Sam Hobbs

Sam Hobbs

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Clear and concise questions

Feb 29 2012 8:57 AM

I think there is a big need to teach members to ask clear and concise questions. Many questions are very vague yet they ask how to do an entire program. This is not just one member; it is many members and many questions.

Sometimes we are able to guess what a person is asking. I know I have been criticised in the past in other web sites for guessing, but I usually guessed accurately. Many times we are unable to guess and it is often very frustrating for me to try to get the person asking for help to clarify their requirements. The reaction I get usually is as if I am being unreasonable. I try to get clarification of the question before proceeding so what usually happens is that the person does not get help.

Sometimes a member will try to guess but the guess is incorrect. That often leads to a little bit more information from the person asking for help so the member trying to help guesses again. And the process continues. Many times the question becomes a different question; sometimes it becomes a very different question. It is very frustrating for me because it takes so much time to read a long discussion, and my requests for clarification usually are essentially ignored.

All of this is less important if the member asking for help eventually gets the best help possible. The problem is that if the person does not get the help they need but I could help them, then it is very frustrating for me when the member just does not understand how to ask a clear and concise question.

It is not a language barrier. The problem also occurs for members that use English as their native language, including members in England.

I think that for the members that ask vague questions about a general subject, such as how to write an entire program, it would really help them to understand the value of describing requirements. It would really help them to learn how to define what they need to do. When we do that, instead of seeing a forest to be cleared as a project that is too much work, we see simple swings of the axe to chop down the trees. When we define the requirements of a program, then we can solve small problems instead of one huge overwhelming problem.

It is amazing to me how vague and short many questions asked by members (that have asked many quesions in these forums) are. It is frustrating for me when I get very little response when I ask for clarification.

Can anyone explain why we should be supportive of members asking vague questions? Do other members think it is helpful to try to guess at what they need without first getting clarification? Other than getting points of course. I can understand if a member wants to accumulate points then it is beneficial for them to have very long discussions.

Answers (5)