You already got your answer, why are you re-asking the question?


Today's rant is a blend of two earlier rants: People didn't answer your first email for a reason and If you didn't like the answer, asking the same question again is unlikely to help.

A customer submitted a list of questions (via their customer liaison) to the Widgets discussion list, and somebody wrote up a reply, which was sent back to the customer. So far so good.

A few days later, the same list of questions was submitted to the Gizmo discussion list via a different customer liaison. Since the question was about Widgets, the question was forwarded to the Widgets discussion list, at which point the same answer was forwarded back. Okay, so now we have a fishing expedition.

Three weeks later, the same list of question was submitted to the Gizmo discussion list via yet another customer liaison. The fishing expedition continues. The question was once again forwarded to the Widgets discussion list, where the same answer was forwarded back.

When I asked why the same set of questions was being asked three times, the third customer liaison explained, "The customer is looking for more detail."

Asking the same question over and over again is not a way to get more detail.

"By what mechanism does SetWidgetColor inform the widget that its color state has changed?"

The widget receives an OnColorChanged event.

"By what mechanism does SetWidgetColor inform the widget that its color state has changed?"

The widget receives an OnColorChanged event.

"By what mechanism does SetWidgetColor inform the widget that its color state has changed?"

The widget receives an OnColorChanged event. Why do you keep asking?

"I want more details."

If you want more details, you have to say that you're asking for more details, and you have to say what kind of details you're looking for.

It turns out that this customer didn't even know what kind of details they wanted. They just wanted to know "everything" about widget color changes.

Comments (29)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Someone get this customer a subscription to Details magazine, pronto.

  2. This may not actually be the right place to ask, but by what mechanism does SetWidgetColor inform the widget that its color state has changed?

  3. Anonymous says:

    The most overlooked step in asking a good question is deciding precisely what you want out of the response. It's not an easy thing to do, but I find that when I do it, in many cases, the answer becomes more obvious.

  4. kinokijuf says:

    @MennovdH The widget receives an OnColorChanged event.

  5. @MennovdH – You ninja'd me. I was about to ask the very same question.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I keep reporting bugs and they don't get fixed. Whey do I keep reporting them?

  7. To be fair, sometimes this is just an artifact of the customer being faced with a halting problem.

    They need to know how their widget is informed that its color state has changed.  So they go post on a web forum.  After a day, no responses.

    So they send an email to someone they got help from before.  After a day, no response.

    So they open a new support case.

    Then three different support folks pick up the question that was submitted three different ways, and send the question to the widget feature team.

  8. Anonymous says:

    @kinokijuf: it would have been better if you'd redirected this to the appropriate forum. Don't encourage people to start off-topic discussions, please.

  9. Can I get a list of all the conditions in which my application will be sent a OnColorChanged event for the widget?  <snark>

  10. Anonymous says:

    blogs.msdn.com/…/9341164.aspx

    X: Can I have an order by in a view?

    SQLTEAM: No

    X: Can I have an order by in a view?

    SQLTEAM: No

    X: Can i have an order by in a view?

    MVP: Yes. SELECT TOP 100 PERCENT ORDER BY

  11. Anonymous says:

    Why does this blog software keep swallowing my comments?  I can't seem to get anything through, no matter how I edit my words.

  12. Anonymous says:

    @Joshua "I keep reporting bugs and they don't get fixed. Whey do I keep reporting them?".

    I saw that happen this week.  Someone reported an issue they were having via our internal help alias and I pointed out to them that it was by design, and gave specific reasoning as to why.  I even asked what they were trying to accomplish to see if I could help them do what they wanted.  They didn't respond back with more detail, or disagree, or say "thanks, got it.".  Nothing.  Two days later, our program manager assigns me a bug to investigate.  Guess what the "bug" was?  Yep, exactly the same as the email.  Let's just say it was a very short bug investigation.  By design.  Yeesh.  Talk about passive-agressive.  If you didn't agree with my answer on the alias, how about explaining why you disagreed, instead of just opening a bug?  Then I could help you accomplish whatever it was that you were trying to do.

  13. James Curran says:

    Reminds me of something that happened years ago, on the CompuServe movies forum.  Someone posted a message describing on obscure movie from the 50's and asking for it's title and if it's on video.  Someone gave it title ("Blue Denim") and said it wasn't available on video.   About two weeks later, another message, describing the same movie and asking for it's title and if it's on video.  Same answer given.  Another two weeks go by, and again, a message describing the same file and asking for it's title, and getting the same response. This went on for a couple months. Eventually, someone challenged the poster, and he said if kept trying to find someone with a copy of the movie — however, the idea of mentioning the title of the movie in his subsequent messages once he was told it never occurred to him.  He just kept posting the description and letting the forum members try to figure out what movie it was.

  14. Anonymous says:

    @Ian Boyd, the exact next comment in that very thread claimed that your method would not work (at least in SQL2005).  Are you fishing for a different response this time?

  15. Anonymous says:

    @AndreN: In my case I've got a bunch of acknowledged bugs in Microsoft Connect that are not fixed. One affects every version of VS starting with 2003 (I'm the one who reported it in the 2010 version).

  16. Anonymous says:

    @Joshua: Did you explicitly mention that you want the bug fixed?

  17. Anonymous says:

    @AndreN: Just take a look at the Connect-site and the bugs that are closed as "By Design". In most cases "By Design" is used as an excuse for ignorance.

  18. Anonymous says:

    @cheong00: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results."

  19. cheong00 says:

    Some urban legend says if you keep asking the same question 1,001 times, you'll see a different answer. *joke*

  20. Anonymous says:

    @ThomasX: Doesn't help.

    At this point I'm starting to wonder if I could make a killing publishing fixes for some of these bugs. Most of the ones I find and report are not that hard to fix but Microsoft won't lift a finger. One of them I was able to blind (meaning I didn't have to read a line of disassembly) binary patch in about 4 hours.

    [Fixing the bug is often the easiest step. Testing it is hard. -Raymond]
  21. Anonymous says:

    I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer given some moments ago

  22. Anonymous says:

    The problem here appears to be customer liaisons who don't know the difference between their job and an email gateway.  It is their job is to determine the customers *precise problem* before seeking a solution to that problem.

  23. Anonymous says:

    [Fixing the bug is often the easiest step. Testing it is hard. -Raymond]

    "Only apply this update to machines exhibiting the problem."

    [So there are 2^N versions of each update, one for each of the N possible yes/no decisions in previous optional updates. -Raymond]
  24. Anonymous says:

    @Joshua: "I've got a bunch of acknowledged bugs in Microsoft Connect that are not fixed."

    "This behavior is by design."

    MS Connect exists particularly to funnel and park bug requests. *joke*

  25. Anonymous says:

    @Joshua And I hope you're testing your patch on hundreds of different configurations, with lots of different available software (commercial and free) installed to make sure there are no regressions or security problems introduced? You didn't think that writing a few lines of code would be the real problem here, would you? That's almost always the easiest part of the problem..

  26. cheong00 says:

    @Neil: I would actually expect different reply on about the 2-3 times, containing NSFW words like the third word from RTFM (the ruder interpretation). :P

  27. Anonymous says:

    @voo: There must be better ways than trial and error.

  28. Anonymous says:

    @an angry commenter – the blog software will silently [mostly silently – it's distinguishable in that it does not show a confirmation message, but there's no error message] "eat" comments that were posted a certain amount of time after the form loads. To work around this, copy your content to the clipboard before submitting if you think this may happen.

  29. Anonymous says:

    @voo: It was obviously unnecessary so far. I am plotting a blind fix for another one that may need significant testing though.

Comments are closed.