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Topic: Generic advice screen to new posters? (Read 2471 times) previous topic - next topic


It would be really useful if when people post (especially for the first few times) that they are directed to a screen explaining that they should give as much detail as possible - software version, hardware part number / datasheet / website, relevant code snippets, schematics etc in order to help those trying to answer their problems?

Lots and lots of queries go through this cycle:

Newbie asks question in vague, general terms.

Someone asks for more details like part number of sensor, etc etc,

Newbie then provides more information,

Someone starts to give useful help/advice

The same advice screen should say "please choose the best matching forum, DON'T CROSSPOST!"
[ I will NOT respond to personal messages, I WILL delete them, use the forum please ]

David Cuartielles

Mark, this is a good idea, can you sketch it a little bit further? It would take me 5 minutes to add this to the help link I am preparing to release soon. The more elaborated this is, the easier it will be for me to add it.



Mark, this is a good idea

No, it isn't.

It's a great idea.
The art of getting good answers lies in asking good questions.


I guess it needs to be a balance between encouraging more information without intimidating - a pro-forma might be one approach, if it can be quickly replaced where not appropriate.  Different forums probably need different pro-formas (software v hardware).
[ I will NOT respond to personal messages, I WILL delete them, use the forum please ]

Nick Gammon

It's a great idea, but I found on my own forum that a surprising number of people ignore initial pleas for things like version numbers, exact error messages, etc. and thus you get posts like:

I started using your program today, and it gave an error.

No mention of which version, what they did, or what the error is.

Also, I find people post at the end of existing threads, thus bypassing messages that appear when you start a new one.

What I was tempted to do (haven't done it yet) is to try to track if they have tried to help themselves. For example, based on their IP address (which may nor may not be very reliable) you could see if there is a history of that person doing searches (any searches at all), or browsing, or looking at the FAQ.

You might at least force people, who have just joined, to have a "visit to the FAQ page" ticked off on their account before they can post. And/or a "visit to forum posting guidelines", that sort of thing. Trouble is, they might have done a lot of research anonymously before joining, which is why I suggested the IP address and not the forum username. Even then, they might research on one PC (eg. at work) and then come home and post a question, so it wouldn't be foolproof.

What I have done however, which works reasonably well, is to have "templated" responses. This is so experienced users can whip up a quick reply with a minimum of typing. For example:

Code: [Select]
[board]   --> asks which board they have

[error]  --> asks them to post the error message they got from a compile

[circuit]  --> asks them to post their circuit

These templated responses can be quickly substituted by the forum software (basically find-and-replace) and the responses can be nicely, politely, worded, possibly with hyperlinks to helpful expanded material. They can be in a nice box as well. (Wikipedia does this).

Please post technical questions on the forum, not by personal message. Thanks!

More info:


You might at least force people, who have just joined, to have a "visit to the FAQ page" ticked off on their account before they can post.

And answer a quiz based on the FAQ?  :P

As for the quiz... It would have insulted me -- but I find that with all the experience I have I am unable or unwilling to help people based on their first request -- even though I could help. So I think I would understand as a new poster. Grit my teeth and grin about having to answer a quiz.

With many help requests... The problem is that it's simply that a thoughtful well considered answer would eat hours of time... That same answer is usually in the examples posted with the compiler. If it is not there it is in the libraries or playground -- if it is not there it is one of the books available via e-reader... Although people seem insulted by a request to review the demos sometimes it is the only answer...

My first few posts were add-ons to threads trying to help other people. Would your "new poster detector" trap that? If so, how?

BTW -- I think it is a great idea as well.

The web site and forum was a terrific help to me. I am happy to try to return that help.
Just another Hacker


People need to read http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html before posting
Freelance engineer, consultant, contractor. Graduated from UW in 2013.


I'm not sure it would be desirable to force people to go to a FAQ page before being able to post - no guarantee they'd read it anyway. How about a page that is displayed when you try to start your first thread, which recommends following a link to a 'How to help people to help you' page, but gives the option to go straight on to their post if preferred. In addition, it would then make a useful link to post in a thread where that advice had not been followed. I could write up an example for review if desired.

