How to be helpful online


Someone linked this on hackernews and I thought the advice would apply well to our community. It helped me think about my posture online.


Good read, Nothing wrong with looking at our own posture occasionally, Thanks.

(Tom Ray) #3

Interesting read. I like how all the responsibility for maintaining the conversational tone is on the person giving up their time to help people. I’d like to see one of these for the people asking for help and how to conduct themselves.

(TheWebMachine Networks (Sangoma Software Development Partner)) #4

While it is true that some folks asking for help can be quite…well, we’ll just say “irritating” to keep it PG…the onus really is on the folks providing the help to maintain their cool. As the owner of a company that literally spends 24/7/365 “helping folks;” often at “no additional charge” beyond their base subscriptions in the cloud…no matter how many times they reach out or how stupid the question is - I recognize that most are coming at you in a frantic, frustrated, or panicked state…they just want answers - and the tech industry, probably more than any other, has done much to foster the “instant gratification” problems we face as a species today. As the one who is supposed to be the “expert” providing “help,” deescalation is most certainly part of the role.

It also doesn’t help that 70% of the FreePBX documentation base is still 4-6 years out of date and fragmented to hell and back. Sangoma has only really been addressing that in earnest in the last 12-18 months, and they’ve got a LONG way to go yet.

And before someone chimes in with the inevitable “we’re unpaid volunteers” line, I’ll say this: You’re absolutely right! You aren’t an employee (spare the actual Sangoma staff who ARE paid to deal with the BS) and you aren’t being forced to deal with ANYONE on this or any other “community” forum…SO DON’T. If someone is being that “entitled/ungrateful/uncooperative,” then don’t get involved in that thread. Let Sangoma staff deal with them or not at all. No one is “making” you deal with any of it. :man_shrugging:


As long as your prices are “premium” enough that people understand they are paying for the product + support, you are less likely to have the more annoying “entitled to everything for free!” individuals that drag down the community.

If your prices are low and you are giving away great support for free then you are an enabler. :slight_smile:

(TheWebMachine Networks (Sangoma Software Development Partner)) #6

True that. However, I also put in my fair share of hours on this forum (among others) and you don’t hear me complaining about it. :rofl:

(Tom Ray) #7

IRC is not the same as forums.


We could start drafting something up collaboratively… just an idea. Related, RFC: Community Code of Conduct from several years ago. The only guide I have seen (and have seen a number of times) for participating in the forum is the How to Submit Great Debug wiki page.

IRC is a terrible place for support. I suppose the idea is that chat will bring quick help. Maybe, but the downsides are numerous.

(Tom Ray) #9

Yet on Freenode the vendors have channels with a bunch of people in them. Like #freepbx and #asterisk. The document you link was specifically for the #python channel. IRC is incredibly active.

(christrati) #10

That is a good article, and I think shows one of the reasons I check in on the FreePBX forums. A lot of the people who have responded to this post are ones that I have learned from. I look at it like a “pay it forward” approach. Your answer may lead one person to understand and learn, and later on they may be one who may also help others.

For me personally, a lot of my questions were found in the forum, so thanks to all who have taken the time to respond.



This is why I think forums are so much better than IRC. I guess it’s obvious - on IRC if you help one person, then one person is helped. On forums when you help one person, many people now and in the future are helped.

(Tom Ray) #12

Yes and no. I’ve learned quite a lot just from being part of the discussion, either actively or passively. They both have their benefits and drawbacks.

(TheJames) #13

Forums are a much different beast than IRC. Newcomers are more likely to land here. I think when they land in IRC it is because they had apple maps and the directions said make a left in to that dark alley.

It is much the difference between Applebees and a biker bar.

I several times tried to push for more progressive guidelines that aligned with other large open source projects but there was no “business case” for taking the time to do so. Anyway I think over the last 5 years I made 3 or 4 attempts and was shot down because… well because…

(TheWebMachine Networks (Sangoma Software Development Partner)) #14

We don’t even bother with IRC…haven’t in years. Forums provide a bit more moderation control, resulting in either an organic increase in niceness quotient…or a forced one. :smirk: