Help Others To Help You


In just about every hobby community there is an unspoken rule.  if you ask a question, prepare to be questioned on your question.  Sometimes, that can take the form of sarcasm and even mockery.

In beekeeping, it is no different.  There is such a diversity in experience levels among participants that it’s easy for people, especially beginners, to feel picked on.  In some cases, they actually are being picked on.

I have been involved in both Linux communities and beekeeping communities for about 20 years now.  I have to say, beekeeping communities are much friendlier.

One of the reasons for snarkiness in responding to questions is that many people feel that some of the questions are being done as so called “cheats”.  This refers to a person not wanting to do their own homework, but look over the next guys shoulder, etc… instead.

Another reason is that, well, some people are just buttheads.  For still others, the question seems funny because at their level of experience, it just seems obvious.  It’s a knee jerk reaction.  First thing that hits them sort of thing.  They don’t intend to be mean or anything.

If you’re going to ask questions in a hobby community, you have to have a thick skin.  You also have to know how to ask for help in a way that will reduce the opportunities to get sarcastic or other non useful answers.

When asking for help online, you want to give as much information as to why you are asking, describe the situation.  This provides context for the potential helpers and removes a lot of the sarcastic answers from folks who think you are not doing your due diligence and just taking the “easy route”.

This is very much something in beekeeping because knowledge is such a big factor as a beekeeper.  Many “basic” (and basic usually means first year stuff) questions are easily and most often answered in beginning beekeeping types of books.  They are the first things taught at bee clubs and covered by mentors.

When someone asks a “basic”  (first year stuff) question online, many people wonder why someone who should have already read or been told about that is asking such a “basic” question online.  This is where giving the reader more context than just a simple, single sentence comes in.

If you post something like,

“Should I feed the bees when I get them?”,

many, if not most, people will see that as a “basic” question and you will get a lot of snarky, sarcastic and even rude responses.

It is not a dumb question, just poorly worded.  It left the reader to assume you want easy answers without doing your own homework.  Perhaps an incorrect response, but a common one none-the-less.

Perhaps the question might have been given more context.

“I just bought a 5 frame nuc from a beekeeper and he told me that I don’t need to feed this hive because they had a lot stored.   I read that bees should be fed sugar syrup when gotten in the Spring.  Should I be feeding these bees this Spring?”

Now that question gives readers something specific to work with.  It fills in the blanks and doesn’t leave one to try to read your mind as to what prompted the question and what the context of the question is.  This question will get a lot fewer snarky and sarcastic answers.

With the wide variety of types of people on the web, it doesn’t help anyone to be easily offended.  Some people happen to have a sarcastic sense of humor and genuinely thought their response was hilarious, not meaning any disrespect.  Some people will just assume you are trying to get something for nothing and not be very nice at all about mocking or being otherwise rude about it.

You can help yourself out a lot by knowing how to ask better questions and not having a thin skin.  Instead of taking a snarky answer personally and being offended by it, use it as an opportunity to clarify and provide that context for your question.

A buddy of mine likes to say that there are folks who like to “tease hard”, meaning, have thick skins and talk a lot of sh*t because that’s the way their mind works.  I admit, both he and I are “tease hard” types.  We’ll give each other and just about everyone else a hard time in the spirit of having fun.  Delicate feelings need not apply.

Beekeepers are largely notorious for being a outdoors guy types.  Given the influx of a lot of new people who are women and not so rough and rugged personality types, it’s still largely a “get er done” mindset for a lot of folks.    We tend to take our course humor everywhere with us and we’re still getting used to the idea of “playing nice” with others.  Not an excuse, just the way it is.  It takes time for folks to adapt.

In the meantime, help others to help you when you ask for help.  Don’t expect the reader to be a mind-reader in order to best answer your questions.

It also might not hurt to crack that beginning beekeeping book first as well.  you might already have the answer you’re looking for right at your fingertips.


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