How to get the best results from FreeBSD questions. ===================================================
Last update $Date: 2005/08/10 02:21:44 $ This is a regular posting to the FreeBSD questions mailing list. If you got it in answer to a message you sent, it means that the sender thinks that at least one of the following things was wrong with your message: - You left out a subject line, or the subject line was not appropriate. - You formatted it in such a way that it was difficult to read. - You asked more than one unrelated question in one message. - You sent out a message with an incorrect date, time or time zone. - You sent out the same message more than once. - You sent an 'unsubscribe' message to FreeBSD-questions. If you have done any of these things, there is a good chance that you will get more than one copy of this message from different people. Read on, and your next message will be more successful. This document is also available on the web at http://www.lemis.com/questions.html. ===================================================================== Contents: I: Introduction II: How to unsubscribe from FreeBSD-questions III: Should I ask -questions or -hackers? IV: How to submit a question to FreeBSD-questions V: How to answer a question to FreeBSD-questions I: Introduction =============== This is a regular posting aimed to help both those seeking advice from FreeBSD-questions (the "newcomers"), and also those who answer the questions (the "hackers"). Note that the term "hacker" has nothing to do with breaking into other people's computers. The correct term for the latter activity is "cracker", but the popular press hasn't found out yet. The FreeBSD hackers disapprove strongly of cracking security, and have nothing to do with it. In the past, there has been some friction which stems from the different viewpoints of the two groups. The newcomers accused the hackers of being arrogant, stuck-up, and unhelpful, while the hackers accused the newcomers of being stupid, unable to read plain English, and expecting everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. Of course, there's an element of truth in both these claims, but for the most part these viewpoints come from a sense of frustration. In this document, I'd like to do something to relieve this frustration and help everybody get better results from FreeBSD-questions. In the following section, I recommend how to submit a question; after that, we'll look at how to answer one. II: How to unsubscribe from FreeBSD-questions ============================================== When you subscribed to FreeBSD-questions, you got a welcome message from [EMAIL PROTECTED] In this message, amongst other things, it told you how to unsubscribe. Here's a typical message: Welcome to the email@example.com mailing list! If you ever want to unsubscribe or change your options (eg, switch to or from digest mode, change your password, etc.), visit your subscription page at: http://lists.freebsd.org/mailman/options/freebsd-questions/[EMAIL PROTECTED] (obviously, substitute your mail address for "[EMAIL PROTECTED]"). You can also make such adjustments via email by sending a message to: [EMAIL PROTECTED] with the word 'help' in the subject or body (don't include the quotes), and you will get back a message with instructions. You must know your password to change your options (including changing the password, itself) or to unsubscribe. Normally, Mailman will remind you of your freebsd.org mailing list passwords once every month, although you can disable this if you prefer. This reminder will also include instructions on how to unsubscribe or change your account options. There is also a button on your options page that will email your current password to you. Here's the general information for the list you've subscribed to, in case you don't already have it: FREEBSD-QUESTIONS User questions This is the mailing list for questions about FreeBSD. You should not send "how to" questions to the technical lists unless you consider the question to be pretty technical. Normally, unsubscribing is even simpler than the message suggests: you don't need to specify your mail ID unless it is different from the one which you specified when you subscribed. If Majordomo replies and tells you (incorrectly) that you're not on the list, this may mean one of two things: 1. You have changed your mail ID since you subscribed. That's where keeping the original message from majordomo comes in handy. For example, the sample message above shows my mail ID as [EMAIL PROTECTED] Since then, I have changed it to [EMAIL PROTECTED] If I were to try to remove [EMAIL PROTECTED] from the list, it would fail: I would have to specify the name with which I joined. 2. You're subscribed to a mailing list which is subscribed to FreeBSD-questions. If that's the case, you'll have to figure out which one it is and get your name taken off that one. If you're not sure which one it might be, check the headers of the messages you receive from freebsd-questions: maybe there's a clue there. If you've done all this, and you still can't figure out what's going on, send a message to [EMAIL PROTECTED], and he will sort things out for you. Don't send a message to FreeBSD-questions: they can't help you. III: Should I ask -questions or -hackers? ========================================= Two mailing lists handle general questions about FreeBSD, FreeBSD-questions and FreeBSD-hackers. In some cases, it's not really clear which group you should ask. The following criteria should help for 99% of all questions, however: If the question is of a general nature, first check whether this isn't a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ). There's a list of these questions at http://www.freebsd.org/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/faq/index.html, and also on your own system (once you've installed it) at /usr/share/doc/en/books/faq/index.html. Check there, and if you don't find an answer, ask FreeBSD-questions. Examples