So you want to help people in Ubuntu IRC channels? Great, thanks! We need people like you, here are some guidelines to help you to be a wonderful supporter...

Do indicate how confident you are

  • Use phrases such as "I am not sure, but you might think about trying . . .", "I haven't tried this myself, but I would do . . " or at the other end of the scale "I wrote that code and you need to do . . .", "I come across this daily and the answer is . . ."

Don't own the problem

  • The support problem belongs to the user, it is not your problem. You are just offering suggestions on how they might fix their problem, so don't feel bad if you can't solve a user's problem.

Do step back if someone else seems to have more relevant experience

  • If another helper seems keen to step in on a support issue, let them help the user get the problem fixed - but do observe and feel free to step in if you have something different to add, or if you think they are giving poor advice (let the user with the problem choose what advice to follow).

Don't offer to support via private messages

  • Unless the user is paying your full hourly rate for commercial services then we are doing free, open, community based, peer reviewed support, so don't get dragged in to providing a personal service (It may be dangerous if you're not sure, and we have the !pm factoid for this reason)

Don't suggest other distributions

Don't use LMGTFY, or tell users to RTFM

  • It was a mildly funny joke once, it is now old, and plain insulting. People do come for support, not to be told off.

Do point out/remind about the existance of the 'man' command

  • Also if they want further and more detailed information about a command or a program and you think it may be of help for them. "I had a quick look at the man of the program, and I think there might be some good pointers to help you with what you're trying to achieve, especially about..."

Don't read out google results to people

  • If your knowledge of the problem is based exclusively on a google search of the users question then you are not really adding much value over what the user has probably already done. - by all means use google to find reference information and examples, but do check that you are adding value to the results from your personal knowledge.

Don't forget about the Ubuntu !manual that may help new users, or #ubuntu-beginners as well

Do help people to find their LoCo team channel

  • failing that, maybe guide them to #ubuntu-offtopic if they don't have a support question and want to talk more generally about Ubuntu

Do point people to the documentation on

  • if it is inaccurate or incomplete then please edit the page, it is a wiki.

Do ignore support questions you can't help with

  • If the question is about a topic you don't understand well, just let it go. There is no need to reach out of your own expertise - in fact the person with the problem probably spent some time researching it themselves before asking and might know more than you do.

Do take a break

  • Some of our channels are very active, the questions stream in and it can be hard to keep up. We also don't expect you to get on with everyone! Pace can be hectic on other channels as well and personalities don't always match. Don't get frustrated, take some time out and return later. If you are considering a longer break and assume someone in IRC might miss you or wonder where you've gone, let a friend know or send an email on the Ubuntu IRC team mailing list, so others are informed and can fill in for you if needed.

    Also very cool feature of NickServ is that you can set any kind of metadata on your account that is visible to anyone who checks your information from it: /msg NickServ set property vacation I'm on vacation until end of June for personal reasons which displays as Metadata : vacation = I'm on vacation until end of June for personal reasons

    This can be unset with /msg NickServ set property vacation

    More information with /msg NickServ help set property

Do join the Ubuntu IRC team mailing list

  • this is for you, even if you support one of the other Ubuntu derivatives

Do help people to report bugs on

  • Either with the command ubuntu-bug <package> or by directing them to the right bug reporting link for the specific problem.

Do familiarise yourself with the factoids available and how to use ubottu

Do search through the main ubuntu forum for their problem.

  • Threads, in particular those marked [SOLVED] may have useful diagnostic discussions and suggestions in them. There are some excellent tutorials and general resources on there.

Do participate in keeping the channel clean and family friendly

Do help people to use sudo

  • The root account doesn't have a password and we don't recommend setting one, the !root factoid links to information on both how to enable the root account, and why you don't need to.

Do join #ubuntu-meta and set hilights

  • Every time something that looks like a question is asked in one of our more popular IRC channels and doesn't look like it got an answer in a few minutes metabot will announce in -meta what type of question it was, for example:

    04:36 < MetaBot> jak2000 asked a network question on #ubuntu: in ubuntu how do I assign a dynamic IP?

    If you are good at answering network questions you could ask MetaBot to "subscribe network" so that you will be highlighted when a network question is posted. More information about #ubuntu-meta and MetaBot can be found here.

PPA Guide

Some PPAs are automatic daily builds from source - these will cause daily updates for the user and may be broken at any time. This is a convenience over installing from source and can be useful for testing software and feeding back testing results to developers.

Some PPAs are run by online news websites - These are likely to have newly released versions of software which may not be as ready for general use as we would like. Updates are unlikely to be provided, so if the user installs an early buggy version of an application they may have to uninstall it to get a more reliable version from a different source later.

Some PPAs are staging areas run by software developers to get early feedback on stable releases before submitting them to the main repositories.

Some PPAs are abandoned attempts by individuals to build software they downloaded from somewhere

Some PPAs could potentially have malicious code in them

Do recommend software sources in a logical order

  • When a user is seeking a particular bit of software we recommend:
  1. Install the version in the repositories for the version of Ubuntu you have installed
  2. If that is not available, or a newer version is required then:
    • consider enabling backports and/or proposed (Do explain what these are and the risks associated)
    • consider upgrading to a newer released version of Ubuntu
  3. consider installing from a reputable and recently maintained PPA, reminding them PPA's are not officially supported (!ppa) on the channel(s) but by their maintainers. PPA archives can vary in quality, avoid recommending an inappropriate place to get software.
  4. If the desired version is in an unreleased version of Ubuntu then be very clear that the user can test it, and state when it will be released, e.g. "It looks like Precise Pangolin (which will be out in April) will have version $foo of package $bar, you might want to install that on a machine that you can use for testing, if there are any problems you can report bugs so it will be good by the time of release."
  5. We rarely recommend installing from source, but people can be directed towards upstream projects if appropriate

Don't shutdown support discussions in #ubuntu-offtopic.

  • It's still an Ubuntu channel, and we should not discourage talking about it. Instead, you could nicely suggest that a regular support channel such as #ubuntu probably will be more suitable for issue solving. You could also suggest the #ubuntu-beginners channel if they claim traffic in #ubuntu is too high.


IRC/SupportersGuide (last edited 2012-04-29 10:42:49 by alanbell1)