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Besides reading PM, I'm a teaching assistant for an undergraduate programming course, which produces questions that are similar in scope. In my experience, there are two kinds of questions:

  1. Inquisitive questions. The questioner needs (or wants) to know something, and can't find it in the places they know to look (which may be quite limited), so they ask in a public forum. Usually, at the start of term, most of these questions are right out of the textbook, but the people who ask these questions tend to keep finding references -- and using them -- as time goes on.
  2. Lazy questions. The questioner can't be bothered to RTFriendlyM or STFunW for their answer, so they post a question in a public forum and offload the burden of research and explanation to others.
My point -- and I do have one, really! -- is that, in my experience, the most useful answer to "basic" questions is a quick pointer to the appropriate reference. The inquisitive questioner will discover a new source of information, and the lazy questioner won't waste as much of your time (and may just discover how useful manuals are).


In reply to Re: What makes a bad question? by FoxtrotUniform
in thread What makes a bad question? by demerphq

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