Looking at various posts on DF, I note a lot of people show up on the site because of various desperate needs, of one sort or another.
Sometimes, these pleas for help are not necessarily articulate. Sometimes, the one asking for help only dimly understands the forces at work in their life. Sometimes, people ask about one issue when the real issue is something else entirely.
For the most part, the folks on DF are pretty good about rallying around these people who are in need. Usually, really solid advice and support is offered, in the course of the subsequent thread. And this is as it should be. When I see such outpourings of support and good advice, it makes me feel proud to be a member. And it renews my commitment to support this site in a number of ways.
As most of us know, sometimes it can be really, really, really hard to bring up some subjects. Even to complete strangers. We don't want to appear "stupid" or ignorant. We worry that raising certain issues will invite judgments or scorn. We worry that just asking some questions indicates that there is something wrong with us.
All of this is on my mind because some new person ("Inferno"something-- can't recall his full handle now) recently started a thread about "first time using" in which he talked about his recent initial forays into the world of meth. He got some really good advice, and, in the process, a whole universe of other issues were revealed by the OP. And these were then beautifully addressed by the regular DF folks participating on the thread.
I'm pretty sure that none of this would have happened if people had just said, "Your question has already been asked many times before. Look around and you'll find the answer to your question." Which is how some questions are sometimes dismissed by people on DF.
In this case, the thread evolved over the course of maybe 40 or so comments from something that was relatively banal into something that was much more profound and incisive than the OP probably anticipated.
I'd like to see more of this kind of thing here on DF.
Beyond the specific advice that members offer, I think people who ask such questions or who seek such help should be commended for broaching some of these issues-- even if their questions have been addressed on here a million times previously. These people should be praised for their courage. They should be made to feel especially welcome, in direct proportion to the desperation of their circumstances. Haven't we all been there?
I am sure that the reputation system was not designed with this in mind, but couldn't the system be used to give these people an extra pat on the back? I sometimes give an OP a high rating when I think something like this is in play. I'll say something like, "This is an important issue to be raised" or "The OP should be commended for addressing an important issue."
Such ratings can skew the intended purposes of the reputation system, I know. But the very fact that a slew of such ratings will appear anonymously on an OP's first question might immediately dispel some of the anxieties or fears that preceded the question or plea for help. And it should make this person feel especially welcome here.
I can't imagine that in the larger scheme of things, using the reputation system this way will skew things much. But it may have a big impact on the person seeking help.
Sometimes, I do not feel qualified to offer specific advice on some subjects. Sometimes, my time is limited and I simply do not have the time to join the thread. But, when I sense one of these situations, I can usually find the time to give the OP a few green stars and a few sincere words of praise for raising an issue or asking difficult questions. It's a very quick and easy way for people to show support for the OP without necessarily joining the thread.
Am I the only one who feels this way?
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