How To Use ChiefDelphi Constructively In Order To Reap And Sow Value

All -

A comment in one of the Alamo threads made by one of my fellow Austin area mentors, Janice Trinidad, made me think about creating this thread as an opportunity to learn how to reap and sow value in CD.

What are some of your suggestions? What are tricks that you use to find the information that you are looking for? What do you find worthwhile about CD and how do you use it as a resource to help you/your team?

We are trying to grow teams in the central Texas area, helping them to become sustainable and to set a standard of excellence as they grow. CD can help us do that because so many CD members help to set a standard of excellence in your communities and regions.

Thanks for your input.


Wow Nobody has posted yet!??

Great topic Jane

I have been a participant on CD since 2001. I started by asking questions about sizing motors and gearboxes. They were patiently answered by Dr. Joe (Joe Johnson) among others.

Eventually I entered into the larger aspects of this community, and it became more of a social thing and I was answering more questions than I asked.

For a while I really spent too much time here, and in the process got my whole family (KarenH and EricH) involved. At least we have something to talk about at the dinner table.


??? Don’t get it.

I generally just ask questions when I have them and answer them when I know the answers. I don’t really participate in the strategy discussions and the like, though.

To get a question answered, provide as much information as you possibly can (Don’t “forget” to mention exactly what motor you’re using or the fact that you’ve rebooted and reimaged the c RIO) and ask a clear question (Not “what do i do?”), and post in the correct forum (people that know about programming wouldn’t tend to lurk in the “motors” section).

The first thing to do before answering a question is to ask more questions of the questioner. YOU MUST DO THIS. If you can’t find a good question to ask, ask a question they already answered. Wait oops, that was the troll manual…

Thanks for your response, Chris. :slight_smile:

Here’s a couple of thoughts - when I joined CD, it was out of desperation. I was looking for people who understood my questions and could provide answers. I was looking for a community. In many areas that I am interested in - the bigger picture, team/community development, sustainability, business plans, making the work for awards count for something beside the bling - I felt isolated and alone. Through CD, I found others who understood and could mentor me in those areas and in other areas that I was introduced to or stumbled upon.

Lurking in CD was easy. I spent a long time doing that. Then I took the plunge and began posting. I had never been a part of a web forum before and didn’t know how to do the simplest tasks. Students, mentors, parents, and moderators helped me learn how to participate as a member of CD and I’ve been grateful ever since. My post count shows that gratitude. :slight_smile:

What I’m thinking is that as new areas begin to develop and new teams form, the potential members may have questions like mine:

How do I upload a paper? How do I upload a photo? How do I edit my post? Where do I post a new thread? How do I search?

A lot of this can be explained in the FAQ, true - but having a thread to help guide/direct members who are not quite sure how to use CD as a tool or resource or for mentoring - would ease a lot of doubts, concern, and shyness.

That’s why I created this thread. It could be an adventurous guide into the world of CD - complete with stories, anecdotes, and wisdom… if we would like for it to be. Another way of welcoming members to the community.


I think of utilities like ChiefDelphi as equivalent to a lesson.

You’ll get as much out of a lesson with a professional as much as YOU want. If you hinder yourself by not practicing or not knowing the notes, you’ll spend the lesson learning notes. If you get your homework done, you’ll start deconstructing the harmonies and start getting in to the NEXT level of things at the lesson.

Likewise, ChiefDelphi, I believe, will become as useful as you WANT. That means using its utilities correctly, it means being respectful, it also means doing your homework before posting here. If it’s an obvious rule stated in the hand book, really, you should’ve known about it if you’re asking about it.

On searching:

Well, do it. Whether you’re looking for help, or looking for history, it works. And the more experienced Chief Delphi member will be less likely to yell at you to get off their lawn.

Remember, the search function does not know what you want. You may want to start specific (Kettering rookie regional 2008 pictures), but most times this won’t work too well. Other times you may go a bit too general (kettering pictures), and this is just as difficult.

I like to start at the former end of the spectrum, using copious amounts of synonyms before moving to more generalised search terms (pictures = photos = photographs). If this doesn’t work, you’ll want to find threads relating to your topic, and see if the CD users went off on a tangent towards your topic. It may be worth searching CD-Media if your topic may be white-paper-able.

And, if ALL ELSE fails, you may want to start a thread to ask a question. if you do so, provide background information! mention that you searched, tell what you already know about the topic, and people will be more open to helping you.

