How to ask for support

Tips on how to get your questions answered

Thursday 5th February 2009
Word count
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7 mins

I'm all for giving support and helping people. It's what I'm good at, what I enjoy doing, and why I'm on the MyBB team. However, sometimes, it isn't easy and can be a bit frustrating. Anyone who is asking for support should bear the following in mind...

1. Read sticky threads

If we feel that an issue is encountered by a lot of people and a solution needs to be readily available, we'll make a sticky thread on it, and pin it to the top of the forum for all to see. If a thread is there it's because we expect a lot of people will need it. A sticky thread will contain details on what the problem is, and how to solve it. If you have a problem, any problem, always check the sticky threads to make sure an answer isn't already available. Why would you want to make a thread and sit there waiting for someone to reply when the answer is stuck at the top of the forum?? Sticky threads can save everybody a lot of time, mainly you. We don't tell you to read them for our benefit, we tell you to read them to help you. If you find a sticky thread explaining your problem, you're good to go. If not, proceed to step 2.

2. Search before posting

Most support problems that people encounter have already been encountered at some point. MyBB has a great function called 'Search'. Type a few keywords into the box, hit search, and chances are you'll find some threads with people having a similar issue. If you do, great!! You've found an answer to your problem yourself. Much like sticky threads, we don't moan at you for not searching because we can't be bothered to help you, we say it as we end up saying the same things over and over and over again, and over time, it starts to get old. Also, if you search, you will usually find an answer straight away, rather than having to make a thread and wait for someone to answer it, and I'm sure you'd rather get your problem resolved as soon as possible, even if it does mean you have to look a bit yourself. If you can find something with a search, it's all good. If not, proceed to step 3.

3. Read the MyBB Wiki.

Justin, and various other staff and community members, has created and maintained the MyBB Wiki. This is a huge resource for everything there is to do with MyBB, covering everything from installing and upgrading, uploading and installing plugins and themes, some common issues and common error pages, and many, many other things. Every user should regularly use the Wiki, as you may find out something you never knew before. If you can find the answer to your problem here, brilliant, but if not, proceed to step 4.

4. Make a support thread

OK, so you've read sticky threads, searched, and read the Wiki, and still haven't found an answer... now what?? Well, now it's time to make a new thread for your problem. However, even this has a set of guidelines that should be followed.

Make sure you're posting in the right forum. MyBB problems, plugin/modification problems and theme problems all have their own forum. Make sure you post in the right one to get your question answered sooner, and to prevent us having to move it to where it should be.

Use a clear title. A title of 'help', 'problem', 'error', 'heeeeelllpppp mmmeeeeeeee!!!!!!' or anything similar is not helpful in any way at all. We like to have a rough idea of what we're dealing with before we even open the thread, and a descriptive thread title can help with that. Also, a good title will greatly help future searchers.

Give a clear description of the problem. Clearly explain what you think has gone wrong, or what it is you're not sure about. The clearer your explanation, the quicker we can help you. If you're getting an error message, tell us exactly what it is. The errors are usually quite helpful so we can often find the solution from the error message itself. Some problems, such as something not displaying right, can be a browser issue, so if it's relevant, telling us your browser can be very useful.

How can we reproduce this problem?? Try and give us steps on how to make this problem happen to our own forum. If we know how to cause the problem or how it happened, we'll be able to tell you how to reverse it quickly.

What did you do just before the problem happened?? if we know that, we may know what could have caused it, and either tell you to undo it, or try and help you get round the problem another way.

Post screenshots. If you're seeing something you don't think you should be, or think showing us a picture will be easier for you than trying to explain it, then go ahead!! A picture tells a thousand words so posting a pic will always be helpful.

Show us your site!! Giving us a URL will help a lot in most situations as we can go and see the problem ourselves. If applicable, a test user account is always useful too as we can login to your forum and see the forum as your users do.

What version of MyBB are you using?? You may be using an older version of MyBB and experiencing an issue that was confirmed as a bug in that version. If we know that this bug was fixed in a later version, we can inform you that upgrading will sort your problem, as well as improving your board generally. Also, tell us if this is a new installation of MyBB, if you have recently upgraded (and if so, from what version), or if you have recently merged your forum (and if so, from who). Telling us this can help us diagnose an issue much quicker.

What modifications or plugins do you have?? Sometimes there are known issues with plugins that you may have installed, so if you tell us what plugins or modifications you have straight away, we may be able to tell you one of those is causing the problem, and tell you how to sort it.

What have you done to try and fix this already?? If you have tried some things that we may end up suggesting, it will stop us wasting time suggesting them, so we can skip them and we can suggest other things to try.

You don't need to decorate your post add type with bold, italics, underlined, different colours, different sizes, or centre aligned. If all of your post is formatted like this, we may just edit it out as it becomes very hard to read after a while.

Be patient!! We understand you want to get your problem fixed as soon as possible but unfortunately this isn't always possible. If we take a while to respond to your thread, or can't immediately diagnose the problem, there's no need to complain. All of us at MyBB are unpaid volunteers, and we do what we do in our free time. If we can help you, we will, but if not, you'll have to wait it out. We'll get there in the end.

5. Don't PM staff for support.

Well, not all staff. Some staff members, like myself, don't mind support PMs. However, most don't like them, and you will usually be ignored, blocked, or may receive a warning. We're busy people, all of us, and if a staff member doesn't want to be PM'd, you must respect that decision. I also don't think any staff member will give e-mail or IM support so it's best not to ask. Support should remain on the support forums, that's why they're there.

6. Is there anything else??

Er, I guess not. If you've got this far, you should have got your problem sorted, and if you follow all of these steps, you'll make us happy too :P Then when you next have a problem, you'll be able to start the whole process again.