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On why asking for modding support via PM is bad.

the bigg

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Note: while this is a follow-up to a PM-when-post-was-better situation, I feel that it's perhaps better for this post to be public. I don't want the peculiar person who asked the particular question to feel singled-out by this post - I'm not aiming at you, you're just unlucky enough to have been the drop that broke the camel's back.


Since I'm getting tired of replying to PMs by people who ask me how to use basic WeiDU features (or even ask me how to install BGT), I'll make a public post stating why this is bad, and why doing this via post is better.

Note: many of these points are true (or truer) for other one-to-one communication channels like MSN (or other IM systems) and email.

  1. you're assuming that the person you've PMed is actually interested in helping strangers. For example, I actually hate replying to generic 'how do I do this?' and avoid doing so, unless somehow the context interests me, and I get angry when I feel forced to do so (see #4).
  2. a PM is read by only one person. If he doesn't know the answer, you'll have just wasted some time waiting for him to reply "I don't know" (and trust me, I know next to nothing on D coding). With a post, you're more likely that somebody knows the answer, reads the post and replies.
  3. If the person you've PMed is out of town for a week, you'll be without your answer for a week. This doesn't apply for posts.
  4. By default, when you receive a PM, you'll get a pop-up and/or an email warning you of the PM you received, and this instills a sense of urgency. Shouting for help, when the person you're asking would have read your post all of two seconds later via "View New Posts", doesn't do wonders at keeping people in their helpful mode.
  5. if somebody else is having the same problem later, they won't be able to read the existing topic and/or search for it, meaning that they'll have to ask again, and somebody will have to reply again.

The only times that PMing is actually a better idea than posting are when:

  • you're sending, or asking for, sensitive informations (such as passwords, URLs to beta files, etc).
  • you know exactly that the person you're contacting is the only one that can satisfy your request, and public awareness won't help in the least: as such, asking me for features in WeiDU is still better done via public post, since public discussion of the feature *will* help; on the other hand, asking The Wizard to upload a new version of a mod on IEGMC is uninteresting and self-contained enough for a PM.
  • while my opinion on this subject differs, many admins feel that stuff that could result in flame wars is better dealt via PMs; as such, starting a post saying that you disagree with an impopular forum decision is considered a bad idea, and you should rather PM your concerns to the forum admin.

As an ancillary public announcement, when you get a RTFM (or are told to run a search, read existing code, etc.), you shouldn't get angry, because it's you who is in the wrong. Before asking other people, you should try the gazillon of self help resources available (such as reading readmes, searching Google, searching the forums, reading posts in IE Tutorials, reading existing mod code, etc.). If you've tried self help and still have problems, you should state your question in such a way that we'll understand that you actually tried self-help (and what self-help channels you tried) and still have problems with something; by doing such, we'll be able of answering your real question, and not write you off as somebody too lazy to read a readme.

More on the fine art of asking questions the smart way is available here.

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:) A couple of days ago, Delphi stopped loading the private installation of the project on my machine after another version update. I wasn't able to deal with it on my own, and I needed it badly, so I spent an hour with two other programmers sorting it out.


... Half an hour later, one of them has posted "The Ritual of (Project_Name) Installation - RTFM" on the server, in Documents section.


Point 1: It's the same everywhere.

Point 2: Manuals are good. :)

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