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Eric S. Raymond: How To Ask Questions The Smart Way

Sep 10, 2001, 15:30 (23 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Eric S. Raymond)
"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 that is likely to get you a satisfactory answer.

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.

Despite this, hackers have a reputation for meeting simple questions with what looks like hostility or arrogance. It sometimes looks like we're hostile to newbies and the ignorant. But this isn't really true.

What we are, unapologetically, is hostile to people who seem to be unwilling to to think or do their own homework before asking questions. People like that are time sinks -- they take without giving back, they waste time we could have spent on another question more interesting and another person more worthy of an answer. We call people like this "losers" (and for historical reasons we sometimes spell it "lusers")."

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