Improving instructions for complete newbies

In a world filled with every shade of every color...
The sense of

seems more like misstated inclusiveness than an actual significant "type" [representative of anything outside of your own limited 10 day view of those that didn't fit the category you seem to represent (those that were too overwhelmed to do anything more than just read a few posts - never getting involved and never even attempting the first step in certifying their sites)]. Instead of countless, I hear uncountable.
Mind you, I do think they exist, but so do the other countless other types that won't be lured/caught/helped by a targeted set of questions.
I too have tried to rectify the shortcomings of the single dimensional help questionnaire (one-size-fits-all approach).
My conclusion was that it simply couldn't be done (that way); and that a more dynamic questioning approach needed to be used.
I had even proposed that a wizard should be written, and used to gather the pertinent information. Using a simple checkbox type format, they would be presented with only one question at a time and the next question posed would depend heavily on the answer(s) to the previous one. But that was filed away with all the other good ideas that were just not doable (at that moment - like: "Time Travel" LOL).

Wow, sorry about the lengthy drabble - hard to see how much has been written in the little box provided.


I'm rubbing off. :stuck_out_tongue:


I'm sorry that you felt like you had to test me.

Not "make/demand". Request and suggest. Perhaps a little bit of pleading.

Well, no. As previously stated, one of the biggest roles of a community developer is to listen to people. You're definitely the person who has engaged with me the most on this thread and certainly the only person so far who has reacted in a defensive manner such that you're questioning my previously stated motives. (That seems more like an interpersonal issue, though.)

I'm really not sure what that means. Could you explain that a little bit more?

You could have also just asked me to elaborate more, rather than create an environment in which an outside person reading this thread could reasonably construe that you were being hostile.

I had a discussion with my webmaster about this thread. He also acknowledged that the initial instructions he sent were not as user-friendly as the ones that Schoen wrote. In our discussion, he also acknowledged that it made sense for an organization like LE to want to work first on ensuring that webhosts and other folks with more technical knowledge could install certs easily and that documentation would be written for that audience. He also helped me see that a small webhosting service like his where the site maintainer has more direct control over the back-end is becoming more and more rare these days and most people with the money to create a website are turning to "pre-fab" web dev like Weebly or Squarespace for their hosting and e-commerce needs. In that sense then, the "like me" use scenario is actually not as average as I originally thought.

At the same time, I still think that it's to LE's benefit to ensure that any type of user who is reading the FAQ could come away with the sense that yes, with a little bit of work on their end, they could do this themselves and/or they have enough information to convince their supervisors that they should be doing this.

Dang, that's such a nice metaphor. Well done.

I'm going to point this out once, and then deliberately ignore it in the rest of your response to me. I don't appreciate your condescension and I'd like for you to stop doing it.

I'm confused here. Are you attempting to provide an example of a situation that happens here on the forum a lot and which wouldn't necessarily fit the use scenario I theorized about?

I also do that because I know a lot of people who provide technical support and I don't want to be the kind of end user they complain about.

I find that an amusing hypothetical question because I deliberately decided to learn how to drive a manual transmission vehicle after I got my driver's license because when my dad had a manual transmission Toyota Corolla hatchback, my mom could never drive his car and always had to wait for him to wake up from his naps or whatnot before she could go grocery shopping or do other errands. I never wanted to be stranded like that, so I set out to learn how to do it. And now I even have dreams about driving manual transmission vehicles.

The crux of the matter for me is: You could find yourself in a situation where you need to know a thing, so might as well learn about it now so that you know what to do when it happens.


That was useful and a very thoughtful contribution to the conversation and my understanding of Griffin's defensiveness. Thank you for that.


I guess when left to judge something without being provided sufficient context... some will always get the wrong impression.

So let me rephrase (add to) my previous post.
[since it refuses to be edited]

Here is a prefect example of what is never found, neither in life nor, in this forum:


Because no one comes here to learn.
They come here to solve their immediate problem(s):
They just want (a) solution(s); Not a full blown class - with instructional videos and a seminar on best practices and the juicy inside info on all the intricacies of their specific scenarios/configurations.


I disagree @rg305 ... This is a great example:

I love(d) this thread. It shows someone coming here for help and is willing to listen and trust the "helper"... and the "helper" listens, and is intuitive and experienced enough to know what the OP needs even if they don't know what to ask.

Both parties are willing to stick it out on the line and be honest with their grasp of the situation and ACHIEVE A SOLUTION while learning in the process.

So I challenge:

Most really don't, but some really do!


I love those topics, @Rip. :smiley: They not only result in achieving the technical outcomes, but also tend to result in truly satisfied customers with a full understanding of where they are. I always feel a sense of humility, gratitude, and mutual cooperation there. :sparkling_heart: I also tend to run out of likes in those topics too. :slightly_frowning_face: Totally worth it. Just means I need to revisit later. :revolving_hearts:

I feel like topics with 75+ posts should come equipped with a fairy fountain. :fairy: :fountain:

I get where @rg305 comes from though. We've been involved in many topics where the help-seeker can barely be bothered to click a link to a tutorial that will solve their real issue instead of what they think their issue is.


