I've said it before, and I'll say it again: the oDesk Community Forums is there to help you. Whether you have a general question or need basic (non-account-specific) technical support, the buyers and providers on the forums are there to offer help, guidance, advice, and support.
However, as with all social situations, there are certain things you can do to get the most out of your experience – especially when dealing with technical issues.
How to search the forums
I would guesstimate that a good 80% of the threads started in the forums are from people with problems (it's just the nature of forums, not just on ). If you have a general question, or even a tough one, there's a good chance it has already been asked – and more importantly – answered before.
oDesk allows you to search almost every aspect of the site – jobs, providers, tests, help, and community.
At the top right, you'll see a searchbox with a dropdown menu next to it (by default, the dropdown says "providers").
Any search term entered in the box to the right will bring up results in the community forums. This is how I find most of what I'm looking for, and also how I am able to provide answers to those asking for help. While I do know a lot about how the system works now, I started out as a newbie like everyone else – but any time I had a question, I searched first, then asked if I couldn't find an answer.
How to ask for help
I think it's only fair to warn you that these types of posts are utterly useless and will not get your issue resolved:
Help! I can't install the software! How do I fix it???
Your statement may be absolutely true, but it does nothing to define the problem. Without knowing the problem, no one can help you.
WHAT does it not do, and WHERE does it not do what it's supposed to do, and WHEN does the not-doing happen?
A more effective post would be:
I downloaded the oPack installer for Windows. When I cliked on the download link, I selected "run". That's when I got an error that said, "oDeskSetup.exe is not a valid Win32 application"
The statement above works because it tells people what you were doing, when you got the error, and the exact error message1.
It may seem trivial, and almost silly, to have to recount your actions step by step. But knowing the exact turn of events will be the difference between a helpful response and an ignored thread.
Let's try this…put yourself in the "supportive friend" roll…and I came to you because I had nowhere else to turn.
Me: My car won't start!
You: What happens?
Me: It just won't start?
You: Is it out of gas? Does it chug when you try to start it?
Me: I'm telling you, it just won't start!
You: (frustrated) You said that already. So what does happen when you turn the key? Does it click? Does nothing happen? Does the key even turn? WHAT???
Me: Oh…I don't have the keys, my husband needed to borrow them because he left his at work.
You: <bangs head on desk>
See why it's important to know all the details up front? Every good detective will retrace their victim's steps to determine exactly what happened – it's the only way to put the pieces together to solve the crime.
That dialogue may seem absolutely ridiculous, but tech support reps and tech-savvy users in the forums experience the same bang-head-on-flat-surface-frustration when users request help but don't explain the situation properly. Save them the dents in their desks and just provide everything up front to start with!
PS: Don't take's comments as a personal affront – she provides extremely helpful information without the sugarcoating (which is more valuable, if you ask me).
1 Of course…if you had searched the forums first, you would have found that this is very common and is the result of a corrupt download. The fix for it is to redownload the setup file…