I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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I know plenty of copy editors that are fully aware of their role as editors of one text at a time and who don't claim to be guardians of language. They are not peevologists. They don't feel attacked by mistakes and they don't hope to change all language into one register. They respect decorum and they trust that most users do so as well as they do.

The peevologists are looking to change something that will not change. They seek a power that is not theirs and they express frustration based on a sense of entitlement that is not only arrogant but irrational. They hope to change the rotation of the earth and live with constant frustration, throwing stones at every sunrise and sunset.

Michael Covarrubias (wishydig)


<October 2014>




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  05:45 PM

In the spirit of Gunnar Kudrajvets's Complete Idiot's Guide to Opening Bad Bugs (see yesterday's entry), I was inspired to address a similar area that is also close to my heart. I spend a lot of time on the ASP.NET forums sifting through questions, so I feel like I can offer some suggestions for the Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing Bad Forum Posts. Here's a start:

  1. Write a useless title. Create a title that says nothing about your question. The best possible title is "Help!" so that people looking through the new postings will understand that you need assistance, unlike everyone else who's also posted a question. Corollary The title "Help!!!" instead of "Help!" shows that your post is three times as urgent.
  2. Do no research. Although there are 500,000 posts on the asp.net forum, no one has ever had the same question as you.
  3. Ignore the FAQs. Ditto.
  4. Don't use Google. Ditto.
  5. Blame the software. The likeliest explanation for your problem is that ASP.NET has a bug, or .NET, or even Windows. After all, that explains most problems that people have. So when you post your problem, be sure to note that this seems like a bug to you.
  6. Post a 300-line example. People who answer questions on the forum clearly have nothing to do. So they'll be happy to parse your enormous example to see if they can spot that elusive problem.
  7. Let someone else devise a repro case. When the button click handler isn't called in your sample, by no means should you try to create a smaller repro case. All you know is that your sample doesn't run.
  8. Post a sample that depends on a resource you don't describe. Be sure your sample reads from your production database. Don't worry, people will figure out your schema.
  9. Don't format your code. Indentation is overrated.
  10. Use a single run-on sentence to describe your problem. You're in a hurry, after all, so who's got time to describe the problem carefully? PS How long does it take to get an answer on this forum, anyway?
  11. Sprinkle your post with typos. People who get distracted trying to figure out what you're saying aren't real programmers.
  12. If people don't seem to get your problem, get mad at them. "Ok, let me explain my problem again, you dummies. There, understand? Now, where's my answer?"
  13. Post in the wrong forum. Post your question in the FAQ forum. After all, it kind of relates to something that it says in one of the FAQs. Or post everything in the Getting Started forum, what the hell.
  14. Complain about the product. Ask people what's so great about this product, anyway? "In PHP I could do this in three lines, ya know. But my stupid boss is making me use ASP.NET. So how do you this in your stupid language?" Corollary When people jump through hoops to get you an answer, tell them "That's ok, I decided to go back to PHP."
  15. Keep posting new questions to the same thread. Hey, people really jumped on that first question, so why not ask some more, now that you've found some people who will answer?
I could go on. (And probably will.) However, before I leave the impression that all posters are inconsiderate morons, let me note that most people are not. I particularly admire three classes of posters:
  • People who post questions and get answers when English is their second (or third or fourth) language. The posts aren't always easy to figure out, but they're doing their best.
  • People who follow up and report on the results of a suggestion. "It worked" or even "That didn't work." Either way, all the lurkers can keep tabs on the problem.
  • People who say thank you.

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