As a lot of you know, I work as a moderator at the Graphene forum. Graphene is easily the most customizable theme for WordPress, which is the software I use to run all my blogs. On any given week, I spend between 10 and 30 hours helping folks out there, all in my spare time, and all for free. I do it because I enjoy helping other people, and because I actually learn quite a bit by helping people out. I then take that knowledge and good democrat/progressive/liberal/leftist/socialist/pinko/commy that I am, redistribute it to other people in need of it. There are many times that I can’t actually help other people, but I can often point them in a certain direction, or suggest where to find an answer, or toss ideas back and forth with the other moderators and folks who inhabit that particular forum.

The Graphene forum is actually a cozy little world. I have participated in a lot of forums on and off over the years, and I am still amazed by the incredible community we have built in this one. We have people from all over the world there, of all ages and skill levels, and probably a 60/40 mix of males to females. It’s a diverse little community, and one that I miss very much when I am away for long.

I readily admit that I don’t know everything or have all the answers; like I said, one of the things I like about participating there is how much I learn. I’d like to think that I don’t flaunt my knowledge or abilities; if it seems like I am sometimes brusque when answering a query, it may be that it’s one o’clock in the morning (and I get up at five), or I’m leaving for work but taking just one last peek at the forum to see who needs what (knowing that the least little traffic snarl will make me late), or the landlord is pounding on my door for rent (more about that later). Sometimes I have the time and energy to answer your question in a friendly, energetic, enthusiastic way; other times I barely have enough time and energy to read your query, much less formulate a response.

By my reckoning, I’ve participated in over 600 threads in that forum (you can see them here). A lot of times, I don’t get so much as a thank you, but that’s okay because the people on the other end are probably just as busy as I am if not more so (either that or they were raised by wolves), but on a few occasions someone goes out of their way to thank us and show how much they appreciate our help. I don’t expect it, but it’s always nice to see, such as here, here, here, or here, not to mention here.

Out of those 600 threads, I’ve only had two people who got upset with me to the point of being rude and nasty—the first one is here, and the second one, that I’m going to talk about in this post, is here—and that’s because of a post on this blog that I referred them to. That’s a pretty good efficiency rating, I think. (Other times, such as this one, they just didn’t understand what I was asking for. But we got there in the end.)

A lot of people just don’t know how to get help from a help forum in an efficient way. Forums have a culture, you see, and there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to do things. Unlike traveling overseas or navigating through a government bureaucracy however, forums often have lists of rules that will tell you how to play nice and get along with other people. Let’s face it, many online forums are run by computer geeks, and we are more Sheldon Cooper than Oprah Winfrey. If you want warm fuzzies, that’s fine, but we’re probably not the people who are going to give them to you.

I had been aware of the “How to Ask Questions the Smart Way” page for a long time, but I didn’t want to refer folks coming to the Graphene forum to it, because they aren’t really the intended audience, and for folks who mainly just want to post pictures of their tea cozy collection, it’s outside their frame of reference. (It’s also long and decidedly free of warm fuzzies.) So I decided to write a more non-geek friendly version aimed at the people I typically deal with, who are united mostly by their complete ignorance of computer and coding issues, and would just like to get a straightforward answer to their questions. The result was “How to Get Help from a Help Forum“, in which I explain that if you want to get a straightforward answer to your question, then you need to ask a straightforward question—which means straightforward for me, not straightforward for you.

I didn’t write that to be rude or snarky, or to show off how much more intelligent and good looking I am than everyone else. In fact, I include a link to the “How to Ask Questions the Smart Way” page and this page in the WordPress Codex, which also explains how to behave properly in a forum, which I summarized neatly for the folks who are too busy to read them:

If you read those two pages, you’ll notice a definite theme: follow these guidelines and you will get the best help we can give you as quickly as we can give it. Seriously. We really do enjoy helping people, but you’ll get better help, and faster help, if you follow the guidelines we lay out.

That about says it all, but I still run into people who just don’t get it. Sunday night on the forum, someone started a new thread asking for help with the slider on their blog. They then proceeded to paste the entire content of their child theme style sheet—over 1200 lines. You can read the thread here. It’s a good example of how not to behave online.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t go through over 1200 lines of anybody’s code unless there is money at the end of it, and that includes code I wrote myself. So I snipped the code from the post (no one else is going to go through that much code either, and the mere fact of its presence may put a lot of people off trying to help this person), politely asked them not to code dump, referred them to my “How to Get Help from a Help Forum” post, explained exactly what their problem was and how to solve it (which had nothing to do with their child theme’s style sheet, but the permalink structure they had set up), and even referred them to a helpful page in the WordPress Codex which would give them other options as to how to set up their permalinks.

