Thanks to a recent post by Rhea Anthony on the osCommerce forums, I recently discovered a post by Amy Hoy regarding folks who spend their time hitting forums for help, but not returning any. In her post at http://www.slash7.com/articles/2006/03/22/s-o-s-save-our-sanity she coins the term Help Vampires.
Amy observes that Help Vampires can be the death of a community – and I think she is right. Her response?
“They’re not evil creatures, Help Vampires. They act only on their blind instinct to feed, driven by base urges like most living things. Often even they themselves are not aware of their Help Vampire status, so leave your stakes at home.
In light of these facts, I will provide information on reforming / re-education Help Vampires in addition to outfitting you with information on identifying and tracking them. If in the course of events you discover that you yourself are a Help Vampire, you will learn how to control your vampiric ways.”
Well said! She goes on to give quite a nice plan for dealing with the critters which involves a three prong approach to reforming the Help Vampire:
- Create resources for Help Vampires (and regular folks) to help themselves.
- Cease all behavior which enables Help Vampires’ vampy behavior.
- Meet Help Vampires head-on.
I would add to this one a fourth – make sure that Help Vampires know how they can help you!
Here are a few things Help Vampire could possibly bring to the table if they just thought to do so:
- domain expertise – as in business practice expertise. Many developers lack this, and would welcome input.
- positive feedback – telling a developer what they have done right helps them focus attention on matters that DO need improvement.
- send cash – many Open Source projects are done in spare time, and carry no direct monetary return to developers.
The most helpful thing a Help Vampire can do is learn and use better problem resolution skills, so here are a few links to other pages likely to be helpful in that regard..
http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html is Eric Raymond (ESR) ‘s guide to how to ask questions most productively. Widely linked to, this is an Internet classic and must read. Having once been taken to task for some slightly adult language in this page, I warn the sensitive reader to stay away from this link, and to avoid asking hackers for help….
http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/bugs.html is Simon Tatham’s discourse on how to right a useful bug reports. Having seen a few of those from the receiving end, I assure you that no matter how many bugs your software has, the reports you receive will have more. If you are going to use Open Source software, READ THIS and limit the blood loss!