How to Ask a (Good) Question on GrabCAD
This tutorial is about asking a question in the best way possible so you increase the chance of getting quality answers.
There are many examples of bad questions posted every week. Let's work to improve the quality of questions asked, and answers given.
Step 1: RTFM
When creating a new Question, GrabCAD provides some advice which few people bother to read. It is actually very helpful, let's take a look at what it says:
- Research. Before asking a question, make sure you searched the archives. Research for the answer and share your research.
- Use correct grammar. Format your question as a question. Keep it short and on point.
- Make it useful for others. Make your question relevant to more people than just yourself. Avoid asking for opinions and starting discussions - make sure the questions can be answered.
- Be specific. Add all details necessary to answer it in the description. Use tags, attachments and software to make it specific for your problem.
What do the above have to do with your question? Let's see:
- Nobody wants to answer the same question every week. Spend 3 minutes with the SEARCH tool. If you don't find the answer, then post your question.
- Questions have a question mark at the end. Also, don't take "keep it short" too literally. Posting a single sentence may not be enough. Add details so nobody has to guess.
- Avoid asking for opinions is the highlight here. "What's the best program for X?" is a common question that can't be answered. How do you define "best"?
- Tags are important, if you choose the wrong tag, the correct experts may never see your question. Attachments are also important. Attach screenshots and CAD models so everyone can see, and not imagine what you are dealing with.
Step 2: Searching (Before Asking)
Before asking a question, use the Search tool to see if it has already been asked:
The same goes for model files. Spend a few minutes searching before asking for a model. An image of the search bar follows:
Step 3: Compose a Great Title
You have two goals when composing a title:
- Compel people to click, and read your question
- Describe in adequate detail what you require
Avoid generic titles. Let's take a look at some examples and try to improve upon them:
"NEED HELP" becomes: "Need Help Designing a Reciprocating to Rotary Motion Mechanism"
"HELP!" becomes: "Help me to Understand the Why 1.618 (Phi) is "Golden""
"How to make this?" becomes: "Need Help Creating Complex Shape of BBQ Grill Cover"
"How to stop the crashing?" becomes: "SOLIDWORKS Crashes When I create a 3D Sketch. How Can I Fix This?
"How to Calibrate the 3D Printer?" becomes: "How to Calibrate the Form 3 Stereolithography 3D Printer?"
Give it a try and see if you start getting better responses.
Step 4: Language
GrabCAD is a worldwide site, and it's primary language is English. If you want to maximize your audience, use English.
Sites like Google Translate work well, but are not perfect. Still, it should allow the message to be understood. If English is not a good language for you, don't guess at it. Write in your native language, then use an online translation tool.
Your audience may not have the time to translate your text. Do as much work for them as possible, then they can dedicate the time to providing a good answer.
If you only want to communicate with people in your native language, there might be a Discussion Group for your country, but you'll limit your audience.
Consider posting two languages in this format:
I am having trouble with a 3D sketch. Would you take a look at my model and help me to understand why the 3D sketch can't be used as part of the Loft I am creating?
This model was created with SOLIDWORKS 2016.
---------------- Translation via Google ----------------
Estoy teniendo problemas con un boceto 3D. ¿Podría alguien echar un vistazo a mi modelo y ayudarme a comprender por qué el boceto 3D no se puede usar como parte del Loft que estoy creando?
Este modelo fue creado con SOLIDWORKS 2016.
Step 5: ALL CAPS, AND OTHER RUDENESS
Writing in all caps is rude. It is perceived as yelling. Don't do it.
"Please" and "Thank you" added to your question make it seem pleasant and less of a demand. You are looking for help, be pleasant, and more people will help.
Exclamation marks also indicate yelling, and are to be avoided.
DON'T DO THIS!!!!!
Step 6: Grammar, Spelling, & Punctuation
I get it, this is an engineering site, not a book writing site. Still, using proper grammar, checking your spelling, and adding the correct punctuation will make your message easier to read. It will also make you look professional.
Avoid using abbreviations, and any "texting language".
Multiple punctuation marks don't help either. Do you understand what I'm saying???????
Step 7: Attachments
"A picture is worth a thousand words".
A picture helps everyone see what you are seeing.
CAD data is even better, it is like having hundreds of pictures available.
When posting pictures, use screenshots. Photos of a monitor are annoying. Also, make sure the picture is large enough to see clearly. Nobody wants to zoom in on a tiny image.
Try not to crop too much of your screenshot. You might crop out important information.
Native CAD files are the best, but can limit your audience. If you post only a SOLIDWORKS 2019 model file, only people with that version (or a future version) can open the file. Consider uploading a Step file so more people can open the file.
If you upload an assembly file, don't forget that you usually need to attach the associated part files as well.
If uploading multiple files, consider containing them all in a compressed file (i.e. a Zip file). It is easier to download a single file, then a dozen.
When uploading a file, mention what software, and version it was created with. It is often a waste of time for people with an old version of the software to download a newer version.
The above image is useless. It is very difficult to see what the part is. If your picture looks like this, include a 3D model, or better images.
Step 8: Be Resonable
There is a limit to what can be answered on GrabCAD (or any other site).
If you expect:
- To become an expert overnight
- Someone to model your homework
- Someone to post CAD data which took many hours to design
- Someone to do your job for free
- Someone to post links to free software, or books
Consider lowering your expectations, and ask more reasonable questions.
Step 9: Additional Thoughts
I try to answer a lot of questions on GrabCAD, but the quality of questions asked has been steadily decreasing.
If you want your question to be answered, start by asking good questions, and putting some effort into their creation.
If you have ideas to improve the quality of Questions asked on GrabCAD, add them to the comments below, and I'll include them in this guide/tutorial.