This person replied with what I can only imagine was meant as a personal attack on me, although it is hard to tell because their post is barely intelligible. I work with people from all over the world and can tell the difference between poorly written English that is the result of limited English proficiency and poorly written English that is the result of thinking that you are above such lowly, common things as standardized grammar and spelling. I work hard to help people get their point across in the former case, and work even harder to help people get their point across in the latter case.

Since I don’t like to engage in personal attacks or even arguments online (unless you espouse intolerance, racism, sexism, stereotyping, homophobia, injustice, or some other form of institutionalized idiocy, and only rarely even then), I didn’t really respond to those attacks in the thread, especially since the forum is a place to get and give help. It is definitely not a place to lash out at people. I did let out a little cheer when Josh said that “usually, the only people who exhibit problems with the forum rules are those who practice the attitudes and behaviors we try to discourage.” Exactly. Thank you for putting it so succinctly, Josh.

However, this is my blog, and I can do what I like. I’m going to respond to their attack point for point, partly because I feel like it, and partly because they said that I didn’t help them, when in fact, I did. But mostly I’m doing this because the blog in question is for a computer support business—in other words, people who ought to know better. So here goes, along with all my snarky, satirical asides. Let’s consider it a teachable moment. I will quote directly from their “tougue lashing” [sic], like this:

Thank you for explaining my errors in posting to this forum.

Actually, you only made one error, and I admonished you very gently for that. We all make errors; being corrected for them is how we learn. I could have ignored your post or deleted it or banned you for life from this forum. Instead, I tried to help you grow a bit and help you with your issue. This forum exists for other people besides yourself, who by and large play by the rules. We only ask that you do the same.

I have to say since this is the only the second time I used this forum. Also, The last.

That’s mature, isn’t it? Take all your toys and go home. At least it saves me the trouble of ignoring your future threads.

I dont know how important you have to be to get a job helping people for free but, You need some lessons in humility.

You don’t even know me, so I don’t know what you are basing this snap judgment on. I have much more of a presence on the internet than you do, so it’s easier for you to learn about me than it is for me to learn about you. I didn’t make a judgment about you in my response, although I certainly feel free to do so now, you snotty-faced heap of parrot droppings. By the way, “a job helping people for free” is an oxymoron. This certainly isn’t my job, but I certainly do it for free. You might want to remember that. It will be important later.

I am not someone that asked for help often or easily, so I try what I like to call ” all the dumb **** ” many times before, I ask what, I am sure will be a stupid question to someone who knows what they are doing.

If you mean “dumb-ass” then you only need three asterisks, not four. And no, I don’t think it’s a stupid question, or else I would not have responded to it. I do apologize if my response to your request for help made you feel stupid, however. If you would like, I can give you the number of one of my therapists.

The only reason I asked here is because, The last time I did ( the only time I have ever asked anything about this coding thing, of which until 3 months ago i never knew existed. ) the guy that helped me was very good and helped me with a minimal amout of tech speak and no tougue lashing.

I did not throw a bunch of tech speak at you, other than mentioning “index.php” and “permalinks.” Oh, and “URL.” And “structure tags.” This is why I said you need to learn some coding. If you’re going to open the hood of your car and do some tinkering, you’d better know what things are called, at the very least.

And please note that I didn’t leave you high and dry, but took the time to provide links that you could visit to learn what you need to know.

But let’s look closer at this:

I have ever asked anything about this coding thing, of which until 3 months ago i never knew existed.

Really? But you are running a blog with this description in the header:

Cloud Storage Providers & Cloud File Sharing
Remote Computer Repair | Computer Network Services | Online File Storage Service
Complete IT and Network Support
Tiered Management and Consulting Services

Cloud File Service | Internet Usage Monitor
Best Online File Storage | Best Online Photo Storage

How can you offer all those services and yet not know that “this coding thing” existed until 3 months ago? Maybe you should let your clients know that you are still learning about “this coding thing.”

He also asked me to post some code for him to look at, so I was (mistakenly) thinking that I was speeding up the process by posting the code.

Yes, it was a mistake on your part. I let you know (gently, I felt) that it was a mistake. Like I said, this is how we learn and grow. Most of us, anyway. By your own admission, he asked you to post some code, not all of it.

However, I would point out that just because the doctor prescribes an antibiotic for an infected hangnail that does not mean that an antibiotic is a cure for everything, whether it’s ringworm, a sprained ankle, or idiocy.

No begging , no whining, are you kidding me. What are we 13 years old, ( no offense if you happen to because you never know on the internet) But really, This might be nothing to you because you know what your doing as well as it is to me because I have a different job and do this for fun.

I’m not thirteen, and I’m not begging, or whining. Are you kidding me. Are you thirteen years old. Is the question mark key on your computer broken.

Yes, I have a different job as well (three of them in fact, and I still can’t make ends meet), and I do this just for fun. Until I met you, that is.

