The Art of Asking Questions

I'm a firm believer in the age-old adage "Read the fine manual" (that's RTFM for short). I want to be a supportive and sensitive mentor when working with new SQL Server folks, but IT people who don't at least try to find an answer on their own always annoy me--it's a pet peeve. SQL Server professionals are especially fortunate because SQL Server Books Online (BOL) is excellent compared to other online technical-documentation resources. Too many times, I've provided SQL Server support on newsgroups and other forums when the questioner could have found the exact solution with a quick BOL search using obvious keywords. Finding your own answer is always the best way to learn; you'll remember the answer better and longer than if a colleague simply feeds you the information.

That said, there will of course be times when novices and experts alike need to ask questions. I've written many editorials about the best places to find answers. This week, I want to recommend an article that will help you ask the right question when you need to. Microsoft MVP Daniel Petri wrote the excellent article "How to Ask a Question (or How do I ask a question on a professional forum/newsgroup without getting flamed?)" which is available at Petri's Web site ( ). He says, "When posting questions to a professional forum or newsgroup, it is vital to format the question and it's content in a proper way in order to greatly increase the possibility for quickly receiving a good answer, thus saving you time and frustration." The article is also posted in the Microsoft Knowledge Base as "How to ask a question" at .

You'll either laugh out loud or be a tad offended by the article, depending on how much and how well you post questions in public forums. But the author's tongue-in-cheek approach to an important problem does provide some great advice about how to be heard when a vast number of question askers are seeking help from a limited supply of question answerers. If you're offended by some of the comments in the article, keep in mind that you're not likely to find good help on a newsgroup unless you take these suggestions to heart. Thanks, Daniel. I don't normally get to laugh so much when I review technical articles.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.