Genii Weblog

Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.

Tue 13 Jan 2004, 07:10 PM
I am certainly not the first to complain about those who ask for help without giving enough information.  This problem is common on the Notes 4&5 Gold Forum and the Notes 6 Gold Forum, as with most other on-line support forums.  It is less common among customers who contact us, but still occasionally a problem.  When I get questions like this, I am always reminded of the song Memphis, Tennessee (written by Chuck Berry, performed by the Beatles and dozens of other groups):

Long distance information
Give me Memphis, Tennessee
Try to find the party
Trying to get in touch with me
She would not leave her number
But I know who placed the call
'Cause my uncle took the message
And he wrote it on the wall

It is always a bad sign when the person asking a question starts by saying they don't have the relevant information.  It just begs for the post to be closed quickly without even reading.

Help me, information
Get in touch with my Marie
She's the only one who'd phone me here
From Memphis, Tennessee
Her home is on the south side
Just beyond the ridge
Just a half a mile
From the Mississippi Bridge

Many forum posts are filled with this sort of half information.  It is not the information you need, which is usually 

a) what are you trying to accomplish? 
b) what is stopping you from accomplishing it?
c) what have you tried already?
d) what version of Notes/OS/toolkit/etc. are you using?

Instead, you get "Then the agent stops" or "I get an error" or "But that doesn't work", followed by useful tidbits such as "this is for a critical application" and "it used to work at home on a different system and before I changed the code".

Help me, information
More than that I cannot add
Only that I miss her
And all the fun we had
We were pulled apart
Because her mom would not agree
Help me get in touch with her
In Memphis, Tennessee

Finally comes the pleading, which says without being explicit: "I know nothing, therefore you must assist me.", "It was someone else's fault." and possibly even "Life is so unfair".

The last time I saw Marie
She was waving me goodbye
With hurry homedrops on her cheek
That trickled from her eyes
Marie is only six years old
Information please
Help me get in touch with her
In Memphis, Tennessee 

If that doesn't work, pleading turns to pathos and desperation.  "The boss is gonna fire me", "this HAS to work before the weekend", and the ever useful "I'm a newbie and have no training or experience, so you should do this for me".

Well, folks, hurry homedrops aren't enough.  Learn to ask questions intelligently, and you are far more likely to get intelligent answers.  There is a very good article that is passed around a lot among those of us who answer questions (many of us who also ask them, and try to be good at it), and I heartily recommend that anyone preparing to post a question on a public forum or support forum read this first, preferably when the boss is not already breathing down your throat: How To Ask Questions The Smart Way.

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