I get a couple questions a week through my blog’s comments or contact page similar to this:
“I love the Flickr widget, but how can I get it to [… do something custom…]?”
I try to answer as many questions as possible but between work and family life and finding time to enjoy my own hobbies I don’t have a lot of spare time.
Recently I was sent a contact request with a question that I had to respond to (more about that later) but in doing so I learned a few things about getting someone’s attention when asking for help.
1. First try to solve your problem yourself
Nothing else to say here. Really… spend some of your own time before asking someone to spend theirs.
2. Look for other possible solutions elsewhere
Google it. Maybe two (or three or more) approaches combined will solve your problem
At this point you are stuck and you have made up your mind to ask a blog/article/software author for help,
3. Research the author – read other posts
You’ll want to make your request personal and create a plea that they will respond to.
4. Thank the author for the article
Tell them you found their post useful and that it is almost everything that you need
5. Make your plea for help personal
Use the information you gained from step #3. Use things that you have in common. Don’t be afraid to appeal to their sense of … something…
6. Keep it succinct and to the point
Don’t waste their time. Make your email short and to the point. Thank the author, ask them for help and then tell them why they should.
Here is an excerpt of the contact request that I received a couple of weeks ago. If you know me at all you know I had no choice but to respond:
I know you are a fan of fine beers. Perhaps a trade? I’m trying to tweak the youtube playlist script that you wrote about for our new [Brew Pub Name Goes Here] website so that it will auto-play the first video and when you click any video thumbnail that video will play instead. Please email me back so that I know you’re interested either way and I’ll provide details.
From [some place that you lived before]