I provide support for registered end users of my programs. For the best results, please read and understand the following guidelines before contacting me to report an issue.
You may report an issue by posting a message to the mailing list for Second Site. You may also contact me directly. I prefer that users post to the mailing list so that other people who may have the same issue, perhaps without even knowing it, will benefit from the discussion.
You may subscribe to the Second Site mailing list by sending a message to:
To contact me directly, you can click my name at the bottom of this page. It is a "mailto:" link and will open your email client if your computer and browser are configured to do so.
- If you contact me and ask for help, please follow my advice, and disregard input from others.
The challenges associated with resolving an issue are mostly related to communication. I need to understand the issue, and I need to understand several details about your use of the program and your computer. I will guide you through the process of providing me with that information because I cannot gather it myself. If you are following advice from other people, you will often make changes that are unnecessary, and unnecessary or not, the changes corrupt my understanding of the details. Making changes that I do not request creates a moving target.
- Keep your message as short as possible, but no shorter.
Omit background material such as why you are using the program. Omit genealogical details unless they are directly related to the issue.
Do not include extensive computer details such as the specific version of Windows you are using, the amount of memory in your PC, etc. If those details are relevant to the problem, I will ask you about them.
Always include the information described in the Specific Advice section.
- Try to be precise, and use the terminology established by the application.
For example, if an error occurs when you click a button, your message should include the exact label of the button, and the exact title of the window where the button appears.
- Do not send screenshots or attachments unless I request them.
I do not open unsolicited email attachments.
- Do not uninstall/reinstall Second Site to try and solve the problem. It's rarely necessary.
There are a couple, very specific issues that are solved by a reinstall, and they rarely occur. If a reinstall is the right solution, I will let you know.
- Avoid the trap of trying solutions before you know the cause.
I understand the desire to get past an issue quickly, but throwing solutions at the wall until one sticks will often delay diagnosing and solving the issue properly. Worse still, irrelevant changes may introduce issues that are not discovered until later.
I understand that end users may not have the technical knowledge to diagnose a problem properly, but may want to try solving problems themselves anyway. If you try making changes to solve (or get around) a problem, make sure you undo changes that don't help, and keep track of the changes you have made in case I ask you about them.
Once you contact me, do not try any further experiments. As described below, do not make any changes or take other actions unless I specifically ask you to do so.
- Include the name and version of the program you are using.
I publish several programs, and it's important for me to know which one you are using.
- Report one issue at a time.
As mentioned above, solving an issue efficiently depends primarily on good communication. Adding several issues to a single email thread makes it difficult to keep them separated, and steps taken to solve issue #1 might affect issue #2.
It's usually best to choose the first issue you encountered if you are reporting unexpected or unwelcome output.
- Describe the change(s) you made or the action you took.
The action you took might be starting the program, or opening a file, etc. Describe whatever your last interaction with the program was before the error or unexpected results.
If you did not knowingly make any changes that you expected to affect the results, say so.
If you made some big changes, such as installing the program on a new computer, or switching from one genealogy program to another, include that information in your message. Do not go into great detail; just mention the change. If the change might be relevant to the issue, I will ask for more details about it.
- Describe the output (or response) you expected.
People sometimes assume that the desired outcome is obvious. It often isn't, especially to someone who is not in the same room with you.
- Describe the output (or response) you got.
It's very helpful to know the actual output (or response). It's surprising how often people report that they tried something and "it didn't work", but do not describe what did happen.
If you expected a change, but there was none, please state that explicitly.
- If I ask you any questions, please answer them.
I often add numbered questions to my responses. It is very important to answer each question. I follow a problem resolution method where I ask questions whose answers will reduce the set of possible causes. The relevance of my questions may not be apparent to you, but remember, I know how the program works.
If you do not answer my specific questions, you delay finding the solution.
- If I ask you to choose a single data item and answer one or more questions about that item, do exactly that.
When the output is not correct for multiple people (or events, etc.), it's usually best to choose a single item and focus on it: details about one item are far more useful than generalizations about several items. Resist the urge to describe several items in detail, whether there are differences between them or not. Describe a single item, as requested.
- Do not make any changes or take other actions unless I specifically ask you to do so.
People often decide on their own to make changes based on cues they take from my question(s). Resist the urge to do so! When I am gathering information, it's important not to change anything unless I request you to do so. If you make changes that I do not request, then I have to reset my understanding of the situation, and answers you provided previously may be invalidated by the changes you made.
This page last changed on 10 Sep 2018.