Yes, yes; No rule is without exception.
I do get the <1% that will ask the right questions and actually stick through the challenges and eventually do learn something.
And the even less frequent one that actually shows some sense of gratitude for the time and effort afforded them (completely free and by people who don't even work for the company they are requesting help from).
But we are not trying to address the (very) few here.


True enough. Lets make policy!


I can understand why someone would not want to interact much with someone who only wants answers to their specific tech situation and isn't interested in learning about why their previous conception of how LE or certs or whatnot works. I can also understand how embittered a community can get if there are too many people like that around.

Based on the responses I've received in this thread, it appears that many of the regular respondents pride themselves on being able to answer questions quickly, efficiently, and correctly. (Please correct me if I'm wrong about this.) Doing that is very admirable, especially when you come across unique tech situations which can't be easily solved. I believe that it's also to this community's benefit to treat the situations in which a respondent was able to turn the questioner's attitude regarding wanting only a solution and not caring about anything else the respondent said into learning about why the thing they wanted to do isn't feasible as a similarly admirable thing. Of course, that would mean willingly engaging with those kinds of folks and admitting that you personally don't want to do it is also okay. You can only handle what you can handle.

That's such a tough dichotomy to balance. Kudos to everyone who wants to do so and lots of understanding for those who are unable.



Upon reflection and some very wise counsel, I wish to apologize for the frankly abhorrent way that I treated you. My defensiveness and challenging, while well-intentioned, were executed with such a poor level of tact that even I'm astounded after having reviewed some of my comments. Did I hit my head on something? I really believe that you will find great ways to improve this community. I myself must step away for a while for my own reasons, so I hope in my absence that the community continues to thrive with the dedication of its great members, both longstanding and new. May this message bring you some sort of peace. :dove:

I know it's long overdue, but: Welcome! :slightly_smiling_face:


Thank you. I appreciate the apology and I think we can put this kettle of trouble onto one of the many back burners that are simmering.


Not detracting in any way from your very detailed follow-up to your basic list, I just would like to add that 80% of my visits to this and similar sites are in a fourth category: My website worked fine with a LetsEncrypt certificate, and http was properly redirecting to https, but some package update or cert expiry has broken it.

As a technical software developer for going on five decades -- my first real job was a 360/asm programmer maintaining Univac OS4, a IBM OS/MVT clone -- I find I can understand what to do and retain it for just a few days, what with approaching dementia and all. But I'm probably not your target audience.

Joking aside, I find that fixing configurations that are generating warning messages / emails is a bigger headache than simply installing and running certbot. Thus I vote for a "Troubleshooting Existing Installations" section!

Edit: I've just looked back at the thread title, and am reminded that the topic of discussion is Instructions for Complete Newbies. See what I mean about not remembering from one moment to the next?

Sorry for wasting everyone's time...


Even though this isn't necessarily relevant to this thread, I agree that it could be pretty helpful. Want to start a new thread about this idea?


@evenmoreconfused, I also agree that this could be helpful and encourage you to begin your own thread about it. Then maybe you can change your username to be "@slightlylessconfused", if it hasn't been taken. :smiley:


YouTube tutorial how to change your website to use HTTPS and how to acquire SSL certificate from Let's Encrypt made for you:


Oh, that's brilliant. I think your video is very helpful for me and (hopefully) other users like me. I wish that I'd been able to hear your Irish voice, but that's a personal preference and perhaps using the screen reader voice is more useful for accessibility purposes. By the time I'm done with my next break between semesters, I hope to have both of my websites secured with certs.


Note that your manual process isn't recommended by Let's Encrypt: they're all about automation. However, I understand that certain webhosters don't leave you much choice.

Also, note that the http-01 challenge might be easier for some people. However, it seems win-acme doesn't have a "real" manual http-01 option? It only provides semi-automatic http-01 options it seems where win-acme requires to put the file somewhere itself, be it to a certain path or upload it to somewhere. It should IMO also provide a manual http-01 step, just like the dns-01 has.


@tlrenkensebastian, here is a thread that I think shows a common issue (that we've been encountering for years) for Certbot users:

We'll have to see whether my diagnosis was correct, but the idea is that the Apache server has VirtualHost "stanzas" in its configuration, referring to the individual sites that a particular server machine serves (which can be numerous and distinct from each other).

Certbot's Apache integration is working with the assumption that the user has already successfully created a working HTTP (not HTTPS) VirtualHost for each site that will be secured by Certbot, so that certbot --apache will essentially find that VirtualHost and switch it over to HTTPS.

If users haven't done this prior to using Certbot, it will fail in some configurations and succeed in others. A particular challenge—most often under CentOS because it provides a "default" HTTPS setup with a non-publicly-trusted cert—is when people use the Apache "default" config without creating their own VirtualHost with a specified ServerName.

I think we already updated the Certbot documentation to mention this issue a couple of years ago, but it seems like people continue to have trouble with it.

That could be another important thing to put in the "preparing your site" documentation. In the draft I sent you before, I just wrote

This didn't really fully clarify what "get your site up and running with HTTP" means. :slight_smile: (for example, that you should have a distinct VirtualHost, server block, or other configuration that refers to your domain name, even if only one site will be hosted on your server!!).


Here is a more explicit case of someone not understand this:

(in this case, despite Certbot's error message and Jürgen's note identifying what the problem was!)