How to Find Help on a Forum

I get, on average, around two dozen emails a week from folks asking for some sort of help with either their wood carving projects, or with something specific about the CarveWright or CompuCarve wood carving machines. It's rewarding to be able to help someone solve a problem, but the shear volume of requests can be a bit challenging.

To expedite these requests, I tend to do some basic research and then send those people my results and let them find the specific answers to their questions. This approach helps me to answer as many questions as I can, and gives the requester an opportunity to practice finding help for themselves.

============================================

There are lots of good sources on the internet. I believe that niche websites and industry forums provide the best places to locate an answer. I tend to use forums the most and my favorite place to find information and help with the Carvewright and the CW Design Software is to visit the
Carvewright forum itself. Not only are there a lot of members to rely on, but they all share the same passion and seem more than willing to lend a hand when it comes to helping solve a problem.

Unfortunately, the problem with forums - especially the active ones, is actually
FINDING the information you are looking for. Even with a targeted search query, you can easily spend hours looking for an answer. Often you will see a number of similar questions asked in an effort to solve the same problem.

I believe lots of guys give up searching and take the easy route by simply asking their own question without looking hard enough for the correct answer. This of course leads to even more duplication, which in turn adds to the amount of information you need to sift through to find your answer, which makes a guy ask his question, which starts the whole cycle over again.

============================================

I firmly believe in the credo that if you want something you need to ask. I also believe that knowing HOW to ask is just as important. This knowing how to ask is what will make the process of finding information on a forum much easier - not only for you but for other users as well.

The secret to finding good information is through the act of asking good questions. And yes, I am going against everything we've been taught but the truth is, there is such a thing as a dumb question! The reason is because the asker has not thought through their question before asking it.

============================================

Here are three tips for getting good solid help on a forum...
1) Think through the question you have and write it down before posting it to a forum. Use Notepad or TextEdit to compose your question. Take a few minutes and type your question into either one of those applications I just mentioned. Just type and don't give much thought (yet) to the sentence structure and stuff like that. Save your work, get up and walk away from the computer for a while. Go do something else and at the same time, mill the question around in your head.

After a while, go back to your text and rewrite it to be as clear and logical as possible. Don't get overly wordy, and chop out all the stuff that doesn't really help clarify what you are trying to ask. Look at your work and pretend you know nothing about the background of your problem. Could someone reading your question understand it?

2) Create a GOOD title! I can't emphasis this enough. The title of your post should be THE most important sentence you write when posting to a forum. How often have you seen titles like this? Need Help, Got a question, Any advise, Help a new guy out, Stupid move on my part. As you can see, none of these titles say ANYTHING about the problem at hand. And yes, these were taken directly from the forum, I did not make them up.

Here though, is a good title - also taken from the same forum: Does the 3.5" of scrap wood on each end, need to be a specific thickness? Now that's a great title. It asked a question in simple terms and you know exactly what the requester needs. If you happened to have followed this question, you'd have noticed that the guy got lots of responses too - EXACTLY what you want when asking for help.

3) And finally, post in the correct category. A sure way to get chastised and kicked about is to post a question under the wrong category, or to post the same question in multiple categories. Abiding by the rules and behaving correctly is akin to good citizenship. We all like people that are considerate and most of us will go out of our way to help when you use proper etiquette.

============================================

So there it is... I hope that this note will get you thinking more about ways and methods you can use to find help with all your wood carving questions. Just a small amount of preparation on your part will lead to a huge bumper crop of help from those you ask.

Oh, and one last thing - be sure to give thanks to those that lend a hand. A little gratitude goes a long way and helps foster good feelings for all of us.


BTW, Here are some reading resources on the subject...
 

image book cover good question by Judy Barberimage book cover art of listening by Madelyn Burley-Allen