Providing support through Launchpad
Helping other users is a great way to make a contribution to free software projects. To this end, Launchpad offers tools to assist in the creation of a user support community around hosted projects.
Can I help?
Anyone can help answer questions; it requires only as much technical knowledge as a user has.
You will want to help with a project you know well. But you don't have to be an expert to give help: any patient person that regularly uses a particular application can usually provide good help to a new user. So don't hesitate to join the support community of your favorite applications.
Finding questions to answer
The first step is to find somebody needing help. The best place to look is in the Answer Tracker of the project you want to help with. You can access the Tracker from any page related to that project by clicking on the Answers tab.
The Answer Tracker main page displays all the active questions for that particular project. This includes not only questions waiting for an answer, but also questions that were already answered or that needs more information from the submitter.
To obtain a listing containing only the questions which needs an answer, click on the 'Open' link in the side action menu. You can then browse that list to find a question to answer.
Tip: When you leave the mouse over a question title, a small note will pop-up containing the beginning of the question content. That way you don't have to click on every questions to get its content.
Tip: If you are more familiar with some aspect of an application, you can enter some search keywords in the search box to restrict the listing to questions containing these keywords. If you are looking for questions in Ubuntu related to the Konqueror web browser, for instance, you could enter konqueror as a search term.
Replying to a question
Once you found a quesiton on which you want to provide help, click on it to access the question page. There are two kinds of replies you can do on a question.
First, if it is not clear from the description what the problem is, or if it doesn't contain enough context to allow you to diagnose, you should ask the submitter for more information. Enter your questions in the message box at the bottom of the screen and click on the Add Information Request. The person who asked the quesiton will receive a notification with your request for more information.
Sometimes you just know from the start how the user's problem could be solved. When this happens, you just enter the answer in the message box and click the Add Answer button. The user will receive an email notification with your answer. The question status will be changed to Answered letting others know that this question already has an answer.
In any event, you have the option of subscribing to the question when replying to it; it is highly recommended you do in order to allow you to track follow-ups.
Once you added either an answer or an information request, it is the turn of the user who submitted the question to give feedback. He will do that either by providing the information you requested, by confirming your answer, or by informing of new developments in the problem.
To receive the user's reply by email, you need to be subscribed to the question, and the easiest way to do this is subscribing as you reply. You can also subscribe yourself by clicking Subscribe link in the action menu.
If you choose not to subscribe to the question, you can still see that feedback was provided by looking at the Needs Attention report. To access that report, go to your Launchpad home page and click on the 'Answers' tab . You will find the link to the Needs Attention report in the action menu.
- This report lists all the questions on which you provided an answer or a request for more information that received a reply. To read the reply, you will need to visit the question's page.
Registering as an answer contact
If you know a project well enough, and would like to help its users regularly, you might consider registering as answer contact. When you register as answer contact, you receive an email notification for every new question submitted on the project you registered for. You will also receive notifications for every change made on the questions. In addition, you will be allowed to reject invalid questions (questions that are spam, duplicate, or not really related to the project.)
To register as answer contact, first go to the prokect that you want to be an answer contact of. Click on the Answers tab. You then access the answer contact registration page by following the Set answer contact link in the action menu. On that page you can register yourself (or any of the teams you are a member of) as an answer contact for that project.
Tip: Being an answer contact for a distribution as big as Ubuntu usually involves receiving a lot of mail. You may also register as answer contact only for one of the distribution's packages. You will then only receive questions notifications for those related to that application. For example, you could choose to only receive questions related to Firefox by registering as an answer contact on the page for the firefox package in Ubuntu.
If you ever find you don't have time or interest in being an answer contact any longer, you can visit the same page again to remove yourself from the answer contact list. You can also use the Answer contact for report available under the Answers tab of your home page. It lists all the projects for which you (or one of your team) registered as an answer contact. It also provides a quick link to the page where you can remove that registration.
Linking to bugs
It sometimes happens that the source of the problem described in a question is related to or caused by a bug in the software. When this happens, it is a good idea to link the question to the bug report, so that developers can know that this question is related to it. It also provides additional information to the user filing the question; he can keep an eye on the bug and see when its status changes. (Subscribers to the question will receive a notification whenever the linked bug status changes.)
If an existing bug report is related to the question, you can record the link by using the Link existing bug link in the action menu on the related question. You simply enter the bug report number and click 'Link' to record the link.
If there is no existing bug report, you can create a new bug at the same time as recording the link by using the Create bug report link in the action menu on the related question. You will then have to enter a summary of the bug report. The summary should describe the the software defect in some details. The bug report description defaults to the question's description, but it is a good idea to edit it to summarize the problem better. You then click on the Create Bug Report button to finish the process. The created bug report will be linked to the original question.