Numinous Productions Website and Graphic Design

Leo Von Klenze. 1784-1866. Ideal view of the Acropolis and the Areopagus in Athens. 1846 Munich Neue Pinakothek.

Forums are one of the greatest developments of the internet era. You can find answers to just about any question you could possibly ask in a forum, especially if you are looking to tackle a technical or website challenge. Being a Joomla designer and developer, I've found the Joomla forums an invaluable resource in many times of trouble.

But just like all social situations, forums have unwritten rules. If you break these rules, you'll miss out on great feedback and blow an opportunity to learn.

Forum Jerks always:

  • Ask questions with zero context. Wrong way to ask: "My site is broken, how do I fix it?" As someone who regularly posts answers to the Joomla forums, I am very likely to simply skip this sort of forum post. Here's the right way to ask: "My site is running Joomla 3.3.4 and is giving me this error, "Blah blah blah", and I did this to cause the error."
    Lesson Learned: The more detail you give, the better your chance of getting helpful answers.

  • Asking questions that show they haven't spent 5 seconds looking for an answer first. Wrong thing to ask: "How do I reset my password?"
    Lesson Learned: The more basic your question, the more likely it is that there are already 50 satisfactory solutions given at websites like Stack Exchange, the Joomla forums, Yahoo Answers, and many other great forums. Take a few minutes and do some research. Even if you don't find a good answer, it will help you shape your question better (see the first point).

  • Post that they solved the problem without actually posting how they solved the issue. Wrong way to post your solution: "Nm, I got it." Right way to post your solution: "I found that my website error was caused by X, and when I turned off X, the error went away. The company that developed X has a fix available on Github at this link:".
    Lesson Learned: If you figure out a solution to your problem, good for you. Now do the rest of the world a favor and share that solution in detail. You'll likely help save someone hours of work, and make the world a better place (really!).

  • Hijack a forum thread with an issue that may or may not be related. Wrong way to ask a question: "I have this issue too, well, sort, but not really, because the error I get is different, but can someone take time to help me out here too?" Right way to ask a question: Go create your own forum thread with lots of great detail (see the first point).
    Lesson Learned: If you come across a forum thread that looks similar to yours, then feel free to chip in your question and any details that would be helpful to troubleshoot. If the original question isn't really the same as your question, take a few extra minutes and start your own thread. It will help the original poster get to an answer faster, and it will help others looking for your specific issue to track down their solution faster.

  • Ask for the sun, moon and stars. Wrong way to ask a question: "How do I create a Joomla template from scratch... and write CSS... and learn HTML5... and also, can you tell me how to learn JavaScript if it wouldn't be too much trouble?" Related bad question: "Widget A does this, but I want it to do some things that it was never meant to do at all, can you help me make it do these other 50 things it's not built for?" Forums are all about specific details, so when you ask a question that is really more of a request for several weeks of online training... then you're best bet is to seek out some online training instead. If you don't have time for some extra education, then you might be better off hiring a professional to take care of your huge challenge.
    Lesson Learned: Keep your questions specific and as narrow as possible. The shorter and more specific the question, the more likely you are to get a good, helpful answer.

  • Keep a forum thread alive well past the time of being awkward. Here's how this one usually goes down. A poster asks a question. The question gets answered. So the poster asks another question to tackle another issue that may or may not be related on the same thread. The nice forum volunteers answer that question too. So the original poster comes back with a third question, and a fourth, and so on. This is comparable to getting stuck in a phone conversation. As a forum volunteer, you just want to hang up, but Aunt Betty just keeps talking.
    Lesson Learned: Ask your question, get an answer. If you have another question, in most cases, I'd recommend starting a new thread.

  • Berate forum volunteers because they don't get the attention you "deserve". Nothing's worse than a forum poster that doesn't appreciate those who are trying to help. In the worst of these situations, the original poster is not only impolite, but goes after forum volunteers for not answering their questions the way they wanted, or for not giving them the sun, moon and stars (see the post above). Acting like a jerk in this way will get you booted and blocked by forum moderators (and rightfully so). This is comparable to throwing a fit in the grocery store when the store doesn't stock your favorite flavor of coffee.
    Lesson Learned: Be kind to those who are trying to help. If your need is so urgent that you are tempted to snap at people, it's probably time to hire a professional to take care of the issue. You shouldn't abuse them either, but at least they will be paid by the hour for the "pleasure".

  • Take and never give back. When you are learning about a new technical issue, it's fairly common to ask lots of questions on forums, and read up on lots of other forum posts to get solutions. Eventually though, you should start pouring back into those resources that were so helpful to you.
    Lesson Learned: Shoot for a 1-to-1 question to answer ratio. For every thread you start with your own question, seek out someone else's forum thread and help them find an answer. It's the kind thing to do, and will help create a thriving, vibrant forum community.

If you apply these lessons, you'll get great help in forums, save yourself some time and heartache, and make the forum world even better.

Are there any forum faux pas I missed? Post them below.


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