You may have noticed that some advice threads seem to get a lot of attention while others go relatively unnoticed. There is a reason for this. It is not because people do not like you or because of any conscious action on the part of the other members. More often than not, it is because something about the thread makes people less likely to read and respond to it. This article is an effort to help you create posts that will get noticed and answered.
The single most important thing you can do to get your thread noticed is to create a title that grabs people's attention. Most experienced members do not read every single thread. Typically, they scan down the thread titles and read/answer the ones they think they might be able to help with. No one knows everything. We all have areas where we are knowledgeable, and areas where we are just as clueless as the person asking the question. For this reason, titles like “help” or “emergency” are not likely to get read.
In order to get your thread noticed, the person scanning the titles should be able to get a good idea of the question right from the title. A title like “Why is my Oscar hiding at the bottom of the tank?” is far better than a title like “Problems with new Oscar”. Just put a little thought into it, and make sure your title asks a question, and you will find you get much more traffic to your thread. Remember also that just adding a question mark to the end of a statement does not turn the statement into a question.
Also, note that the software that runs this site does not allow any emphasis to be added to thread titles. This means that you cannot use things like bold and underlines to make your title stand out. If you try to add code to your title, it will just make your title less legible, and therefore less likely to get noticed.
Once you have brought someone into your thread with a good title, you want them to actually read through your post and respond. Nothing turns a reader off worse than poor spelling and/or grammar. This is not a chat room. The text you type is permanent, and it reflects on you as a person. This does not mean that your posts have to be perfect. Everyone makes an occasional typo, and no one is a perfect speller. Hwevr, ef ure post leeks lake thees, than at beest et weel git agnored, and at werst, eet weel git ridiculed.
If you are not sure how to spell a word, look it up. If you are really poor at spelling or grammar, consider writing your posts in a word processor that checks these things and then cutting/pasting the text into the post. Remember that computer spelling and grammar software is not infallible. You will still need to know the difference between there and they're.
Another important thing you can do to make it easier to read your post is to break it up into sentences and paragraphs. It is far easier to read a post, particularly a long one, that is broken up in this way. By the time a person finishes a long, rambling paragraph, they are not likely to remember what they were reading.
It does not take that much more time to make a post that is relatively error free. If you do it, you will find that people give you far more respect, and pay much more attention to your threads.
Now that your posts are readable, you need to consider the content. First and foremost, be as brief as possible. Give all pertinent information, but do not write a book. The time that most of us can spend online is limited. We do not have 10 minutes to spare on reading one post. Most of us confronted with a mammoth post will just move on to the next one.
That said, there are certain things that should be included in any post where advice about a fish is sought. These include the size of the tank, a list of the fish in the tank, how long the tank has been set up, whether the tank has completed the nitrogen cycle (if you know). Your post should also include test results. Give the actual numbers. Do not just say “all tests are ok”. Different people have different ideas of what exactly “ok” means. You should provide results for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, pH, KH and temperature. If you do not have test kits, most local fish and pet stores will be happy to test your water for you. Just take a sample into the store in a clean container. Write down the results so that you will remember them when you get home.
Other information should be provided when appropriate to your question. This includes the filtration on the tank, decorations in the tank, type of substrate, chemicals used etc. Here, you want to include anything that might have contributed to the problem for which you are seeking advice.
Finally, you should describe the problem. Note any odd behaviors, marks on the fish, unusual substances on the fish, disfigurations, etc. This will help us to focus on the problem and come up with a reliable diagnosis.
At first, following all of this advice may seem a little complicated, but it is really not much more work to produce a post that will get results. If you do it, you will be amazed at the difference.
- Submitted by Saluki