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TIPS FOR USING ANY BBS, FORUM or NEWSGROUP (Updated 06/07/2008)

CONTENTS (this page)

  1. OVERVIEW - About This Document 
  2. THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU POST A MESSAGE
    Are You New to the Forum?
    Things To Do BEFORE Posting to a Forum
    Can't Get an Answer to Your Question on a Forum?
  3. GUIDELINES FOR THE SUBJECT/TITLE OF YOUR POST
    Getting People to Read Your Post
    Creating an Effective Subject/Title For Your Post
  4. GUIDELINES FOR COMPOSING & POSTING YOUR MESSAGE
    Provide Enough Information on Technical Issues
    More About Posting In A Technical Forum
    Things NOT To do When Posting
    About Posting Links(URLs) to Articles and Websites
  5. GUIDELINES FOR REPLYING TO OTHER MEMBERS MESSAGES
    Effectively Using Quoted Replies
    Be Extra Cautious When You Get Upset
    Encourage Others to Use The Forum SEARCH Feature
  6. Give Something Back To The Community
    Give Something Back to Those Who Helped You
    Post a Brief Summary of What Solved Your Problem
  7. REFERENCING LINKS TO THIS DOCUMENT
    Refer Others to This Document in Part or Whole
    How to Reference a Link(URL) to this Document

 

#1) OVERVIEW - About this Document

Did you ever post a message on a public BBS, Forum or Newsgroup, and not get any responses or not get an adequate answer to your request for help?  If so, the problem might be with the way you made your post. This document is intended to help you get you what you want from the many public forums that exist on the Internet.

This document offers useful  information that will help you to compose, post, and reply to messages more effectively. By following the tips and guidelines, you will receive a higher response rate to your posts as well as faster & higher quality responses to your questions. It will help you gain respect and avoid problems amongst the other members. 

This document contains a set of general tips & guidelines that can be applied to almost any BBS, Forum, or Usenet Newsgroup. Remember, these are NOT RULES that you must follow, but if you do apply the techniques and concepts suggested, you stand to benefit in many different ways.  

For simplicity, the term "Forum" will be used, but understand that it applies to just about any BBS, Forum or Usenet Newsgroup on the Internet. 

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#2) THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU POST A MESSAGE

* Are You New to the Forum? (#2a)

- It's a good idea to lurk for a while before posting. Lurking simply means you only read the messages without making your presence known. Lurking allows you to get a sense of how the Forum operates and how the members interact with each other.

- It's also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the RULES & POLICIES of the particular FORUM(s) you belong to. Each Forum typically has it's own set of RULES that you must abide by or face some consequences.  Remember, this document is not a list of RULES for any Forum, but rather, some very general tips & guidelines that you can apply to just about any Forum. 

* Things To Do BEFORE Posting to a Forum (#2b)

- Check to see if there is a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list so that you don't ask a question that's been answered so many times in the past that you annoy the regular members.

- Use the Forum's SEARCH feature using a few keywords related to your topic to see if it's already been covered. The SEARCH method has potential of getting you an immediate answer as apposed to taking hours or days for other members to respond to your post. Remember, someone else may have already more concisely stated the same issue as yours and it could save you lots of time in the long run by not having to go back and forth messaging to explain what your issue is.

* Can't Get an Answer to Your Question on a Forum? (#2c)

- Search the Usenet or Google groups using Google... http://groups.google.com/advanced_search?hl=en&q=&hl=en&

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#3) GUIDELINES FOR THE SUBJECT/TITLE OF YOUR POST

* Getting People to Read Your Post (#3a)

- Your post is in competition with all the other posts and therefore you need to post in a manner that would entice someone read your message. When posting, your initial goal should be to keep your topic from being one of the skipped ones.

* Creating an Effective Subject/Title For Your Post (#3b)

- Carefully choose the contents of your Subject header! You have a limited number of precious characters of Subject to entice someone to read your post, so don't waste them. Take care while composing your Subject/Title as they are the key that opens the door to getting an answer to your problem.

- Use a Subject/Title with unique keywords so that you can use the Forum SEARCH feature to find it again at a future date.

- Avoid pleading in the Subject/Title (Ex. Please Read!, Urgent, Help!, etc.) These types of Subjects offer no clue about your specific problem and are often skipped over by the other members.

- Avoid non-descriptive Subject/Titles (Ex. Computer Problem, Is My Modem Bad?, Program Error!) These types of Subjects are lacking details and often skipped over. 

