Ask and you shall receive

One of the best parts — arguably the best part — about being a CrunchBang user are the answers that are readily available in the CrunchBang forums, whether they’re already there (a search usually brings up a question you might have that has been discussed and answered already) or whether you’re asking it for the first time to an enthused group of forum folks ready and willing to answer your unasked question.

From time to time, however, some folks — mostly those new to Linux and CrunchBang — will ask a question that is light on information. There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself. But naturally in order to help, those gurus and greybeards in the forums need the most information possible to give a correct answer.

Understand that no one is born an experienced Linux user, and questions like “My mouse won’t work” is as technical as some new users can get at this point.

I get that. In fact, I’ve been there and done that.

So what I’m urging folks — new and old, seasoned veterans and green rookies alike — is to write as much as you can about the problem.

Also, and we’ll put this aside for a moment, chances are your question has already been asked and answered in the forums. It’s a good idea as your first step to click on the looking glass in the upper right in the forum and do a search on your particular question (for example, “mouse not working”). You may find the answer and not have to ask — such is the nature of most forums, especially this one.

But let’s say hasn’t been asked yet. Here’s what you do. Instead of “My mouse doesn’t work,” you might try something like this:

“I plugged in my Wombat UltraMegaSuper Z-4000 USB mouse into the USB port in my ThinkPad T60 and it doesn’t work. I tried both ports with the same results. Looking on Google, [yes, you looked on Google because you’re a smart Linux user, and thanks for that!] it says that the latest Wombat drivers are included in Wheezy, so I’m assuming they’re in Waldorf, too. Has anyone encountered this, and if so, what was the solution?”

You’ll still be asked to provide some data from terminal commands that will give even more information — and don’t forget to put them in the code brackets — but asking the question with the most information you can give provides those who want to help with a good starting point.

One more thing: Google is your friend. There is a wealth of information out there just waiting to be found with the right search terms.

Being a CrunchBang user — or you can even expand this to say “being a Linux user” — is not for those who want to be spoonfed their digital experience. You have to be an active participant, at the very least, and many find that being more than an active participant rewarding. It’s one of the great things about Linux and Free/Open Source Software.

Happy CrunchBanging!

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Larry the CrunchBang Guy and all other blogs by Larry Cafiero are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Asking questions, getting answers

One of the best parts — arguably the best part — about being a CrunchBang user are the answers that are readily available in the CrunchBang forums, whether they’re already there (a search usually brings up a question you might have that has been discussed and answered already) or whether you’re asking it for the first time to an enthused group of forum folks ready and willing to answer your unasked question.

And now you’re expecting me to say, “But,” or “However . . . .” Surprise: I’m not. The reason I bring up the CrunchBang forums and how well they work is to raise one of my personal quests in the FOSS realm that, if I were to succeed, I think it would make things a lot easier for everyone on several levels.

You could ask, “What might that be?” And I would answer, “asking questions better and answering them more civilly.”

Eric Raymond and Rick Moen wrote a treatise about this many years ago that’s required reading at Felton LUG. It’s called “How to Ask Questions the Smart Way” and it is a remarkable guide regarding how to ask questions that will outline your problem efficiently for those who have to answer it. At the same time, it also has a guide for those who have been around the FOSS/Linux block — OK, for some, around the FOSS/Linux world — a few times regarding how to answer questions as well.

Bear in mind that I don’t bring this up because I think there’s a problem in this regard in the CrunchBang forums. Far from it; I think that questions and answers are handled quite well there. In fact, I’ll go one step further: I think the way the CrunchBang community works, as shown in the forums, is a textbook case of how FOSS communities should work.

I bring it up only as a reminder that I think everyone should give “How to Ask Questions the Smart Way” a read — from the newest Linux user to the most seasoned veteran — because there’s something in it for everyone.

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and has just started developing software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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