Communities and Questions
I am often surprised by the sort of questions asked in the forums or on irc around open source projects - it just feels as if people are going out of their way to inflict pain and suffering upon themselves by trying to find the most awkward and most complicated way to do things. So how can we better help these people ? We dont need to save them or anything as drastic like that, its just a case of being able to show or explain that there might be a better way.
The first thing that I've started now doing, when asked a strange question is ask the person 'What are you really trying to achieve?'. You might be amazed how many times the answer has nothing to do with the question being asked. Try to establish what the end goal is, and in many cases its clear that the person has been lead astray by random posts on the internet, some of which are perfectly fine in their own context, but can be quite a kludge outside that context.
Establishing, clearly what the goal is before advice or opinion is thrown at people will always result in a better overall experience. And to the people spending their time in the irc channels, web forums and mailing lists helping others out : must respect. You guys are the ones making the idea of Communities and Open Source work.
Hope this will gives them heads up about their query..I generally ask for steps he made before he/she come to me..as I less approchable? No.. I am not..but I am trying to save some of my invaluable time too...Gentoo forum would be such an example as well as Arch...
Heck! people called it attitude..and I told them yes I do have..
What we need is something like that document, only briefer and perhaps something that is friendlier to people reading English but not using English as their native primary language.
What you suggest is what I call "What is the question behind the question?" What is the original itch you are trying to scratch? and you are right, often times it has nothing to do with question being asked.
Keep up the good work!
Not to sound snarky. But with the deplorable documentation that accompanies SO many open source "projects" it's a wonder anyone can get them to run at all. Take the "documentation" for Bacula, Amanda or even tigervnc. It's a joke. The docs are unreadable(or non-existent). And I must say that these "mom's basement" projects annoy the crap out of those of use who have to put software into production. The time Ive spent trying to get some of these cobbled together software packages to run more than offset the costs of buying commercial software. So... the take home message? If you're not documenting your software effectively (or at all) then you should be dragged from your office and beaten to a pulp.