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    Board Regular MrKowz's Avatar
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    Default How to help first-time posters

    Something MrExcel brought up in a recent posting of mine is how can we help new posters in regards to making sure their post is clear for us to answer.

    Here are the posts, beginning with his question, and relevant posts leading up to this discussion:

    MrExcel
    Any ideas on how we can help those first-time posters do a better job of posting questions?

    I did a small test on Weds night to pop-over a form to get new people to sign up for a newsletter. Maybe a better use is a pop-over form that gives them 3 quick suggestions of how to help us help them. Something that they can read in 14 seconds as they reach for the mouse and click the "X" to close the form.

    That is one idea. I am sure there are better ones out there.

    Bill
    rorya
    One of the things I find useful at ExcelForum is that the user's profile specifies what version they are using. It's not always accurate, but it does help tailor your responses quite a lot.
    I don't think I've ever really seen any good ways of getting first timers to post clearer questions: when the questions are really unclear, it's more often than not because the user is trying to phrase things according to the way they think Excel might work, when they don't really know. Perhaps something to suggest they explain in simple terms what they are trying to achieve, as well as how they are attempting it?
    JamesW
    Maybe a sticky with an 'example post' would help? Nothing fancy. I think it will saves everyones time as you won't get responses such as "Can you post example code" and "Please explain what you mean".

    I have also seen forums where new users are sent directly to the 'Guidelines' sticky before they do anything. Can't remember if it's on this forum, but it's a nice touch.

    Speaking about 'Guidelines' the one's here, I feel, can seem very intimidating to a new user. I see it as a wall of text and most users will attempt to read them and give up!

    My 2 pence.
    - Posting guidelines, forum rules and terms of use
    - Try searching for your answer first, see how
    - Read the FAQs
    - List of BB codes
    - Please use [CODE] [/CODE] tags when posting your VBA code. It retains spacing, so your code is easier to read, and therefore easier to debug.
    - Please back up your file before using any macros suggested!

  2. #2
    Board Regular MrKowz's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to help first-time posters

    I think that some of the issues with lack of information (or unclear information) stems from the fact that we do have many users who speak very little English, and feel that the only way they are going to get help is by attempting to translate their question into English. When that happens, a lot of wording gets messed up, questions become unclear, etc.

    Also, I'm not sure if first-time posters is the issue. I see a LOT of posters (some with over 1000 posts) continue, time and time again, posting questions that take 5-6 followup posts until their question becomes clear. Yes, this is sometimes needed, but more often than not it could have been remedied with a better first post.

    I like JamesW's suggestion of having a sticky with an 'example post'... maybe also include a guideline of questions to make sure to answer in the post:

    Code:
     
    What version of Excel do you use?:
     
    What are you trying to accomplish/What is your desired output?:
     
    What is your input and ranges used?:
     
    Have you tried anything already?  If so, describe:
    Using something like this, we could build a sample post of what is a "bad example" and what is a "good example":

    This is an example of too little information:

    Code:
     
    Topic: Please help
     
    Body: This formula worked for me until I needed more formats: =AND(A1=2,B1=1)
     
    I'm trying to get more than three conditional formats
     
    a formla would be great please help?
    This is an example of a good post:

    Code:
     
    Topic: Trying to get more than three conditional formats
     
    Body: I'm trying to get more than three conditional formats in my data.  Right now, I have the following conditions that work great:
     
    =AND(A1=2,B1=1) - Red
    =AND(A1=2,B1=2) - Yellow
    =AND(A1=2,B1=3) - Green
     
    But I need to add these conditions as well
     
    =AND(A1=1,B1=1) - Orange
    =AND(A1=1,B1=2) - Blue
    =AND(A1=1,B1=3) - Grey
     
    I use Excel 2003, and have no VBA experience.  Thanks!
    Maybe also toss in there a post that has WAY too much information. Remind users to explain it in detail, but be concise. There are some posts on here that I find I pass up because I open it up and it is one LONG paragraph of information... most of which is just fluff. (Yes, I know I'm a culprit of this!)

    I'll see if I can come up with a really good sample-posting that we can use as a sticky (if this route is deemed appropriate). The above I just threw together to get the ball rolling.
    - Posting guidelines, forum rules and terms of use
    - Try searching for your answer first, see how
    - Read the FAQs
    - List of BB codes
    - Please use [CODE] [/CODE] tags when posting your VBA code. It retains spacing, so your code is easier to read, and therefore easier to debug.
    - Please back up your file before using any macros suggested!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: How to help first-time posters

    My response is in relation to the 'Excel Questions' forum only.

