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Author Topic: How To Ask Questions The Smart Way  (Read 6287 times)
Wordzilla
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« on: July 31, 2007, 07:33:52 PM »

I was writing an introduction to DC search when I came across this very well written guide.

Quote
Introduction

In the world of hackers, the kind of answers you get to your technical questions depends as much on the way you ask the questions as on the difficulty of developing the answer. This guide will teach you how to ask questions in a way more likely to get you a satisfactory answer.

Now that use of open source has become widespread, you can often get as good answers from other, more experienced users as from hackers. This is a Good Thing; users tend to be just a little bit more tolerant of the kind of failures newbies often have. Still, treating experienced users like hackers in the ways we recommend here will generally be the most effective way to get useful answers out of them, too.

The first thing to understand is that hackers actually like hard problems and good, thought-provoking questions about them. If we didn't, we wouldn't be here. If you give us an interesting question to chew on we'll be grateful to you; good questions are a stimulus and a gift. Good questions help us develop our understanding, and often reveal problems we might not have noticed or thought about otherwise. Among hackers, “Good question!” is a strong and sincere compliment.





EDIT: add link to the guide
« Last Edit: August 01, 2007, 12:05:27 AM by Wordzilla » Logged

Wordzilla
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« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2007, 07:40:55 PM »

Another (similar) nice read: How to Report Bugs Effectively

http://www.chiark.greenen...rg.uk/~sgtatham/bugs.html
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lanux128
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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2007, 08:04:06 PM »

there used to be a site that gave such advices in a not so subtle way. smiley
http://digg.com/tech_news/Google_It_You_Moron
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Wordzilla
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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2007, 08:10:41 PM »

Too bad the Google It You Moron site is sold, here's a cached version of their homepage from Internet Archive:

http://web.archive.org/we...www.googleityoumoron.com/
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f0dder
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« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2007, 08:30:32 PM »

Imho having to follow an exhausting list before asking something is a bit taxing - I don't mind helping people if they show they've put at least a little effort into the subject. On the other hand, some people are way too lazy, on the asmcommunity board we often get people who want homework help, or have been doing nothing whatsoever doing a whole semester, then suddenly realize they need to pass an exam... smiley
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- carpe noctem
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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2007, 08:38:53 PM »

Quote
Before You Ask
Before asking a technical question by e-mail. or in a newsgroup, or on a website chat board, do the following:
1. Try to find an answer by searching the archives of the forum you plan to post to.
2. Try to find an answer by searching the Web.
3. Try to find an answer by reading the manual.
4. Try to find an answer by reading a FAQ.
5. Try to find an answer by inspection or experimentation.
6. Try to find an answer by asking a skilled friend.
7. If you're a programmer, try to find an answer by reading the source code.

How do I do that?
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Chris
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« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2007, 08:40:42 PM »

How do I do that?

 Grin Grin Grin Grin
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« Reply #7 on: August 01, 2007, 04:59:11 AM »

I commend the author of the 32 page guide for his patience and dedication but feel he would have felt better to use the hours volunteering for a charity.
In my view it's a 32 page guide on how inferior he sees other human beings and his/her inability to respect them on a similar level as themselves. Tell people how to ask questions, how condescending.

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Lashiec
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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2007, 07:51:36 PM »

Ah, now I recognize this "guide". It was posted a few months ago in another forum which, incidentally, is plagued by newbies asking everything, though in this case, the site itself is full of FAQs. Anyway, a guy looking for advice is not going to read a 32 page guide, despite it's well written or not, at least not those ones jumping with questions (read: newbies or more precisely, n00bs). OK, enough bashing Grin
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app103
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« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2007, 04:31:58 PM »

How to answer those questions the helpful way.  Wink

In my opinion, this link is more important than the one on asking questions.

While this page is more about explaining things to someone that has very little computer experience, a lot of the concepts still apply to other situations when you are helping people, such as remembering things like...

Quote
Nobody is born knowing this stuff.

Quote
Beginners face a language problem: they can't ask questions because they don't know what the words mean, they can't know what the words mean until they can successfully use the system, and they can't successfully use the system because they can't ask questions.

Quote
You are the voice of authority. Your words can wound.

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tomos
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« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2007, 07:56:23 AM »

I havent read that guide - 32pages - not-a-chance Wink

I know in general I'm not bad at asking question -
as in how they are asked, details given, (always forget at least one obvious thing though embarassed) etc.

but
I have noticed in myself this habit of panicking if things start going wrong with OS or software in general.
Of course,
that's when you really need to keep a cool head & be observant of what's happening & keep notes/screenshots whatever.
Then, (in the context of not having kept a cool head), I have made some rather embarrasing posts/threads...
in my day smiley (one just lately - I'm not telling ye where )

so, my question guide might go something like this:

  • breathe in deeply
  • breathe out slowly
  • repeat if necessary
  • write your questions
  • go away & have a cup of tea
  • come back, re-read - does it make any sense?
  • rewrite
  • post
  • smiley
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Tom
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« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2007, 11:05:34 AM »

