Need Words to Ask Questions

Posted by admin on February 8th, 2011 filed in Technical Writing

JME‘s Erlend published a nice short article on joining open-source game projects. I like his “get talented” tip, “hone your skills.” Most members of open-source projects do that of their own accord, props to them. Others sign up for a “3D game project” project at school and then notice they need to learn Java first, plus 3D graphics vocabulary…

I didn’t know all that stuff either when I started! The trick when joining a new project is, as on any forum, to ask non-annoying questions: Questions that subtly imply that you gave it some thought first; that you looked up how these terms relate to one another; that you do not want random strangers to look up things on wikipedia for you. “I know that an X is a Y, but when do I use X1, and when X2?” will give you more answers than just “What’s an X?”

In my z/OS basics training, I felt like a beginner all over again. :-D My notes looked a lot like “command that goes into the top area” and “characters that go in the left column” and “abbreviations that go on the command line…thing”. How do I even look that up on wikipedia?

After the class I filled in a survey on, among other things, how the class could be improved. So I wrote, please introduce us to the vocabulary first, how do we refer to UI elements on the greenscreen? Does it happen to you too that a relative asks for computer help, and are not certain about basic concepts like “menu”, “window”, “button”, “click” vs “double-click”, etc? How would they ask questions? How would they even take notes?

I’ll remember that next time when I introduce someone to a new application, or tool, or whatever — Make sure that everyone involved is on the same page how to refer to parts, actions, and categories involved, it will save you nerves when the questions come in.

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