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Writing a Quality Post


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vansmith

 
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So, you've got a problem with your Apple device and need some help. No problem, you've come to the right place. We're happy to help you work through your issue and offer some help but to do so, we've got to work together to better understand the issue that you're dealing with. More often than not, what makes this shared understanding difficult is miscommunication and a lack of detail, both of which are extremely important in online discussions where social cues and context are absent. With that, here are some tips and things to include in posts to help build some shared understanding which, in turn, will help you solve your issue.

Tip #1 - Detail
If in doubt, add that detail that you might think is irrelevant. If something isn't working, tell us about everything you've done with your device in the recent past. If computing devices have one property that make them difficult to fix, it's that everything is connected but not always in an obvious way. For example, an inability to connect to a website may very well have something to do with that note taking software you installed three days ago (yes, sometimes the causal link can be something so seemingly disconnected).

At a minimum, you should provide details about your device and the software involved with your issue. Here's a handy template that you can use:

OS X/iOS version:
Software involved with the issue:
Version number of the software involved:
Piece(s) of hardware involved:
Error message(s):



Tip #2 - Detailed titles
We get a lot of requests each day for help. Given that we can't read everything nor do we each have expertise in all areas, detailed titles can help us figure out where to direct our efforts which, in the end, helps you. While there is no magical formula for how to craft a perfect title, detail again is key. Being concise is also important - be short but clear about what the issue is. You don't need to include version numbers here but software names and the issue are key. Perhaps the best way to explain this is with some examples.

Example #1 - Bad
Can't connect (this tells us nothing about the issue and could be connected to any issue)

Example #2 - Better but still weak
Can't connect to internet on my Mac (this is better but still doesn't tell us much about what's wrong)

Example #3 - Good
Can't connect to internet on my Macbook Pro running OS X 10.9.4 and Safari (this is good in that it tells us what software is having issues but still doesn't tell us much about what connection issues you're encountering)

Example #4 - Great
Can't connect to internet (can't establish secure connection) on my Macbook Pro (OS X 10.9.4) running Safari (this is great - it tells us the specific error and where you're seeing it)


Tip #3 - Be concise and clear
As a volunteer forum, each person here is doing this in their spare time. While we appreciate as much detail as possible, try to be concise. Of equal importance is clarity. One thing to remember is that you're trying to explain your issue to someone who knows nothing about anything to do with your situation. For all we know, you live in a shack outside Scott Base, connecting to us by satellite. Be as clear about your context as possible if it's relevant. For example, if your computer is overheating, being clear about where you're computing matters (if your room is really hot, this matters). The principle of clarity also applies to your wording. When writing your post, pretend that you're reading it to a random stranger on the street. Would it make sense to them? Once you can answer "yes" to that question, feel free to post it.

One thing that falls under this tip is the issue of assumptions. Assume we know nothing about you. This includes everything from what you're using to where you live (if relevant). For example, we often get questions asking where to buy something or whether one can do something legally, both of which, although very different in nature, depend on us knowing where you live (we don't need street details but a country might help).


Tip #4 - We're volunteers so be nice
This isn't so much a tip about the writing as it is about how you ask your question. I can, with almost absolute certainty, guarantee that if you demand help or request immediate assistance, you won't get it. We're under no obligation to help and if you demand assistance, we may respond by taking our time. Therefore, the best way to get any help is to ask politely. I can't stress this enough for not only does it help you but it also sets a tone for the conversation.

Tangentially connected to this is the issue of answering your request for help with more questions. Often, we will ask for more details and when we do so, we do it with the best of intentions. Please do not get frustrated if we ask follow up questions and if we do, please do your best to answer them (we can help if you don't know how to get the information we request).


TL,DR? If in doubt, add detail and be nice.

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Writing a Quality Post

Last edited by vansmith; 07-16-2014 at 12:56 PM. Reason: I don't grammar good.
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cradom

 
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This should have been posted years ago. Good job.

Craig Domingue - resident redneck.
“Never argue with an idiot. He will only bring you down to his level and beat you with experience.”, George Carlin
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vansmith

 
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Thanks Craig, much appreciated.

Important Links: Community Guidelines : Use the reputation system if you've been helped.
M-F Blog :: Write for the blog
Writing a Quality Post
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harryb2448

 
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Good luck van!

Hang on to those original install discs like grim death! Using OS X.7 or later make a bootable USB thumb drive before running Installer!
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toMACsh

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harryb2448 View Post
Good luck van!
What? Getting people to read it? (much less, follow it!)

Good info though.
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chscag

 
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The point here is that we can now refer new users of our forums to this Guide. We understand that there will always be someone who will post a question that's vague or without any supporting information.
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Worgen

 
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Very nice and informative post. I need to know about posting backlinks.
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RadDave

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by toMACsh View Post
What? Getting people to read it? (much less, follow it!)

Good info though.
@ Van - excellent guidelines - thanks!

But I was wondering if there would be a way for first time posters to have your first post in this thread 'pop up' as required reading before an initial post can be written? I've responded to a lot of first time posters who leave just a sentence or two of often worthless information, and have to just ask for more details - I know many other members have done the same.

Just a thought but not sure that it can be implemented or whether the mods et al. who run this forum would even desire that as an option? Thanks - Dave
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chscag

 
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It's an idea that has merit Dave but would have to be something incorporated into the forum software. Ideally, our new members should be reading the Sticky posts and forum guidelines. Too often a new member is only interested in getting their question answered or problem solved which means everything else is overlooked.
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ankhseeker

 
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I know that it has taken me several weeks to get used to this forum. Things are different here than others, but I like it. I have had most of my questions answered, even the dumb ones, and most posts are common sense although there is power through knowledge. I agree that it should have been a "pop up" item though. It was hard to navigate around at first. Ask poor Bob Tomay who's mailbox was filled with questions after I latched on to him ;-) Maybe a header to say "Please include all information" I know it can be frustrating at times.
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harryb2448

 
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It is that good van i keep it in my Favourites Bar. And ankhseeker, there are no dumb questions ~ just dumb answers from time to time!

Hang on to those original install discs like grim death! Using OS X.7 or later make a bootable USB thumb drive before running Installer!
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