Before You Ask
Before asking a technical question by email, or in a newsgroup, or on a website chat board, do the following:
Try to find an answer by searching the Web.
Try to find an answer by reading the manual.
Try to find an answer by reading a FAQ.
Try to find an answer by inspection or experimentation.
Try to find an answer by asking a skilled friend.
If you are a programmer, try to find an answer by reading the source code.
When you ask your question, display the fact that you have done these things first; this will help establish that you’re not being a lazy sponge and wasting people’s time. Better yet, display what you have learned from doing these things. We like answering questions for people who have demonstrated that they can learn from the answers.
Use tactics like doing a Google search on the text of whatever error message you get (and search Google groups as well as web pages). This might well take you straight to fix documentation or a mailing list thread that will answer your question. Even if it doesn’t, saying “I googled on the following phrase but didn’t get anything that looked useful” is a good thing to be able to put in email or news posting requesting help.
Prepare your question. Think it through. Hasty-sounding questions get hasty answers, or none at all. The more you do to demonstrate that you have put thought and effort into solving your problem before asking for help, the more likely you are to actually get help.
Beware of asking the wrong question. If you ask one that is based on faulty assumptions, J. Random Hacker is quite likely to reply with a uselessly literal answer while thinking “Stupid question…”, and hoping that the experience of getting what you asked for rather than what you needed will teach you a lesson.
Never assume you are entitled to an answer. You are not; you aren’t, after all, paying for the service. You will earn an answer, if you earn it, by asking a question that is substantial, interesting, and thought-provoking â€” one that implicitly contributes to the experience of the community rather than merely passively demanding knowledge from others.
On the other hand, making it clear that you are able and willing to help in the process of developing the solution is a very good start. “Would someone provide a pointer?”, “What is my example missing?” and “What site should I have checked?” are more likely to get answered than “Please post the exact procedure I should use.” because you’re making it clear that you’re truly willing to complete the process if someone can simply point you in the right direction.