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Hi :)
I'm sure you already know all this and probably do it far better than i do.  It's kinda what i wish 
i did rather than what i really do.  

Generally i find that users are able to solve their own problems if they are just given the 
slightest nudge.  So, ime a good 1st response to any question is 

1.  Extremely short
2.  Friendly
but NOT detailed or heavily researched.  Users are usually pretty clueless 
about what they are asking so their initial question is often very 
misleading and answers run the risk of answering the question that was 
asked, exactly as it was asked, instead of giving the user the help they really wanted

So, to me a good 1st response to a question provides 3 things;
1.  A quick "one liner", a rough guess at an answer
2.  A link to documentation or a wiki-page 
3.  A question or few to try to find out more about parameters of the problem that they might not 
have been aware of as being relevant.  eg "Does it work when you save in a different format?"  
"Which OS or platform?", "Which version of LibreOffice" but try to make it clear that if they can't 
answer or don't know then you still want to hear from them to let you know how they are progressing 
or if they are still stuck.
4.  Make them feel welcome and comfortable and that your 1st response is likely to be followed by 

For 1 & 2 these only need to be guesses and are more about trying to get the user to give us more 
information or phrase their question better or at least less inaccurately.  For 2 the actual page 
you give as a link is not hugely important = the main aim is to make it easier for them to look-up 
issues they might have in the future rather than having to rely on waiting for answers.  If 1 is a 
trivial and unlikely answer then let them know you expect they have already tried it but that 
sometimes it's the most trivial fixes that get over-looked.  For 3 try to avoid too many questions 
because it's probably going in the wrong direction already anyway.  The aim is to get them to open 
up with a bit more description NOT to interrogate them!  

Once you settle on good wording you can generally get all that down to about 3 fairly short 
sentences, a link and 2-4 quick little questions.  Then it's just copy&paste (but modify) in order 
to quickly get 1st responses out to as many unanswered threads as possible.  I once managed 50 in 
just a couple of hours!  

If threads are old and either never got an answer or seem to be unresolved then a good tactic seems 
to be to prepare another very short off-list answer that includes
1.  An apology for not responding sooner
2.  Ask if they have figured it out or if it's still a problem or if they have a new problem
3.  Let them know it might be good to repost the question or "bump their thread" or ask a new 
question.  This is especially good i you have noticed there are good and bad times to get results 
for questions.  Let them know when is likely to be a best time.  On Ubuntu's launchpad answers it 
used to be just as America was getting up or getting home from school but before Europe went to 
sleep (even though most answerers at that time lived in Europe or Asia (or Australia))

4.  Give a link to another place that gives user support or to the generic "Get Help" page on the 
official website
5.  Give a link to documentation

6.  If it's possible to read the question in a way that gives a vaguely possible trivial answer 
then give it but really briefly and apologise because again "i know you've probably already tried 
this but it's amazing how often a ""waggle the wires"" answer turns out to fix seemingly 
intractable problems".  (something like that)

Again the aim is not to give precise detail or heavily researched answers.  The aim is to get 
responses out there quickly and "bulk-process" a LOT of threads as quickly as possible.  The aim is 
to avoid leaving people facing the scary unknown void alone.  

Often when i face a problem i might spend weeks or months or even years worrying about it but then 
when i get around to asking about it, in a forum or somewhere, i stumble on the answer myself about 
5mins later.  It happens to a lot of people.  So, even if the person asking did manage to ask the 
question they really wanted to ask the chances are that they don't need a carefully researched 
answer.  Just something quick and cheerful (unlike this post).  

Since around 60-80% of questions are solved by a really gentle nudge it might be worth mentioning 
that in a user-led community people that have found a problem and fixed it are likely to be able to 
help others.  By fixing their own problem they have effectively "earned their first stripes" and 
deserve to be  congratulated and welcomed into the community.  Many people make no effort and "give 
up at the first hurdle" (even including long-term users) so anyone that has broken through that 
first problem deserves to be welcomed in.  

