Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Questions Before You Ask

I need some help with appropriate way to handle a somewhat common situation.  Let me set this up a bit …

I've said many times in presentations and on this blog that I really like to get questions.  To me, that's the fun part.  It's so much fun that I spend time on posts like Social Grid Follow-up just going through and answering the questions that came up during the presentation.  I also have an open invite to engage me around Conversation Topics.  Both of these helps me learn, understand what is interesting to others, and where people find challenges.

Linked In Question Template

One of the things that I mentioned in the Social Grid Follow-up post was a particular template for asking for help via LinkedIn:

Hi <X>,
I'm hoping you'll be open to a brief conversation. From your profile you have a great background and it seems like you'll have lots of thoughts around my issues.

I'm working on XXX.

I've spent a fair bit of time researching and have been finding YYY.

I'd like to set a time to discuss this with you and get your thoughts.

The Questionable Question

Possibly because I had just written this, when I received the following inquiry:

I was wondering if you could provide me with your definition of a “Rapid Elearning Tool”.  I cant find an industry definition for this only examples of tools.

There was a bit more around the context for this question (why they were interested).  I sent the following response:

You will find varying definitions, a couple of posts:

You can also take a look through:

It's pretty rare I won't respond, but I think there's something important in the template above – show that you've done your basic homework and turn your question into something more interesting.

Question Homework

Before you ask me (or anyone) a question you should:

1. Search My Blog

Clearly this person had not searched my blog for definition rapid eLearning.

There are a couple of ways they could do this:

1a. Use site: on Google


1b. Use eLearning Learning to search my blog


The exact posts that I cite come up pretty easily.  FYI – there's a search box under the eLearning Learning logo that goes directly to search results on the eLearning Learning site which is much better than blogger's search.

2. Search Other Blogs and Web Pages

In this case, it's pretty easy to see what other people are saying via eLearning Learning:



You can also use plain old Google Search:


When you ask me a question, it's good to cite what I've already said, but it's MUCH BETTER to also mention some other sites and what they have to say on the matter.

3. Keep a List of What You've Found

4. Read through What You Find

5. Compose What You Find Into a Preliminary Answer

6. Figure Out What the Real Question Is

7. Ask the Real Question

Good Question Basis

If you go back to the template above, it's quite intentional that I'm saying:

I've spent a fair bit of time researching and have been finding YYY.

This is where I include what I've found so far and what it's been telling me.  If I was going to ask someone about the definition of Rapid eLearning I would certainly cite some definitions out there.  In fairness, they said that the definitions they found were lists of tools.  But they didn't put in links to those posts and they clearly had not searched my blog and read through my existing posts.

My Question to You

Now here's my question -

If I receive a question from a person that has clearly not done these steps, is it appropriate for me to simply send them a link to this post?

Others must run into this right?  What do you do?  Are these appropriate steps to gently providing guidance on how to ask better questions without offending and discouraging further questions?

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