Moodle.org forums help
The Moodle Forums are a tremendous resource. For a new user, they can be confusing and overpowering. This page will provide more details to points raised in the Moodle.org site policy.
The 3 most important things to remember: Ask your question in the right place, write a good discussion/subject title, include information that will help solve the problem, and enjoy Moodling.
- Ooops, classic writing always has 3 things that are important but enjoying life is right up there for most Moodlers.
Ask your question in the right forum
The first important thing you need to do is find the right forum to ask the question. We recommend the Forum search tool or even the "Search moodle.org" tool found on most pages in the upper right corner. At least look over the list of forums and remember there are forums in many other languages besides English or check the list of frequently asked questions categories
If you really do not know which forum to post in, go to the General help forum.
Write a subject line (discussion topic) that is a one-line summary of your question
The subject line or a discussion topic is like a advertisement. You want experts who know how to solve your problem to give you the answer. Helpful Moodlers, or those looking for a solution to a problem just like yours, do not always read every post. They do scan the subject lines on a forum. The subject line should let them know what your problem is about.
- TIP: People already know you need help because you took the time to post :)
- For example, you are having trouble locating newly created course topics in your Moodle installation, a subject line like "Help My Moodle is broken!" or "PLEASE HELP ME!!!" is less likely to encourage people to read and answer your question than a subject line like: "Moodle 1.8.4, new course topics missing."
Things to include in the content of your post
Now that you have interested Moodlers opening your post, you can speed up the process that will give you a solution by including information in the initial post. Many times a helpful Moodler will ask you for this information or make a wrong assumption. All this takes time to get the basics. In the best of all possible worlds, you want the solution yesterday, not after 3 or 4 replies that go into next week :)
Your question should contain
- TIP: If you don't have all this information, fill in as much as you can.
- The version of Moodle used (or upgraded To or From). Most important information
- The server operating system and version [e.g. RedHat Linux 9.1, Mac OS X 1.4, Windows 2000, etc.]
- The web server used [e.g. Apache 1.3.18, Apache 2.0.63, IIS 5, IIS 6, etc]
- The PHP version used [e.g. 4.47, 5.23. 5.25, etc]
- The database used [MySQL 5.0.41, PostgresQL 7.4, Windows Sequel 2000, etc]
- The version of the addin or special feature you are trying to use, if any
- And of course your post should contain your question. See heading below.
Remember to keep the story simple
Your question should be more like a (very) short story than a novel. It should be direct and to the point. Like any good report or story, tell what you did leading up to the problem, what the problem looked like and perhaps things you did to try to solve it.
Many problems have happened before and helpful Moodlers will recognize these right away. So try to keep the story simple.
- And remember, helpful Moodlers do understand frustrations, deadlines and what is like to use a program for the first time and/or not have it cooperate. If you must vent, a simple "I am frustrated" is enough detail.
Several helpful Moodlers have suggested examples of a good post.
Example of new post
Explanation of Example
The subject line describes the problem. The poster knows that other versions of Moodle did not have this problem and included it in the subject line.
This question first lists the Moodle version, server operating system, web server software, PHP version and MySQL database version. It might include information about the computer and versions of add-in modules. Some like to put this basic info at the bottom of their post. As we have said before, put what you know.
The short story includes: the events leading up to the problem, the problem itself, and a request for a resource that might help the questioner solve his own problem. Knowledgeable Moodlers with experience or insight into that particular problem may even offer solutions in lieu of, or in addition to, any available resources that the questioner requested.
How it looks in a forum list
If you are a volunteer Helpful Moodler with limited time, you will first look at the topics you know something about. "Please help me" will not be at the top of that list. In fact the "Please help me!!!" could contain the same content as any of the other 3 discussion threads.
Editing your message in the Forum
Sometimes after posting a question in the Forum you may realize that you've omitted some important information, left out a word or phrase, or made some typographical error that needs to be corrected. For the first 30 minutes after you posted your question you can simply click on the Edit link at the lower right side of your message and return to the Moodle editor to make corrections, You can edit both the body of your Forum posting and the Subject line until the time period expires.
Posting a Follow-up Message
Reply to your own message to update its content
Replying to your own message is a good way to update information or even suggest an answer to your original question.
