Answers are Easy, the Questions are Hard.

In the past year I’ve been doing a lot of T-SQL (Transact-SQL) programming. My current employer has required a great deal of it, and I have searched out several people and places on the internet to gain this knowledge.

However, as I’ve progressed on this journey I’ve noticed a curious thing. The typical situation begins when I run into a problem with some code I’m writing. I’ll google the issue or function I am struggling with. If you regularly ask questions in some internet forums without first searching for the answer yourself, the regulars will become annoyed and ignore you.

If the google search is fruitless, I will post a question to a forum such as SQL Team. However, it doesn’t take long to learn that you must be exceedingly detailed with your question or the experts will not bother to answer. This attention to detail is simply common courtesy as these experts are providing free help, and why should they waste their time to ask you a multitude of questions about your question.

The pattern I’m noticing is this: In forming my detailed question I am forced to step back from the problem and examine it, and in doing so I often answer my own question. Simply taking the time to properly form my question, answers it. When I mentioned that on the SQL Team forum, I got similar responses from the other members. In fact, a couple of them said that their employers had a policy that you first had to pose your question to an inanimate object (such as a human cardboard cutout or a teddy bear) before you could ask a senior programmer.

Have any of you found that answer your own questions by simply forming them?

Incidentally, my cardboard cutout would probably be something like this.


2 comments to Answers are Easy, the Questions are Hard.

  • Jason Griffith

    “Fix it, or fix it not. There is not SQL Team.” – Alright, that was cheesy, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice.

    Yeah, this is something that I learned quite a while ago with my programming. I have been known to be found in my office staring off into space having conversations with myself too. Sometimes I find the answer to my question just by coming up with a better description of what the question is, and sometimes I find out that I am looking in the wrong direction all together and a simple change in perspective fixes the problem.

    When I have to go to forums, I try to hold to the standard of the forums. If I look around and never see system information offered or asked for, then I don’t bother. But if I see anybody asking for that information on the boards, then I go ahead and give a full description of the hardware/software setup, and then whatever level of detail I can on the issue itself.

    I will admit though that I do occasionally get pressed for time so much that I will write a quite blurb of the problem and then throw it out on multiple forums and just hope somebody takes the time to respond to one of them. Rarely do you get anywhere with doing this, and I have actually found it to be more counter-productive at times as you can spend days going back and forth with somebody asking questions to get a solid understanding of your problem, and then they have no answer for you at the end. “Oh, you’re using 2008 Server? Sorry, don’t know anything about that one.”

  • Andrew

    I saw a Captian Kirk standee and I would use that one.

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