Hi. Today is the day I'll tell you all my best tips and tricks for troubleshooting issues, giving advice, and helping issues via Community Central Chat.

This is a pretty big topic, so I'll try to just cover the largest, most obvious points. Hopefully, through reading, you can gain insight on how to give the best advice in any situation!

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Why do we need this...?

Simple! Lots of users want to help. In fact, I can't think of more than one or two users on chat who have never so much as tried to help. However, it's said that even the road to Hell is paved in good intentions. That's not to say that road can't be changed or that pavement can't be changed to good results, though! As long as you're willing to help and willing to change your own habits, you can become just as good at troubleshooting or advice-giving as a chat moderator or admin.

So, how?

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Let's begin by looking over the most common habits of someone who gives good advice. Now, everyone has different habits, and no numbered list could begin to describe every single good user here; however, this list will compile some of their most commonly shared traits.

  1. Well-spoken. Most moderators or admins, as well as good advice givers, speak and write very well and can be understood by a variety of users, of all education levels.
  2. Rationality. When giving advice, it's impossible to stress thoroughly enough the absolute importance of remaining rational when giving advice. If someone said "Someone's got an inappropriate avatar!" your first response should not be "Eww" or "That's gross, where?!", it should instead be "Is the avatar on Wikia? If so, what is the user's username and what wiki can their username be found on?" Always think out everything before doing or saying it.
  3. No bias. Avoid bias or opinionated replies when giving advice or anything else through chat. If you have a personal conflict with a user needing advice or the wiki they need it for, politely point them towards someone else with experience and rationality. Number 2's very important here.
  4. Patience. I cannot stress the importance of patience. Always be willing to work with users and to take a little heat.

In short, you should always give advice to other users like you'd give advice on computers to your computer-illiterate grandmother (provided you love her and she's not senile...)

What should I NOT do?

This is a much bigger list -- at least, it has the capability to be. I'll cover just the main things, so you don't feel as though you are forced to overpolice your own behavior.

So, NEVER...

  1. Call names. Never call a difficult user a name, especially if they're visibly upset. This can only lead to mayhem.
  2. Be intimidating. You're trying to help, not preach or further your worldview. If the user wants another solution, think of one!
  3. Provoke others. It is always a bad idea to provoke someone when helping them. There are much more constructive ways to get information needed to troubleshoot.
  4. Ignore someone. If someone's trying to give you information so you can fix a problem, be a good listener! You don't want to be fixing it sometime down the line and wishing you'd listened to the poor chap give you a few more minutes worth of information.
  5. Make fun. Just don't. It doesn't help.

In conclusion...

Giving effective advice is difficult only if you have no idea how to begin. In reality, once you know how to approach users in the everyday chat or forum setting, you can begin the effective troubleshooting process and begin to identify and verify the problem and work on a solution. Advice-giving, troubleshooting, and helping users is a fun and humbling experience that can quickly teach you new skills and introduce you to new and interesting topics.

Keep being awesome!