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Tibor Karaszi

Is it only me or are "uncomfortable" answers largely ignored?

I do quite a bit of posting on forums, and I have noticed that in many cases when you take your time to explain how something work, or why you should do something perhaps in a not so obvious way, that answer tend to be ignored and never replied to.

Instead the original poster replies to the short answer which perhaps ignored things like best practices, performance, readability etc. And, very often I see endless discussion based on that reply, where the original poster never gets a satisfactory solution or even perhaps a working solution. And there I posted an elaboration which held the answer days ago! I also explained why solution X doesn't work and solution Y only work in some circumstances etc.

In many cases, we have taken the time to write articles or blog posts where we have predicted most misunderstandings and explain why you should do it this or that way and what drawbacks workaround A has, and also what drawbacks workaround B has. So, we post the URL to the article only to find that it apparently never was read because the following discussions in the thread goes on for days and waste time to elaborate on things that could be understood by spending some 10 - 20 minutes to actually read the article or blog post we pointed to.

I find this state mildly depressing. Have we reached the sad state where we don't tend to be interested in why something works, how it works, or even understand what we are actually doing? Quick fixes, anyone? Only 10 cents each!

Is this something new? I've been on forums for > 10 years now, let me try to think..... I believe that tendency has always been there, but perhaps it has been getting worse with time. What are your experiences? Am I only having a bad day?

Published Tuesday, April 21, 2009 12:16 AM by TiborKaraszi

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Aaron Bertrand said:

Of course, people are lazy... They don't need to understand why something works, they don't want to read anything, just give them a snippet of code they can copy and paste becaue we'll give them another tomorrow when they realize the first quick answer wasn't necessarily the best.  

April 20, 2009 6:48 PM
 

Paul Nielsen said:

I've heard from a growing number of people that management believes poorly performing code is best solved by faster hardware. Some actually belive that best practices are no longer valid or needed with today's fast hardware. It's not true, and depressing that so many buy into the false claim.

April 20, 2009 6:53 PM
 

Aaron Bertrand said:

yes, that is prevalent too.  Look at celko who professes that efficiency is not important on today's "fast" computers.  And who wouldn't listen to celko?  He wrote some books right?  I own them, and he is a smart guy with some good ideas.  But he has some bad ideas too, and they catch on far too easily.

April 20, 2009 7:19 PM
 

Jared Ko said:

I hear the same tired performance things repeated over and over. Things that haven't been true since SQL 6.5 and other things that have never been true. I love to post answers with full proof but, like you, I see that people are looking for the quick answer. Bottom line:

1. If your response won't fit on a bumper sticker then it will probably be ignored (Not enough people interested in the "why")

2. People will continue to believe whatever they've heard without testing it themselves and won't realize that their knowledge is outdated

Out of that, you can't be discouraged. I use "pepole" in the generic term but you should consider that there are other people reading it and they have learned from what you posted - even if the person who asked the original question was looking for a quick fix.

April 20, 2009 7:39 PM
 

Lee C.S. Young said:

Don't let it get to you. In the days of Twitter, instant messaging and the like, people are not generally inclined to have a long winded conversation. Rest assured when solution A fails and performance takes a hit over time, the original poster might come back to their thread and take your advice.

We live in a world of instant gratification. If something works, move on to the next problem. I'll readily admit I have fallen into that category - only until I have had to support a project for an extended period of time.

Like Jared said above, some people will fall upon your response from a search and actually take the time to read. The world is a huge place, and you're in all likelihood helping someone whether you know it or not.

April 20, 2009 7:54 PM
 

Adam Machanic said:

Yes, yes, yes!  One of the reasons I stopped visiting forums very often was this same sense of frustration...  And the other major annoyance I had was people asking the same questions that had been asked 12093 times before, and apparently these people haven't heard of this magical secret tool called "Google"...

April 20, 2009 8:00 PM
 

SDC said:

Possibilities:

1) original poster's company is cheap and only hires people when 'the price is right' - and they get what they pay for

2) really conscientious folks ARE searching before posting and getting answers that way (the question has already been asked)

3) too much focus on a quick fix in the world today - people who go the extra mile get the respect of their peers, but in situation 1) maybe they don't even have peers (at work anyway).

Not sure, just guessing.

Steve

April 20, 2009 9:32 PM
 

Alexander Kuznetsov said:

Tibor,

I used to feel the same before I largely pulled out of newsgroups activity. I concentrated on blogging which feels better for me. Yet when I was active on newsgroups, I clearly noticed a pattern - some newbies would consistently ignore replies from people with not English-sounding names. I would not worry about that, that's not your problem.

Aaron,

A decade ago there used to be Celko's books on many developers' desktops. I haven't seen a single Celko's book in several years, except at PASS bookstore - our Barnes and Noble does not carry them any more, my colleagues do not buy them. Maybe Midwest is different from East Coast...

