Four things Forum Posters Do That Piss Me Off

Nano’s going so-so – I’m behind, but not so far behind I have no hope of catching up at this point. But I have some thoughts on writing forums.

So, I’m on a community on Livejournal called “The Little Details” geared towards authors who need details on things for their novels. It’s neat idea, so when NaNoWriMo started, and I noticed there was a category in the forums called “Reference Desk” for basically the same thing, I started watching it for people asking questions about aviation that I could answer.

I’ve also ended up answering questions about Autism and Canada, too, but there’s been some things I’ve noticed about forum posters over the years. Not all of them, but in those sort of forums, these posts always show up, and they’re always annoying.

1: Question: That’s the post title there. No indication of what the post is about. No, I’m not going to bother clicking on it to find out, I don’t fucking have time. And these people wonder why they get so few responses.

2: I need to know everything you know about _____: Poster’s question is so general that no one knows where to start. If you point out that it looks like they haven’t even tried to start researching their topic, they say, well of course I have, I know this and this, and whatever else, and well, how am I supposed to know you already know that if you don’t say so?

3: I want you to do all my research for me: This person actually hasn’t done any research. One person went so far as to be cute and tell me to assume everything they knew about aviation was listed here. I shouldn’t have bothered to spend as much time on that one as I did – there was so much that person could have found out themselves if they had bothered to try. If I can type the title of your post into google and get the answer, you’re not at the I-need-an-expert stage.

4: I want you to write my story for me: This one’s where the author isn’t asking for information as much as asking for brainstorming ideas from the group. This one, surprisingly, gets a lot of responses, because everybody has an opinion, and I think people are flattered to be asked, or maybe there’s just lots of people who will jump on a chance to make their voice heard. I dunno. It just makes me roll my eyes.

Anyway, I think what I’m going to do is respond now with “read this and then tell me what questions it hasn’t answered.”

And there’s lots – there’s so much information about aviation that I could give, that I could spend hours typing out an answer. I just don’t have time to do that.

So please, if you’re asking for information, take your research as far as you can by yourself first. I mean, the person asking how to read a standard pressure guage in a small plane (pressure guage for what…?), okay I can understand that. But really, the world can’t be your personal teacher to teach you from scratch about aviation. Well, I could, but you’d have to pay me.

Well, once I’ve got my commercial license and do an instructor rating anyway.

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6 responses to “Four things Forum Posters Do That Piss Me Off

  1. So for people who are posting to this site it looks like the advice is:

    – Don’t be lazy, do your own research first, and get to the point where you need a gap filled

    – Ask a specific question, don’t do to a “tell me everything about…”

    – Better to ask for expert knowledge not creative writing advice

  2. Equally annoying I find are people who answer who don’t actually have any experience of the topic under discussion, e.g. people writing about the experience of living in England who went there once on holiday…

    • Well, I don’t have a problem with people writing about something they haven’t experienced. They do say “write what you know” but that only works up to a point. I don’t live in a post apocalyptic world where there are giant flying aircraft carriers or wyverns or giant eagles, but I’m sure as hell not going to let that stop me from writing about it. A writer writing historical fiction usually hasn’t lived in the time period they’re writing in, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t develop a sound knowledge of their subject material.

      The problem is when people want to write something they don’t know, and don’t want to put the effort into developing that background, and expect someone else to do it for them. I think it’s a sad trend, partly because people no longer know how to do research, and partly because of attitudes of helplessness and laziness.

      • Sorry – I should have clarified, I meant responding to nano forum topics on a subject they don’t know. I certainly don’t go in for the ‘only write what you know’ school of thought, being a writer of historical, fantasy and sci fi myself 🙂 The world would be very dull place if we all did that. I do however agree that researech is crucial and I spend a great deal of time on it.

        • Ah, yes, that drives me nuts too. Bang my head against the wall nuts.

          Though, it can be funny the odd time. Once I was asking about tesla coils. I had a story that I wanted to have the city under attack from a fleet of hydrogen filled dirgibles. I wanted to know if there was a cap on the size one could build a tesla coil, and if I were have one built in the middle of the city, and all the electricity in the city directed into it, if it could conceivable arc far enough to light the invading dirgibles on fire, or if that would be completely implausible.

          I got exactly zero useful or informed answers. There were six or seven replies, all variations of “I have no idea, but omg I want to read that story when you’re finished!”

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