- Use a descriptive Subject/Title (Ex. PC Freezes After Modem Disconnects, MS WORD 2003 Not Responding Upon Document Saved.) These kinds of Subjects produce the best results!!! Not only will you get more replies, but also anyone doing a Forum SEARCH could pick out a particular problem amongst a list of other Subjects/Titles.

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#4) GUIDELINES FOR COMPOSING & POSTING YOUR MESSAGE

* Provide Enough Information on Technical Issues (#4a)

- If you provide enough information about your particular issue, you will have an extremely good chance of getting people to try and help you with your problem!

- Avoid saying "doesn't work". If you find yourself writing that, pause and see if you can better describe what is not working without saying "doesn't work".

- On Software issues, provide details such as the OS (Operating System), the version of the Program you are running and the exact error messages or symptoms you encountered. (Ex. WinXP w/SP2, Word2000, Windows indicates Word2000 is Not Responding upon saving a file, then describe what happens.) It's also a good idea to include some basic info about the Computer you are running the software on. (See next item about Hardware Issues.)

- On Hardware issues, provide a summary of your computer setup. (Ex. Dell Dimension 2400, 2.66ghz, 128mb RAM, WinXP, Comcast) If it's an issue with an external device (I.E.; Printer, Scanner, Router, etc.) then provide the Brand & Model too. - Use the Forum online spell checker and at least proof-read your message before posting it. If you post a poorly composed message that is hard to understand, most people will not take the time to help you.

* More About Posting In A Technical Forum (#4b)

- The article at the link below describes how to get answers from technical people. It describes things that you should and should not do to increase your chances of getting an answer to your question.   http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

* Things NOT To do When Posting (#4c)

- DO NOT POST IN ALL CAPS!!! It's considered shouting, when you post in all CAPS and generally unacceptable by most members. It's also very hard on the eyes and many people will skip over your message.

- Avoid asking frequently asked questions as this tends to annoy the regular members who are most likely the ones who will be there to help you. Make sure you check if the Forum you belong to has a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) list. You should also use the forum's SEARCH feature before posting your issue. 

- Do not attack or flame other members. Think of yourself on any Forum as a guest in someone's home. Out of respect for the sponsor(s) of any Forum, everyone should strive to  be polite to each other. Bickering & flaming can lead to forums being shut down or valuable members leaving and then everyone loses.

- Do not ask for Emailed answers. Emailed answers benefit only one person. Posted answers benefit the entire community. If folks can take the time to answer your question, then you should take the time to go get the answer in the same place where you asked the question.

- Do not provide too much information. Avoid going into so much detail that it detracts from your main objective of getting your message across. Be concise. 

- Avoid creating long messages that go on and on as one huge paragraph. This format makes reading your message most difficult because the reader can easily lose their place and get frustrated. Long continuous paragraphs also decrease reading comprehension and you will end up having restate your message.  Instead, break up that long huge message into smaller paragraphs with a blank line between them. HIT THAT ENTER KEY OFTEN!  

- When describing a multi-step procedure, avoid using a paragraph format. It's much easier for others to follow a procedure that is formatted as a list of steps in a numbered or bulleted list fashion. 

* About Posting Links(URLs) to Articles and Websites (#4d)

- When posting a link, go the extra mile and also quote an excerpt from the article or provide a brief description of what you found interesting in the article or website. This tip is about being considerate to others. Besides that, people will tend to avoid your posts in the future if you have them wasting their time clicking a link that they find they have no interest in once they get there. A brief description helps avoid all that. 

- When posting a link (URL), understand that some Forums can handle extremely long URLs (by truncating them) and others cannot. Long URLs can be problematic for cut-n-paste operations due to word wrap. Long URLs can also have the effect of making the entire thread on that topic display wider than the browser window and you may have to scroll side to side to read all posts under that topic (very annoying).  For Forums that cannot handle extremely long URLs consider posting using a "Tiny/Snip" URLs instead....   http://tinyurl.com/

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#5) GUIDELINES FOR REPLYING TO OTHER MEMBERS MESSAGES

* Effectively Using Quoted Replies (#5a)

- Never quote an entire long message in your reply. This creates excess clutter in a message thread and annoys the other members due to all the extra scrolling required to get past the quoted text when reading a thread of messages. (See next item for more acceptable quoting style.)