April 20, 2009 10:19 PM
 

Uri Dimant said:

In the past two yeas a number of people who asks for help is dramatically decreasing, so what does it mean? People start searching more on internet to find the answers, however, I still see lots of questions as Adam said that "had been asked 12093 times before..." Folks want us to provide a solution  but very often without providing  sample data and explaining  the logic behind the scenes (I'm not talking providing the vesrion of SQL Server at all :-)).

I full agree with Tibor that people want the solution right now and right here without understanding how it does actually work.

April 21, 2009 12:08 AM
 

Jason Massie said:

If the question can't be asked or answered in char(140), you need to do some research or get a consultant.

p.s. Adam - get on twitter. kthxbai

April 21, 2009 1:00 AM
 

humbleDBA said:

Ditto to Adam's statement.

April 21, 2009 3:27 AM
 

daveballantyne said:

I find it most awkward when the poster is expecting a complete solution to their complex TSQL/Design issue.  I find it impossible to post a piece of code which I know the original poster will not be able to support.  A balance has to be struck between the "Teach a man to fish" lesson and "Here's a loaded gun, go shoot yourself" posting of code.

April 21, 2009 3:52 AM
 

DavidStein said:

Well, as someone who asks a lot of questions, I'd like to respond here.

I am someone who really wants to know the why's and best practices.  However, I think there is a tendency for gurus to overshoot the OP's ability to absorb the answer.  

There isn't enough basic help on the web.  Those who are capable of giving the help don't always relate well to those who need it.  In my opinion, at its most basic level, forums are an opportunity to teach.  Quality teaching requires the instructor (you) to relate to the questioner at their level, not yours.  

All too often the answer I'm given is more confusing than the original problem.  If I have to google half of the terms you use in your response to me, this is not good teaching.  

However, I have found quality help on www.sqlteam.com and they have some people there who are simply amazing.  

April 21, 2009 10:50 AM
 

BlackWasp said:

I think DavidStein has a very good point here that could be elaborated upon further. People who contact me directly often have similar opinions.

We have a plethora of problems in modern life and, as developers, DBAs, etc. the technical knowledge that we have to gain is no longer deep and specific. Instead, we are expected to have a wide breadth of knowledge _and_ deep knowledge in lots of areas. This is a problem of expectations of employers, particularly when in a recession the number of employees is shrinking but the workloads are not.

This means that in addition to the problem of a few people being too lazy to think about answers, people just do not have the time to learn anything to the depth expected of them, or necessary to understand some deeply technical responses.

When you bring together a too-wide-too-deep expectation, economic realities and very little time for real thinking, you generate stress. When people are stressed, they will do anything to relieve that stress quickly. Unfortunately, this means that people who would otherwise do what the OP would like them to do would prefer to skim until they find something that looks "about right".

This may mean storing up technical debt, but in today's environment people are making silly choices.

April 21, 2009 4:05 PM
 

Ekrem Onsoy said:

There is worse. Sometimes (recently happened to me as well) people reply back as if you insulted them. They sometimes ask for fundamental stuff which they should already knew before asking a question about SQL Server. You direct them to learn the basics and they reply back with anger and act you as you were a "smartass".

I believe there's really a thin line between being a "smartass" or a "rock star" on forums\newsgroups. Hopefully, majority is tend to act you more like a "rock star" than a "smartass".

Also, as SDC mentioned, small companies are looking for all-in-one IT people. So these kind of IT people are not tend to go to depth, they are just looking for quick fixes to save the day. So they are not really interested with articles or deep explanations. Even if we try to do our best to explain the question\problem, they just don't care.

And yes, it sometimes really makes you feel disappointed when you get a negative response (or no response at all) for your reply but when I bump into this kind of persons, I try to remember that I don't really reply for those "*ss-holes", I reply for fun.

April 22, 2009 2:15 AM
 

Paul White said:

Hey it's not so bad.  Even if the OP doesn't take notice, many other people may read the thread in future (or get the post from Google) so it's always worth giving the best answer you can.

Sure, people have diminishing attention-spans it seems (I blame technology ha ha) but that doesn't mean we should encourage it by only posting in VARCHAR(130)...

Paul

April 25, 2009 6:08 AM
 

Clive Strong said:

I hear ya.  One of the other things I see a lot which is annoying is a when you get someone searching for a particular problem and stumble onto a post which has a blog/fix description and yet they still ask if there is a resolution!

Some people just seem to scan the post without taking anything in - or if the suggestion sounds like they will have to backrtack and re do all their work, they just want a dirty trick or two to make what they have work.

Granted though, there are a lot of people out there who do want to learn and ensure their systems meet the best practices.

September 22, 2009 7:30 AM

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