Most of you would know of Ask Fedora – the Askbot instance we, the Fedora community, set up as another channel to help out our users at – the other pre-existing channels are – the many mailing lists, especially firstname.lastname@example.org and our various IRC channels, especially #fedora.
Since we deployed Ask Fedora, we’ve seen a healthy rise in its usage. Unfortunately, I haven’t statistics to show for this. I still need to figure out how I can get some. In this post, I’ll introduce Ask Fedora for the benefit of those still unaware of it and then write a little about how you can help us help yourself and our users via this Q&A forum.
What exactly is Ask Fedora?
Ask Fedora is an instance of the Askbot Q&A website. It’s similar to stackexchange if you’ve used it. The idea is for people to ask questions and for any one that can help to answer these questions. While asking and answering questions, you earn karma and badges, you vote on these questions and answers and as more and more people use the site and learn in the process, it becomes a self sustaining knowledge base – new folks can look through existing questions for information. If you continue participating well, you earn more karma, and you earn more rights on the forum. For example, when you begin, you will not be able to post links – this is an anti-spam measure. However, after you earn a little karma, you’ll earn the right to post them. Similarly, when you’ve earned enough karma, you’ll get moderator privileges meaning you can close and delete questions and answers.
Getting started with Ask Fedora
We have a nifty video that you can watch to quickly learn the basics:
Getting started with Ask Fedora is easy. You use one of the many login methods to create an account as shown in the image below:
Once you’ve logged in, you’ll can go ahead and ask your question, or answer other questions. Read on to learn how you can make most of Ask Fedora.
Best practices at Ask Fedora
Asking and answering questions is incredibly easy when you do it verbally, in person. However, when you’re doing it over a forum, certain simple things can help ensure that a certain standard is maintained at the forum – people should easily understand both questions and answers, for example. Most of this is documented at our wiki page.
- Go through the “sticky” posts: We’ve marked a set of good questions as “sticky” questions. Please glean through them – you’ll pick up quite a few tips on the way.
- Search before you post: Search the interweb and then Ask Fedora itself before posting your question. More often than not, someone else may have had the same query and already received an answer.
- If you have more than one question, post them separately: Do not write a post that says “many Fedora questions” and ask them all together. You’re to ask each question separately.
- Frame a question: It’s Ask Fedora after all.
- It is perfectly OK to answer a question that you asked: There’s nothing stopping you from answering your own questions. When you do, please post your answer separately, and not in the question description.
- Post in the appropriate language specific group: We have support for different languages in Ask Fedora. Make sure you select the appropriate language in the left top of the page. The default is English. Please try and use complete words and correct language constructs – it ensures that everyone can read your statements.
- File bugs in bugzilla: If it is a package related issue or you are requesting an update for some package, do so directly via bugzilla. If you haven’t done that before, refer to How_to_file_a_bug_report. Remember that Ask Fedora is for troubleshooting, it is not a bug tracker. Quite a few times, someone will point out that your question has uncovered a bug, and that you should report this bug.
- Ask questions in a useful manner: Here’s a great post that tells you how to ask good questions. Here are some more tips on getting good answers.
- Provide information about to help people help you better: People can’t help you if you do not provide specific information on the issue you face. Some commands and logs that you should look for information to provide with your questions. Most of these logs are now managed by journalctl:
- fpaste –sysinfo –printonly: fpaste is a nifty tool that collects a lot of system information for you and pastes it on our paste.fedoraproject.org server. The –printonly option will spew out the output on your terminal and you can then add this info to your question
- lsusb: Information on USB devices
- lspci: Information on PCI devices
- dmesg or journalctl -k: Kernel messages
- uname -a: Current running kernel
- /var/log/Xorg.0.log: X server errors, for example when you don’t get a display on boot
- /var/log/messages or journalctl -b: Kernel and more common errors
- ~/.xsession-errors or journalctl _UID=…: User session errors (~/.xsession_errors isn’t used in Fedora 19 GNOME or later; use journalctl with your user ID, as reported by the id command – and yes, that is an underscore!)
- /var/log/pm-suspend.log: Suspend/resume logs
- Google: All of the above logs and commands can be learned from the internet.
- Use the tools: When you want to post information along with your question, please use the tools, such as quoting, code snippet etc. If folks can’t read your questions quickly, they are not likely to answer them.
- Use correct tags: Make use of existing tags instead of adding new ones. This increases the visibility of your question. Remember that tags are without spaces, so “fedora16″ is not the same as “fedora 16″. The latter actually breaks up into two separate tabs “fedora” and “16″ which is illogical. Don’t use generic tags like “fedora” or “problem”. Every tag has to individually make sense. Tags in Ask Fedora do not need to have a # prefix.
- Is that an answer?: Only post answers when you’re providing a solution to the asked question. For everything else, comment on the appropriate question/answer. Having a thread of conversation as answers just confuses people looking for information. Use comments. Only post an answer when you have one.
- Please do not append “[Solved]” to your question summaries: Please do not add the [Solved] keyword to your question summaries. If you received an answer that solved the issue, please mark the answer as correct and reward the helper with karma. There is no need to modify the question summary.
- Subscribe to questions you ask/answer/comment: A lot of answered questions are not marked so because the original asker hasn’t cared to follow up!
- Reward your helpers: This is most important. Mark answers as correct, vote up a good question, vote down a bad one, comment for queries. This will make it a better, more knowledgeable forum. Use your votes! You get 30 votes everyday.
- If you see someone not using the forum correctly, point it out: Comment telling them what they’re doing wrong politely. Hint: Use “Please mark an answer as correct.” instead of “Mark an answer as correct.”
- Do not take offense at being down voted: Down voting implies that someone doesn’t think your answer is good enough, or complete. This isn’t personal at all. What this actually means is that you have the opportunity to learn something new. Please do not take offence if your answer is down voted. It’s how the forum is designed to work.
- Last but not least be polite and refrain from ranting: Ranting makes people not want to help you. There isn’t anything else to it. If you’re polite, folks will want to help you. Remember to “be excellent to each other” at all times.
I request you to take out about 15 minutes a day to glance at Ask Fedora. If there’s a question you can answer, please do. The standard of questions and answers will be much better if advanced users from the community answer questions regularly.
Trouble with Ask Fedora
If you run into issues with Ask Fedora, you can inform us by:
- Asking a question and tagging it as “meta”
- Mailing the infrastructure mailing list if you’re already subscribed
- Filing a trac ticket on the Fedora infrastructure trac instance. Please select the “Ask” component before you submit the ticket
Helping Fedora Infrastructure maintain Ask Fedora
The infrastructure team is always looking for new people to help them out. If you’re interested, please take a look at this wiki page and jump right in! If you’re a developer that would like to contribute to Askbot, please take a look at their website upstream.
Cheers! I’ll see you at the forum!