Wednesday, August 17, 2005

How to be a good Newbie

What constitutes a 'good' Newbie?

One of the things I've been looking at lately is how Newbies are treated out there in the big, bad world of DBA's, particularly in forums and discussion groups.
Some forums and individuals are quite tolerant of Newbies and aim to be helpful, others are just downright hostile.

RTFM seems to be the stock answer of choice these days, with the Newbie often left thinking 'which FM are they talking about!'
A previous post on Tom Kyte's blog talks about this in depth.

What I'd like to know is, what do the 'elders' in the community expect from Newbies?

What would make you more enthused to help out?

I received an email from Jeff Hunter outlining the ways in which he believed Newbies could raise their profile.
It was very helpful, and with hindsight, most of it is common sense.

These forums are a free service, nobody is obliged to answer a post.
Newbies should also not forget that many of the people responding are at work themselves, so they don't appreciate being asked to do someone else's job for them.

Newbies are more likely to get a helpful response if they can prove they have done some thinking for themselves.
Sending a post saying "I have a problem, X, I have tried solutions Y and Z, but I still have a problem, what can I try next" is more likely to get a response than "It's broken tell me how to fix it".

What suggestions do you have?

12 Comments:

Blogger shrek said...

check RMOUG for my "it's broke, fix it now!" presentation.

and don't ask us to do your homework, most of the people wrote and/or taught the classes you're taking so we know.;-)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 11:15:00 pm  
Blogger Gary Myers said...

It helps to identify yourself as a newbie.

http://www.quest-pipelines.com/pipelines/dba/index.asp
has a "The Beginner DBA" section in its DBA forum and "Beginner PL/SQL Development Questions" in the PL/SQL Forum.
I think the idea is that any-one looking at questions in those areas will have a bit more tolerance (or will reply with a bit more 'teaching').

Tom Kyte's blog has a good posting on asking questions (is anything he does not good ?)
http://tkyte.blogspot.com/2005/06/how-to-ask-questions.html

And a 'useful' title (not "SQL question", "Please help", "Error" or "urgent"). If someone has a dramatic thought about your problem over a coffee, you want them to be able to find your thread quickly (before they give up). Something that summarises your problem.

My personal bugbear is the question that is pretty much 'I have a performance problem with this SQL:' and gives an SQL with no explain plan, no table sizes, no indexes.....

Wednesday, August 17, 2005 11:25:00 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Most definitely, ask politely. Demanding that someone fix your problem is a good way to get ignored. Or flamed.

And do NOT post "URGENT MY SYSTEM IS DOWN" messages. Besides the fact that that is what Oracle Support is there for, most of the people will be reading your email message with some sort of time lag and would not be able to respond in a reasonable time, even if they wanted to.

Thursday, August 18, 2005 12:21:00 am  
Blogger Thomas Kyte said...

Here is my advice for people asking questions -- not tongue in cheek, and not just for "newbies"

Pretend the person you are trying to describe the problem to is your Mom. Use that level of detail in the writing of the problem (*remember, you would not give a core dump to your mom*). You would be extremely verbose and use simple non-work related terms if you tried to explain the issue to your MOM.

People on the other end of the forum haven't been looking at your problem for hours (like you)

They do not understand your terms you've made up where you work (like you).

They do not know your requirements (like you).

They do not want 50 pages of code, they want to understand the "problem" and the "goal"

This isn't just for 'newbies', this applies to anything. Version, OS, goal - most most important.

Thursday, August 18, 2005 2:38:00 am  
Blogger Daniel Fink said...

I think most people are tolerant of a 'newbie' who shows respect for other's time and efforts. You can show that respect by briefly and accurately describing the problem, the steps you have taken to troubleshoot, books/sites you've perused to try to locate the answer and any relevant details you might have. Use clear sentences and grammar (messages laced with abbreviations are not fun to read).

Finally, ask for assistance not answers. This shows that you want to learn the lesson yourself and are willing to make the effort.

If you can make positive contributions to the forum, your questions will be given a measure of respect.

You get what you give.

Cheers,
Dan

Thursday, August 18, 2005 2:18:00 pm  
Blogger Robert Vollman said...

I wrote a brief article on this as well, with some great links for asking for help (including some from Jeff):

http://thinkoracle.blogspot.com/2005/06/asking-for-help.html

Here is an article on Oracle Documentation (ie. "TFM")

http://thinkoracle.blogspot.com/2005/07/oracle-docs.html

Thursday, August 18, 2005 4:19:00 pm  
Blogger Bill S. said...

I'm a newbie myself (somewhat) but an equally important detail (that I think is covered by Tom's "describe it to your mom" scenario - include your O/S, your Oracle version and anything special you're doing (RAC, replication, etc.) that may be pertinent to the problem. A solution offered for 9.2.0.4 will be of little help to someone using 8.1.7 :-D

Thursday, August 18, 2005 4:57:00 pm  
Blogger Daniel Fink said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Friday, August 19, 2005 3:02:00 pm  
Blogger Daniel Fink said...

On CDOS, a self-described newbie just posted a request for assitance. I think that this is a good example of how to ask a 'newbie' question.

http://tinyurl.com/786yk

Dan

Friday, August 19, 2005 6:14:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lisa,
in your post you said "I received an email from Jeff Hunter outlining the ways in which he believed Newbies could raise their profile."

Could you please elaborate on Jeff's recommendations for the benefit of other aspiring DBA's? I'd guess that writing your own blog, participating in forums and writing technical papers would be important.

Thanks

Tuesday, August 23, 2005 2:34:00 pm  
Blogger Jeff Hunter said...

Here's another tip I might not have mentioned:

If you're trying to debug a procedure, don't post all 500 lines. Show me the piece of code that is getting an error and the 5 lines before and the 5 lines after.

Oh, and learn what [code][/code] does because I have tired eyes and if I have to look at 50 lines of un-indented code, I'll just skip it.

Friday, August 26, 2005 6:10:00 pm  
Blogger Thomas Kyte said...

I once remember someone by your name posting a comment to the effect of:

knock knock knock
Is this thing on?

On a forum once upon an almost year ago.

So, is this thing still on here? long time, not a word........

:)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005 5:46:00 pm  

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