But, I have to assume that there are a lot of people out there on the internet that have their lives wrapped up in thier websites.

I agree, there are a lot of people who are very devoted to their websites. I follow many of their blogs, such as this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one. That’s about one percent of the RSS feeds I have bookmarked. Unlike you, I don’t assume. I actually do my homework. And I respect the hard work of others.

Quite a few probably are not experts on this.

“Quite a few”? Try “the vast majority.” And I help them as much as I can, for free and on my own time. I’ve been a noob, but I grew up, I manned up, and now I give back. What are your future plans?

Have a little respect for people, that are out there trying to make a living working hard, instead of robbing us when they lost there jobs at the mill or enron or whatever. They might beg and wine a little, there livilhood could be hanging on those words.

Dude, you have no clue about me, do you? Have you read my blog? I made $13,000 last year, and will probably make less than $10,000 this year. I have no health insurance, my eyeglasses are a five-year-old prescription, I have all sorts of dental problems, I’ve been struggling to keep from being evicted all year long, and you’re comparing me to Enron? I know what it’s like to have my livelihood (that’s the correct spelling, by the way) hanging from a thread, and I respect anyone who works hard. One of my jobs is substitute teaching, and because I care about the kids I teach and know what difficult financial situations many of them are in, I have given away pens, pencils, notebooks, band-aids, and even calculators to kids who can’t afford it—all out of my own pocket. I don’t whine about it, and until now I never mention it. I do it because I care, that’s all. I care about my job, I care about my kids, and I care about how we treat each other. I have more respect in a single hair on my head than you do in your entire post.

Sure that is the exception rather than the rule MAYBE but, you might want to think a little before you react as if your to important to spend a second typing, to help a fellow person with something that you both must care about a little because they care enough to learn and you at least at one time cared enough to teach.

I’m not too important to spend a second typing. In fact I spent several minutes at the end of a very long day (at the end of which I worked two unplanned hours of overtime) looking at your site and figuring out your issue. If you care enough to learn, then you will care enough to read the links I posted, but your attitude throughout your rant indicates that you are not willing to learn. You just want someone to fix your problem for you.  That’s what consultants are for.

Saying “I think the problem is between lines 650 and 730” indicates a willingness to learn. Dumping your entire style sheet and expecting me to go through it all is the equivalent of taking your car to the garage and saying “it’s broken; fix it.” Do you know what the difference is? That’s right—you have to pay the garage.

If this was a one time thing that would be understandable everyone has bad days but you took the time to reference the last time you had an attitude. Which by the way I find insulting on so many levels that I wont bother wasting my time listing them all. except 1

Let me get this straight—I am suggesting a more appropriate way for you to behave, one which will be more likely to get you the help you seek and one which you are perfectly capable of performing (although it is possible that I am the one making an assumption here; perhaps you were raised by wolves), and you are calling me out for my own mea culpa? I admit that I am human and can be grouchy and can make mistakes, and you are castigating me for admitting that I am not perfect? Does everyone around you have to wear sunglasses because you are so incredibly shiny? Or do they just avoid you, as I shall certainly do in the future?

you didnt even help me.

Yes, I did. I told you to fix your permalinks. I have seen this issue at least a dozen different times, so I am pretty sure this is the cause of your problem, although if it is not, I will happily admit that I am wrong, and will share what I have learned with others in the future.

I dont need a link to something I have already look through 20 times

If you are referring to the page from the WP Codex, perhaps you ought to actually read it instead of just looking at it.

I have looked at the code too much.

As I pointed out, the problem isn’t in your code, it’s in your permalinks. Why are you assuming it’s in your code? Oh, that’s right—making assumptions is your hobby.

Like with any hard problem sometimes you just need someone to take a look at it and point out the problem.

Which is what I did. Fix your freaking permalinks and your problem will go away!

I am sure it is something easy because, It worked at one time.

It did. And then you messed with your permalinks. Fix your freaking permalinks and your problem will go away! Or in your dialect, Fix your freaking permalinks and, Your problem will go away.

I have the original code saved so I get it that, It has to do with something other, than my specific problem wrong.

Which means that you are working on a copy of the code, which is a good thing to do. Obviously then you know enough a bit about “this coding thing.” Don’t under you estimate self, then skills computer good. Do you mind if I call you “Yoda”?

But I dont know this coding very well and I also am a litlle frustrated.

Try reading your rant and you will really know the meaning of the word “frustrated.”

But I didnt signup to help people fix code. You did.

No, you asked for help with your code. But your code wasn’t the problem. Your permalinks were the problem. Fix your freaking permalinks and your problem will go away!

And no, I didn’t sign up to help people fix code. I volunteered to help people, just as you could someday if you got over yourself. At one point I knew nothing about any of “this coding thing”, but with hard work, perseverance, and a willingness to learn, I now know lots about it, and am incredibly popular, wealthy, and good looking. Feel free to be insanely jealous.

