How to handle users that don't really read the answers they get?

Psychology question:

Imagine you get a lot of users that don’t have English as a first language.
Also imagine lots of them tend to not really read and respond to the answers they get, but repeat their initial question over and over.


How do I do x?

You shouldn’t really do that. Why do you want to do x?

I have to do x. How do I do that?

Example 2:

I want to do y with z.

y is not necessary. How did you implement z in your code?

I alread did z. How can I do y?

One way I currently sometimes use is to call them out publicly:

Please read my posts and answer the question I asked. I won’t repeat what I wrote above.

I used to do this via private message about their post, but this tended to get a lot of “How do I do x?” questions responded back via PM as these users also don’t understand the difference between a public post and a private message.

I am pretty much out of ideas how to help these people…

You can not really help people who do not read.

I agree, I had the same problem.
Every reply I post is on public topics. I do not answer the PMs of those searching assistance for example.
It’s a waste of time, because I’ve learned that a public reply can be useful to a thousand users, a private reply no.

For those people that don’t read anything (answers already given, documentations, advices etc) I prepared a canned reply, gentle and complete with information and links that may be useful, with the invitation to re-read the discussion carefully.
Obviously if the user does not understand I do not continue the discussion.

Probably that user will ignore it, but the answer will be useful to most new users who will read that discussion in future.


Yeah, I think this is a good approach. ^^

Help vampires end up burning out your superusers. I assume you’re not talking about the same questions every time – otherwise you need to deal with making that info easier to find.


If language is the problem, have you tried using the translator plugin?

Of course, there is no guarantee that it will work (though with deepl around the corner, we can expect translations to get even better), but it might be worth a try.


Yeah, the questions are actually totally fine and reasonable problems a user could have. If they followed the responses they got, the problem could be resolved quite easily I think.

This was more a qualifier to define what kind of users we are talking about.
I think translating would make the problem even worse, as they would just reply in their local language.


I wouldn’t call that “worse” but “it works”. That’s the idea with having automatic translation: people who don’t understand each others languages can talk to each other.

(BTW: shouldn’t that plugin be called Babel Fish?)


Imho the two problems (language and user that do no read) are distinct and separate.

In my experience people who do not read, do not do it for a language problem but for an attitude problem. With these users this is what happens to me usually:

  • I’ll ask you the same question as long as you do not give me the solution I want, even if it’s impossible
    (user lost - in my mind: call the morgue and close the topic before the outbreak of war)
  • I did not understand anything about the previous answers and so I give you information - useless - to show that I am seriously engaged, but I will never tell you that I did not understand the questions you asked me or the answers you gave me
    (user who can be saved but that requires a lot of attention if he/she understands that admit that he/she does not know/understand something does not mean to be stupid - in my mind: call the rescue team - aka the members of my staff who really have a lot of patience + canned reply)

For the problem of language much depends on the nature of your forum.

  • Is it a technical/support forum (dev, software, pc, electronics), or a general discussion forum?
  • How many members of your staff are not native speakers of English?
  • How many active (and positive) powerusers are there?
  • How many of them have a mother tongue different from English?

When you have clarified these points you can think of finding an effective solution.

  • Is a translation plugin sufficient to solve your problems? Then install it and see if it is useful to you.
  • Do you have the resources (powerusers and staff) to create (but mostly to keep active) categories in other languages? Then do it.