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Are you comfortable answering technical questions?

Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
    5
We'd like to think that the more people we have answering questions the better. So the question is, do you feel that JavaRanch is a safe place to answer questions? Do you think it's okay to try to answer a question even if you're not sure of the answer?

If you don't feel safe, what could we do to make the ranch safer for such attempts?

Thanks!

Bert


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Michael Dunn
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 09, 2003
Posts: 4632
> Do you think it's okay to try to answer a question even if you're not sure of the answer?

I'm not sure...



[couldn't resist]
Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 38481
    
  23
I do it all the time . . .

I think our FAQ is correct which tells us to make it clear when we are not sure. I can't see anything wrong with being uncertain, as long as you make it clear when you are uncertain.
Paul Yule
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 12, 2008
Posts: 229
We'd like to think that the more people we have answering questions the better. So the question is, do you feel that JavaRanch is a safe place to answer questions? Do you think it's okay to try to answer a question even if you're not sure of the answer?



I've avoided answering questions even when I was positive I knew the answer because of the same relative fear. Personally I think it should be okay to attempt to answer any question even if it's totally on intuition. Most uncharted territory is solved that way anyway IMHO. As long as it's clear to everyone that you don't know.

Personally, with the exception of CR I don't see the philosophy generally accepted. My limited forum participation has generally taught me that most people who do really really know what their talking about wonder why you even bother if you aren't sure. Even they don't post unless they are positive. Most of us know that with the plethora of knowledge here on the ranch that your attempt will be cleaned up shortly by someone who definitely beyond a shadow of a doubt knows the answer.
Bert Bates
author
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8815
    
    5
Thanks for those thoughts Paul!

Other moderators might feel differently, but here's my goal:

For me JavaRanch isn't so much about a place to go to get your questions answered. It's more like a place for everyone to learn. From a teaching perspective I believe it's really powerful, when you're learning a topic, to try to answer questions about that topic - especially to try to write answers as opposed to speaking answers. My experience is, when I'm learning a topic, that when I try to write an answer to a question I quickly discover where my own understanding is a little weak, and it helps me to learn the topic better.

So, I'd like to promote and foster an attitude that JavaRanch is more about everyone learning, and less about JavaRanch is a place where some really smart people will always have the answers to your questions.

I'd love to get more conversation on this topic, but personally I'd be thrilled if I saw more posts like: "Well I'm not sure about the answer but as I'm trying to learn the topic I think the answer is X".

Thoughts?

Bert
Paul Yule
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 12, 2008
Posts: 229
Originally posted by Bert Bates:

My experience is, when I'm learning a topic, that when I try to write an answer to a question I quickly discover where my own understanding is a little weak, and it helps me to learn the topic better.


I think this philosophy is tough to argue with. I also think it's something that is embraced fully here on the ranch...when people start topics. The fact that they are there to learn has been stated clearly by hitting the "start new thread" button.

I think most moderators do an excellent job preffering that people talk it out and then pose questions to the posters rather than answers because we all prefer to teach/be taught to fish. Just takes more willpower from the watchers to post anything we feel can contribute even if it ends up being off the wall. More willpower from the moderators to accept it as learning.

I'll be the first to tell you though that it's hard to feel like you can contribute when you feel like your surrounded by people who just actually know it all because you are at the risk of feeling like a total idiot. I also think I'm not alone when I say that. It's important to note that it isn't because the CM's are hostile as it is with other sites.
[ November 18, 2008: Message edited by: Paul Yule ]
Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 38481
    
  23
Originally posted by Paul Yule:
. . . It's important to note that it isn't because the CM's are hostile as it is with other sites.


I presume I am the CR you mentioned earlier, but what does CM mean?
Paul Yule
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 12, 2008
Posts: 229
Originally posted by Campbell Ritchie:


what does CM mean?


Community Moderator
Campbell Ritchie
Sheriff

Joined: Oct 13, 2005
Posts: 38481
    
  23
Thank you.
Brian Legg
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 07, 2008
Posts: 488
Originally posted by Bert Bates:
Thanks for those thoughts Paul!

Other moderators might feel differently, but here's my goal:

For me JavaRanch isn't so much about a place to go to get your questions answered. It's more like a place for everyone to learn. From a teaching perspective I believe it's really powerful, when you're learning a topic, to try to answer questions about that topic - especially to try to write answers as opposed to speaking answers. My experience is, when I'm learning a topic, that when I try to write an answer to a question I quickly discover where my own understanding is a little weak, and it helps me to learn the topic better.

So, I'd like to promote and foster an attitude that JavaRanch is more about everyone learning, and less about JavaRanch is a place where some really smart people will always have the answers to your questions.

I'd love to get more conversation on this topic, but personally I'd be thrilled if I saw more posts like: "Well I'm not sure about the answer but as I'm trying to learn the topic I think the answer is X".

Thoughts?

