I was reading through one of my regular mailing lists when I came across a post entitled "How do I get my questions answered?". A Linux user named Josh had earlier sent in a question about Linux networking that had yet to be answered.

I did spend a few minutes looking at his technical question and sent off a partial answer. I have to admit, though, I was intrigued by his frustration:

I have submitted several questions to this list and have not had any
response.  Do I need to format my questions in a certain way to get a
response?  I know there are some very bright people watching the list,
because of the response some people get.

It's always frustrating to need help and not get it; Josh was justified in asking why.

I felt it was important to address his non-technical question as well as his technical one. It turned out that I spent almost three times as much time on it as my technical answer. I think it applies to many other questions as well.

Good evening again, Josh,

I'm not posting this as any kind of official representative of the Linux community; I'm only sharing my thoughts. Others may completely disagree.

Because this is free support from volunteers you're not guaranteed an answer. You knew that already, but sometimes it helps to keep that in mind.

Here are some of the ways you can raise the probability your question gets seen and answered. These are general guidelines, not specifically addressed to the question you posed earlier or the way in which you posed it.

For balance, here are some of the things that, in my book, are likely to reduce the chance that your question gets answered:

Don't let the above list scare you off. If any of the above don't apply to your situation or you simply don't know how to comply, no problem. Do what you can. I'm not going to start rating questions and saying that a given question needs to score above 30 before I'll even consider answering. :-)

The above is simply my way of letting you know that finding the solution to your problem is a partnership between the questioner and the answerer - I'm letting you know what kinds of things I'd like to see in that partnership.

One more thing. Even if you follow all of my suggestions in the first list and avoid all in the second, you still may not get an answer. We all have busy lives and schedules. If you don't hear anything, keep trying yourself. Perhaps try posting again later with new information. If you just can't get the answer you need, there are always companies that will find answers for pay: www.linuxcare.com, www.questionexchange.com and many others.

Here are some places to look when you have questions of your own:

William is an Open-Source developer, enthusiast, and advocate from Vermont, USA.