Why ask how, when why is so much more fun?

OK. So the original quote from Spawn¬†is exactly the opposite, but let’s go with it… ūüôā

A¬†few times in the past I’ve been asked questions and started to give a direct answer, then someone smarter has jumped in and asked the killer question. Why? Quite often it’s easy to answer¬†the initial question, so¬†rather than understand the reason for the question, you just respond¬†and pat yourself on the back. That’s great, but without knowing the context of the question, the “right answer” could actually be the “wrong answer”. As Tom always says, “The answer to every question is *it depends*!”

I had another situation like that recently. The questions was, “How can I install VNC on a Linux box?” Pretty simple answer and I know a guy who wrote an article on that, so I pointed them to the¬†article. Job done!

Then I got a pang of guilt and the conversation went like this…

  • Q: Why do¬†you want to install VNC?
  • A: Because my boss told me too.
  • Q: By why does your boss want you to install VNC?
  • A: Because the network connection breaks sometimes, making a¬†“ssh -X user@host” a dodgy¬†solution.

Now I have nothing¬†against VNC itself, but installing it on a server is one more attack vector to worry about, especially if it’s not necessary. Knowing the context allowed me to talk about silent installs, command line DBCA, running things in the background, even the screen command.

If the person goes away and installs VNC, that’s no skin off my nose, but just answering how, without knowing the context¬†could well have opened them, or me, up to criticism down the line.

So next time you answer a question and are about to enable smug mode, ask yourself if you have actually helped, or just taken the easy route.