Posted by: 6x6pix | April 30, 2010

How to Ask a Question

Between all the years I spent providing technology support and all the years I spent building web “solutions” for clients, I’ve heard a lot of bad questions in my life. By “bad” I don’t mean “dumb;” I mean incomplete, poorly phrased, or simply the wrong question for what the person asking wants to know. If you’re calling the computer help line, the people on the other end are both trained and committed to asking you the counter-questions necessary to help them help you. But if you’re posting a question to… say… the BPC message board, you may not be so lucky. So, because I love our members and want you to get the help you need, here are a few quick tips on how to ask good questions:

Be as specific as possible about what you want to know. Don’t post “I’m looking for information on flash photography and toy cameras,” when what you really want to know is whether you can do rear-curtain flash synch with your Holga. For one thing, not many members visiting the message board have the time or inclination to pontificate at length on open-ended questions; for another thing, you don’t have time to read irrelevant responses about the technical specs of the new-generation Diana’s built-in flash — so don’t invite them.

If you’re asking for recommendations, give as much info as you can about your circumstances and needs. If you ask, “should I buy a DSLR or a point & shoot?” no one can possibly advise you until you’ve answered a bunch of other questions (“What type of things to you tend to photograph?” “Under what conditions?” “Are there things you don’t shoot now because of your equipment, that you wish you could?” “What’s your budget?” etc etc etc). You’re asking for advice — don’t make people work to find out what they need to know in order to advise  you.

Watch your thread. Don’t hit-and-run post, it frustrates your respondents, especially when they’ve asked for additional info and you’re nowhere to be found. We’re all pressed for time, but that just means it’s even more  important that you monitor your thread closely and interact with the people responding so they don’t feel like they’re wasting their time in trying to help you out.

Bottom line: taking the time to craft a specific question and provide important related info will pay off in more relevant, more meaningful responses.

Oh, and if you really do want to know if you can do rear-curtain flash synching on your Holga, the answer is probably not. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try ;-)


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