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Ask questions like a pro

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Getting a solution on Experts Exchange is pretty easy--if you are asking the right questions in the right way.  While you won't get answers like RTFM or STFW from EE, experts will shy away from questions that are not focused, are badly explained, or too broad in scope.  This is a short guide to asking the type of questions that experts like to answer.

 

1. Think like an expert


Before posting your question, consider how much information needs to be there for an expert to know what you are trying to do, and how to get you there.  Experts are usually busy people.  If the expert has to ask a lot of questions before she can help you, then she might be less willing to help.


What is the goal?  What have you already tried?  What is the environment?  What is the exact nature of the problem? (I often see question askers say "It doesn't work" which tells me nothing--how does it not work?)  What are the versions/specifications?  If you are doing something a little odd, what is the reason for doing it that way?


Usually it's difficult to provide too much information, except for this:  if it's source code, posting several hundred lines of code will be too much for the expert to struggle through.  Also do not post any sensitive or personal information in the question, if you don't want it to be public on the Internet.  Given the distributed nature of web crawlers, it can be difficult to remove all traces of what's been made public at EE.


Take a minute to think about how much work the expert has to do to answer your question.  If it's more than 10 minutes, then the scope is probably too large.  Try not to be a time sinkhole for the experts.

 

2. Hello Ducky!


Rubber ducking is a process of framing your question, then giving it a good think. Before hitting the submit button on your question, read it aloud and ask yourself if you've done your homework on the issue.  Do you have any suspicions what's causing the problem?  Have you searched the web and EE, and any other relevant resources?  Have you seen links to similar problems?  If you still don't have a breakthrough at this point, describe the homework that you've done, and its relevance to your problem before posting.

 

3. Participate


Now that your question is out there, you will likely get some responses.  Take the time to respond to experts, answer their questions and ask your own questions if you don't understand.  Bounce your ideas off the experts and try to solve it with them if you can.

 

4. Got results?


If an expert answered your question, accept his comment as the answer.  If the answer was clear and complete, give an "A" grade.  Experts get more points for higher grades, so don't be stingy.  If you answered the question yourself, perhaps with the help of the experts, you can accept your own answer (Accept as Answer button on your comment) and optionally award them points (Accept and Award Points button on your comment.)


Make sure that you follow up with any details on the solution.  Remember that your question goes into the database for others to use if they have a similar problem, so the more complete the implementation details are, the better.  

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