How to be helpful

Derek Broughton news at
Thu Jun 12 13:45:02 UTC 2008

Karl Auer wrote:

> 2: Make sure your information is CORRECT. There is a very big difference
> between confidence and knowledge. Don't be "reasonably sure" or "fairly
> confident" or any other hazy equivalent: KNOW. Basically this means that
> you have had either the same problem or a very similar one yourself, and
> have found a solution.

I don't _quite_ agree with that.  If you aren't absolutely certain, I think
it's often still worth answering - especially if nobody else has - but, as
below, _always_ make it clear how sure you are of your facts.

> 3: Make sure your information is EXACT. If you recommend specific
> actions (a command, a script, a click sequence etc.) then make sure you
> have actually carried out precisely those actions yourself. If you have
> not done this, then SAY SO ...
> 4: Make sure your information is COMPLETE. Terse is OK. Obtuse is not.
> If someone asks how to flibble a wodget, don't just answer
> "run /usr/sbin/flibbler". Direct them to a man page, 

No, I'm not buying that one.  If I tell somebody to run /usr/sbin/flibbler,
I _expect_ them to "man flibbler".  Though my advice would normally be "man
flibbler", rather than "run flibbler".

> 6: Make sure information is CLEAR. Don't obscure what you are saying
> with jargon, acronyms, abbreviations, weird punctuation or bad spelling.

Particularly the weird punctuation and bad spelling.  I hate that in a
question (I generally dump posts that don't make an attempt to write in
English, and believe I can tell the difference between lazy and not being a
native English speaker) and it's no better in an answer.  If I was the
questioner, I would seriously doubt your competence to answer if you
respond with l33t.

> 7: Don't be sarcastic, don't be rude, don't make jokes. 

I know, I know.  I can't help myself.  I'll try to be better...

> 8: Separate FACT from OPINION. If you wish to state an opinion, make
> sure it is CLEAR that your statement is opinion. Opinion - other than
> about a technical issue, of course - is very rarely appropriate on any
> technical list.

Your OPINION is welcome here :-)  (Oh damn, another attempt at humour)

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