Free and open-source software offers many challenging tasks for you to undertake. One of them is to answer questions that newbies ask.
Offering support to newbies is challenging for several reasons:
- the problem may not have been described reasonably well
- you need to figure out the least amount of extra information you need, and ask easy questions to the user to fill in the blanks
- you have to take control of the direction of solution and make sure the user follows your steps correctly
- you have to put up with the occasional demanding user
Ubuntu offers a system that users can ask questions and have volunteers answer them. It is called Ubuntu Answers. Unlike forums, here you log in to your launchpad.net account and simply write your question. You start off with a question title, and when you click Next, you are shown with potential answers from previous questions asked and are similar to yours. Really nice.
In order to motivate people to contribute, Launchpad assigns points for every answer you give, and more points for any answer that was marked that solved the problem. This is the karma value of your Launchpad account. There is a list of top contributors for different Launchpad services.
Here are some direct links
- Current list of questions (Open, Answered, Solved, etc). You can filter on the Open questions only, and start answering.
- You can follow the list of questions you are involved in from your Answers URL, as in https://answers.launchpad.net/~simosx
- You are a new user and by some reason you receive every single question/answer sent. Quite too many users get stuck in this. You need to reset the settings at https://answers.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+answer-contact
- To view the solved questions, visit https://answers.launchpad.net/ubuntu and filter to view only Solved questions. It is good experience to see how questions are solved.
A tip to users asking questions: it is good etiquette to respond to the answers that are given to you. There are cases that a question is answered but not acknowledged that it actually solved the problem. Due to this, the solution does not appear when a someone else asks a new question.
What I recommend is to try out Ubuntu Answers. Either ask a question or help with answering questions. It is a good experience.