IIRC, the reason this guide was written was not to trash Newbs, but to promote the 'help you help yourself' mentality. Regardless of your intelligence or experience, it really is UNhelpful to both parties to post something like:
Quote
Subject: I NEED HELP NOW!1!
Message: Dude, WTF i instlled a brand new Gignaplextor Supervidium 2.0 GTIIIx ver. 2.5a and now i get a black scrn!!11! please reply instrctions. I need thes to wrk now!1!!
Now, this theoretical-but-not-uncommon person is obviously in distress, needs help and needs it very soon, but this kind of post is NOT going to get helpful folks on your side, I don't care what their view of your relative humanity.
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« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2007, 11:42:44 AM »

Heh, I deal with posts like that everyday. Fortunately, they don't demand you to help them... yeah, sometimes they do that. And they don't give you more details than that, like "Fella, don't know shit 'bout what u r talking about". Uh, and then they complain that people is not helpful...

But as I say, they're the minority smiley
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Renegade
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« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2007, 03:48:14 PM »

CANZ U TEECH ME 2 H@CK? I WANNA B A 1337 H@X0R!

smiley

Im in ur forumz, azkin' stoop'd kweshchunz!
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tomos
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« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2007, 05:00:59 PM »

Im in ur forumz, azkin' stoop'd kweshchunz!

 Grin Grin
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Tom
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« Reply #15 on: November 20, 2007, 02:18:00 PM »

Y'know it's not the question that is stupid, it's the way it's asked is not likely to get a good answer.
Let's rephrase the theoretical poster:
Quote
Subject:New Gignaplextor card troubles - Need suggestions.
Message:Hi all, I bought a new Gignaplextor Supervidium 2.0 GTIIIx ver. 2.5a from Good Deals yesterday.
I installed the card and drivers (with the included driver disk) I rebooted to a black screen and hung system.
I re-installed my old video card (so I could have a working system to do troubleshooting) and hit Google. A post on another forum suggested downloading the new drivers from the manufacturers website, I did so and the same result. There are no posts relating to this card behaving badly with my old motherboard (a PXD Technor 7J with integrated flux capacitance) but I've had problems with video memory not being recognized before. A driver update and a BIOS setting fixed it, but I wonder if anyone else has had problems with this card.
BTW- I am running DoorsOS YQ Service pack e9th54 on a 3.11432GHz box with 4G RAM
Now, isn't that better? A few minutes spent putting some details on your post and I bet you'll get more help than you can shake a Gig-stick at...

Concerning Mr. "CANZ U TEECH ME 2 H@CK? I WANNA B A 1337 H@X0R!" you could even re-phrase that and end up learning more than you want to know:
Quote
Subject: Need hacking help, really it's for a good cause...
Message: Hey guys, I think my uncle is surfing kiddie porn and I want to stop him. The only way is to find evidence on his box, and he never lets his laptop out of his sight, so I'm going to have to hack in. The only lead I have is an ip I ripped from when he IM'd me a week ago. I have nmap and a few other tools, can anybody give me advice on how to crack this jerk? PM me or let's get together on IRC.
Thmbsup
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« Reply #16 on: January 16, 2008, 06:28:45 PM »

Definitions:
elitea person who has great, vast, huge knowledge about a certain topic
nooba person who seeks one of the elite for help in their field of expertise


When the elite come down to help the noobs they should be prepared to explain the same thing over and over and over and over again. They will face the same questions with the same (obvious for the elite) answers several times a day, day in, day out.

A noob is a noob is a noob and therefore does not know the protocol of dealing with the elite yet. Hence, the elite need a lot of diplomacy. Helping these noobs takes effort: time and energy. And only seldomly will there be a reward.

These rules were made by the elite to give them the good feeling of helping, while at the same time reducing their efforts. Now the noob not only faces a problem, he or she also must follow an unknown protocol before help is graciously given. To see the wisdom of these rules requires experience, which the noobs by definition can not have.

If the elite doesn't have the time or energy to help, then they shouldn't try to. No one can force them to help. If the stupidity is too much, don't listen. If the questions just hurt your sense of logic, don't even consider answering. From a wrong sense of duty the elite created these rules to help, except they only help to easy the elite's pain and not solve the noob's problem.

I was once a noob and was treated badly by the elite I sought for help. After a while I had learned their protocol and got along with them, even behaved like them and, like them, looked down upon other noobs. One day I realised what I was doing and totally left that community for good. I will never return to them, instead I am doing what they are trying to do, except I do it my way. And I also spend a lot of time and energy to help - if I choose to help, that is. Sometimes I am not in the mood, so I ignore all questions; and I don't feel bad about it at all: When I can't help properly I don't help at all. Otherwise it's a double-waste of time and energy: mine's and that of the noob.



Wow, I didn't think it would turn out this long. But this topic is important to me, I have seen noobs being treated so badly, I am still ashamed of it  Sad  It's been 5 years since or so, but I am still so ashamed...
* housetier submits this now before it gets longer yet
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