John, I think that's up to the individual. For myself, I would not give pointers to an untrained person. Last year my state revoked, suspended and fined some 800 tradesmen for various reasons. They'll send an investigator right to your doorstep for assisting an unlicensed person. I really think it's a job for a skilled tradesman since it only takes one bad connection to have a fire or electrocution.
I didn't mean to sound like an alarmist. Much of my contribution was just steam, or a shot at defining some of my own thoughts. IMO We don't seem to have too many questions (or answers) here that I would be concerned about. We've got a great group here.
As long as no one is telling someone to stick a fork in the toaster or explaining some very basic wiring procedure in great detail I don't think there's a lot to worry about.
I think the biggest problem is assessing the knowledge of the person posting the question.
In a few cases, the question reveals enough about the person to demonstrate that he obviously knows so little about the subject that he really should not be tackling the project (I don't think there are many that fall into this category here -- They're probably at the "How to..." sites).
Other times the original question may sound reasonable and we might answer in general terms, but a follow-up makes it clear that the person has not understood or obviously has insufficient knowledge or skill to be messing around with his wiring. At that point, it is probably prudent to say, "Sorry, but I think you're getting in over your head and should seek professional help."
In this last case, we may even save somebody. If he had received no advice whatsoever, perhaps he would have just gone ahead and tried anyway. If he receives answers which make him realize that he's way out of his depth, then it just might stop him from making a dangerous mistake.
I don't see a problem with answering in general terms. Despite the fact that common sense seems to be a vanishing commodity these days, I would like to believe that most people asking a technical question on a forum such as this have the sense to realize that without actually seeing the installation we cannot take into account every possibility and allow for every problem that might occur.
It's a hard decision, but I think we just have to take each case on its own merits.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this message are entirely my own. I am not responsible for any misapplication of any information I may or may not have provided. If an asteroid crashes into the earth next year, I'm not responsible for that either.
Arseegee: I agree with you, and I also agree with PaulUK. And Bill, you didn't hit me as an alarmist... BTW this is a great site with a nice group of people. Also, I don't mind sharing knowledge, I just don't want anyone getting hurt or in trouble. Lord knows that we all have enough daily problems. See ya later; got to go HotLine1 John
Bill, just brainstorming here, but would requiring some sort of credentials in the profile help any, even if it just said "home-owner", "student", "contractor" or "electrician", it would help us know who we're dealing with and on what level.
Just throwing some ideas around...
Oh, and did I handle this Q right? I may have been a little caustic...
-Virgil Residential/Commercial Inspector 5 Star Inspections Member IAEI
Sparky66wv: Your suggestion sounds OK, maybe a check box with the choices?? I followed your link, you don't sound caustic...I thought of a reply to that gentlemen, but had second thoughts.... Oh well, life goes on, Thursday nite, time for payroll and billing, and pay the taxes too. HotLine1 John
I don't see a problem with advice given on a newsgroup. I am not a licensed electrician but an engineer by profession. When I am on the job which is giving advice and resolutions to customers, I am covered by my company's policies and procedures. When I am outside that scope, I cover myself and my employer by phrases like IMO or stating they should consult with a licensed professional.
As for my background, my father was an electrician and I have worked as an apprentice electrician for other outfits. I am very aware of my limitations and will not hesitate to hire a licensed professional. Case in point, when I replaced the 60 amp entrance of my house to a 200 amp, I realized that I did not understand bonding. I hired a semi-retired electrician and he spent 3 days teaching me the finer points that the Master Sparkys used to do while I was pulling wire or doing outlets. I have the 2002 Code book and handbook and study it anytime something is not clear. I read this and other newsgroups for information. I work with a Master Electrician who is a godsend when it comes to thorny real world automation problems that cross several fields such as electrical and mechanical engineering crossing into the commissioning of new projects.
The bottom line is I want this group to function the way that it does. It provides a useful forum for me to branch out my skill set.