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<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en-US">
<head>
<title>How to Get Help Online</title>
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
<meta name="author" content="Shlomi Fish" />
<meta name="description" content="Shlomi Fish's Homepage" />
<meta name="keywords" content="" />
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<body>

<h2 id="intro">Introduction</h2>

<p>
Inexperienced people often have trouble finding solutions to their (usually
technical) problems online. This essay aims to give some guidelines for
how to effectively find help online.
</p>

<h2 id="due_diligence">First of all - due diligence</h2>

<p>
The first thing to do when running into a problem, is try to find the
answer yourself. You can try consulting the documentation of the program
, especially its <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FAQ">“FAQ” - the
so-called “Frequently Asked Questions”</a> document (assuming it exists),
followed by visiting its wiki (= its world-editable site - assuming there
is one) and if that fails, use a web search engine. Some recommended search
engines are:
</p>

<ol>
<li>
<p>
<a href="http://duckduckgo.com/">DuckDuckGo</a>
</p>
</li>

<li>
<p>
<a href="http://www.google.com/">Google Web Search</a>
</p>
</li>

<li>
<p>
<a href="http://groups.google.com/">Google Groups</a>.
</p>
</li>
</ol>

<p>
It is still possible that you still will not find your answer. In this
case, you should ask for advice using the following mediums.
</p>

<h2 id="irc">IRC - Internet Relay Chat</h2>

<p>
IRC stands for <b>Internet Relay Chat</b>, and it is a distributed,
real-time, form
of communication. IRC was common from relatively early in the history of
the Internet, and is still popular. IRC servers form networks of servers
- each network is separated from the other networks and the servers of each
network share the same chat-rooms, user profiles and messages. Each network
has different rules and conventions and a different culture. This allows
chat-rooms (called channels in IRC-jargon) with the same name to exist in
different networks.
</p>

<p>
Some popular IRC clients include the cross-platform
<a href="http://www.mozilla.org/projects/rt-messaging/chatzilla/">Chatzilla</a>
(which is part of <a href="http://www.mozilla.org/">the Mozilla project</a>),
the Windows-based <a href="http://www.mirc.com/">mIRC</a> (which is shareware
and not open-source) and <a href="http://hexchat.github.io/">HexChat</a>, a
cross-platform IRC client for all UNIX systems including Linux and Mac OS X,
and for Microsoft Windows. By downloading one, you can log in to an IRC
network and start chatting, and often IRC networks provide a web interface
that does not require downloading a client.
</p>

<p>
IRC is a great way to get answers to questions quickly and easily. Just note
that some networks are not recommended for asking questions on, due to
intolerance for beginner questions, or general unfriendliness.
</p>

<p>
Some recommended IRC networks are:
</p>

<ol>

<li>
<p>
<a href="http://freenode.net/">Freenode</a> - provides discussion facilities
for the open source communities and for related communities.
</p>
</li>

<li>
<p>
<a href="http://www.oftc.net/">OFTC</a> - smaller than Freenode and less
popular, but some projects prefer it for their chats, and it is also a
friendly IRC network.
</p>
</li>

</ol>

<p>
Note that one common mistake that newcomers to IRC do is to private-message
a user that helps them (using the <code>/msg</code> command) instead of
keeping the discussion on the channel. To reply to someone, type (or complete
using the tab key) their nickname, add ":" or "," and say what you want to
reply.
</p>

<h2 id="stack-exchange">The Stack Exchange Network (Stack Overflow/etc.)</h2>

<p>
If you were unable to find a question on IRC, then
<a href="http://stackexchange.com/">Stack Exchange</a> (also
see <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stack_Exchange_Network">its
wikipedia page</a>) is a network of sites for questions and answers. It
is popular, and has a reputation (upvote/downvote) system for encouraging
people to contribute. By registering into the network, you can post questions
and get answers.
</p>

<p>
Note that you should choose a site in the Stack Exchange network where your
question is on-topic, and then wait. The first (and still
one of the most popular) sites in the network,
<a href="http://stackoverflow.com/">Stack Overflow</a> is primarily intended
for questions about programming so don't post non-programming
questions there.
</p>

<h2 id="forums">Mailing Lists and Web Forums</h2>

<p>
If the Stack Exchange forums fails, you can try searching for appropriate
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_mailing_list">electronic
mailing lists</a> or alternatively
<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_forum">web forums</a> where
you can get help. Try searching for such forums on a web search engine,
or on forum hubs, such as <a href="http://groups.google.com/">Google
Groups</a> or <a href="http://groups.yahoo.com/neo">Yahoo Groups</a>,
or ask on IRC if someone can recommend one.
</p>

<h2 id="how_to_ask">How to Ask Your Question</h2>

<p>
Eric S. Raymond and Rick Moen have written the document
<a href="http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html">“How to
Ask Questions The Smart Way”</a> which is a recommended read before you post
your question.
</p>

<h2 id="good_luck">Good Luck</h2>

<p>
Good luck in getting your questions answered.
</p>

<h2 id="licence">Licence</h2>

<p>
This work is copyright © 2013 by
<a href="http://www.shlomifish.org/">Shlomi Fish</a>
and licensed under the
<a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/" rel="license">Creative
    Commons Attribution-Non Commercial licence version 3.0</a> (or any later
version). See <a href="http://www.shlomifish.org/meta/copyrights/">my
interpretation of it</a>.
</p>

</body>
</html>