You must help me now!

This is perhaps going to sound a little whiny and maybe it is, but I’ll feel better for having written it. Working in a community of volunteers you soon discover a right way to ask for help and a wrong way. Normally I try to apply the one free pass rule, and of course in an international project like Koha there are bound to be issues with language differences. But lately there has been a disturbing trend in demanding help.With a Free Software project, there are of course always areas to improve on, and no project should be offended at people pointing that out, or asking the same questions again and again. Where the problem occurs is in tone. People who work on Koha are being paid to, and in that case it is usually being paid to satisfy a clients needs, or working as a volunteer, or most often as a combination of the two. So for them to spend time on answering your question, that means time away from who is paying them, or from their family, or some other part of their life. A lot of us do this willingly, but there are only 24(ish) hours in a day, so if you want your question to jump to the front here are some handy tips.

  • Ask specific questions, and provide as much information as you can. “I’m running Koha 3.8.3, installed from debian packages, on a 64bit OS. The hard drive died yesterday, and after reboot, I can no longer search in Koha” Is a a good question. “KOHA is broke, fix it” is not.
  • Ask, with a willingness to listen to the answers.
  • Remember not everyone who answers is an expert, but they are giving up their time to try and help, graciousness never ever hurts.

Here endeth the whine.

3 thoughts on “You must help me now!”

  1. Doesn’t sound like a whine. Sounds like a mixture of common sense, courtesy, and/or experience. Which some people lack.

  2. I agree with all the above. There’s a 2nd order to this. The people asking the questions are often also contributors to a project that isn’t koha. – perhaps a project I use every day.

    They want to get the answer to their questions as fast as they can to get back to working on their other project for their clients, and then go see their families. I apply a little bit of understanding that the question askers don’t necessarily have the time to phrase it perfectly.

    1. That’s why they get one free pass. And if you ask in a manner that puts off anyone from answering you, then you won’t get your question answered fast.
      Asking fast != getting a fast answer.

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