed to give helpful information to the reader of your code ... and if you provide us with that help, we'll be very much more likely to give you a lot of help in return.  It's just like being polite

3. Please name your variables using English words or Pneumonics that are relevant - $number_hits is far better that $hct, and $sleeptime is far better than $couchette

You want to be writing maintainiable code anyway - so variable naming, loop indentation, code structure should be things that you're thinking about anyway.

4. Please provide a good title.

Your title should include relevant technical words rather than just saying "Help". That will help readers quickly find your post if they can provide assistance, and later on it will help other people who have similar questions to benefit from the answers provided to you

Providing the right information.

1. Please provide short pieces of code to demonstrate your question.  It's great if the code is less that 10 lines long, and if it's over 30 lines long chances are it will be hard for us to help.

2. Please provide sample data if appropriate.

3. Please describe exactly what goes wrong - in other words, what you are trying to achieve and what happens.

"It just goes straight back to the shell prompt" is far better than "it doesn't work".  And it's really GREAT to know that "it should produce the answer 42" rather than be left guessing

4. Please let us know operating system, language and version, additional software you're using if relevant. If you don't know whether it's relevant, please provide it anyway.

5. Please check that you are NOT posting real passwords within you sample code, nor copyright material unless you own the copyright.

Following up

1. When the problem is solved, please come back and post a follow up to tell us how you did it / what the problem was.

This feedback is valuable for future users - you're giving something back for the free service we have provided

2. If you find a solution elsewhere after posting, please follow up to let us know.  If you can describe the solution or post a link to it, that's even better.

It is particularly frustrating for people answering to spend time provideing an answer, just to be told "thank you, but I already found the answer elsewhere".

Any further suggestions for this FAQ ... please follow up on this thread.  I'll go back and add good ideas into my original post so that there's a single clear document available.

Posted by admin (Graham Ellis), 25 September 2005
"bump" as I've seen written elsewhere ... a follow up to move this thread to the top of the stack.   Please read the FAQ before you post - it gives you tips to help you help us to help you (if you see what I mean!)

I confess to being more than a little frustrated by putting quite a bit of effort into researching something a few hours ago .... just to find the the original poster had sorted it out for himself and hadn't bothered to let us know.  Sorry - but I resent having my time wasted ... spinning my wheels on an already closed issue.  Some people are just totally inconsiderate!



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