I’m hoping this message will help RT users and admins find better
answers more quickly by pointing out the resource at hand to help them
and providing some guidance on how to ask questions that get answers. If
this is well received, I’ll post it regularly and invite suggestions for
additions (and likely structure it more like a traditional FAQ).
Finding Answers About RT
Becoming familiar with RT and the resources available to answer your
questions can be difficult at first. Frequently you get no answers or
very terse answers which don’t seem to provide enough guidance. This can
be frustrating; it can seem like no one wants to help you when quite
often they do.
First, do the legwork
There are a number of places to start your research before you post to
the mailing list or send a note to someone who maintains some extension
of RT. Here are a few searchable places, listed in order of likely
Search there for answers to your questions. Very frequently you’ll find
just what you’re looking for and perhaps more.
Ask a good question well
Good questions are clear, concise, and demonstrate that you’ve done the
legwork as mentioned above. They also show an presumption of ignorance
on your part unless you’re absolutely certain you really understand
exactly what’s going on. I’ve been working with RT for six years off-
and-on and I still learn new things … usually starting with an
incorrect assumption on my part ;]
A bit of an aside: nothing blows your credibility and diminishes
interest in replying quite like an it’s-all-screwed-up-and-must-be-a-bug
message. RT is a large, complex, mature software system and you’re
probably not the first person to want to use feature X. It’s very likely
that there are many people using that feature and they’d be happy to
help you join them
Also, choose a descriptive subject; it’s your first impression and will
determine who reads your message. Get the good bits early in the subject
(you don’t know how many characters I’ll see in my mailreader). Here are
some good ones (chosen randomly from recent postings):
Can rt users come from LDAP?
Installing RT on Fedora Core 4
RT VMWare Appliance
Show stalled on AtAGlance list?
Each of these gives clear guidance to the topic at hand. If it’s a
subject I might have unique knowledge on or a distinct interest in, I’ll
definitely make time to read it.
Here are some horrible ones (chosen randomly from long ago to minimize
As you can see from these last, I have no chance to know what problems
lie inside the email or whether I can provide uniquely useful
information. On a slow day, I might read one of these to see if I can
help. One a busy day, these go straight to the trash.
Here’s a decent framework to hang your question on:
I’m having problems properly configuring FOO. I thought I knew
how it worked, but my attempts have all failed and searching both
the wiki and the mailing list archives hasn’t improved my
understanding enough to make it work.
I’m trying to use FOO to BAR [insert concise statement of purpose]
So far, I’ve tried to [insert concise summary of the saga]
I’m using RT [version] on [OS and version] with [all pertinent
web server details like apache version, mod_perl/fast_cgi, etc.]
Can anyone point me in the right direction?
Finally, ask the right people. Generally, you should direct your
questions to the rt-users mailing list as that’s the right place for
them (and nearly everyone on rt-devel is also on rt-users). Posting to
rt-users allows you the benefit of experienced RT admin’s knowledge,
which will likely solve your problem much more quickly than any other
The rt-devel list is for development issues such as “I’m thinking of
implementing thus-and-such and wonder how I should go about it” or “I
found a bug and fixed it; here’s a patch” and the like.
While it’s often tempting to think you’ve got a bug or critical issue
and should immediately send it to rt-devel, most of the time it’s not a
bug but a misconfiguration on your part which results in a terse note
pointing this out and directing you to do the legwork (as mentioned
This may seem callous, but consider this: anyone with an
bestpractical.com email address is trying to make a living working on
RT; the rest of us have a full-time day job and voluntarily contribute
to RT as we can. None of us wants to give up precious development time
in order to do your initial legwork; conversely, we’re happy to help
once you’ve done it and still have questions.
Note that there’s an extensive treatise on the art of asking good
questions well at http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html
Give A Little Bit
If you’ve come up with the answer to a sticky problem, consider giving
back to the community either by summarizing to the mailing list or into
the wiki. That’ll help the next generation of new RT admins … and save
you answering their questions on the list over and over again. ;]
Jim Meyer, Geek at Large firstname.lastname@example.org