    There is already a Sticky (Guidelines for posting) that covers most, if not all, these points and more. Given that the people with poor opening posts either have not read the Sticky or have chosen to ignore it, I'm afraid I cannot see another Sticky achieving anything more.

    You get good, clear questions and you get poor questions. Sometimes posters answer follow-up questions from helpers and some don't. Some posters say 'thanks' for answers and some don't. I think it is all just part of a public forum like this.

    There is also a Sticky about how to post a screen shot and yet many new posters ask how they can display their sheet. Again that would indicate that they haven't read the Sticky.

    So whilst I admire your sentiment and would be happy to see other ideas, I don't expect anything is likely to make a significant change to the quality of opening posts.

    If you look at any of the other Excel forums, who I'm sure will all have tried different things, the problem remains the same. I'm very happy that this forum doesn't go down the route of some others that come down heavily on posts that do comply exactly to all the forum rules.

    I also have to say that when I first came to this forum to ask a question, I didn't read any of the Sticky's before posting. I was in a hurry to get an answer, had never used a forum before and wouldn't have known what a Sticky was even if I had noticed them at the top of the forum.
    Last edited by Peter_SSs; Dec 11th, 2010 at 04:43 PM.
    Hope this helps, good luck.
    Peter
    Excel 365 - Windows 10
    - Want to help your helpers by posting a small, copyable, screen shot directly in your post? Look here
    - If posting vba code, please use Code Tags - like this [code]Paste code here[/code] - or use the # key in the Reply window
    - Read: Forum Rules, Forum Use Guidelines, & FAQ

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    Board Regular Taul's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to help first-time posters

    A few ideas:-

    1. Can a modification be made to vBulletin to show some text when the "New Post" button is clicked? but that would target everyone, not just new posters.

    2. When people register (new people only) an email reminder of post structure and information required can be emailed to them i.e. before they post for the first time. ok I know a lot of people tent to read the forum for quite a long time before they actually post, but it would target the people that register and post on the same day.

    my two-penneth
    Excel 2010 on Win7 at home - 2013 on win7 at work

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    Administrator starl's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to help first-time posters

    New members already get an email with HOW to post (with graphics).. yet we are still bombarded with emails that people can't figure out how to post.

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    Default Re: How to help first-time posters

    Quote Originally Posted by starl View Post
    New members already get an email with HOW to post (with graphics).. yet we are still bombarded with emails that people can't figure out how to post.
    My bad, it's been a while since I first registered
    I guess we are stuck with what we have
    Excel 2010 on Win7 at home - 2013 on win7 at work

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    Default Re: How to help first-time posters

    There's also an information bar on the forum visible only to new members to help them out.

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    Board Regular Norie's Avatar
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    Default Re: How to help first-time posters

    As for the language thing, there is the Questions in Other Languages forum which isn't really used perhaps as much as it could be.
    If posting code please use code tags.

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    Default Re: How to help first-time posters

    would it be worth creating an index of solutions to problems already posted, sorted into categories so that first time posters who dont really know how to ask their question can browse a topic area that may even solve the problem, or at least give them the right words to explain what they want.

    Code:
    'ive been looking at thread.index.2343465 and was wondering if you can do this with several columns at once?'
    so often one sees a post "need help with X", but the real question is completely different.
    The more you learn, the more you realise how little you know. Excel 2003 and 2010 / Win7
    Code:
    Sub HintForGoodResults( )
        If yourcode Is indented Then
            "it is easier to for everyone to understand" AND "others are more likely to give assistance"
        Else
            "errors are much harder to find" OR "others dont bother"
        End If
    End Sub

  10. #10
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    Default Re: How to help first-time posters

    Unfortunately I think this belongs in the too-hard basket.

    I'm not sure what load indexing would put on the system. It would have to be automated or else it would be impossible to keep up, and automated indexing would be pretty hit-and-miss.

    A couple of years back MrExcel had a Wiki which was supposed to provide a resource for formulas and VBA. It was closed down because it got so comprehensively spammed that the moderators were spending a significant part of their time just cleaning it up.

    I like the idea of helping newcomers to see what constitutes a good or bad post. As several people have already said here, there are stickies, emails and info bars already in place. Some people just ignore them. It's likely that a new sticky will get ignored too.

    Denis
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