Nick Gammon

It's a great idea, and by all means do that. I had the same idea a while back on my own forum - starting a new thread had put a customized "helpful hints" section at the top of the post. In other words, it was a (HTML) text field that got placed above where you start typing. By customized I mean, local to each topic. So, for example, if you were posting in the "I can't get it to work" section you might suggest the "getting things to work" FAQ.

I just warn you however, that no matter how much you plead, even in bold type (eg, PLEASE provide the version number of the program), a lot of people just ignore it.

But the upside is, that perhaps 20% to 50% will read it, and save themselves the need to post in the first place, or make a more useful post.

It's easy to do - the forum administrators just add a "before you post" entry to the database, either per section, or per subsection, or maybe just one for the entire forum.
Please post technical questions on the forum, not by personal message. Thanks!

More info:


Jun 14, 2011, 10:54 pm Last Edit: Jun 15, 2011, 12:21 am by wildbill Reason: 1
Here's my first draft, please critique:
You're about to make your first post in the forums. If you're asking for help, please consider reading our 'how to help people help you' page before you post.

How to help people help you.

First, can you help yourself? Many common problems are frequently posted in the forums. Try search and you may go right to the answer. Also try the reference, tutorial and playground areas of the site. Still no joy? Time to ask for help.

People asking for help often post a rather brief description of their problem. The people on the forums are keen to help, but sometimes are unable to without teasing out additional details. Providing them up front will get you help more quickly. Generally, what helps are these things:

•   Your code, the entire sketch
•   A schematic or description of your circuit
•   A brief description of what your project is intended to do
•   A description of your problem, including what your system is doing and what you expect/want it to do instead.
•   Things you've tried to resolve the problem and the results of these.

It may also be useful to know which model of Arduino you're using. If your code doesn't compile, provide the error messages you get.

Once you have written this down, you may very well find that organizing your thoughts has given you new ideas about what's wrong, if not please post.

Posting your code
When you post your code, make sure it's between code tags - the forum software may turn parts of it into smilies otherwise. Format it in the IDE using <ctrl>T to make it easier to read. Unless you're posting for help with a compiler message, be sure that it compiles.

Post all of the code, even if it means you have to provide it as an attachment. It makes it very difficult to help debug an issue if you just have a fragment of the code. Even if you think you know the general area where the problem is, you're handicapping folks by not providing the whole thing.

If you can, use Fritzing or other free tools to draw your circuit. Otherwise, at least give a description of what you've done. Provide part numbers and links to datasheets of any components that are more complicated than a resistor.

Project Description
A single sentence will often be enough, a little more if it's a complex or unusual project. For example, "I'm trying to control an RC toy car with an on-board UNO" is plenty.

The Problem
Describe what you're trying to make the project do e.g. "I'm trying to measure temperature with an XYZ sensor and send it to my web server". Tell us what actually happens - "The temperature is read and sent to the web server, but it reads low by five degrees compared to other thermometers".

What have you tried to resolve this?
Here you can help to eliminate suggestions that you've already tried - e.g. "I replaced all the components in my circuit with new ones - no difference" It'll give the reader a feel for how far down the debugging road you've gone.

edit: formatting


- make the title meaningful

"help me" gives no clue
"problem with 74HC14" gives a clue
"pet interface fries ferret" is more meaningful

PS you need some spaces after your bold text
there are only 10 types of people
them that understands binary
and them that doesn't

Nick Gammon

Try search and you may go right to the answer.

Make it clearer this is a button:

Code: [Select]
Try the "Search" button and you may go right to the answer. (Or Google it).
Please post technical questions on the forum, not by personal message. Thanks!

More info:


Jun 15, 2011, 07:46 pm Last Edit: Jun 16, 2011, 09:25 am by Msquare Reason: 1
See <--link to previous post

Nick Gammon

I must look into how that works for my own web site.

And you could do what Google does, when you type "how do I build in a delay?" it comes back "you probably mean 'blink without a delay'".

Please post technical questions on the forum, not by personal message. Thanks!

More info:


Fantastic idea! I came to post this exact thing, but ya'll beat me to the punch.

Definately highlight "search" the forums (including old forums) and the Playground.

RE: whether people will ignore it, if you you can reach 1/4 of those who repost the same basic question, it will be worth the effort.

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