might be questions about installing FreeBSD or the use of a particular UNIX utility. If you think the question relates to a bug, but you're not sure, or you don't know how to look for it, send the message to FreeBSD-questions. If the question relates to a bug, and you're almost sure that it's a bug (for example, you can pinpoint the place in the code where it happens, and you maybe have a fix), then send the message to FreeBSD-hackers. You should also enter a problem report with the send-pr utility. If the question relates to enhancements to FreeBSD, and you can make suggestions about how to implement them, then send the message to FreeBSD-hackers. If the question is of particularly technical nature, such as implementation details or suggestions for improvements, then send the message to FreeBSD-hackers. There are also a number of other specialized mailing lists, for example FreeBSD-isp, which caters to the interests of ISPs (Internet Service Providers) who run FreeBSD. If you happen to be an ISP, this doesn't mean you should automatically send your questions to FreeBSD-isp. The criteria above still apply, and it's in your interest to stick to them, since you're more likely to get good results that way. IV: How to submit a question ============================= When submitting a question to FreeBSD-questions, consider the following points: 1. Remember that nobody gets paid for answering a FreeBSD question. They do it of their own free will. You can influence this free will positively by submitting a well-formulated question supplying as much relevant information as possible. You can influence this free will negatively by submitting an incomplete, illegible, or rude question. It's perfectly possible to send a message to FreeBSD-questions and not get an answer even if you follow these rules. It's much more possible to not get an answer if you don't. In the rest of this document, we'll look at how to get the most out of your question to FreeBSD-questions. 2. Not everybody who answers FreeBSD questions reads every message: they look at the subject line and decide whether it interests them. Clearly, it's in your interest to specify a subject. ``FreeBSD problem'' or ``Help'' aren't enough. If you provide no subject at all, many people won't bother reading it. If your subject isn't specific enough, the people who can answer it may not read it. 3. When sending a new message, well, send a new message. Don't reply to some other message, erase the old content and change the subject line. That leaves an In-reply-to: header which many mail readers use to thread messages, so your message shows up as a reply to some other message. People often delete messages a whole thread at a time, so apart from irritating people, you also run a chance of having the message deleted unread. 4. Format your message so that it is legible, and PLEASE DON'T SHOUT!!!!!. We appreciate that a lot of people don't speak English as their first language, and we try to make allowances for that, but it's really painful to try to read a message written full of typos or without any line breaks. A lot of badly formatted messages come from bad mailers or badly configured mailers. The following mailers are known to send out badly formatted messages without you finding out about them: Eudora exmh Microsoft Exchange Microsoft Internet Mail Microsoft Outlook Netscape As you can see, the mailers in the Microsoft world are frequent offenders. If at all possible, use a UNIX mailer. If you must use a mailer under Microsoft environments, make sure it is set up correctly. Try not to use MIME: a lot of people use mailers which don't get on very well with MIME. For further information on this subject, check out http://www.lemis.com/email.html. 5. Make sure your time and time zone are set correctly. This may seem a little silly, since your message still gets there, but many of the people you are trying to reach get several hundred messages a day. They frequently sort the incoming messages by subject and by date, and if your message doesn't come before the first answer, they may assume they missed it and not bother to look. 6. Don't include unrelated questions in the same message. Firstly, a long message tends to scare people off, and secondly, it's more difficult to get all the people who can answer all the questions to read the message. 7. Specify as much information as possible. This is a difficult area, and we need to expand on what information you need to submit, but here's a start: If you get error messages, don't say ``I get error messages'', say (for example) ``I get the error message 'No route to host'''. If your system panics, don't say ``My system panicked'', say (for example) ``my system panicked with the message 'free vnode isn't'''. If you have difficulty installing FreeBSD, please tell us what hardware you have. In particular, it's important to know the IRQs and I/O addresses of the boards installed in your machine. If you have difficulty getting PPP to run, describe the configuration. Which version of PPP do you use? What kind of authentication do you have? Do you have a static or dynamic IP address? What kind of messages do you get in the log file? 8. If you don't get an answer immediately, or if you don't even see your own message appear on the list immediately, don't resend the message. Wait at least 24 hours. The FreeBSD mailer offloads messages to a number of subordinate mailers around the world, and sometimes it can take several hours for the mail to get through. And once it gets through, the one person who might know the answer will probably just have gone to bed in his part of the world. 