This meta topic is meant as a reference to users asking questions along the lines of "I was following this tutorial/guide/whatnot [link] and got an error message, how do I fix that?". I'll provide my own point of view in an answer, alternative points of view are welcome.


2 Answers 2


In essence, you must reproduce the key steps you took from the tutorial in your question, and be careful about which tutorial you pick.

  • questions and answers on this site are meant to be self-contained. If you ask a question referencing a tutorial explaining how to set up awesome_server, people having problems with it will search for "awesome server" and find your question. If the link to the tutorial in your question is no longer valid, they will get no value whatsoever from the question and any answers it will receive. Your post will in fact have negative value for them, since it will hide more complete questions and answers they could have found otherwise.

  • more often than not, the issue is not with the tutorial itself, but with the way you understood and followed it. This is one more reason to include the key steps that you took from the tutorial in your question. For instance, if the tutorial was using an EXT4-formatted drive and you took an NTFS-formatted drive instead, there's no way to discover it unless you post the commands you have used to format or mount the drive.

  • on a related note, if you could not get through the whole tutorial (getting expected results in every step), there's no way for others to know where you got stuck unless you tell this. One more reason to post the actions you performed and the results you've got, even if you copy-pasted every command verbatim from the tutorial page.

  • finally, be wary of blindly following a series of steps you don't fully understand. For example, I once myself followed a tutorial which resulted in nothing more than a big security hole. Essentially, unless the tutorial you're using is the official one, there's no guarantee that it will work for everyone, or work well, it's just something that may have worked somehow for the person who wrote it.

  • 6
    Well put. Thank you for that.
    – Ghanima Mod
    Nov 26, 2019 at 13:54
  • 1
    This is all good advice, but there are some bogus and "off-kilter" tutorials. In most cases, I wish the OP would simply go back to the author of the tutorial instead of bringing it here.
    – Seamus
    Jan 3, 2021 at 6:25
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    @Seamus I actually sat down to write this exactly after one such nextcloud tutorial (link in the answer) which lets everyone access your files without logging in. I wish I'd just go straight to nextcloud wiki. Jan 3, 2021 at 21:24

Your question drew my attention again as I sometimes find this class of questions ("I followed a tutorial...") annoying. I feel annoyed, I suppose, for these reasons mostly:

  1. There are a few "tutorial mills" that serve unfiltered crap.
  2. Even some decent tutorials are not maintained or updated.
  3. The "victims" of poor tutorials oftentimes have done nothing to try to help themselves; occasionally coming here to throw their problems over the fence.

I'm not sure there is much we can do about low-quality and ill-maintained tutorials. But, in the interests of improving our quality here on S.E., I wonder if we may be able to address the "failed tutorial contributor".

How to address the "failed tutorial contributor" would seem to depend on one's view of what a reasonable person should do in a failed tutorial situation. My views are:

  1. Try to get in touch with the author of the tutorial. Communicate the issue to the author, and ask for his assistance.
  2. Check the date of the tutorial (i.e. is this a jessie-vintage tutorial?).
  3. Find and compare other tutorials having the same or similar objectives.

Some thoughts and recommendations:

  1. Create a tag (failed-tutorial ?) to identify questions that have arisen while following a tutorial.

  2. Add a section to the "Asking" page of the Help Center with some specific advice for "failed tutorial contributors".

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