Asking Questions When You Don't Know Enough

Sometimes when I need to fix an issue I don't know enough about the issue to ask the correct question.

If I could explain it to someone in person or some kind of chat I would probably be able to muddle my way through it however when it comes to distilling that question into words I struggle.

Is this a lack of knowledge on my part, sure it is. If I knew more about the topic then I would find it easier to ask the question.

Learn more about the topic

Should I learn more about the topic? No I don't think that's the correct answer. That could be the answer to everything, I don't want to know everything about the topic, I just want the answer.


What about documentation? Well it tends to be more of a reference for things where I already know the answer. Sometimes it can be good but again you need to know what you are looking for even more so with documentation.1


Asking the question in IRC (or discord 🤮 (as is unfortunately more common these days)(it's a black hole of all knowledge)) or a forum can work but won't often yield exact results or you may not even get a response as you can't phrase the question correctly

Asking the question correctly

according to esr

Is it possible to ask a question correctly when you don't know enough? Maybe but I would not be to sure.

"Be precise and informative about your problem"

Can't do that if we don't know enough.

"Volume is not precision"

Often it is hard to simplify a question if you don't know enough information about the topic to simplify it.

"Describe the goal, not the step"

This could help. We might be on the completely wrong path

The best way

Ask a friend who hopefully knows more about the topic and will be accommodating to your ignorance.

Most people won't have friends who know enough about a topic to help them though

The actual best way

"the best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question; it's to post the wrong answer."

Ask your question, create a new account, answer it incorrectly, get the right answer.

An Idea

Is this a solved problem? Am I stupid? What is the point of this post? Who knows - more questions that will go unsolved.

  1. Djangos documentation has something called topic guides which can be very helpful with the discoverability aspect of things 

Published on Feb. 15, 2022, 6:15 p.m.