Mylenium’s plea for common sense on forums
In a recent blog post, Lutz Albrecht (Mylenium) makes a plea for people to follow some basic guidelines when posting questions to forums. Mylenium is one of the most active and helpful members on the After Effects user-to-user forum, so he knows what he’s talking about here.
His first point is near and dear to me:
Always take a detour to your manuals, help files or any web based help a vendor such as Adobe provides. Almost half of the questions can be answered this way. I will concede that it’s not always easy to find stuff, but things do get better.
Of course, in the case of After Effects, this means starting out with either After Effects Help on the Web or the After Effects Help and Support page. The former is a better starting point if you have a focused question about how to use a standard feature of After Effects; the latter is better if you need troubleshooting help or if you are looking for more broad information. (There’s a lot more information about these resources in the comments here.) Either way, both of these resources are prominently linked to from the banner on the After Effects user-to-user forum.
Myleniums’s next point is one that I want to make (sometimes not so politely) almost every day:
Don’t always first ask whether there is some magic trick, instant button or plugin. After all, part of the creative process is finding solutions with the means at hand, not fictitious tools. And that requiring your brain and man power, is part of the reason why stylish promos and effects-ladden movies cost so much money.
After Effects does make many things much easier than they would otherwise be, but the truth is still that even with the most sophisticated software in the world, making movies is hard (sometimes tedious) work that often involves stringing together hundreds of tasks and techniques to achieve the desired result. So terribly often, someone asks the question “How do I do this?” in regard to a very complex visual effect. My job is to help these people to understand that the answer involves lots of mundane details like “Learn to rotoscope” and “Use the Clone Stamp tool” and other things that aren’t nearly as exciting as telling someone to apply the Make My Skate Video Look Like Sin City effect. What I ask of the folks asking these questions is that they thoroughly read through the introductory materials and watch the video tutorials that we provide before they ask these questions. Then, the questions can become more focused, and the answers will make more sense.
For the life of it, don’t cross-post the same question on a hundred forums. The community isn’t that big and someone will always find you. If you are posting on a healthy, frequented forum, you can be sure to get some help. Otherwise it’s merely a waste of time – yours and ours. We need to keep track of multiple posts and you will need to close them up or make sense of a ton of possibly contradictory and confusing hints.
Amen. You might think that asking the same question in many places increases your chance of getting an answer, but the truth is that it causes the answers to be scattered, incoherent, and inconclusive. As Mylenium says, these are small communities; the people who will answer your question on Toolfarm overlap heavily with the people who will answer your question on Mograph. Pick the one forum that is most likely to give you an answer. (E.g., Toolfarm might be better for a question about a third-party plug-in, whereas Mograph might be better for a question about integrating After Effects with Cinema 4D.)
Never ever make any assumptions about software development being easy. Bugs are part of the game and any statements along the lines “This is an easy feature, they could have fixed it in this version.” are utterly misplaced.
Again, amen. 😉
Forum posts are not a good way to give feedback about the software, to ask for something to be changed, to report bugs, or to make feature requests. Filling out the feature request and bug report form is.