Looking for technical help online sounds like this:

“Folks, my shower drain is clogged up, how do I unclog it?”

“Why don’t you move to a house with a bathtub?”
“Try not to clog it up in the first place, duh”
“Why would you even need to take your showers at home?”
“Just take out the things that are clogging the drain, how difficult is that”
“If you can’t maintain a shower stall in good conditions, why do you even clean yourself?”

@miramarco You forgot a big one:
"Why do you want to unclog it? What exactly are you trying to do? Give more precisions on your end goal, maybe there's another way to approach it."


@ChameleonScales @miramarco

This is in many cases a valid response because people are often trying to do the wrong thing due to not knowing enough about the problem.

I answer tech questions daily concerning the FOSS project I maintain.

@jcbrand I've answered many questions on various forums too and got lots of help myself, and although this kind of reply is well-suited for chat rooms or other private or temporary discussions, I think it's rarely well-suited for forums, even if the OP is approaching the problem from the wrong side and here are 2 reasons why: (1/3)

1: Forums are meant to help everyone who stumble upon a similar problem at any time, and the more you specialize your answer towards the specific goal of one person and drift apart from the original question, the less searchable the answer may become and the less helpful the answer may be to the rest of the community. (2/3)

2: People don't like to feel taken for less intelligent, and questioning their way of doing something right from the start kind of has that effect (personal experience talking). On the other hand, answering their question directly and assuming they know what they want and ONLY THEN suggest a different approach makes them feel less judged and therefore more open to criticism. (3/3)


> People don't like to feel taken for less intelligent

Call me old-fashioned, but when asking people (often strangers) to help you with something you're not able to figure out yourself (or don't have the time to), it's a good idea to be humble.

Being humble means accepting that people might rightly question whether you are actually taking the right approach.

Disclaimer: This is not an excuse for jerk-like behavior from the people being asked for help.

@jcbrand That's certain, we should all be humble. And to my experience, showing trust helps others feel humble.
Anyway, it's no big deal, there's no absolute rule on this and we can have different approaches (on how to deal with wrong approaches).

@jcbrand Case in point: I just reported display issues when a file browser is open as root in debian. First answer I get:
"Why do you need to open a file browser as root? I never do that."

I don't think I come in as an angry bastard by saying this is annoying.
Don't worry though, I kept my cool on the forum.


I think it's a fair question to ask.

It takes resources (time and energy) to fix bugs.

If a bug occurs for a use-case that happens extremely rarely, then it might not be worthwhile to spend those resources to fix it. So the question can be seen as a way to determine the priority of the bug.

I don't understand why you think that it's OK to just hand over work to other people without any justification on your behalf as to why this work might be necessary or high priority.

We really don't see forums the same way.
I'm not "handing over" work at all. I'm reporting an issue on a public place as I meet it. Nobody has any obligation to answer, I don't have any expectation and I don't *hand* the work over. Asking a question doesn't mean I stop trying myself. But coming to say you're not concerned with the issue because you're one of the few users who don't use a program the way it's meant to be used is as pointless as it gets. I'd prefer having zero reply.


Could you provide a link to this interaction?

What would you expect to happen? In other words, what would for you be a positive, fruitful response?


I was really talking about issue trackers, which is where I help people, not forums such as this one.

I think my points stand for an issue tracker, but I agree they don't necessarily apply to a forum.

@jcbrand Ok I see. I was just staying in the topic of the original toot, but yes, on an issue tracker it's very different. There you kind of are handing over work to others (in the sense that programming knowledge stands between you and fixing your reported bugs).

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