Asking Better Questions
andrewsomething pointed out some questions that need love. One sure fire way I’ve noticed that will help get your question answered is to keep improving it. The simple fact is, you can expect the quality of an answer to be proportional to the amount of effort you’ve put into your question. If you don’t provide any detail, no one can really answer your question.
Every once in a while I see on Ask Ubuntu or reddit where the person has given up, and the question starts with “I’ve been trying to find this for 5 hours, halp.” This seems backwards to me, instead of suffering in silence, ask early, and ask often! Let’s apply some Getting Things Done:
- Google for a solution to a problem for about 2 minutes. If I can’t find a solution right away, I ask my question before I start to WASTE my own time flailing. If it was obvious I would have found it right away. So, after 2 minutes, clearly I need help, another 3.5 hours probably won’t help me.
- Then I post my question and go do something else for a bit, let’s say 5-10 minutes. If I was missing something obvious someone can answer that relatively quickly. If not, then usually, I’m not giving people enough information to help me.
- From then on I update my question, with things I’ve tried, things I’ve searched for, and generally the results of my research. As I update my question chances are the new information will help the other person realize what’s going on, and help me solve my problem. Since I’m updating my question as I go along, the next person who comes along doesn’t have to waste their time wading through comment after comment of you flailing, or even worse, waste time reading two paragraphs of your problem to get to an “EDIT: Actually I think the problem is something else.”
So, the next time you have a question about Ubuntu instead of bottling up your problem, ask early, and ask often, then iterate the hell out of your question with new information as you get it. The more info you have, the more likely it’ll be solved faster. Some questions will invariably be unanswerable, or might be a bug in the software, but you can at least keep improving your queston enough to get an answer.
If you think about it, if you’re solving a complex problem, it would be nearly impossible to write the perfect question in one go, so next time you’re not getting any answers to your questions, start fixing it up!
And if you figure something out, self-document.
Here’s some tips:
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