August 22, 2007
Back when I worked at PeopleSoft, we had an email list. People would
send out technical questions to the list and an answer would usually
appear quickly. The person who asked the question would then reply
with a "thanks, that worked" or "thanks, but [some issue]." This then became
part of the general knowledge base of the group.
But there was a pattern. Some answers were met with dead silence.
No reply at all. You could have spent 15 minutes crafting an answer to
a question but never know whether it solved the problem or not. Maybe
the person was just too busy to hit Reply and type "thanks." I started
to know who fell into this group, and later tended to find myself much too busy
to answer them when more of their urgent questions arrived.
Just a coincidence, of course.
Today I receive questions from people who read this blog. There have
been some very interesting ones, and some gave me ideas for topics.
If I have an answer (which is not always the case with a system as
large and complex as ours), and if the solution would not reveal
proprietary customer information, I'm happy to answer. The great
majority of the questioners reply with some sort of feedback, and that
But there is the occasional person who sends a few thousand lines of
code along with "My program doesn't work—can you take a look?"
Some people send long and detailed requirements for their latest
projects and ask for "sample code" or "how to do this?" Um...
There are questions that are literally indecipherable.
Others ask a simple question, and when I Google it, the answer is
right there...on the very first result.
Similarly, there are people who post the same question on every
online forum and then never seem to acknowledge the answers. What
they are doing is waiting for the first answer, which is all that is
important to them. Others in the future will find these posted answers but never
know whether they are correct.
At the other end of the spectrum, I recently received an email from
a reader. She had a problem and stated it as a clear, specific question.
She listed all of the relevant information and described what she
had already done in an attempt to find a solution. It so happened
that I had a quick answer and she replied to tell me that it helped.
Then this week I received a handwritten thank-you note! Now, that is
definitely not necessary or expected, but if she asks another question
some day, you can bet I'll try to answer it.
Thanks for reading my little rant.
Until next time...