I’ve found that Google often does a more competent job of searching CD than the search engine built into vBulletin. Just add to the Google search box along with your search phrases or keywords.


I met a mentor from 980 that saw my posts on CD, very interesting because the team he mentored ended up being pitted against us in the Quarter Finals and that the schools the team represented were our rivals. It was very interesting, because he managed to being rival schools together. I honestly enjoyed the experience even though I slept less than 4 hours every night trying to fix code…

It’s been brought to my attention that my title may be confusing because I placed reap ahead of sow. One must sow seeds in order to harvest or reap. This is true but, in this case, I placed reap ahead of sow for a reason. Here’s the reason:

If one is new to an experience and uncertain as to the depth of their know-how, wisdom, knowledgeable applications, expertise - and there is a place that is teeming with it but the person/team isn’t quite sure how to tap into that and use the resources available - then they have to learn to reap. When they have learned to reap: use CD-Media, search, the different forums, edit, learn how to discuss topics appropriately - then they can become efficient in sowing.

My thinking is - why waste seeds? We see a lot wasted seeds in CD that have been scattered carelessly or hastily. Here’s an opportunity to help them take root.

So, that’s the thinking behind the reap before sow = cart before horse.


In order to reap or sow, Chiefdelphi needs to exist and regularly contributing to its operations is important. Donations can be at this page…

Beyond that, try to make your posts constructive. They should add to the base of knowledge already present on these forums. Well constructed questions and answers bring value to the readers. Unsupported or repetitive statements detract from the value.

When you post on CD, review your post before you hit submit. Check your spelling and grammar, ask yourself if you are adding to the discussion before you submit. It will go along way towards maintaining your credibility and improving your reputation. There are some posters on CD that I will read everyone of their posts because I know they very likely contain something I need to know or think about, and that is because of their reputation from past postings.

Finally, I like to have CD-SPY running in a separate tab to keep an eye out for an interesting thread or response to a posts, it also keeps you logged in when you are taking a long time reading a thread.

How to run CD-SPY

How to Preview your post before you submit it

How to Edit post (like I am doing right now)

Reaping, sowing, and agricultural analogies to CD content explained.

If you were to walk into an orchard, the fruit there would probably be recognizable, so after a quick glance around to find a good specimen, your trip could have a rapid, edible reward. Stopping in at a corn field could cause someone unfamiliar with the ears to wonder if there were anything edible to be had among those numerous tall stalks. If a wheat field is visited, I submit that there is a very small percentage of people that would recognize the major source of nutrition for the world. Who could guess that those tiny bumps with whiskers are useful at all? They aren’t immediately edible and require significant processing to become nutritional source material.

Available on CD are apples, oranges, corn and wheat in varying degrees of abundance. However, just as you would not expect to raise your hands skyward and shout “Feed me!” at the clouds, you will do a lot better nourishing your FIRST psyche if you learn to recognize the places and methods used here to convey knowledge, speculation, and fun related to robotics activities.

As Harold Hill says in “The Music Man”, You’ve gotta know the territory. For instance, if you haven’t tried clicking through each of the ten items in the orange bar above, you are most assuredly missing some fundamental knowledge about how CD is organized. There are three of them that sport a small white triangle next to the black word as linkage signal. That’s your sign that there are refinements to the linking that can be made.

Of the ten, I consider the one called “search” to be the most important for using CD effectively. When you click there, a small box appears into which you enter some words or click on the scary-sounding “Advanced Search”. It’s not obvious at first that there is a link there for some reason. It’s not a secret spot you will reach by clicking there, but rather, a place where you can give a larger group of refinements to your search.

The advanced search page is distressingly devoid of explanation or cogent directions. It can even collapse into a two-place specifier that might make you wonder why it deserves to be called advanced. At the far right of the “search options” bar is a tiny icon that can expand the options section when clicked. If you don’t see significant stuff between “search options” and “search now”, you need to click that little blue devil on the right side. You can think of it as uncovering carrots, potatoes or peanuts.

Everyone using CD should have working knowledge of how search and all of its options works. If you can’t look at each of the fields on the advanced search page and have a mental picture of the kind of result it will generate, you need to keep experimenting with searching until you do have that picture. I wish there were more explanation about searching on that advanced page so that it would be more user friendly for newer users.