- When composing a reply, quote only enough text to remind the reader of the context for the comments that you will be adding. Most times, all you need to quote is a sentence or two in order to remind the reader the context in which you are replying to.

- Avoid replying in the  style referred to as "Top-Posting" or "Jeopardy-Posts" "Jeopardy", because the answer (reply) comes before the question (quote). This is where your reply comes first and the quoted text is below your reply. Some people won't even read your replies if written in that style. It's can sometimes be very annoying to read your reply and then have to scroll way down to to the quoted text to try to figure out what you were referring to. It is much better when a brief portion of the quoted text appears first and your reply follows. When replying to a large portion of quoted text, its best to intersperse your comments (see next tip below).

- Intersperse your comments *following* each section of quoted text to which they relate. In other words, quote a sentence or two and follow with your reply, then quote another sentence or two and follow with your reply, and so on and so on..

- For more information on quoting styles, see... 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top-posting

* Be Extra Cautious When You Get Upset (#5b)

- Count to ten before composing a reply when you are upset.

- Count to ten after composing and before posting when you are upset. After you have written your reply, wait *another* 30 minutes before committing yourself by posting it. You cannot take it back once it has been said. If you are steaming mad, wait 24 hours before composing your reply. This could be the wisest advise in this entire document.

* Encourage Others to Use The Forum SEARCH Feature (#5c)

- When suggesting that someone do a Forum search on a given topic, provide a few keywords or dates that you know will target requested information. Understand that many people are not good researchers and have no idea on what keywords to use for their initial search. You on the other hand, might know exactly what words to use to find the target message. It only takes a few seconds to offer some suggested keywords and ensures the person will find what they are looking for. It also increases the chances that they will use the SEARCH in the future if they have had successful SEARCHES in the past. Again, by being kind & considerate to others, it pays back dividends to all.  

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#6) Give Something Back To The Community

* Give Something Back to Those Who Helped You (#6a)

- If you were helped with your particular problem, it's a good idea to post a summary of what solved the problem. It's also a courtesy to the people that took the time to help you because most are curious to know how you made out by following their advise.  Sometimes a simple "Thank You" is all that's needed.
 
* Post a Brief Summary of What Solved Your Problem (#6b)

Even if you solved the problem yourself it's a good idea to post a summary of what solved the problem because other members might be lurking that have or will have the same problem in the future and they would benefit by knowing exactly what the solution was to your problem.  

By posting the answer or solution to your problem is a way to  give something back to the Forum community. Most forums operate under a policy of "users helping users".  You will be regarded highly for your contribution and more likely to get extra good help the next time you post. 

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#7) REFERENCING LINKS TO THIS DOCUMENT 

* Refer Others to This Document in Part or Whole (#7a)

- Please do not use the tips & guidelines in this document as a "license to flame" or attack other members of any Forum. It is very possible that a member is unaware of issues discussed here, so give them the benefit of the doubt and try to guiding them how to post more effectively. If someone is out of line it's best to politely refer them to read these tips & guidelines. This document is designed such that you can easily direct them to read just the section they need most. See section below on how to Link to this document.

* How to Reference a Link(URL) to this Document (#7b)

- To reference this entire article... 
TIPS FOR USING ANY BBS, FORUM or NEWSGROUP
http://www.htworkshop.com/freeinfo_forum_tips.htm

- To reference any major section add... #n
Where  n   is the section number as numbered in the Contents and within the document in gray font.

Example... #2) THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU POST A MESSAGE
http://www.htworkshop.com/freeinfo_forum_tips.htm#2

- To reference any sub-section add... #nx
Where   #nx    is the section number as labeled within the document in gray font.

Example... Are You New to the Forum? (#2a)
http://www.htworkshop.com/freeinfo_forum_tips.htm#2a

 

- Example Message to a new member in a Forum who didn't get any responses to his poorly composed post. 

Bob, 
I noticed you didn't receive any responses. 
It could be that your title is not descriptive 
enough and you left out key info about the 
hardware and software related to your problem.

Refer to the 2 links below and try posting again.

http://www.htworkshop.com/freeinfo_forum_tips.htm#3b

http://www.htworkshop.com/freeinfo_forum_tips.htm#4a

---pete---

---End of Article: TIPS FOR USING ANY BBS, FORUM or NEWSGROUP----

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Happy & Safe Computing!
 Any questions? 
---pete---

   
HIGH TECH HANDYMAN
 609-291-1119
 


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