I participate in a lot of forums from time to time. I also look to forums to find answers to WordPress questions as well as other questions. I also find many forums when I perform Google searches looking for answers to questions and problems.
My searches for answers usually begin with a Google search for an answer to a question such as “I keep getting a blank screen after logging in to my BuddyPress website.” This will usually yield a long list of people asking the same or similar questions.
If you do the search yourself, you’ll see many of those listings are forums – and many are wordpress.org forums. When I visit the links and read the information in the forums, invariably I will find someone experiencing the exact scenario that I’m experiencing – so I get excited. After reading about twenty or so replies, more often than not, I get to the last one and the original poster says, “I got it.”
Now, what did I learn from that?
Another scenario occurs when someone posts on a fourm (such as WPMUDev) giving the title “Does not work”. Then, they will usually go on to describe their problem as follows. “I’ve tried everything I can think of and this just does not work. I can’t believe I just spent four hours trying to make it work and it just will not work. I think there’s a problem with it.”
What do we know about their problem?
Well, simply put, we know three things. “It” doesn’t work, they are not happy about “it”, and they think there’s a problem with “it”.
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This will hopefully serve as a guide to help you participate in forums more actively, get more out of that participation, and give more in return for that participation. By observing a few “rules of the road”, you will find your experiences will help you and everyone else.
When You Post, Make Your Title Meaningful
“It doesn’t work” is not a meaningful title. If I’m looking at a list of posts – either in a Google search or actually inside of the forum, the title needs to tell me something about the post. When I’m in WPMUDev, the title will tell me pretty quickly whether I can possibly help the person or not. Give a little thought to the title and make it meaningful. It might help you get an answer quicker.
When You Post, Describe Your Problem In Detail
When posting the body of your post, be sure to describe your problem in detail – but leave as much emotion out of the description as possible. It doesn’t serve you (or anyone else) to say things like “this plugin is garbage”, “I hate this forum”, or “this theme sucks.” Emotion is difficult to convey in writing, so when you express any it can come off as harsh. Just leave the emotion out of it and describe your real problem in detail.
Describe The Steps You’ve Already Taken
If you’ve already tried to fix the problem yourself, be sure to detail what you’ve tried. This keeps others from mentioning those steps again OR it can help them identify something you’ve missed. Rare do I read a post and think that the original poster gave me too much detail of what they’ve already tried. Also, this shows that you have initiative and have tried some things on your own.
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Note That Your WordPress Version is Current – Along With All Themes And Plugins
As someone that volunteers my time in several very active forums, nothing frustrates me more than to spend a couple of hours trying to help someone only to find out that they do not have the latest version of WordPress installed, or that they are using an older version of the plugin or theme that we’re troubleshooting – or worse that their hosting is running on an older version of PHP. Be sure that you’ve got the basics covered and then state what versions of all software that you are running.
Provide A Link To Your Website
If at all possible, provide a link to the website where you are having problems. Sometimes a two minute visit to your website can help someone answer your question quickly. If you provide all the great information outlined above and don’t provide a link, then someone has to ask for your website link. This could produce an untimely delay in getting your issue resolved.
Whew! You Made It Through The First Five
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the last five rules we should all observe when posting in forums. By taking a little time to put these into practice, we can hopefully increase participation in the forum and foster a greater sense of community in the process.
Forums are a great resource to learn, share knowledge, solve problems, and get to know some great people. By learning some extra little posting tricks, the value of forum posts can increase dramatically.
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