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Tips for new helpers

Discussion in 'Site Help, Feedback, & Announcements' started by Ent, Dec 21, 2010.

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  1. Ent

    Ent Trusted Advisor Thread Starter

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    Josiah
    I thought that we could do with a sticky or something nice and early in the becoming a member process (such as a sticky in the introductions forum) as a sort of welcome guide to new helpers to ease the process of becoming a member of the community. I threw this together as a draft, but it's necessarily the sort of thing that needs input from a lot higher up the ladder than I am. I'm putting it here for as fierce criticism as it draws, and hope that it will be edited up until it could actually be put somewhere useful. Or die().

    ______________________________

    1: Know the rules.

    Those rules are there for a reason: To ensure that this site can continue to give high quality help to those that need it. The mods do a fine job of enforcing those rules, and it would be a shame to find yourself on the wrong side of that discipline. Meanwhile if you happen to see something that is banned on this site, from spam to a password bypass question, please click the "Report" button to let a moderator know something is up.

    2: Find your place.

    If you are here to help others you will have to be pretty good at what you're helping with. Clearly no-one is an expert in all fields but most people have one or a few areas of particular proficiency. Hang around the forums where you think you can help and avoid, if you're a Windows User, messing round with the Linux section. And vice versa. In general you can offer your opinion on any thread but you'll do better if you're honest with what you can handle. As is made clear in the rules, most members may not help with Malware removal. However if that is your particular passion then please do get yourself certified with a gold shield and that forum will be open to you. It is not a short job getting the training, but it is rewarding and additional helpers in that forum are always in high demand. There are other members who do comparatively little work helping on the forums. Instead they might help improving the Wiki-based TSG Library. Or they might help to welcome, reassure, or to guide a new user who is unfamiliar with the site.

    3: Listen. Learn.

    At some point you will make a mistake. And at some point someone will correct you. You have two options: learn from the experience, internalise the advice of the other member, and therefore improve the quality of the advice you can give to others. Or scream back at them in BOLD RED ALLCAPS that they are an idiot, you hate this site, and you're never coming back here again. The first is probably the better option. :D
    You do not have to make a mistake to learn. Taking on a question that is slightly beyond you, doing the research, and coming to such a strong understanding of the subject that you can teach it to the person asking the question will be a valuable learning experience. For many of the helpers here the amount that they learn is a big part of their motivation for staying around and offering their help in the first place.

    4: Suggest, and trust.

    Post count in 6 digits. Distinguished. Moderator. Administrator. Very scary. But in fact the members here are generally good-hearted folk who will thank you for constructive critisim and explain their logic in a post. If you feel that you have a better solution than what is being proposed, post it! If you think that there is a mistake being made then certainly query it. And though you should not embark on helping in a thread without a good idea of where your suggestions will lead, trust that there are people willing to dig you out of your own pit once or twice when something goes really unexpectedly wrong whether in the thread or in real life. Trusting the other members--soon a question of trusting your forum friends--is important to forum life. It takes time to develop but it is an attitude you should seek after. Learn what an admin, moderator, and trusted advisor means, they are the most respected helpers around.

    5: Know why you want to help:

    When motivation is at a low ebb it helps to know why you are here. Learn to focus on being part of a community, a community based on being people just being good to each other for the sake of it. Focus on the other members of TSG. Focus on the thank yous you get at the end of it. And finally focus on the difference you can make to men and women from around the world.

    Jargon and Abreviations
    _____
    OP = Original Poster: The person who asked the first question in the thread. Example Usage: "This thread won't go anywhere until the OP answers my question."

    PM = Private Message: A system for talking one to one with another member, useful for discussing things out of the public eye. Note that Technical help may not be offered via a private message; if you get a PM asking for help refer them back to the public forum.

    A few common potholes to watch out for
    _____
    Issue: You come across a thread asking for help with virus removal. You are not authorised to respond. Another member, also not authorised, has suggested running a antimalware tool
    Response: Explain to the Original Poster that to ensure safe high-quality help the site has restrictions on who may help with malware. Explain that neither you nor the other poster is authorised to do so. Point them to this sticky, and click the report button. Ask a Mod to move the whole mess into the antimalware forum.

