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The Answer Gang's Posting Guidelines

By Ben Okopnik

This article describes the things that you need to do when posting to TAG in order to maximize the chances of getting meaningful replies to your inquiry. This should also prevent you from getting laughed at for being lazy and trying to have others do work that you yourself should be doing. It draws heavily on Tad McClellan's Posting Guidelines for comp.lang.perl.misc and the Netiquette Guidelines RFC.

Before Posting

You Must

You Really, Really Should

If You Like

Posting to TAG

As you would expect, The Answer Gang's discussions are usually technical in nature; hence, there is a strong need to observe conventions for conduct in these discussions.

Checking the FAQs before posting is required in Net forums in general; there is nothing TAG-specific about this requirement.

There can be hundreds of messages in TAG in any given month. We all must decide somehow which ones we are going to answer. Your post is in competition with all the other posts. You need to "win" before a person who can help you will even try.

You have 40 precious characters of Subject in which to make your first impression. Spend them indicating what problem we can expect to find in your query. Don't waste them indicating "experience level" (guru, newbie...) Don't waste them pleading (please read, urgent, help!...) Don't waste them on non-subjects (Linux question, Could I ask a question?...)

Part of the beauty of Net forum dynamics is that you can contribute to the community with your very first post! If your choice of subject leads a fellow searcher to find the thread you are starting, then even asking a question helps us all.

When composing a followup, quote only enough text to establish the context for the comments that you will add. Always indicate who wrote the quoted material. Don't quote the entire article.

Intersperse your comments *following* the sections of quoted text that your comments apply to. Failure to do this is called "Jeopardy" posting because the answer comes before the question. Reversing the chronology of the dialog (putting your response before the quoted text) makes it much harder to understand; some folks won't even read it if written that way. For more information on quoting style, see:

Email is a text only medium. Don't post Word documents, vcards, HTML, or MIME (unless MIME is necessary to preserve your language's specific characters.) Many people will not be able to easily read your post, and thus will not bother. Plain text is something everyone can read.

Published answers benefit the entire community; this is what we do here in TAG. If you have a "This is to be kept confidential" blurb in your post, forget about having it answered: it just isn't going to happen. Don't expect people to do one-on-one problem resolution unless you're willing to pay for it.

Beware of saying "doesn't work". This is a "red flag" phrase. If you find yourself writing that, pause and see if you can't describe what is not working without saying "doesn't work". That is, describe how it is not what you want.

Ben Okopnik

A cyberjack-of-all-trades, Ben wanders the world in his 38' sailboat, building networks and hacking on hardware and software whenever he runs out of cruising money. He's been playing and working with computers since the Elder Days (anybody remember the Elf II?), and isn't about to stop any time soon.

Copyright © 2001, Ben Okopnik.
Copying license
Published in Issue 73 of Linux Gazette, December 2001

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