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Selling the FAQs
What this post won't do is try to pass itself off as official, Thou Shalt Not Be Approved If Thou Doesn't policy. Because it isn't; it's just a little advice from a friend(ly supporthelp :P ). You'll still be approved with your answers the way they are (the only bad thing about that is you'll make me cry).
Hi, guys. I've been seeing a lot of pretty answers out there on the board, and so I wanted to thank y'all for that.
I also wanted to remind y'all to please, please sell those FAQs!
I've been seeing a lot of answers out there recently that say something like, "As the above-referenced FAQ explains, you can't do FOO because BAR." Now, that's a perfectly legitimate, approvable answer. However, it does one Bad Thing that you really want to avoid: it discourages the user from reading the FAQ.
Think about it from the user's point of view: you want your refrigerator to automatically throw ice into your cup, so you write a letter to your refrigerator company. The refrigerator man sends you a letter that says, "Sorry, we can't do that, like this fifty page document I've enclosed says." Are you going to read the fifty page document? Of course not!
Most users feel the same way about clicking the FAQ link and reading the FAQs, oddly enough. The names are long and intimidating, they don't think they have time to read some missive on comments or backdating...and then if you say "The answer is no, and here's a document that says 'no' a lot more," there's not even an incentive to read.
Most of our FAQs provide similar or partial solutions to the things users ask, even though they also say, "No, you can't do it that way." Thus, there really is a reason for the user to read it--they may find something helpful, or they might just learn "Oh, that's how FOO works" and save us a question down the line.
So, instead of a glancing "as explained in the referenced FAQ," try this instead:
-First, simply say what you were going to say without referring to the FAQ. "It is not possible for you to make all your entries Friends-Only with one command."
-Then, ask yourself: Does the FAQ explain the reason for this? Does the FAQ offer nice alternatives?
-If the answer is yes to the first question, don't explain the reason yourself! Write a second sentence that says "Please refer to the above-referenced FAQ for reasons why you must make past entries Friends-Only individually, as well as..."
-If the answer is yes to the second question, pimp whatever the nifty things are that are in the FAQ. Say, "However, the referenced FAQ explains how you can make the process of making your entries Friends-Only easier..." or "However, it is possible to use a downloaded client to make this process easier. Please see the above-referenced FAQ for information on how to download a client, as well as..."
-Finally, if there's anything else you need to say, fill in the "as well as...": "as well as for alternative solutions to your problem," "as well as why making entries Friends-Only with one command isn't possible," and "as well as for basic information on setting the security of your future posts to Friends-Only" are all good, depending on the situation.
(Obviously, this doesn't only apply to making entries Friends-Only, but to every answer where your answer is "Sorry, Out of Luck" or SOL.)
Rewording this way may make a longer answer. And in answers that are already very long, you may feel tempted to gloss over a few FAQs because the other ones are so much more important. But I'm asking you to please, please, please try to at least devote a little energy to each FAQ you reference, in every response, from one-sentence "Please see the FAQ for information on FOO" answers to the one-page-long Swiss Army Knife answers. Once you get used to rewording this way, it'll only take a few extra seconds. If those seconds mean the difference between educated users who go to the FAQ first and uneducated ones who regreen because they haven't read, it's well worth the extra effort.