Oracle Tips and Tricks — David Fitzjarrell

June 14, 2016

“It Doesn’t Work”

Filed under: General — dfitzjarrell @ 17:09


“Since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking.”
— Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

The Devil is in the details, however, in support forums and newsgroups, the Devil is just as present when the details are either sketchy or non-existent. Volunteers in such forums and newsgroups quite often hear the dreaded words “it doesn’t work”, followed by … nothing. No detail, no explanation, no follow-up, nothing. If you walked in to your doctor and said, with no context, “it hurts” your doctor would be at a loss with respect to any reasonable attempt at a diagnosis. WHAT hurts? Where? When did it start? All questions your doctor would immediately ask in hopes of finding an answer. Support volunteers have no crystal balls, no Ouija boards, no Tarot cards and are not mind readers so leaving out important information makes it impossible for them to assess your situation.

Encountering a problem for the first time can be frustrating, that’s understood, so it stands to reason that you may not have much of a clue on how to ask your question. How should you frame questions in such forums? I blogged about that here so I won’t repeat myself. Suffice it to say that the more detail and explanation you can provide to support volunteers the better the responses will be. Also try your best to find an answer before you go to the forums and newsgroups. The more YOU can do to find an answer outside of the forums the more likely you’ll find help in the forums when you really need it.

Members of such forums see all sorts of questions, many of them repeatedly, so supplying as much information as you can when you first ask your question is important. If you ‘miss the mark’, so to speak, when supplying relevant details these volnteers will ask you questions to narrow down the possibilities. Doing so doesn’t mean they don’t know what they are talking about, it means you didn’t make your situation clear enough to generate a usable answer. Another response you might encounter for ambiguous questions is “That depends…”, and that isn’t a red flag of ignorance, it’s the volunteers trying to get you to be more specific with your details. Remember, the more they know about your problem the better able they will be to find you an answer.

Patience is a virtue; forum members don’t sit at their computers every second of every day just waiting for you to ask questions so you shouldn’t expect immediate responses. Sometimes it may take a day to get an initial response, so that shouldn’t worry you. In some cases there may be forum members who tend to answer questions in certain specific areas, and your question may fall into one of those areas, and those members may be offline when you get the time to ask. Just because you don’t get an immediate response in no way indicates you and your question are being ignored, and a delay in responses doesn’t mean you need to post your question again and again. Rest assured you will have the attention of forum members and someone will provide a response, even if it’s to ask for more information. Quality takes time.

It bears repeating that the brilliant souls in these forums and newsgroups are volunteers, not paid support personnel, and they are in these forums because they actually, honestly want to help by sharing knowledge they have gained through years of experience. They are giving their time to help you and others like you and it would be wise to remember that. Having a sense of entitlement has no place in these forums; behaving as though you are owed an answer is probably the surest way to keep those volunteers from helping you. Treat them as you would want to be treated and you may find that these volunteers will go the extra mile to help you.

It’s definitely worth thinking about.

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1 Comment »

  1. Sadly, I fear you’re preaching to the choir. 😦

    Comment by Jeffrey Kemp — June 14, 2016 @ 17:22 | Reply


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