Although, I do know a little about teaching, do to the fact that I have been teaching at the college level for 20 years.

You’ve been teaching at the college level for 20 years? Really? At the grammar-free university, I presume. If you really have been teaching at the college level for twenty years, then you at least have a master’s degree, you should know that the correct spelling is “due to,” not “do to.” Of course, “due to” and “the fact that” are overused expressions, not quite clichés, but like bald tires, worn out beyond any usefulness. You might want to read Strunk and White’s The Elements of Grammar, which I received in high school. It is to your writing what the Salk vaccine is to polio.

If any of my student aids

But surely you meant “aides” and not “AIDS”?

( i am assuming this is similar to your status in this forum by your attitude)

We are all equals in this forum. I am a moderator, which means that I can move your posts around to the right section if you posted in the wrong one, but that’s about all of the special moderator powers I use. I can be just as wrong and ignorant as you can be. I am only a moderator because I spend a lot of time here helping people just like you. Actually, I spend a lot of time here helping people who aren’t like you, but let’s not go there, okay?

If any of my student aids ( i am assuming this is similar to your status in this forum by your attitude) were to act like this rest assured they would be learning a special life lesson I like to teach at moments like this

“A special life lesson”? And next, a very special episode of Blossom.

it does not include talking down to them

I didn’t talk down to you. I spoke to you as a peer and asked you politely not to code dump because no one is going to go through over 1200 lines of your code. I noted how much code I deleted from your post so that others wouldn’t wonder why I deleted it. If you feel I talked down to you, then maybe it’s because you have such a low opinion of yourself. I’ve been in a command situation before, and I’ve taught high school in the inner city. If it were my intention to make you feel two inches tall, then you would feel about two inches tall.

It is a real lesson not a punishment

If I had punished you, I would have used my magical internet moderator powers to ban you and your silliness from this forum. Instead, I politely asked to abide by our policies and then provided a solution to your problem.

Hopefully you have a boss or a peer that can help you in this reguard.

Everyone who participates in this forum is my boss and my peer. Josh is my peer, and you can see for yourself what he thinks about your attitude. It’s an egalitarian thing; somewhat related to my lefty politics. The real boss is Syahir, because it’s his theme and his forum. If you feel I have treated you unfairly, you can take it up with him. I respect him and his judgments. Of course, he is where he is through dint of hard work, not because he’s good at whining and complaining.

By the way, the word you are looking for is “regard,” not “reguard,” which means “to guard again.”

Let me leave you with this and I trully hope you hear this messaage.

Surely you meant “massage“? If you would like, I can give you the Swedish Prime Minister’s phone number.

 “The commercial world is not a forgiving place. You need to temper your obvious intelligence with some humility and honor not just pride.”

Thank you for noticing my “obvious intelligence”. If my intelligence were really that obvious to you, you would follow my advice and fix your freaking permalinks.

That sentence has served me well I hope it will do the same for you.

I certainly hope you will soon be served with a sentence, if only for the good of grammatical society.

I hope this post is not also against the rules.

Like I said, it’s not against the rules as far as I know, but since this forum is a place to get help, I would hope that you would respond on my blog, rather than on the forum. Since you feel free to disregard whatever rules, guidelines, or laws that make you feel inferior, feel free to disregard them all. Snort that coke, drive 110 mph on the freeway, push old ladies into traffic, rob banks, vote for conservative candidates (Tories, Republicans, or Fascists—in the postmodern knowledge vacuum, they are pretty much one and the same), whatever. As long as you feel good about it, the rest of us will just have to bloody put up with it. And put up with you, and your petty nonsense.

Good Luck To you.

As I pointed out, I’m not a big fan of luck. (Steady customers of lottery tickets and casinos will disagree with me here, although their experiences will bear out a rather different testimony.) As I said in my response, I prefer a willingness to learn and a willingness to do some hard work to just plain luck, even though that hasn’t gotten me very far in this economic meltdown.

Thus ends the snarky satire that is this teachable moment.

But wait, there’s a funny bit

And here it is. Remember I pointed out that this person runs a blog for a computer support business? This is what they wrote on their front page:

We can even work with any specialized software and its developers.

Apparently, they can’t. If this post is typical of their customer service, then may angels and ministers of grace defend their customers!

Of course, if you are the person who wrote this rant and are completely offended by what I’ve written here, may I recommend the following video by his holiness, the Reverend Parry Gripp?

If you need the extended dance version (and I really think you do), you can find it here.

If you need further help getting over yourself, you might want to meditate on the Space Unicorn and his mission, which is, of course, pure of heart and strong of mind:

While you’re at it, try not to be such a freaking dramatic chipmunk, or you could end up with a box on your head. Short of that, I may come after you with my marshmallow laser.

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