TL;DRa version: Help us help you, and fill out the whole question form.
A great many G2G questions stall, flounder, or fail needlessly. Here are some tips for posting a question that produces awesome answers right away. This guide is directed to newer WikiTreers seeking help with research and with navigating the WikiTree labyrinth. Old hands please share your advice for posting successful questions!
Who will help you? Someone who has had the same frustrating experience, and learned from it. Someone who enjoys digging up sources and facts, and who shares an interest in the family, place, or period in the question. Probably not someone who knows the full life history of the person you asked about. Sometimes you get lucky, but don't count on it. Definitely someone doing it on his or her own time, for free. Please set your expectations accordingly.
Log in. If you log in, you can get e-mail notifications of activity on your question. Also, logging in ensures that your question is tied to your member account, which makes it much easier to find later. If you don't log in, your question comes from 'anonymous' or whatever name you supply, not from your member account. A known member is somewhat more likely to get help than Anonymous, no use denying it.
Use your words. All but the simplest questions benefit from additional info. Don't try to put it all in the title - write something in the text box. Be clear and specific about the information you seek. Provide background info, dates, places, relatives, other things you've tried. If all you give us is a name, your question will stall while we ask you for places and dates. We want to help you, but we can't read your mind.
Point us to the problem. Below the text box is a field for 'WikiTree ID/URL....' It refers to the 'Name-###' WikiID unique to every profile, e.g., Jennie-8675309. Omit it, and your most likely first response is, 'Please provide a link,' and your thread stalls out. If the question relates to more than one profile, you can also use the link icon in the text box: just paste in the URL from the desired profile. If your question concerns a person without a profile, please explain why no profile, and provide as much detailed information as you can. Consider using the profile of a close relative if you can't create one for the person of interest.
Share your sources. Maybe you have already compiled copious research on the person, but have hit the wall. We have all been there. At this point, you know more about the person than we do. Share! Share on the profile. The Honor Code requires you to put sources in the profile anyway, so do it before you ask the question. Nobody likes to jump in and dig up a pile of references, only to get back, 'Yeah, I already have that.' It doesn't help you, and it wastes our time, and your thread will probably die right there.
Tag it. Put some tags in the field for 'Surnames and project tags.' This serves to attract the attention of people with similar interests. Don't overthink, just put in a surname or two and a couple of keywords related to the issue. Something beats nothing.
Follow up. People trying to help often ask for more info or for confirmation of findings. Please watch for this, and respond. If you don't seem interested, others will lose interest quickly.
Use what you get. When all that great new info rolls in, add it to the profile. Interacting on G2G is an important aspect of collaboration. If the results don't show up in a profile in the form of narrative and sources, why did we do the work?
Say Thank You. Inexplicably, far too many don't bother. Think of it as cheap insurance for getting help next time.
A true sorcerer. A footnote. But you didn’t [[a]] or <ref> </ref>. Same on you!
Wait, is that a wizard hat?
I don't think that wikicode voodoo works here. True confession I didn't try.
One more bit of advice: Avoid abbreviations and acronyms that won't be widely recognized by other WikiTreers. Everyone you know personally may recognize the postal abbreviation for your state or province or the initials for your favorite lineage society, but you can't expect people from the other side of the globe to know what you are talking about -- and someone from a distant place might try to help. Also, avoid avoid letting social media shorthand and computer code creep into your message. (For example, I can't figure out what TL;DR means in Herb's question.)
Great points, Ellen! 'Too long; didn't read.' Spelling it out seems to defeat its purpose. Edited to mitigate.
One more point: read your post before you submit it. Is the spelling correct? Is the grammar correct? Does the question make sense?
Another great point, Lynda! Based on years of experience on internet forums, I can state with confidence that that is simply too much to ask.
now, if only this post could be pinned at the top so that newcomers would actually read it. (because after it scrolls off the front page, it'll likely never be seen again)
Dennis, that is a major compliment! Thank you! I have a plan for keeping this list alive.