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The Rambling DBA: Jonathan Kehayias

The random ramblings and rantings of frazzled SQL Server DBA

How to ask a Forums Question

I find it both amusing and frustrating how people ask questions on the various forums I look at online.  Often times the questions lack significant details necessary to solve the problem, or the topic of the question can easily be copied and pasted into Google and you will get hundreds to thousands of results that answer the question immediately.  Many articles have been written on the subject of how to ask an appropriate question to get a better answer. 

  1. Arnie Rowland wrote one for the MSDN forums last year that is on the SQL Examples Wiki Site titled How can I Prepare My Question to Increase the Possibility of Getting a Good Solution
  2. Jeff Moden wrote one on the SQL Server Central Site titled Forum Etiquette: How to post data/code on a forum to get the best help
  3. Jeff Smith wrote one on SQL Team titled  Need an Answer? Actually, No ... You Need a Question.

Since these references already exist, I am not going to rehash the information contained in them here.  Instead I am going to cover a topic not included in them, and that is how you address your post for people reading/responding to it.

Why, you might ask, would I cover this, and I have good reason.  While answering posts on the MSDN Forums in the last year, I have noted a number of times where people have made posts with statements like:

"If you are not a Microsoft Employee don't bother replying to this post."

or more recently on this post:

"I would like MVP or product engineer level confirmation that my ordering assumption is correct."

While this might seem like an acceptable request, to someone who works the forums and knows a good bit of information about SQL Server, this could seem like an arrogant statement.  I know in the past, prior to being an MVP, I answered more than a few of these posts.  Posing your question like this doesn't help you get a better answer.  In fact, it will actually turn people who might otherwise have the right answer away from your post simply because your question makes it seem like you aren't interested in what they have to say, or what they might know.

If you are posing a question online asking for assistance with a problem, first, make sure that you ask a real question, and that you provide the information needed to provide an answer.  Second don't try and limit your post to a specific target or audience.  If you demand a MSFT response, open a CSS case for your problem, since this is the appropriate method of guaranteeing a MSFT response to your problem.  Keep in mind that non-MVP, non-MSFT, non-Moderator members can provide as good a response as a MVP, MSFT, Moderator in many cases.

Published Monday, January 19, 2009 7:49 AM by Jonathan Kehayias
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BrentO said:

The sad fact is that the people who need to read this kind of thing don't - because they don't even search the web for answers first, let alone search it to find out how to ask a question.  We need a Beginner's Manual For The Internet: IT Edition. ;-)

January 19, 2009 7:03 AM

Adam Machanic said:

Here's a good link I used to use all the time when I was on the forums:

January 19, 2009 9:56 AM

GilaMonster said:

I've seen a lot of comments over the years that just about guaranteed that the poster would not get a good answer

"I said Expurts Only pls!" (in response to a well-thought out and accurate reply from someone fairly new to the forum)

"I didn't ask for your opinion. I asked where the problem is in my code" (In reply to a comment suggesting that perhaps truncating and shrinking the transaction log nightly was not a good idea)

"If I wanted someone to post a link to Books Online, I would have asked. In future, don't waste my time." (After asking a question on the syntax for BACKUP DATABASE

"I don't know who are. Do you know I'm a Sr. DBA." (after posting a list of homework-style questions)

"Ok, instead of giving me problems, how about providing a solution."

(after a reply saying that sending UDP broadcast messages from a trigger is possibly a bad idea)

I sometimes think people lose any manners that they may have when posting on a forum. Or do they treat people like that in person as well?

January 19, 2009 11:02 AM

AaronBertrand said:

What I hate is if I post a link to something, I almost always get one of two general responses:

(a) thanks for the link but I want you to tell me what's wrong rather than read it for myself

(b) your link broke

In every single case where (b) is the response, it is because the link was > 72 characters and their newsreader split it across more than one line.  I'm sorry but if you're too lazy to re-assemble a link then I'm going to spend my time helping others.  I use and a lot but usually when I am posting stuff on twitter etc. where mobile devices are the norm and people don't have ready access to easy copy & paste functionality.  I shouldn't have to do that every single time just in case the recipient is lazy.

January 19, 2009 1:05 PM

AaronBertrand said:

> this is the appropriate method of guaranteeing a MSFT response

Though MSDN managed newsgroups have changed this landscape a little bit.  Some of the people out there are actually guaranteed a response on the forums due to their MSDN subscription.  One of the bigger problems with this is that while the MSFT employees have access to the information that shows them who the MSDN managed customers are, we do not.  So sometimes we inadvertently interject when the OP actually expected a Microsoft response first.

(Often when this happens to me, the MSFT employee comes in and says, check out Aaron's response.  :-))

January 19, 2009 1:08 PM

eonsoy said:

Well, I don't know how it works in other countries but I believe that I do not have much chance to be even nominated for MVP award whatever I do because the qualifications of Microsoft in my country are different then the ones declared on MVP web site.

I said it because I sometimes see some questions that say "Only MVPs please!" and it kinda hurts. Because we are there only to share what we know and one can't talk about something he doesn't know of course and even he did it would be nonsense and nobody would care about it so why it's needed to mention it? I just skip that kind of posts.

And I know that some posters sometimes acting rude indeed (like the one recently, you probably can guess Aaron), nevertheless it's nice to be part of this valuable community and it's nice to see you guys around!

Ekrem Önsoy

January 20, 2009 5:31 AM

Denis Gobo said:

here is my favorite link

January 20, 2009 12:03 PM

eonsoy said:

Denis: According to that KB, it "does not apply" to SQL Server unfortunately =)

January 20, 2009 2:01 PM

Aaron Bertrand said:

Look, I know you are trying to use technology you don't quite understand, and you want someone to flip

January 31, 2009 2:41 PM
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