Regards from  

Tom :)  

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Robinson Tryon <>
To: Marc Paré <> 
Cc: documentation <> 
Sent: Tuesday, 12 February 2013, 3:43
Subject: Re: [libreoffice-documentation] Re: Questions galore!

On Sun, Feb 10, 2013 at 1:05 AM, Marc Paré <> wrote:

When I first went to the site, I thought that it was a
site for end-users because of the highly-prominent links to books for
sale, but now I believe that the website is largely focused on
internal production. Perhaps there's something we can do to make
things more clear to regular users as well as to our volunteer

ODFAuthors have been partners with OOo and in particular with LibreOffice
from the very start.


Jean Hollis Weber of ODFAuthors is one of our most
prolific contributors on the project, we also make use of ODFAuthor
resources and goodwill. I believe it is we who should be thankful for
ODFAuthors helping us out with the docs teams and resources. I doubt things
would go as smoothly without Jean and her team at ODFAuthors who work at
quite high professional standards.

Yes, I'd previously run across the "Taming LibreOffice" website, but
didn't put the pieces together until just recently that she was the
head of the Documentation Team :-)

As far as I can remember, all that same information is already up on the Ask
site. You just have to find it. No need to go to

ok, cool.

IMO, most questions users ask on the site are
best answered there, and, IMO, I don't see a reason to work on any
user-related FAQ when the site is probably the best
of solution for a good living/breathing FAQ site.

Using the Ask site as the general FAQ as we go forward sounds like a
solid plan to me. The FAQ on the wiki currently has some overlap with
the Ask site: >

What do you guys think about migrating questions from that FAQ to the
Ask site? I'd be happy to shepherd that work, if that's amenable to

I don't think this would be an acceptable option as the FAQ is, again, used
in large part for contributor work.

Ah, okay. Most of the questions on the FAQ on the wiki seem to relate
more to *use* of LibreOffice than being a *contributor* to the
project. The contributor-specific content I see on that page is a link
to the "List of Frequently Asked Questions for Development".

These types of questions/categories seem like they're more suited to a
user-targeted FAQ:

- "Spell-checking doesn't work !"
- "What are the system requirements for LibreOffice? "
- "How do I change the email client used by LibreOffice? "

IMO, there is nothing wrong with
overlapping/doubling or information as people tend to operate in different
ways; some like to get information from FAQ's, others from Ask sites, others
from mailing lists, others from forums ... IMO, it is up to the site
maintainers to triage the information appropriately so that it is factual
(as best as one can get) for their own particular user base. To me, it
doesn't sound like a good idea to remove a contributor tool for users when
we are in need of contributors.

I think doubling could be okay if we had enough manpower to maintain
all of our web properties. As you mention, we are in need of
contributors, and every additional copy of documentation or
information requires additional personnel to keep it fresh and up to

To wit, some of the entries in the wiki FAQ are merely pointers to
other pages (e.g. the System Requirements) and seem unlikely to
change. However there are other pages, such as the information about
supported file formats, or information about the user profile, that
may need more frequent updates: (redirects to
Also see

I believe that since 3.6, LO has dropped support for export in some
StarOffice file formats, and I believe that the user profile for LO4
is stored under .config/libreoffice/4/, but we haven't had a chance to
update that information yet.

The Ask site is mostly reactive, rather than proactive, so while we do
have updated info about the StarOffice formats:

...we don't have up to date information about the User Profiles:

The Ask site contributors seem to be basing their information on
what's on the wiki, so perhaps we should put a stronger emphasis on
keeping the information on the wiki up to date. I know that's a really
big task, but it's definitely worth some thought.

   - When answering a Q, there should be a clear/easy way to ask the Doc
Team where to find the latest documentation on a particular topic

   - If "How do I do X?" comes up and we don't have (can't find?) good
docs on it, there should be an easy way to ping the Doc team about the
need [File as an enhancement bug?]

