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Smart Questions

Smart questions

How To Ask Questions The Smart Way 1, by ESR.

Notes, commentary and personal adaptation.

Before you ask

Before asking a techincal question:

When you ask your question, display the fact that you have done these things first; this will help establish that you’re not being a lazy sponge and wasting people’s time. Better yet, display what you have learned from doing these things. We like answering questions for people who have demonstrated they can learn from the answers.

Take your time. Do not expect to be able to solve a complicated problem with a few seconds of Googling.

Prepare your question. Think it through. The more you do to demonstrate that having put thought and effort into solving your problem before seeking help, the more likely you are to actually get help.

Beware of asking the wrong question. 2

Never assume you are entitled to an answer.

On the other hand, making it clear that you are able and willing to help in the process of developing the solution is a very good start. “Would someone provide a pointer?”, “What is my example missing?”, and “What site should I have checked?” are more likely to get answered than “Please post the exact procedure I should use.” because you’re making it clear that you’re truly willing to complete the process if someone can just point you in the right direction.

When you ask

How to interpret answers

Questions not to ask

How to answer questions in a helpful way


  1. How To Ask Questions The Smart Way by Eric Steven Raymond questions 

  2. The XY Problem xy-problem  2