Help for free
How to help and get help
Help for free is founded on the principle that we help each other. Nobody knows everything, and nobody is born with IT-knowledge.
By helping others you yourself enter an environment where you can get help. You help to create a knowledgeable environment where the knowledge grows. Helping others can be a good investment for yourself. You can learn from other peoples' challenges, and you build a network where you can get help, receive good pointers and tricks.
You don't need a special background to be able to help others. When there is a question you can answer, you do the best you can.
Make demands of those who want help, but don't expect them to have any prior knowledge. Those who want help have a responsibility to familiarize themselves with the documentation and prepare the questions. Help for self help is known to be more efficient than doing the tasks for others. This way you can train others to find solutions by themselves. Then they will learn to help themselves and others in the future.
Don't give too rigid advice if you're not certain yourself. Tell them that you're not certain and let them know what you think. Do the best you can. Maybe not everything is correct, but it can create a better platform for further inquiries.
It is important to remember that these people are volunteers. They are regular users of the system who on a voluntary basis help others. Don't demand to get help from volunteers. They don't have to help you. Enlist professional help if you're uncertain and things are urgent.
- Remember your good manners.
- Listen to the advice you're given. The volunteers have a lot of experience. They may be wrong, but listen.
- Avoid repeating questions when you don't get answers. Try to find the answer yourself and try other avenues before you ask again.
- Show respect and thankfulness. Volunteers contribute with their time.
- Differentiate between help for free (learning how to fish) and free support (getting the fish served).
How to ask questions
Before you start asking questions and using the volunteer's time, there are some basic things you should do:
- Prepare your questions. Think carefully through what you want answered. Write down precise questions.
- Read the documentation. Look carefully through it. The answer might be there.
- Use the Internet. Check for information about how to approach the problem.
- Check out the email list archives. Others may have discussed the things you're having problems with.
- Experiment. Try things out on a non-critical test system. Share your knowledge with others.
- Contact people you know and find out if they have any experience in the given area.
When all of this is done, the time is due for making contact with the volunteers.