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How to ask questions the smart way...

Posted: Tue Feb 22, 2005 10:08
by GlaDiaC
Use meaningful, specific subject headers

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!!!!”; messages with subjects like that get discarded by reflex). Don't try to impress us with the depth of your anguish; use the space for a super-concise problem description instead.

A good convention for subject headers, used by many tech support organizations, is “object - deviation”. The “object” part specifies what thing or group of things is having a problem, and the “deviation” part describes the deviation from expected behavior.

HELP! Video doesn't work properly on my laptop!

XFree86 4.1 misshapen mouse cursor, Fooware MV1005 vid. chipset

XFree86 4.1 mouse cursor on Fooware MV1005 vid. chipset - is misshapen

Be precise and informative about your problem
  • Describe the symptoms of your problem or bug carefully and clearly.
  • Describe the environment in which it occurs (machine, OS, application, whatever). Provide your vendor's distribution and release level (e.g.: “Fedora Core 2”, “Slackware 9.1”, etc.).
  • Describe the research you did to try and understand the problem before you asked the question.
  • Describe the diagnostic steps you took to try and pin down the problem yourself before you asked the question.
  • Describe any recent changes in your computer or software configuration that might be relevant.
Do the best you can to anticipate the questions a hacker will ask, and to answer them in advance in your request for help.