Help Form Revision

The goal here is to make the help form more effective. A large part of the effectiveness is based on whether users will actually fill out the form.


CURRENT

Please fill out the fields below so we can help you better. Note: you must provide your domain name to get help. Domain names for issued certificates are all made public in Certificate Transparency logs (e.g. https://crt.sh/?q=example.com), so withholding your domain name here does not increase secrecy, but only makes it harder for us to provide help.

My domain is:

I ran this command:

It produced this output:

My web server is (include version):

The operating system my web server runs on is (include version):

My hosting provider, if applicable, is:

I can login to a root shell on my machine (yes or no, or I don't know):

I'm using a control panel to manage my site (no, or provide the name and version of the control panel):

The version of my client is (e.g. output of certbot --version or certbot-auto --version if you're using Certbot):


PROPOSED

Please include any domain names you are trying to certify (e.g. www.example.com), how you get your certificates (e.g. certbot (certbot --version) or cPanel), and any commands you used with their full outputs.


NOTES

  • Part of the idea here is to reduce the burden and redundancy presented to the OP to encourage them to provide adequate details
  • We can usually figure out the operating system (though not version) and webserver software by making a simple request to the server, which we almost always need to do anyhow to test port 80 response. Asking the OP their OS version in the handful of cases it matters isn't a big deal.
  • Knowing how an OP gets their certificates will usually indicate if a control panel is being used and whether or not they have root access.
  • Half the time the OP doesn't know the difference between their hosting provider, their domain registrar, WordPress, and Bitnami. Knowing the hosting provider is rarely helpful anyhow. Discovering LBs, Cloudflare, and such is often dynamic in the process (and frequently happens via Dig).
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Shouldn't there be some kind of punctuation between those two words?
[yes I am that anal]

Or follow your own style with:

Description of the situation:
(Including command(s) used and complete output(s) produced)

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Hmm. I suspect the same users who don't know the difference between their domain registrar, hosting provider, and Bitnami also wouldn't know what the words "ACME Client" mean. I think the reasoning behind asking so many questions is so that helpers wouldn't need to make "a simple request" or dig in as much to help find the user's configuration.

Maybe we need to take a different tactic here, from Let's Encrypt's general playbook of "Automate everything": Maybe we should adopt one or more of the various tools for helping understand configuration and what's wrong with their DNS/server/firewall/etc., and have the help process direct to one of those. And then, it can be more along the lines of "If you need help understanding the results, post the link with your results to the help forum along with your question about it."

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I agree. I've reworded accordingly.

We can't trust the answers that OPs give a good part of the time and almost always need to confirm things anyhow. I keep at least 5 different tools at the ready for almost every help request.

I feel like that's a good thought for a wiki or sticky, but I don't think I'd want to pollute our already bloated form with more for us as helpers to look past. One of my big gripes with the current form is that we annoy/frighten users with a seemingly-required inquisition up front. Some regulars/leaders around here like to (IMO) pointlessly beat OPs in the head with the form. OPs don't just overlook the form. They intentionally delete/ignore it because of its intrusiveness and attempt to force them to expose information in a certain fashion with much of that information being useless a good part of the time. Inquiring into that same information more gently (and with less to gloss over) is what I'm after here.

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Many times I have seen OPs come right and say either they don't want to divulge their domain name - maybe because of a fear of someone gaining access to their domain because it's not secure, or as some have said they can't divulge the domain name of their clients. It usually takes several back and forth posts to get some of them to give up the domain names.

As stated, many newbies have no idea what ACME stands for - and will not bother to do a simple search to find out. They see the word "client" and that alone is enough to make them step back and feel "clueless" about what they have to do.

Sometimes a help topic can get fairly long with many suggested solutions - only to find out later that the OP is using shared hosting and the solution gets changed.

Even a help guide can be as challenging as writing a program from the developer's frame of mind... do this to get that. Users will try something (not logical or doesn't make any sense) and expect it to work fine, but "breaks" it. So a developer has to think about what any user could possibly try - no matter how ridiculous it may seem - and try to work a solution into the program. Sometimes a help guide will cause the newbie to have additional questions. In the end, all help guides are helpful.

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... if they're the right help guides. :slightly_smiling_face:

Why won't this thing start? I installed the starter just like the Toyota Corolla manual said. Guess I'll have to call Ford tomorrow to have them check it out.

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:laughing: My DIL brought her car to dealer complaining of hearing a "thumping" noise. They kept it for 2 days the first time... and 3 days the second time when she brought it back and said it was still making the noise. On the third day they called her and told her they found the problem - she had installed a cargo net in the back and it was swinging and "thumping" against the back of the seat! :rofl:

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Stayin' alive... :man_dancing:

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