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How to ask a question on iMechanica

I've mostly had quite helpful responses from iMechanica participants whenever I've asked questions on this forum.  However, I've noticed that questions from several posters have gone unanswered.  I feel that there are two main reasons for that lack of response:

1) The questioner has not provided an adequate details by which they can be identified.  I generally don't like responding to a question posed by someone called xyz1983. 

2) The question itself is vague or too general to be answered in anything short of a book length discussion. An example may be "I want to do FEM on RF-EMW.  Can someone help?" 

So it may be a good time to point our readers back to the old "How to Ask Questions FAQ ". 

Points to note from that FAQ:

1)  What we are, unapologetically, is hostile to people who seem to be unwilling to think or to do their own homework before asking questions.   People like that are time sinks — they take without giving back, and  they waste time we could have spent on another question more interesting and another person more worthy of an answer.

2)  Prepare your question. Think it through. Hasty-sounding questions get hasty answers, or none at all. The more you do to demonstrate that having put thought and effort into solving your problem before seeking help, the more likely you are to actually get help.

3)  The first step, therefore, is to find the right forum. Again, Google and other Web-searching methods are your friend. For instance, ABaqus related questions are best answered on an Abaqus web forum.

4)  Use meaningful, subject specific headers ...   Don't waste it on babble like “Please help me” (let alone “PLEASE HELP ME!!!!”; messages with subjects like that get discarded by reflex).

5)   Write in clear, grammatical, correctly-spelled language. Answering questions for careless and sloppy thinkers is not rewarding; we'd rather spend our time elsewhere.

6)   Be precise and informative about your problem. Describe the symptoms of your problem carefully and clearly. Describe the research you did to try and understand the problem before you asked the question.

7)   Grovelling is not a substitute for doing your homework. Some people who get that they shouldn't behave rudely or arrogantly, demanding an answer, retreat to the opposite extreme of grovelling. “I know I'm just a pathetic newbie loser, but...”. This is distracting and unhelpful. It's especially annoying when it's coupled with vagueness about the actual problem. Don't waste your time, or ours, on crude primate politics.

8)   Courtesy never hurts, and sometimes helps. Be courteous. Use “Please” and “Thanks for your attention” or “Thanks for your consideration”. Make it clear you appreciate the time people spend helping you for free.

9) And most importantly,   follow up with a brief note on the solution. Send a note after the problem has been solved to all who helped you; let them know how it came out and thank them again for their help.

There's also a bit in the FAQ about how to answer questions

1)  Be gentle. Problem-related stress can make people seem rude or stupid even when they're not.

2) Reply to a first offender off-line. There is no need of public humiliation for someone who may have made an honest mistake. A real newbie may not know how to search archives or where the FAQ is stored or posted.

3) If you don't know for sure, say so! A wrong but authoritative-sounding answer is worse than none at all. Don't point anyone down a wrong path simply because it's fun to sound like an expert. Be humble and honest; set a good example for both the querent and your peers.

4) If you can't help, don't hinder. Don't make jokes about procedures that could trash the user's setup — the poor sap might interpret these as instructions.

5) Ask probing questions to elicit more details. If you're good at this, the querent will learn something — and so might you. Try to turn the bad question into a good one; remember we were all newbies once.

6) While muttering RTFM is sometimes justified when replying to someone who is just a lazy slob, a pointer to documentation (even if it's just a suggestion to google for a key phrase) is better.

7) If you're going to answer the question at all, give good value. Don't suggest kludgy workarounds when somebody is using the wrong tool or approach. Suggest good tools. Reframe the question.

8) Help your community learn from the question. When you field a good question, ask yourself “How would the relevant documentation or FAQ have to change so that nobody has to answer this again?” Then send a patch to the document maintainer.

9) If you did research to answer the question, demonstrate your skills rather than writing as though you pulled the answer out of your butt. Answering one good question is like feeding a hungry person one meal, but teaching them research skills by example is showing them how to grow food for a lifetime.

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