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  • Writer's pictureTim Buchalka

How to Ask a Technical Question: The Right Way

Let's talk about the right and wrong way to ask a technical question in your journey to become a programmer, and even after you are working as a full-time programmer.

Today, we're talking about asking technical questions. This is something that you'll need to do a lot in your journey to become a programmer, and also when you are a programmer. Because programming, even when you get to the stage of working as a programmer, you're always learning. So you're always asking questions. You're asking questions to yourself. You're asking questions to others, and then you might be even online and looking for answers to questions.

So you need to frame your questions the right way to maximize the information that will come back to you. And why I'm bringing this up is I want to show you an example of a typical, I wouldn't say it's typical, but for someone who hasn't done much programming or someone who's just learning how to program, here's a sample question.

Now, I don't wanna go into details and I'm certainly not trying to cast any negativity on the person who's asked this question, because we don't know until we've actually learned, but this type of question is bad, and the reason is it doesn't really give any context, it doesn't give you any information, and it's very hard to answer. It really hasn't got enough information, so if you ask a question in a forum, you ask a question in a Q and A section of a typical Udemy course or one of my courses, more than likely someone won't be able to provide an answer, because you haven't given the necessary information. So try and be as specific as you can.

And this is important for a lot of reasons. Firstly for yourself. If you go through the process and try and be specific, instead of saying, "things aren't working", be specific and say what isn't working, provide a screenshot, go into details of what you've tried. The whole process of framing that question and topping it up may well result in you figuring out the answer, and that will happen a lot when you're learning how to programme, and the reason is that you're putting some critical thought into that question. And by doing that, you're analysing the problem in more detail, and it can lead to you actually solving the problem. So that's number one. It's very important to do that, to try and see whether you can solve it, but it also makes life easier for the person who's trying to answer. And whether that's someone who's on a forum or who's donating their time freely, or whether it's someone in a Q and A section of a course who's got hundreds of questions to answer, if you can be as specific as possible, they can get back to you and answer in a more timely manner, because they've got the information they need to answer.

And what's gonna happen if you provide a typical question that's very generic like the one that I showed you earlier? You're gonna get someone to come back, or have to come back and say, "I can't help you. Can you provide more information?" So, it's wasteful of everyone's time.

So, try and be as specific as you can, because that's really gonna help you in your journey to become a programmer. But also, when you start programming, invariably you'll be working with a team of other programmers, and if you're starting out in your first programming job, there'll probably be a senior programmer who you'll need to, you refer to a team lead or someone who is supervising your work or basically someone who's in charge. And you'll need to ask them questions, and you wanna be very mindful and respectful of their time as well, and ask questions that go through what you've tried first, and you'll certainly win points by doing that, being as specific as you can.

Because look, we've all got the same amount of hours available to us, so if you can try and be mindful of someone else's time, save their time, they're gonna be appreciative of what you've done and try and help you out more. So certainly think about that. Frame your questions, provide as much detail as possible. Screenshots, et cetera, are very useful, but also what you've tried and even any information that you think may be the problem. And that can be a way to solve the problem yourself, but also help people help you.

I hope that helped. If you've got any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

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