Man who says it cannot be done should not interrupt man already doing it.Chinese proverb

Image:  Michael Babker comment 1-Oct-2019People who offer their help on volunteer-run technical forums are often criticised by experts—experts who, just as often, fail to provide easy-to-follow advice to novices—and it’s in this context that the Joomla! forum is at risk of becoming the last place where people seek advice.  In my last article—Drawing people together—I discussed the kind of criticism that some of my clumsily-worded tweets have attracted.  It’s extremely difficult to express one’s opinion in 280 characters or less and not attract a flood of opposition in return.

Michael BabkerWe tried to contact Michael for comment before publishing this article but he declined to respond to our request. is one of my heroes.  I’ve probably learned more about Joomla—the Joomla! project and what happens behind the scenes—from Michael than from anyone else.  Although self-described as “opinionated”, he writes with a breath-taking clarity that puts the rest of us to shame.  Every time I see his name on the Joomla! forum I make sure that I read his contribution to the issue being discussed.

Over the past twelve months, perhaps as the result of the apparent torpor with the Joomla! 4 project and the inability to breakthrough into the beta phase of development, I’ve observed Michael has become less active on the Joomla! forum.  His website says that he’s, basically, had enough.  That, in itself, is a pity but it’s not the reason I am writing this article.

In this article we will look at the effect on a self-help forum of censuring of people by experts.  We will particularly look at how the Joomla! forum is at risk of becoming redundant owing to this kind of behaviour.

jF 191003To illustrate the point, I would like you to look at the exchange shown in the screenshot on the right side of this page (click to enlarge it)https://forum.joomla.org/viewtopic.php?f=709&t=974803  In this example, Michael Babker questions the need for posting the Forum Post AssistantFurther information about the Forum Post Assistant is available at https://forumpostassistant.github.io/docs/.  It’s one aid in diagnosing Joomla-related issues but, like all diagnostic aids, the results are open to a wide range of different interpretations. report.  I was surprised by Michael’s uncharacteristic lack of composure but I understand the point he was making:

I’m also aware of how often an FPA is posted and people spend time nit-picking over details in it unrelated to the OP’s issue and completely ignoring the last PHP error (the first thing displayed) when it actually does relate to the issue.  Yeah, it’s a good tool for helping with deeper diagnostics, but unless it’s spitting out component configurations or .htaccess file contents, this is an occasion where asking for it is overkill.Michael Babker, Joomla! forum, 3-Oct-2019

The FPA report can be helpful and sometimes it isn’t.  There’s also a nice way to ask for it and there are requests to use it that are could be seen as abrasive or even threatening.  When someone takes the time to post the FPA report, I see if there’s anything that’s immediately obvious.  Occasionally, I may offer some other suggestions that I think would be helpful, even if they’re not specifically related to the problem.  I wouldn’t describe offering a second opinion, based on the FPA report, as “nit-picking”.  Sometimes people get things right and sometimes they don’t.  I think it’s only fair that people own up to their mistakes.

To be totally honest, there is only one expert in the Joomla! forum at any one time.  The expert is the person who has the problem not the people replying to them:  this is the only person who completely understands how their websites work, what software environment they’re using, how, what, when, where and why they’re doing what they’re doing and what help they really want.  People are not always able to express themselves clearly.  Our task is not to blame them for what they’ve done or demand that they change to our way of doing things; our task is to learn and become better people from it.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in a parallel universe


To answer your question how I know … it’s because I have experience.BrianTeeman, Joomla! forum, 1-Sep-2018

Unfortunately, lacking an expert’s perspicacity (or clairvoyance), other volunteer helpers at the Joomla! forum have to rely on their limited skills.  It would be nice if experts had a bit of patience with the slow-learners; it would be good if experts didn’t use the forum to stage “panel discussions” among themselves at the expense of novices.

jF 191003Lastly, in a private discussion with another member of the Joomla! forum, it was suggested that I get in touch with Brad Baker (the creator of the Joomla! forum) to discuss our proposals about the level of spam and junk on the forum.  I searched for information about Brad but discovered that his last post at the Joomla! forum was about 2½ years ago that indicated he was no longer part of the Joomla! forum management team.  What was curious, though, was the context of his departurehttps://forum.joomla.org/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=945111; a screenshot of it appears at the right of this page (click to enlarge it).

So, if people think that JAFFAAS is suddenly making an issue about spam on the Joomla! forum, I would suggest that they look over the history.  Who was it who said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it”?

Enjoy yourselves.

About the author
Michael Russell
Author: Michael Russell
Michael Russell has been using Joomla for more than 10 years. When he’s not thinking about world events, Australian politics or making sure he’s not far away from coffee, Michael helps others to make the best use of Joomla.

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Kjrsos's Avatar
Kjrsos commented: #88 15 Oct 2019 01:44
I love the Joomla forum and the expertise afforded to those of us who don't know what we are doing. Personally, I bless each one of these volunteers that give of their time and knowledge so freely to make a difference. And I want to make all the difference I can to make sure to support those volunteers in this incredible project and make sure it is there for a long time to come not just for me but for everyone. But Michael, is right there are some that do come across at times as.. I don't know the right word... hard? Almost angry when you ask a question only to find out it has been answered before. Well of course it has. I am sure most are. And of course, I have used the search function on google and on Joomla. But it should be obvious that if I am posting the question neither search came up with the right answer for me. Either because I didn't input exactly the right words in the right order to get the answer I needed or in the long list of return searches, I missed it. So why be snarky saying that if I only searched I would obviously find the answer? Or be miffed if I have problems following your instructions? What to you is easy and obvious because you work with it every day can be difficult for those who only look at the programming side of their site once every six months or year. Because that is the brilliance of Joomla - endless miles of code prewritten for us so that we can focus on content, not programming. But I also know that if we want good volunteers working on the Joomla project and forum we need to make sure that they feel appreciated and are working in an environment that bolsters them to be there and having to deal with spam all the time can't be something that makes them feel like they want to be there.
Abernyte's Avatar
Abernyte commented: #87 14 Oct 2019 19:11
This is an interesting point and I would be fascinated to know what the other large CMS fora look and feel like. I might even be motivated to go and have trawl.  We have all ( those that contribute) seen examples of replies to topics which were less than helpful or welcoming, but my overall impression is that the Joomla forum is really not to scary for a technical discussion board. I too put great store in what I see penned by Mr Babker.  It can be direct and unsettling but it is always pertinent and worthy of notice.  There were others in the past that I look at in similar regard whose names are now seldom seen in the Board but that is the way of life. The question is really,  has the board changed since social media became a thing? Are we shorter and less respectful in how we deal with others because of the type of communication that we now use? 
As I have not and will never sully my pixels with any of the offerings from Large Social Techtm I am ill suited to comment

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