Bert



I'm a newcommer here and so far I have felt pretty safe answering questions. I am NO WHERE near an expert and have just recently finished reading your book SCJP6 I have the exact same philosophy when it comes to learning and have been trying to answer as many questions as I can. If you look back in my short post history I think I have done a good job at "trying" to answer peoples questions but also letting them know I may be completely wrong! Anyways, I have posted wrong or semi-wrong answers a few times now and no one has bitten my head off, just steered me straight, so I would have to say that the JavaRanch is an inviting place for newcommers and the people here do a good job to foster learning as opposed to just answering questions. If I may, I'd especially like to commend Henry Wong. There are several others that are good at answering questions but Henry has a great way of asking "What did you think the answer was first?" and other questions that really force the original poster to think about the question more so than just getting their quick answer.


SCJA
~Currently preparing for SCJP6
Eric Pascarello
author
Rancher

Joined: Nov 08, 2001
Posts: 15376
    
    6
My view has always been to try to help others out if I think I know a little about the issue. If I am wrong, there will be someone right behind me to correct my mistakes and I will learn along with the original poster.

Now I have been on IRC channels that if you answer a question in a wrong way, you are basically stoned by all the members. I do not think I have seen that here in my 7 years on the ranch.

If I am a little scared my answer is wrong or not 100% correct, I tend to word my answers saying that. I think I could use a "I am not 100% sure this is correct" gramemlin!

Eric
Ankit Garg
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 03, 2008
Posts: 9293
    
  17

Well my personal experiences here have been that if you explain something to someone and make even a single mistake in it, someone will come and quote you and say "Hey you are wrong. It is like this not like that". I used to hate this in the beginning. You are giving a long explanation and only one line makes all of it junk (sometimes you don't get a thank you in these cases ). But now I enjoy it. It has become a challenge for me to write explanations which are true in every way. I try not to make any mistakes. Whenever there's a need to skip something for simple understanding, I write it in brackets to avoid being quoted


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Ulf Dittmer
Marshal

Joined: Mar 22, 2005
Posts: 41601
    
  55
Originally posted by Ankit Garg:
You are giving a long explanation and only one line makes all of it junk

Not all of it. If -out of a long post- only a small part is being disagreed with, then I'd assume that the rest is OK.

Striving for 100% accuracy is nice, but we're all human - sometimes we overlook something while reading, sometimes we misunderstand things, sometimes we even type something that we really know not to be true because we got distracted, and yes - sometimes our understanding of something is not actually correct. In which case I'd want that to be pointed out so that I can learn. And that's really what this site is about.

Of course, some people may expect perfection from someone who calls his blog "jgenius"


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Ankit Garg
Sheriff

Joined: Aug 03, 2008
Posts: 9293
    
  17

I agree with you Ulf that a small error doesn't make your whole explanation junk. But I take it up as a challenge to try to explain things as comprehensively as possible. This is what I have learned from javaranch, being perfectionist. There are so many gurus here that it's feels good to be part of such a huge family.

And nice joke about the genius thing . This is what I like here. All of you admins are so down to earth that it makes everyone feel that you are not different in any means than a normal person on the site ...
[ November 26, 2008: Message edited by: Ankit Garg ]
Darryl Burke
Bartender

Joined: May 03, 2008
Posts: 4531
    
    5

As someone who has literally learned Java off the forums (primarily over at the Sun JDC) I can say that you can learn a lot from making your own mistakes and being corrected. But phraseology is important: a guess must be identified as such.

When I'm not at all sure, I often post with the disclaimer: This is just a guess. If I'm fairly sure, I might stick my neck out to say: You could try this. Or the terse (Untested).

I've even posted working, tested solutions and tagged on: Hang around, I'm no expert on this. Someone may be here with a better answer.

And particularly in the tangled world of GUI customization, I sometimes introduce a nasty, hackish but working solution with: Somebody please tell me there's a better way to do this.

That way, it's a pleasure when somebody does. And the OP has something to play with till that happens. I see it as a win-win situation.


luck, db
There are no new questions, but there may be new answers.
Brian Legg
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 07, 2008
Posts: 488
Hey Ulf, didn't you just quote one line of Ankit's long post and turn the whole thing into junk?

Anyways, I think someday you will be a bartender Ankit. Your answers are always full of insight and you are constantly helping the noobs like me.
Martijn Verburg
author
Bartender

Joined: Jun 24, 2003
Posts: 3274
    
    5

Originally posted by Ankit Garg:
And nice joke about the genius thing . This is what I like here. All of you admins are so down to earth that it makes everyone feel that you are not different in any means than a normal person on the site ...
[ November 26, 2008: Message edited by: Ankit Garg ]


Ssssh, you'll let the secret out! Truth is that in several cases the knowledge of the 'normal person' is just as good if not better than the staff. I actually stalk the posts of several Ranch Hands and Ranchers because they are more knowledgeable than I am in certain areas, us staffers come here to learn as well you know


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