If you look at the search options, you will see on the right, a concise outline of the names of the forums here on CD. These are the places in which you can concentrate your searches. If I were king of CD, I’d have topics and threads summarily moved to their “proper” forum based on their content, but as you can surmise, there is no guarantee you will find all information posted about programming to be found in the programming forum.

One of the lines on that choices list is “search subscribed forums”. This opens up what I consider to be the next most important feature of CD, and a topic for another post.

I was asked how to give a rep. This is what I said:

In each post on the right hand side are 4 icons. (I’m including the post # in that.) The 2nd one from the left is the scales. Click on that and it will provide a small screen where you can give positive, neutral, or negative. It is automatically set on neutral so you have to move it up for positive or down for negative. For a little while until you make more posts, the color of your reps that you give will be gray (the neutral color). After a few posts, they will turn green and will begin to count. I can explain uses for neutral or negative if you would like for me to.

I also talked about the spotlight feature and the icon used to alert mods:

The spotlight to the right of the scales is to spotlight a section of a post that you approve of and would like to see spotlit.
If you look up at the top of the page in CD, you’ll see quotes. Those have been spotlit. If you follow them to the page icon on the left of the quote and click on that page, it will lead you to the post the quote is taken from.

To the right of the spotlight is a triangle. That is for spam, advertising, etc. Use that very sparingly and only if you are comfortable reporting a post. If you click that triangle and send a report, it goes to an e-mail that goes out to all of the moderators in that forum. That is why it must be used sparingly and correctly so we don’t spam them with spam.


The people found on this page generally know what they’re talking about. Especially if you’re new to these forums, don’t try to spend a lot of time proving them wrong.

About reputation - don’t rely on it blindly. Sometimes it’s just an indicator of having been around CD for a while; sometimes it just means the user had a particularly popular Unofficial Caption Contest entry.

About disclaimers - no matter how many you make or in what method you make them, you’re still a representative of your team, your school, your place of business, yourself. In a few isolated cases, this may be overlooked by the general CD public, but these are reserved only for the most revered individuals.

Thanks for these tips. I was looking for a short list of strong contributors.

vBulletin does not index any words of 3 characters or shorter, so a search on “FRC 111” would yield nothing (or everything?). [EDIT: Tried it and did not get ‘bad’ results. The default index word length can be changed, and I suppose Brandon did]

Unless you have reliable, verifiable links to resources that prove us wrong. We love when you can do that!

If you can answer a question and KNOW your are correct, then do so. But if you are not sure, either do the research and prove it, or DON’T POST. Bad information is far more harmful than no information.

If you have a question, search. It is a lot faster, and if you’re any good with searching, you’ll find what you need 99.9% of the time.

For the other 0.1%, ask a lucid, organized and complete question, using proper language. Provide as much info as you “know”, and be sure to label guesses or speculation as that.

Doing this will greatly increase the value of the very wonderful resource here on ChiefDelphi: The people.

**Example: **If I needed really detailed info that a good search revealed doesn’t exist on, say, space exploration, I can go ask THE “Program Executive for Solar System Exploration” at NASA. Himself. And he will actually read my question and formulate an intelligent, well-thought-out answer for me, including references to more info.

Where else can you do that?

I am still in awe of the massed brainpower here.

Nice thread Jane, thanks.:slight_smile:

I highly recommend CD-Spy as RSISK mentioned. Scanning the threads can be extremely enlightening as I have often learned things I did not know that I did not know (Hope I did not sound like Don Rumsfeld). If it has been a while since I checked I will go to New Posts (in the orange below CD-Spy) to see farther back.

Here is a good place to go (if you did not start there) if you want to browse by subject.

I have also enjoyed reading the spotlit quotes as Jane mentioned by clicking on “More” to the right of the quote as they are usually quite insightful or funny.

Ask specific questions.
Bookmark threads of value.
Read a whole bunch of stuff. Go back into the archives and read threads.

Combine chief delphi with Evernoteand you’ll practically have an encyclopedia of gold nuggets after some time. Evernote is nice because it has browser plugins that say “save selected text to evernote”, which it does with the original formatting, pictures, and links.

I pay attention to certain people when they post. Sure, I’ll scan through most posts without fully reading them, especially ones that are long and don’t seem to have a point in the first few sentences. Keep in mind, many many engineers are very dry communicators. Yet there are some people who have many words of wisdom that are rarely far from actuality for any team, regardless of circumstance. Learn who those people are, and pay attention to them. Don’t hinge on every work they say (use common sense) though.

