Will "the Mighty" Strohl

Participate in DNN By Asking and Answering Questions

This is the second post in a series of blog posts that will focus on ways that you can participate in DNN in some way.  Participation is incredibly important.  Without it, any community will suffer, and an open source community like ours knows this all too well if you look at the history of open source.  After all, what good is any project if no one is using it.  Luckily, we have had the luxury of millions of users, nearly a million production sites, over a thousand eco-system vendors & system integrators, and more.  We have thrived more than most.  However, like I stated before, there are a ton of ways for you to participate.  If you’re new to DNN, this post will help you help others by answering questions.

Why Answer a Question?

At the time of the writing of this blog post, we are sitting in a pretty wonderful place in terms of the number of and quality of the resources that we have available to us.  We have online help, wiki, video library, community exchange, user/superuser manuals, white papers, web seminars, YouTube channel, and more.  When I first lucked upon DNN, there was only forums (on two different sites) and the blog.  This made learning about DNN primarily a try it and break it kind of proposition.  For some, this is still the way to go, but the average user now has so much more at their fingertips to work with.  Could any of it be done better?  Sure.  That will always be the case for any site.

My point here is that people need help.  Even you.  None of us were born with the answers.  Questions are being asked.  There are plenty of folks that still need someone else to give them a bit of information that they don’t have currently.  Part of a community is knowledge sharing.  Our community has always been better at that than most.  This is what made me fall in love with the DNN community years ago!  People were participating so much and so often!

When I first was getting acquainted with DNN, I barely had my own answers – much less answers for other people.  Lucky for me though, I had a job with a certain amount of built-in down time that allowed me to play with DNN a lot.  In an effort to become as versed as possible with it, I regularly would find questions in the forums that hadn’t yet been responded to.  If I already knew the answer, great.  However, most of the time I didn’t.  I would spin up a test site (if needed) and try what they were trying to do.  Once I’d find the answer, I would relay it back to the community in the forum thread. 

This did two things for me...

First, it forced me to learn an incredible amount of ways that DNN could be used.  The architecture and extensibility for creative uses of DNN started to become second nature.  This allowed me to say “yes” to pretty much anything in meetings when someone asked if our website could do something. 

Second, I began to meet and interact with people all over the world.  I helped people.  There was a certain amount of satisfaction in giving back, but there was also the fact that I built some very meaningful and lasting friendships with numerous people in the DNN community.  There’s no two ways about it. 

This kind of participation is what got me to where I am today.  Who knows what opportunities it might bring to you tomorrow!

These days, another reason to answer to questions is to earn points in the community.  Over time, you will end up competing with others in the community, earning reputation, and more.  (More to come on that later…)

Can I Ask a Question?

Of course you can, silly!  It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been using DNN.  Everyone needs help sometime.  If there is something that you would like to ask someone about, there’s now two main ways to participate with questions.

Ask in the DNN forums.  Forums were never really meant to be a question and answer kind of discussion.  At least, that’s not how they’ve ever been built.  However, some questions require a little back-and-forth troubleshooting.  If you think your question requires a conversation to solve, then the DNN forums are a perfect place for it.

If you have a question that you feel can be answered in a single shot, then community exchange is a perfect fit for you!  This area is designed to allow you to ask a question in a way that ends up building a power knowledge base – but it is also addictive to those that want to answer questions because they are incented to get you the right answer the first time and before anyone else does!

Tell Everyone About Your Question

Regardless to which way you participate with your question, I would highly suggest tweeting your question as well to get people’s eyes on it.  Just be sure to hashtag your tweet with #DotNetNuke and #DNN

How Can I Answer Questions?

Anyone can answer a question.  You don’t have to know the answer right away either – but that’s awesome if you do.  Half the fun might be figuring out what the answer might be. 

One of the things I made sure of is to have a test DNN site ready to go when I found an interesting question that I wanted to answer.  Then, I would try to find a solution without worrying about breaking a development or production site.  Mike van der Meulen has made this easy for everyone.  He participated by building a nifty DNN desktop installer!  He aptly called it MakeDNNSite.  These days, I keep it handy with it pinned on my task bar.

MakeDNNSite Pinned on My Taskbar

There’s no rules around where and how you answer questions.  Just do your best to put forth the best answer.  And don’t be afraid if your answer doesn’t work.  No two DNN sites are alike.  Oftentimes, there are several potential fixes for the same problem.  And if your fix is missing something, the person asking will let you know.  This will allow you to hone in on the right answer eventually – or even better – it might push them just enough to discover the answer on their own.

Answer as many questions as you can and help vote up answers if you’re in community exchange.  This will help others determine the right answer.  The more you interact with community exchange, the more capabilities you’ll unlock as well. 

The DNN forums work pretty much just like any other forum out there.  However, you do also earn community points for contributing new threads and for replying to posts.

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