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I've proposed creating a new question covering what we consider "technical support". The idea is that we can use this as further guidance to users on what not to ask and how their technical support question could be converted to something on topic.

I'd like to use this question to do a few things before creating the official FAQ thread:

  • Gather technical support questions we've had
  • Explain why they are off topic, as is
  • Provide a way the question can be modified to be made on topic and still provide the user an answer to their underlying question

Not all of our technical support questions will be able to support that third bullet. I think, for this FAQ, that is actually the most important one. I'd like to focus on those questions here, so that we can give users a good set of guidelines on how to get what they need and still follow our guidelines.

Please use the answers to provide only a single question/explanation each. That will help us pick out our best examples for the FAQ.

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Case Study #2: Possible MoBo compatibility issues

This was similar to #1 - it essentially said "this is my plan; will it work/is it compatible?".

This was off-topic because it asked about compatibility of existing hardware. Again, the fact that it hasn't been bought yet is irrelevant, because it's more "I'm doing this; analyse it" rather than "what could I do, is this a possibility?".

It could be improved by a similar method to the last case. Instead of saying "I'm doing this", try "I want to do this; what hardware can I use?" In this particular case, if the question was reworded to say "I want to upgrade my power supply; given these constraints, what hardware can I use?", it would be on-topic. It's fine to say "I've considered this option", and explain your thoughts, but make sure you're not focusing singly on that and are actually asking for a recommendation.

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A meta meta question to think about:

Is the problem really that people don't know what a technical support question is? It seem likes user typically just don't realize it's off topic here, so this faq sounds like a lengthy way to describe a concept nobody's really asking about.

The rest sounds like a an old salesman's trick to avoid disappointment by selling a new user on a new problem they simply don't have. If someone comes here asking why their printer doesn't connect, it would be poor customer support to convince them to ask what printer they should have bought in the first place.

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  • I don't think it's that users don't know what technical support is. It's that they don't understand it's off topic here but sometimes the underlying question is sound. Or, the technical support is lumped in with an "or can I buy something else?" as a multipart question. We can fix some of the questions, I think, and avoid the salesman. – Andy Feb 6 '16 at 1:51
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    However, now that you've pointed it out, I can clearly see what we need to avoid and be aware of when fixing some questions. I don't want us to come across as that crummy sales site. – Andy Feb 6 '16 at 1:53
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Case Study #1: Will Dell Studio XPS M1640 recognize 500GB SSD?

This question was essentially "I have this idea and these bits of hardware; will it work?". It was closed as off-topic due to being a technical support question.

This was off-topic because it didn't ask for a recommendation of a piece of hardware. Instead it was asking for details of existing hardware (the fact that the second disk had not yet been bought was irrelevant, because the question was worded to ask about it regardless).

It could be improved by instead asking for a recommendation of an SSD that would be compatible with the machine the OP has. This would accomplish the same task - you end up with an SSD that works with your computer either way - and it makes the grumpy old moderators happy because it asks for a recommendation.

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