    Issue: You come across a moderately serious problem for which you can't see any resolution. You immediately think that the quickest cleanest option would be to reinstall Windows.
    Response: Sometimes an issue is clearly so serious and so complicated that their fastest and cleanest option is to back up their files and reinstall Windows. Make sure that you are familiar enough with this process to guide the person you're helping through the somewhat daunting task. However issues calling for this are rare, and this should never become your default response. Examine the particulars of each individual issue, do some research around it, and if you still can't find a resolution then wait to see if anyone else has an answer. Reinstalling is a comparatively time consuming and possibly dangerous process (they could lose files, programs, drivers, and much more) which you shouldn't dump on the person you're trying to help needlessly.

    Issue: You come across a thread that is of interest to you, but you also don't know the answer.
    Response 1: Do a bit of googling, play around with your own system, find out the answer, and post it. The problem is then solved for both of you.
    Response 2: Click the "Subscribe" button at the bottom of the thread or under the "thread tools" dropdown at the top of the thread. You will receive Email notification when someone replies, hopefully with the solution for both of you.

    Issue: You find yourself ill at ease with another member for some reason, both feeling wounded and misunderstood.
    Response: You have to engage the human half of your brain, which could be particularly hard if you're a real nerd as a disproportionate number of people here are. Don't fight it out on the public forum. Your first course of action should be to take it off the forum into a Private message discussion. Explain your concerns and be willing to listen. If something really starts to escalate you could involve one of the Mods as a referee, but at no point forget that there is a human on the other end of the discussion as well. Nothing should return to the forum except apologies.


    Useful Resources.
    _____
    The TSG library of Knowledge: The community chest. Contribute to it where you can and use it whenever you have to.
    Google: All the knowledge of the Web at your fingers. Learn to focus your searches and to evaluate good and bad information.
     
  2. 1002richards

    1002richards Retired Trusted Advisor

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    Could you encourage people not to suggest re-installing as the first answer to problems? With all the backing-up of docs, pics etc plus ensuring that the right recovery discs & drivers are to hand is quite an undertaking. Of course a fresh install is sometimes an option but not always the first option.
     
  3. Drabdr

    Drabdr Moderator

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    Ent, an excellent start. (y) You spent some time putting that together, and it's very much appreciated. (y)
     
  4. Davec

    Davec Gone but never forgotten

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    I'd remove the word "orange' used to describe the report button. The color varies by theme and monitor.
     
  5. Ent

    Ent Trusted Advisor Thread Starter

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    Thanks. Done.
     
  6. Blackmirror

    Blackmirror

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    No one reads stickies lol
     
  7. gypsygrace

    gypsygrace

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    Ent- Well thought out. Thank you.

    BM-You may not but I do when it pertains to a thread I'm reading.

    I found this shortly after replying in a thread.
     
  8. Drabdr

    Drabdr Moderator

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    Just a couple of ideas. Use (or dispose) as you see fit.

    In response 1, maybe work in a line or two reminding folks to use the search feature here; which may involve using the advanced search function. Someone wanting to help a newcomer may be of help finding a couple of applicable threads to start the newcomer off with. NOTE: It's not a "hey, this has been answered a million times already", but a way to help the newcomer get to instant help.

    Maybe work in a sentence reminding people that communication on a discussion board is vastly different than face-to-face, where one can ascertain people's intentions and such based on their non-verbal cues. Thus, it's very important for people to give others the benefit of the doubt, and not assume they are out to get them.
    *********
    Ent... everything you have provided is excellent material. And thus, I'm not sure what specifically to suggest. But... maybe see if there is one of the sections that can be removed (or combined in thought with some of the other sections). While valuable, it may be too long, and people won't bother reading. Just a thought... maybe combine #2 section with the "a few common potholes) to save some space.

    As far as the abbreviations, they are very important. Are they defined anywhere else on the site? If so, I might leave those out. To your point... abbreviations are probably used way too much, and thus need to be eliminated, or clearly defined in the posts where they are used.
    *****

    Again... just some suggestions. Use or dispose as you see fit. :)
     
  9. Drabdr

    Drabdr Moderator

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    That's true, to an extent. A lot don't; but some do.

    However... having a vetted, spelled-out sticky gives something for people to point to, quickly.
     
  10. Blackmirror

    Blackmirror

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    TBH if i was faced with that i would think twice about posting

    A community grows with you
    you make mistakes they slap you in the face
    I believe in hands on experience lol
     
  11. Ent

    Ent Trusted Advisor Thread Starter

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    No, I came up with the idea as a draft but I think I have to let someone else take over from here. There are perspectives from which I can't see and styles that I can't write. I'm also very concious that I'm the newest member in this thread :).

