Some fluctuation is to be expected. The key is not to over react to the fluctuations. An adjustment to the intake on your firebox will have a bigger affect than you expect, so keep things small to start out. I would suggest never closing more than a quarter of the way at a time. Give the temps 30 minutes or so to level out after an intake adjustment.
It is better to adjust your heat using your intakes instead of your exhaust. Closing off the exhaust to much will result in stale smoke being trapped inside, so make sure that your exhaust is always opened more than your intake.
As long as you can keep your temps between 200 and 250, you should be fine. As you use your new smoker, this range will shrink down and you learn the proper amounts of fuel to use and how the temp fluctuates as it burns down. Part of the fun of this is standing around outside, drinking your beverage of choice, and watching the temperature guages. Enjoy the outdoors and the heat radiating from your new friend!!
Attempt 2 was better but still not successful. Turns out the probe thermometer I was using was off too. The ribs were nice and smokey with a great flavor and texture. However I smoked them 9 hours because of the bad probe...LOL
Attempt 3 will be this saturday. Ribs again. This time I am going to run the smoker a little hotter like 275-250 because last time they were not getting hot (hence the 9 hours).
Tree just being curious but where were you getting temp readings at the grate or the gauge on the door. Is the wood seasoned if its still a little green it will cause a lot of smoke and less heat. Have you tried preheating the wood before putting it in the fire box. Get you some good thermomenters sounds like your still to cold on the grate area.
Sorry to hear that you are having problems....hate when that happens...Before you get frustrated too much more...I would get some good thermometers and make sure they are accurate...9 hours for ribs..thats a little much...What type of smoker do you have?