9. If you do all this, and you still don't get an answer, there could be other reasons. For example, the problem is so complicated that nobody knows the answer, or the person who does know the answer was offline. If you don't get an answer after, say, a week, it might help to re-send the message. If you don't get an answer to your second message, though, you're probably not going to get one from this forum. Resending the same message again and again will only make you unpopular. To summarize, let's assume you know the answer to the following question (yes, it's the same one in each case :-). You choose which of these two questions you would be more prepared to answer: Message 1: Subject: (none) I just can't get hits damn silly FereBSD system to workd, and Im really good at this tsuff, but I have never seen anythign sho difficult to install, it jst wont work whatever I try so why don't y9ou guys tell me what I doing wrong. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Message 2: Subject: Problems installing FreeBSD I've just got the FreeBSD 2.1.5 CD-ROM from Walnut Creek, and I'm having a lot of difficulty installing it. I have a 66 MHz 486 with 16 MB of memory and an Adaptec 1540A SCSI board, a 1.2GB Quantum Fireball disk and a Toshiba 3501XA CD-ROM drive. The installation works just fine, but when I try to reboot the system, I get the message "Missing Operating System". ---------------------------------------------------------------------- V: How to follow up to a question ================================= Often you will want to send in additional information to a question you have already sent. The best way to do this is to reply to your original message. This has three advantages: 1. You include the original message text, so people will know what you're talking about. Don't forget to trim unnecessary text out, though. 2. The text in the subject line stays the same (you did remember to put one in, didn't you?). Many mailers will sort messages by subject. This helps group messages together. 3. The message reference numbers in the header will refer to the previous message. Some mailers, such as mutt, can thread messages, showing the exact relationships between the messages. VI: How to answer a question ============================ Before you answer a question to FreeBSD-questions, consider: 1. A lot of the points on submitting questions also apply to answering questions. Read them. 2. Has somebody already answered the question? The easiest way to check this is to sort your incoming mail by subject: then (hopefully) you'll see the question followed by any answers, all together. If somebody has already answered it, it doesn't automatically mean that you shouldn't send another answer. But it makes sense to read all the other answers first. 3. Do you have something to contribute beyond what has already been said? In general, "Yeah, me too" answers don't help much, although there are exceptions, like when somebody is describing a problem he's having, and he doesn't know whether it's his fault or whether there's something wrong with the hardware or software. If you do send a "me too" answer, you should also include any further relevant information. 4. Are you sure you understand the question? Very frequently, the person who asks the question is confused or doesn't express himself very well. Even with the best understanding of the system, it's easy to send a reply which doesn't answer the question. This doesn't help: you'll leave the person who submitted the question more frustrated or confused than ever. If nobody else answers, and you're not too sure either, you can always ask for more information. 5. Are you sure your answer is correct? If not, wait a day or so. If nobody else comes up with a better answer, you can still reply and say, for example, "I don't know if this is correct, but since nobody else has replied, why don't you try replacing your ATAPI CD-ROM with a frog?". 6. Unless there's a good reason to do otherwise, reply to the sender and to FreeBSD-questions. Many people on the FreeBSD-questions are "lurkers": they learn by reading messages sent and replied to by others. If you take a message which is of general interest off the list, you're depriving these people of their information. Be careful with group replies; lots of people send messages with hundreds of CCs. If this is the case, be sure to trim the Cc: lines appropriately. 7. Include relevant text from the original message. Trim it to the minimum, but don't overdo it. It should still be possible for somebody who didn't read the original message to understand what you're talking about. 8. Use some technique to identify which text came from the original message, and which text you add. I personally find that prepending ``> '' to the original message works best. Leaving white space after the ``> '' and leave empty lines between your text and the original text both make the result more readable. 9. Put your response in the correct place (after the text to which it replies). It's very difficult to read a thread of responses where each reply comes before the text to which it replies. 10. Most mailers change the subject line on a reply by prepending a text such as ``Re: ''. If your mailer doesn't do it automatically, you should do it manually. 11. If the submitter didn't abide by format conventions (lines too long, inappropriate subject line), please fix it. In the case of an incorrect subject line (such as ``HELP!!??''), change the subject line to (say) ``Re: Difficulties with sync PPP (was: HELP!!??)''. That way other people trying to follow the thread will have less difficulty following it. In such cases, it's appropriate to say what you did and why you did it, but try not to be rude. If you find you can't answer without being rude, don't answer. If you just want to reply to a message because of its bad format, just reply to the submitter, not to the list. You can just send him this message in reply, if you like. $Id: Howto-ask-questions,v 1.6 2005/08/10 02:21:44 grog Exp $ _______________________________________________ Thanks to Josh Paetzel for updating this document to describe mailman. _______________________________________________ firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list http://lists.freebsd.org/mailman/listinfo/freebsd-questions To unsubscribe, send any mail to "[EMAIL PROTECTED]"