My son, Ryan, likes robots in the same way that I like horses.Ever since he was old enough to hold a screwdriver, Ryan's been building robots. When he was younger, Seth and I could help him with most of his robot related conundrums. Nowadays his abilities have far surpassed ours. When he runs into a problem, he needs to looks outside our house for assistance.
A couple months ago, he was struggling with a code issue and asked me if I thought it would be okay if he asked for help on an online message board. I told him that was fine, but he still seemed a little uncertain. I asked him why he was hesitating, and he said, "I don't think they like kids very much there."
I mulled that over for a moment, thinking about the message boards I visit. Then I told him, "It's probably not that they dislike kids. They just don't like kids who don't know how to behave online."
He didn't say anything, so I continued. "When you post on a message board, be sure to write in complete sentences. Use proper capitalization and punctuation and never, ever use chat speak."
"Also, before you post anything, search the archives to make sure there isn't another thread on the topic. Keep your questions very specific. If it takes more than a paragraph or two for someone to answer your question, you need to break into smaller bits."
"And remember, you probably won't get an immediate answer. People are busy and don't always have time to answer right away. No one likes the kid who cries: WHY WON'T ANYONE HELP ME?!?!?!? after just an hour or two."
Ryan waited until I was done before he rolled his eyes and said, "I already know all that, Mom."
Okay, fine. I was just trying to help.
Ryan went downstairs and posted his question to the group. A few hours later, he came into my studio with a big grin on his face. Not only had he received the help he needed, everyone had been very nice to him, including someone he identified as a high profile member of the community. He didn't actually thank me for my input, but I'm pretty sure he meant to.
I may not know much about robots, but I do know a lot about helping kids online.
Let me be completely clear about this--I love kids. I love taking them to the barn and introducing them to real horses.
I also love seeing them at model horse shows.
I'm glad kids read my blog, and I'm always happy to help them get started in the hobby.
That said, my time and patience are not limitless. If you ask big, vague questions in all capital letters, I'm probably not going to be able to help you much. Your English doesn't have to be perfect, but try be clear and specific.
Also, please, please, please don't ask me to write a tutorial about a topic I've already addressed. That is my number one pet peeve when it comes to requests for help. Nothing bugs me more than, "HOW DO U MAKE LACED REINS????"
There are two quick and easy ways to search my blog for specific information. The first is the search box in the upper left corner of the screen. In this example, I typed in the name of my favorite childhood pony.
I hit enter and bam! there's Snickers. This is a really valuable tool, and one I use all the time to find specific posts from the past.You can also use the Labels List on the right hand side of the screen to pull up groups of posts that fall into general categories. In particular, I wish newbie tackmakers would read all the Tack Tips posts before asking for individual help. Additionally, The Creative Process and Studio Buxton posts feature lots of useful photos and information, and Hobby How-To posts are great for all kinds of DIY projects.
My friend, Cindy Evans, recently wrote a really good blog post about the Generation Gap in the model horse hobby. I consider it essential reading for both adults and children.
For the record--this post is not aimed at anyone in particular, and I really hope that every kid who reads my blog feels welcome and comfortable here. I'm happy to help you, but please make it easy for me, okay?