Many Forum users read the messages using a "threaded" view. In the "threaded" view messages are grouped according to their Subject line. Each message descends from its parent message according to its date. The oldest messages are at the top of the thread and each reply is nested below the original message. When you reply to your own message and keep the Subject intact, you not only have the opportunity to change or clarify the original question (or other information) that you posted, but you ensure its position in the thread by keeping it directly below your original posting. In that position people are more likely to see your messages, read through the thread and reply to your most recent post. If you change your Subject line, the message will still be available in the threaded view beneath your original post, but that change may make the message's context less obvious and lessen the likelihood that you'll receive a helpful reply.
Forum users who read messages in a "list" view, see messages vertically descending from oldest to newest with replies descending vertically from original messages. Quite often a reader must scroll down the page to follow the replies. These message postings and their replies are not grouped by subject but stacked below the oldest messages. A long scroll down a page can make it difficult to follow a message and its replies; a long scroll down a page to a message with a new subject makes it extremely difficult to follow the context of the original message and (if you can find them) the original message's replies.
Quote sparingly from your original message
If you need to highlight inaccurate or incomplete information in your original message, quote just that specific information at the top of your message. There is no need to quote your entire original message.
There are many different ways to quote original content in a reply. We recommend the single "greater-than" sign (the > symbol) at the beginning of each line you are quoting.
- > Why doesn't the screen show the changes I made?
Some people will quote previous message segments by using italics to highlight the quote, but this method (and any method that uses stylized test) may make it difficult for people using an adaptive technology method (screen reader software) to read the message and determine what is a quote from a previous message and what is actually new information.
- Tip: If you have kept your Subject line intact, the original post will still be available in the thread or the message listing.
Topic creep - recognize when you are asking a new question
Sometimes one question will naturally lead to another in a reply post. Sometimes it is best to start a new topic and consider if the current forum is the best place to ask the new question. For example, you might ask about different ways to score a muliple choice question in the Lesson forum, but then ask about how questions are scored and graded in a Quiz.
Forum threads can be split and moved to new forums. Some Moodlers will ignore questions when they are off topic or belong in another forum.
Patience is still a Virtue so, please, be virtuous
If you post a message that needs additional clarification it is likely that there may be some additional delay before the message receives a reply. Forum readers are likely to initially skip questions that are missing important information --it is difficult to provide an accurate answer when the question, itself, is unclear. Please wait at least 48 hours before you post another message on the same subject. Please remember that Forum readers are from all around the world and the time zone differences may delay even immediate responses by 12 to 14 hours.
If you require urgent help, or have a complicated problem, you may wish to consider paid support from a Moodle Partner.
Try to resist emailing or messaging users directly
It might be tempting to email the maintainer of the module you have a question about. You are almost always better asking questions in a forum as the audience is much bigger. Remember that Moodle contributors take holidays (sometimes). And some helpful Moodlers like to answer the simple questions, so that those with more technical knowledge have time to answer the tougher questions.
However, do not worry about "clogging" up the forums or asking a stupid question in public. There are so many users in Moodle Land that someone has probably seen a similar issue and your question will help them clarify their issues, or suggest to someone they need to add some words to Moodle Docs.
Questions and comments which are rude, incomprehensible or inappropriate in a multi cultural, world wide environment will not be tolerated. In short, be respectful.
Mistakes and misunderstandings happen. It is your actions and words that people will remember, and others are no different than yourself. A brief apology is always acceptable even when you intended no harm but believe someone else reacted unexpectedly to your post.
- Tip: If you are frustrated by your experience and feel the need to rant (as we all do sometimes), please remember that these Help forums are not the place for diatribes or flames. If you feel the need to address an aspect of Moodle or the online digital environment with other Moodle users that doesn't fit into any of the Help topics, you can use the Lounge (the Social Forum) for general discussions. But even in the Lounge, civil discourse is the Rule of the Day.
Who answers those posts
The Moodle Forums are free, community-supported, resources. Almost all of the participants donate their time and brain-power to the further refining of Moodle. These resources have made Moodle an excellent and evolving learning management system.
Moodle itself is provided without license fees to the general public and the Moodle community contributes to its success.
The Moodle Forums are a tremendous resource in the world of open source community-supported learning management systems. They will continue to evolve and improve as long as all of the participants also continue to be dedicated to their own improvement and that of the entire Moodle community.
- How To Ask Questions The Smart Way by Eric Raymond, is a classic, if opinionated essay on this subject.