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Re: instruction for submitting help requests

From: Shai Ayal
Subject: Re: instruction for submitting help requests
Date: Sat, 15 Jul 2006 10:33:37 +0300
User-agent: Thunderbird (Windows/20060516)

John W. Eaton wrote:
On 14-Jul-2006, Shai Ayal wrote:

| If you want help you should provide some more info. At the minimum
| please provide: Your OS, your octave version, how you got it (rpm,
| source, ...)
| | A general remark:
| when octave starts it gives a message stating:
| "Report bugs to <address@hidden> (but first, please read
| to learn how to write a helpful report)."
| | Maybe something similar should be said about the help list in this
| context? Is there another place that instructions for a "good" way to
| ask for help can be put, to be as visible as possible to people asking
| for help?

I don't thnk this is off topic.  I think the following could be

OTOH, it may be a bit long for people who can't be bothered to even
choose a useful subject line for their messages (it may just be me,
but it seems that lately I have been seeing more messages with missing
subjects or useless subject lines like "newbie question").

I think the first paragraph of the Disclaimer section at the top of
the "smart-questions" document is telling:

  Many project websites link to this document in their sections on how
  to get help. That's fine, it's the use we intended ? but if you are
  a webmaster creating such a link for your project page, please
  display prominently near the link notice that we are not a help desk
  for your project!

My guess is that the people who don't understand that the
"smart-questions" document is a generic guide about how to ask
questions will probably also miss any prominent notice placed near the
link to the document.

We are also seeing a lot of messages on the help list that are really
bug reports.  And a lot of bug reports that say little more than "it's
broke!  Fix it!".  So I don't think we have had a lot of success with
the notice in Octave's startup message.


Maybe we should make it a bit harder to submit to help & bug?

How about requiring that the message has a portion describing octave configuration. This portion would be manufactured by octave (by a function) any email not containing this portion would be rejected by the mailing list with a message describing how to add the portion, maybe even including the source for the function so that old versions could run them?

Is this reasonable in both requirements from users and the mailing system?


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