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This chapter is from the book

How May I Participate?

To browse the forums, read questions and answers, and get a feel for the community, simply point your browser to ubuntuforums.org. You don't need an account to benefit from the information that already exists on the site. You can read and even search the forums to see if others have asked questions about the things you are interested in learning.

However, to really begin to participate in the community, you will want to sign up for an account. Do so by browsing to the main page at ubuntuforums.org and clicking the Register link, as shown in Figure 11-1.

Figure 11-1

Figure 11-1 UbuntuForums.org Web site front page

You will be asked to read and agree to the forum rules shown in Figure 11-2. The Ubuntu Forums Code of Conduct is summarized later in this chapter.

Figure 11-2

Figure 11-2 UbuntuForums.org rules agreement

After doing so, choose and provide a username and password, along with an e-mail address. You may choose a username that is serious, whimsical, informative, or secretive, almost anything you want as long as it is clean and work/school appropriate. There is also some optional information that may be included in your registration, such as the username of another forums community member who referred you, and your time zone. When you have entered all the information, click the Complete Registration box, as seen in Figure 11-3. You will receive an e-mail at the address you entered and will need to follow the instructions it contains to complete your registration.

Figure 11-3

Figure 11-3 UbuntuForums.org account signup page

Now that you have an account, you probably want to ask a question. To do so, pick a category from the list on the front page. For example, if you have a specific issue with multimedia program configuration or your video card not working correctly, you might want to post in the section under Main Support called Multimedia & Video. Click to open that section and click the small box at the top of the list of topics containing the words New Thread, as shown in Figure 11-4.

Figure 11-4

Figure 11-4 UbuntuForums.org posting a new thread example

Topics are called threads, and individual comments and contributions within a thread are called posts. You will be "posting a new thread" in a specific subforum. You will need to give your new thread a proper title and clearly explain your question.

One of our forum staff members, who uses the username aysiu on the forums, wrote a wonderful set of instructions on how to get the best help in Internet forums. You can read his entire guide at http://ubuntucat.wordpress.com/2007/08/06/getting-the-best-help-on-linux-forums/. Following is a basic outline of his helpful advice.

When posting a new thread with a request for assistance, it is a good idea to follow these steps for the greatest effectiveness:

  1. Show that you tried to do some research on your problem. Mention the results of searching the forums or via Google, what you have tried, and the results of your attempts thus far.
  2. Come up with a thread title that accurately describes your problem. A title like "help, it doesn't work" is less likely to attract attention and receive quick assistance than one titled "Installing nVidia video driver on laptop with GeForce 9300M GS."
  3. State the important facts, but don't ramble. All of the forum community members are volunteers. Not a single one is paid to read or answer questions. You want to keep your post short and to the point, with enough detail to be helpful for understanding the problem but not so long that people get bored or overwhelmed.
  4. Focus on the problem you are trying to fix, and stick to one issue per thread. If you have multiple problems, please feel invited to post multiple threads asking questions. If you do this, each issue is more likely to be seen and answered.
  5. Be polite to those who help you, and ignore anyone who is rude. Better yet, use the "report post" function to inform the staff of problems by clicking an icon at the bottom left corner of any post that is in violation of the Forum Code of Conduct (discussed later in this chapter). If you aren't sure which icon, hover over each of them with your mouse pointer, and a tool tip will pop up for each one to tell you what it does.
  6. When your problem is solved, please say so. If the solution was posted by someone in the thread you started, please acknowledge their help. If you found the answer elsewhere, please post it in the thread where you ask your question. This will help other members in the future who may be struggling with the same problem.

Once you have a feel for the community and for how things work, please know that you are invited to help out as well. One of the pleasures of the Ubuntu Forums is that anyone who knows something is welcome and invited to assist another member. In fact, many of today's most helpful members of the community started out knowing nothing and asking questions. This community is filled with people who are grateful, most of whom are helping others solely because they themselves were once helped and a desire arose to give something back.

With time, many members distinguish themselves as incredibly helpful, friendly, and polite. Many of them are invited to be a part of the forums staff, or members of forum teams with specific goals. A great example of a forum team is the Beginners Team, which searches for threads and questions that have been asked by newcomers and strives to answer their questions as clearly and completely as possible to ease the transition to Ubuntu.

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