Of course, there’s always the “catalyze and argument” approach, which works on occasion. I haven’t made many friends with it, but it will get people out of their “I don’t want to tell you how I’m feeling so I’m going to say something that implies it yet I won’t confirm or deny what I’m implying is how I feel” modes and into a more direct lines of thought. Apply patience, understanding an voila! People sometimes let go of the griping, b/s, and lower their guards just enough so we can truly understand their point of view.

Properly Tagged Photos
Specific posts that help explain some of the more frustrating tough problems – such as the Window Motor + Jaguar issues in recent years.

Speaking of Unofficial Caption Contests, I strongly suggest participating in them as well as spending a little time in the Chit-Chat subforum. It’s a great place to help with putting usernames to personalities and start learning who’s who. HOWEVER, there is a difference in posting style between Chit-Chat and the rest of ChiefDelphi. I certainly don’t endorse lazy typing and lack of punctuation, but Chit-Chat is less likely to berate someone for it and is a good “transition forum” that teaches new users what kind of behavior is expected here.

Also, make friends! We only bite if someone hasn’t read the rulebook. Private Messages (PMs -accessible via the blue link in the gray box on the top right corner of the page, under the “Welcome, [username]” and the date and time of your last visit) are great ways to continue a two-person discussion with a little more wiggle room, or talk about anything from robots to shoes. Making friends is fun and useful in the long run, and I’m not just talking about alliance selection.

Generally speaking, if you are friendly, the community will be friendly back. Likewise, if you are not friendly, we will try our best to help you adjust your attitude, but there needs to be some degree of cooperation on both ends of the stick.

(side note: I was surprised to find myself on the second page of the memberlist when sorted by rep. I didn’t think I was that cool yet.)

“Biting” someone who hasn’t read the rulebook often takes the form of “Here’s the rule (reference). Go read it.” If that rule has an active discussion elsewhere, it’ll also have a “search and you’ll find this thread [link]” attached.

We also bite trolls and spammers much harder–something on the order of “hey, mods, we’ve got a spammer/troll here” via the report posts button. Once a spam report has been sent, common forum practice is to put a post in the thread that says “Reported” so that the mods don’t get 47 spam reports on the same thing.

The spotlight quotes can also be interesting–some of them lead into threads that are very thought-provoking, partially due to the type of material they’re discussing. I’ve followed those into discussions about eliminating the ship date and shipping, student vs. mentor, caption contests that I’d forgotten even happened, and other things of that nature.

Something that can tell a lot about the people that we value is to go into the gray bar on top, to the far right pair of boxes. The ones marked “Unsung FIRST Heroes” and “WFA”, to be exact. There are some interesting stories in there.

Some things to avoid, as they tend to cause a lot of problems:
–Airing of team dirty laundry publicly. There is a place to do that sort of thing anonymously: FIRST-A-Holics Anonymous (FAHA). You can also get advice on sensitive topics where you don’t want your team identified.
–Accusations of doing something against the rules or the spirit of FIRST without any evidence. It’s happened before (student/mentor debates ensued, though that isn’t the only thing to spark the “fun”). At best, there’s a long, reasonably civil discussion. What more often happens, though, is a flame war, usually something like 20-30 backing up the team going against 1-3 backing up the accusation. Make it civil enough to start out with, though, and there can be a quite civil discussion on the relative merits and demerits of the complaint. There have been a couple of those lately.

Oh, right, one thing that can really be constructive: Be civil. Even if you’re posting something that can really be a flammable topic, it often works best if you say it politely. It’s a lot easier to have a nice debate on student vs. mentor coaches when someone states their opinion and the reasoning behind it, and what sparked their publicly posting said opinion and reasoning, instead of “Team X has a mentor-built robot, they shouldn’t be in this competition because Y”. (The latter, if posted publicly, is the #2 fastest way to red reputation dots. The #1 fastest? Accusations of bribery with zero evidence–which “evidence” was promptly refuted with other, actually existing evidence.)

Thank you for these tips. I LOVE having a list of great contributors. You just saved me a lot of time. In my past life as a graduate student, I spent a lot of time mining the pre-print archives (like CD for physicists). It took me months and many false starts to develop a good sense of whose paper drafts I HAD to read to stay current with my work.

Also thanks to all the contributors of this thread. I may assign all my students to study this thread because almost all of us are new to CD. I am definitely going to become a subscribed user once I set up a Paypal account. Thanks for that tip Rsisk. Worth every penny!