Learning to answer questions for yourself!


notes-514998_640It’s not important that you know the answer. It’s important you know how to get the answer!

I’m pretty sure I’ve written this before, but I am constantly surprised by some of the questions that come my way. Not surprised that people don’t know the answer, but surprised they don’t know how to get the answer. The vast majority of the time someone asks me a question that I can’t answer off the top of my head, this is what I do in this order.

  1. Google their question, often using the subject line of their post or email. A lot of the time, the first couple of links will give me the answer. Sometimes it’s one of my articles that gives me the answer. 🙂
  2. Search the Oracle documentation for the topic and/or quickly scan through the table of contents in the relevant manuals.
  3. Search My Oracle Support.

It is very rare I’ve not got the answer by the time I’ve finished (3). Typically it takes me about 5 minutes to complete this search.

If I get to the end of this process and I don’t have the answer, then I have to start some real investigation, which will often involve the same steps again, but taking more time on each, trying to exhaust my options for terms and phrases to search with.

When I get what I think is the answer, I test it to make sure it really is the answer!

Now I realise there are going to be things that fall outside of this process, but in my experience, the vast majority of questions people ask are pretty simple to answer if they follow this method. There are also some other advantages to doing it yourself.

  • You start to recognise people who are good in specific areas. That helps you build a list of trusted sources. The last thing you want to do is take advice off a chump!
  • During the process of trying to find answers for yourself, you invariably learn other things that are potentially more interesting and important than the answer to your initial question.
  • By testing stuff, you learn stuff. There is a lot of bad information out on the internet. Sometimes it’s just downright wrong. Sometimes it was correct for the version it was written against, but is not correct for the current version. Don’t trust anyone, even “good people”. Always confirm the answers for yourself.

Most people don’t walk round with all this stuff in their head, but they know where (and how) to look for the information when they need it!

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Go fish! 🙂



Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

7 thoughts on “Learning to answer questions for yourself!”

  1. Amen! It seems that so many people don’t know how to perform a basic Google search, let alone how to find the documentation etc!

  2. Teach a man to fish….and most likely he’ll sit around in a boat all day drinking beer 🙂

  3. Good article, Tim! I suspect the second question should read this, though – “It’s important you know HOW to get the answer!” 🙂 As for Connor’s comment, spoken like a true Australian! 🙂

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