    If you think that you can improve it go ahead and change it for yourself.
    Personally I like a header-structured layout even if it ends up longer than necessary; helps me keep things organized. But I agree that it's probably too long, and as Blackmirror says too scary.

    If we only had a perfectly normal person to give their opinion on it. But I forget that normal is undefined. So it'll have to be a random person from here to prune and build as best they can, and post the result.
     
  12. Drabdr

    Drabdr Moderator

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    Ent, I did a little tweaking and such. I know I probably took out a few things that you felt was important. But I tried to assure all your main points were covered. It did cut the length down quite a bit. I hope I made a little improvement, and did not make it worse!:)

    *******************

    1: Welcome to TSG!

    We are sure glad that you dropped by the site. This is a family of sorts; of people helping people. We encourage you to find your place here. Below are some suggestions that might be able to assist you in your journey.

    2: Familiarize yourself with the rules.

    Most people are generally fine with abiding by rules and suggestions, as long as they know what they are. Thus, be sure you have a general understanding of the site rules, so that you are not caught by surprise. If you happen to see something that is in conflict with any of the rules, please click the "Report" button to let a moderator know something is up. They’ll take it from there.

    3: Find your place.

    One of the best ways to learn does not involve ever posting. When you see a thread that interest you, Click the "Subscribe" button at the bottom of the thread or under the "thread tools" dropdown at the top of the thread. You will receive Email notification when someone replies, hopefully with the solution for both of you.

    Another way to learn is taking on a question that is slightly beyond you, doing the research, and coming to such a strong understanding of the subject that you can assist others on it. For many of the members here, the amount that they learn is a huge motivator for staying and offering their help in the first place. Do a bit of googling, find out the answer, and post it. The problem is then solved for both of you.

    Clearly no-one is an expert in all fields but most people have one or a few areas of particular proficiency. Hang around the forums where you think you can help. In general you can offer your opinion on any thread but you'll do better (for you and those needing help) if you're honest with what you can handle.

    4: About Malware Removal

    The one exception to offering assistance is in the Malware removal forum, where a certain level of demonstrated training is required to offer help. If helping fight malware is something that would interest you, consider going through the certification process. Many sites offer free training. It is not easy, but it is rewarding and additional helpers in malware forums are always in high demand. Until you are certified, here is a common response if you see a malware related issue posted in a non-malware forum:

    Explain to the Original Poster that to ensure safe high-quality help the site has restrictions on who may help with malware. Point them to this sticky, and click the report button. The moderators will take it from there.


    5: Listen. Learn.

    While helping out, at some point you will make a mistake which will require correction. After all, none of us wants incorrect advice passed on. Please, learn from the experience, internalize the advice of the other member, and improve your quality of advice. Remember, we are all here trying to help one another. Trusting the other members--soon a question of trusting your forum friends--is important to forum life. It takes time to develop but is so valuable to have.

    6: Don’t ever forget what motivated you to help in the first place:

    When motivation is at a low ebb it helps to recall why you are here. Learn to focus on being part of a community, a community based on being people just being good to each other for the sake of it. Focus on the other members of TSG. Focus on the thanks you get at the end of a job well done. And finally focus on the difference you can make to men and women from around the world.
     
  13. Ent

    Ent Trusted Advisor Thread Starter

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    Who am I to complain. That is the idea behind a draft. If this goes as far as I hope it does the end product will look very different from both of ours. Though...I did like those common pitfalls :-{.

    As you've phrased it you can't lose anything by putting this Wiki Library article link in your malware section. I'd also move the "Until you are certified" sentence down a line to the response itself.

    I do think that you could have stuck with the links at the bottom. I would also be tempted to stick in links to library articles holding some of my superfluous information, That is a "jargon and abreb. dictionary" article or an Agony Aunt "what should I do now" article, etc.
     
  14. bp936

    bp936

    Joined:
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    Messages:
    3,033
    You did an excellent job, and I wish everyone would always read the stickies and tips and instructions. Unfortunately Blackmirror is correct.
    But it is still good to have your setup, because as Drabr says, it would be a good place to send and link some people there.
     
  15. karlhaywood

    karlhaywood Account Closed

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2010
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    680
    Great work Ent!
     
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