No quick answers

If you're into quick answers, I'm not your guy.

I frequently try to respond to people asking questions about struggles with their software development. Be it on social media, Slack, or even the occasional in-person meetup group.

One pattern often repeats.

I ask a clarifying question, with the hope of offering a tailored and useful answer.

Then someone else jumps in with a superficial, half-baked answer. Often the asker never gets back to clarifying the question.

It goes something like this:

[Person] What’s the best way to patch a fence?

[Me] What kind of fence do you have? How did the fence come to need patching? What is the problem with the fence that you’re trying to solve?

[Other person] I find that duct tape does a great job!

[Other, other person] Ask your local lumber yard for some spare scrap lumber. They’ll usually give it to you for free.

Now maybe the knee-jerk answer is appropriate. It almost certainly is sometimes, as often as this happens to me. Just by chance. Sometimes duck tape is the right answer to patch a fence. I guess. Spare lumber could potentially be a valid answer, too. For some kinds of fences.

Now of course there’s no shame in asking a vague or incomplete question. That’s what questions are for. They’re to learn. So start with what you know to ask, and go from there.

But I think there should be some shame in offering these sorts of answers that don’t actually understand the problem. Although I do understand why they happen. They get the attention. Whether that attention comes in the form of likes, karma, Stackoverflow reputation, or just the sort of attention you get in an informal group setting around a table eating pizza.

There should also be some shame in accepting these kinds of answers. If you’re asking a question to learn, have the patience to answer the clarifying questions that come up. And in fact, maybe take all the other answers with a grain of salt.

If you’re into quick answers, I’m not your guy.

If you’re into taking the time to explain your situation to get a thought-out answer, though… then I may be your guy. If you could use some help with your software delivery, hit me up.

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