I saw this posted on HN and thought I’d share it here too:
Interesting thoughts about how to be a helpful helper if you’re helping online, which I’ve tried to apply below in the context of a Linux forum:
- Answer the question first - avoid jumping to a unrelated topic (not to be confused/conflated with answering the Y in an XY Problem, which is generally counter-productive);
- No third rails - try not to rant about something unrelated, e.g. “-Syy is bad!” in a question about a broken local database;
- No dogpiling - if someone is helping then let them help, don’t jump in with everyone else and confuse the issue;
- Meet their level - you don’t need to aim for a perfect solution, just what they need;
- Say yes - avoid telling people bluntly they are plainly wrong, give them the correct answer instead;
- Step back - if you have had enough then step away and let someone else take over;
- Take some blame - Similar to “life is a two-way street”, communication issues are a two-way problem so be prepared to be wrong sometimes;
- Use more words - short answers may be efficient but can also be viewed as blunt or uncaring;
- Understand your motivations - why are you helping? Is it to help, is it to educate, is it to get a badge, is it to show off, is it to prove someone wrong? If it’s not altruistic then it’s not helpful.
- Humility - be aware that everyone is learning - including you - so you’re allowed to make mistakes;
- Make connections - giving an answer is secondary to building a connection with people (communities like this do this already );
- It’s hard - helping everyone isn’t possible, so sometimes you just have to shrug and move on.