Assistance Assistance - best practices for helping out on Community Central

User blog

Hi all, I've decided (for the time being) to do a weekly blog on Community Central. This'll hopefully cover a whole host of topics, mostly related to Wikia but perhaps sometimes I'll veer off into personal things, or whatever else I feel like writing about that week. They should come out every Monday, so feel free to nag me if you don't see them.

To start this series off, I want to talk about how best to help out on Central. I've been an admin on Community Central for almost 5 years, and in those years things have changed a lot. In my opinion those changes have been really positive, and have helped Central evolve into a place to ask questions, and get answers from Staff and the Community.

Community Central is a great place to go to ask for help with Wikia, and it's only with the help of people like you who want to help out that it can be.

Thank you for helping us help you help us all

Help where you can

Lots of people on Wikia have experience with small parts, and no-one's an expert on everything, so if you're looking at chat and our forums and think "oh dear, I can't help" - that's just not true, you absolutely can help someone, even if it's not just not right now.

Be Patient

Not everyone knows as much as you do about Wikia, and some people only know certain things. That's why they're asking for help in the first place. It's important to remember that they might need you to rephrase your explanation, especially if it's overly complicated. If you don't have time, or don't know the answer to new questions - don't worry, other people may well jump in. As I said above, you can only help out if you know the answer (or where to look to find the answer) and you have the time.

Give relevant links...

A couple of days ago, I saw an answer to a question on the forums that told the user to ask staff. That's great, but they didn't link Special:Contact. People coming to central's forums may not know that you can go to Special:Contact to talk to staff - so you should remember to link there. It's also sometimes helpful to link a help page so that the user can read more about a topic if they'd like.

...but remember to answer the question

If all you do is say "see Help:Whatever" or "scroll down and you'll find your answer" - then that's not super helpful. You've obviously looked at that place to find out if the answer is there, so why not take an extra few seconds to link the exact section, or quote the relevant part of the help page to the user as well as providing the link. This means that they can find there answer right away, but still look at the help page or anything else if they get stuck.

Go the extra mile

the extra mile's down this road...
If you have the time it can be really nice if you do everything you can to help the user out, not just signpost them. For example, if someone's asking for help with Vandalism or Spam, a helpful answer is "you can report this at the VSTF wiki, but an even more helpful answer is "I've gone ahead and reported to this at the VSTF wiki - in the future you can go to that page and fill out the form to report it". This'll get the problem solved faster.

When people are asking for coding help, I often fix the problem and then link the diff of what I changed to fix it to the user. Sure, they can just check Recent Changes or the history to find it, but this means they can easily check the change and it means that someone looking at the thread later can find out exactly how this problem was solved, and perhaps apply it to their own problem.

You don't need to repeat what other's said

If everything you need to say is already said by someone else, just give that post Kudos, there's often no need to post "yeah what that user said", and that gives everyone on the thread a notification.

It's totally fine to say "yeah, do exactly what that user said and don't forget to do this as well", but just repeating others isn't really that helpful, so if you've got nothing to add this time, that's alright - there'll be plenty more times to help out in the future.

People want help in chat too

When you're chatting it's easy to forget that people will be joining chat and asking for help. Acknowledging them, saying hi and making sure that someone's helping out (or pointing them to the forums if no-one's around to help) before getting back to your conversation is quick and easy, and can stop feelings of frustration for people who are joining for the first time and might otherwise feel like there being ignored.

Glad to be of assistance

I'd like to thank everyone of you who helps out on central. As I said in the start of this blog, without people helping out, central would be a dull place where people wouldn't bother to even ask questions, because no-one's going to answer.

Is there anything I missed? What tips can you give to people to help out on central (or Wikia as a whole)?

Join me next week when I go through a few ways you can better ask for help on Wikia. Until then, I hope you help someone out this week.

The weekly Ransom
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