   - The text of really good Answers should be fed back to the Doc team
for inclusion in the next iteration of the documentation [Not sure if
this should be a pull or a push action]

This sounds more like a business model/plan where the people who work on the
project are considered employees and not volunteers. While this sounds like
an ideal plan, I would venture to guess that an organizational scheme of
this magnitude would not work. This would set up too many regulations rather
than opportunities to contribute.

I'm not sure that my suggestions would introduce "regulations," but I
do agree with your general assessment. In particular, I believe that
what I'm describing is a more integrated workflow, and such a workflow
is difficult without a commitment from the senior members of each team
to make sure that incoming requests are dealt with promptly. It's
difficult to get that kind of a commitment from an all-volunteer team!

We are built on a meritocratic philosophy
which is why we have seen so much growth in our dev section -- this is what
is so attractive to our contributors. Unfortunately, our other contributor
branches have not been able to keep up to the pace. It is all up to us to
trumpet the values of our project and try to attract contributor in our

A little friendly competition for volunteer talent :-) So there's no
unified approach to attracting new talent, like a Volunteer
Coordinator? It would be neat to have some coordination on how we
could suggest people to participate. I know we have the page about
getting involved (, but
someone to help with proactive recruitment might not be a bad idea.

IMO, the quickest fix for the problem at hand is still the rationalization
of the Ask site, culling the question/answers that are on the database at
the present time ... I know it is a big job ... but regardless of any fix,
you will still have to do this.

I think one of the strengths of the Ask site is the ability for users
to see a variety of questions and answers. We could consider
"curating" the site more, but that would require more users to step up
into positions of greater power and responsibility, and require some
tough calls because we can't easily combine information from two
questions into a single question. Closing questions is reversible (and
those questions are still searchable), but I'm much more cautious
about deleting content. In any case, any culling of the answers will
need to wait a bit until we've dealt with our backlog.

It also sounds like the Ask site should try
to involve more contributors on their site to help with responses to user
questions, have you tried to grow your contributor base by inviting regular
competent participants to join your ranks?

Yes, I've definitely asked some people to join us. I've also lost a
couple of key contributors. One of the issues is that the Ask site
doesn't have a unified mailing list, IRC channel, or forum for us to
cultivate a community. Our only interaction is through Questions,
Answers, and Comments (which can lead to some interesting situations,
like using comments on an Answer as a poor-man's forum thread :-)

IMO, the fact that there are different contributor FAQ's are fine, the user
FAQ is supposed to the the Ask site.

(not sure what you were intending to say here)

And yes, unfortunately, there may be
some overlapping, but the quality of answers on the site still remains the
responsibility of the people behind the Ask site.

If, when you say "the people behind the Ask site" you mean the
mods/admins, I'm not sure I agree. The quality of the answers on the
Ask site comes from how vibrant a community we create, and how
involved our senior, knowledgeable members become. The people behind
the Ask site -- the mods, admins, etc -- are already kept busy by a
lot of 'housekeeping' tasks, and some of the key members also try to
make sure that every question gets at least a cursory answer. I think
we all strive for quality, but don't always have time to give each
question the care and research that it deserves.

To compare with a similar situation, would you say that the
Documentation Team is currently responsible for the quality of the
documentation on the wiki?

Note that I am not annoyed with your questions nor with your suggestions.
But, it looks to me that you are looking for answers to the problems on the
Ask site in the wrong places. Once the Ask site is cleaned up, you may find
that most of the problems will have lessened.

But, as we are following meritocratic philosophical values on the project,
there is nothing to stop you from organizing such a structure as you
describe, and, perhaps it may be adopted by the rest of us. Put in writing
on a wiki for people to read and if you find enough contributors to run it,
then we may all follow. It may work!

Fair enough. I believe that better coordination between the
Documentation Team and the members of the Ask site could be very
helpful to the user-support process, and I'll do what I can to help
keep the lines of communication open. Putting proposals up on the wiki
sounds like a good step once I've had a bit more experience
interacting with the different teams and can formulate more complete
solutions. For now, I'll join as many lists as I can handle, fix bits
and pieces here and there, and learn a bit more about how the various
parts of LO operate :-)


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