Every day, good-hearted people come to these sites and run into serious problems. And then you come here or to another meta site, seeking to propose a solution to the problem you've encountered... And no one cares.
- Your discussion gets ignored
- Your feature-request gets downvoted
- Your bug gets slapped with status-norepro
Sound familiar? Has this ever happened to you? Well, it shouldn't have to be this way. Chances are, people do care; they just don't understand what you're talking about. When you're super-excited to share the brilliant solution everyone needs to know about, it can be really hard to remember that you're talking to people who don't live inside your head and who need some really basic information to even begin to understand the information you're trying to convey; so you rush straight to the solution and skip everything else. Don't feel bad; I've done it too. Heck, most of my co-workers have done it; even Jeff Atwood did it once or twice. If the folks who built these sites still screw up when trying to use them, you can't feel too bad about doing it too...
...That said, you totally don't have to screw up! Meta sites can be a real effective venue for solving problems, if you just take a little bit of time and follow one little rule...
Show Your Work
Remember when you were like 5 years old, and a teacher would give you some simple math problem?
What is 121/11 ? And you'd smile triumphantly, and write down
11 and hand in your paper... And it'd land back on your desk with a big red circle and the words, "show your work".
It didn't matter that you were right. The teacher wanted to know how you were right. Which meant long division (or that weird thing with boxes if you're younger than me). If you got the process wrong, having the right answer wouldn't help - you'd just get tripped up on down the road with some harder problem.
Meta works the same way, except we can't even know if you're right unless we can follow your work; otherwise you just get a few hundred people trying to guess if you're right or not - which is hard, and tends to not go in your favor. You don't want that. You want us to follow your line of reasoning all the way from "I don't like this" to "...and that's how to fix the quality problem forever", nodding our heads and smiling the whole way.
Oh yeah - for this to be effective, your work has to actually... y'know, work. For example:
- If you wanna discuss the scourge of low-quality Xcode questions, you have to actually provide at least a few examples of Xcode questions and demonstrate how they're causing problems.
- If you wanna propose additional guidance for folks asking Xcode questions as a solution to the above, you gotta demonstrate how the guidance you propose could actually be used to improve poor ones.
- If you wanna propose forcing people to comment when downvoting as a solution to unfixed questions, you have to demonstrate both the problem (downvoted questions frequently lacking comments and not being fixed) and how the solution would address it (evidence that informative comments generate fixes, evidence that mandatory comments are generally informative).
If your chain of reasoning falls apart... Or is missing critical steps... Then your post will likely be badly-received.
Oh. There's one more little thing you might want to keep in mind...
Bonus tip: Keep it short.
If it takes you a full page just to describe the problem, chances are most people aren't gonna read far enough to find the solution you're proposing... Or they'll skip your entire post and just vote based on the title. Hope you wrote a good title...
There's a trick to this too: you don't have to put everything into one post!
Chances are, the problem has already been discussed at length before; if you did your research, you can just link to those past discussion(s) and get by with a brief summary.
If the problem has never been discussed before, or if previous discussions have suffered from not showing their work... Then maybe you should just discuss the problem and save proposing fixes for another day. Who knows, someone else may think up an even better solution than the one you were about to propose!
Fatigue is a terrible thing, both for the folks reading your post and for you the writer; if you can remember to wrap it up when you get tired, your readers will thank you too.
And on that note...