Discussion Posting Tips

How do we, imperfect people that we are, get a reputation for handing in perfect work? First off, some of us are better at it than others. Some people naturally speak grammatically, never misspell a word, and always double check their math. The rest of us need to ask for help.

How to Give and Receive Help

Schools often discourage getting help from other students. It looks too much like cheating. In this class, you are supposed to help each other on the discussion boards. This often makes people uncomfortable – nobody likes submitting their work for criticism. However, painful as it is, submitting your work to others for review will make it better.

Giving help is difficult too. Nobody likes a critic. My ex-wife worked for Ken Blanchard, a very successful management consultant (he wrote a book called “The One-Minute Manager”). Ken used to say, “If you are going to be critical, be specific.”

What does this mean? It means:

If the person misspelled words don’t tell them they had spelling errors. Tell them to change “works well with other” to “works well with others”.

Don’t say their “work history is vague”,  say,  “add dates to your work history”.

Say something that will improve the product, be it a resume, a spreadsheet, or a graph.

In many jobs, you are judged by your paperwork, including resumes, emails and spreadsheets. If they are important, try to get somebody else, a husband, friend, or associate, to proof them before sending them out in the world.

English usage:

While this is not an English composition class, if your writing skills are so bad as to be noticeable, you will lose points. I think this is fair as it reflects the business world. People think less of you if you can’t express yourself properly. If you writing skills are deficient, get somebody to proof your posts. I don’t expect letter perfect posts from you. I don’t take off points for a spelling error or two or an occasional awkward phrase, but if you can’t write in complete sentences or can’t express yourself without resorting to slang, seek help.

Positive attitude.

Thankfully, all the posts have been positive and supportive. When you express yourself in writing, critical statements seem much worse then when you say them out loud. I am not sure why this is so, but I have to be much nicer when I write than when I speak. Perhaps its because you can’t see the reaction of the reader to what you wrote, so its easier to go astray.

Is any of this important?

A lot of important, mission critical software is supported mainly on support forums which function very much like this discussion board. Support forums are a way of leveraging the time of really smart people who are in demand for their skills.  Support groups for various medical problems, procedures and devices often function in a similar way. If you become comfortable contributing to forums in a way that doesn’t offend people or waste their time you can get a lot of help and do a lot of good by participating. If you become the go-to tech person in an office, it may be part of your job.

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