There are several reasons why I’ve drastically cut back on the amount of time I spend in the various online SQL Server forums, including:

  1. People continuing to argue that the advice given to them is wrong (and I mean arguing even after me giving references suppporting the advice and explaining why my advice is correct)
  2. People asking questions that they could have found the answer to in Books Online or by Googling (yes, I prefer Google to Bing) a few keywords

#2 is mostly sheer laziness IMHO.

When Kimberly was on the SQL team at Microsoft many moons ago, she was famous for replying on a 2000-person internal alias (paraphrasing) “If it takes you more time to type this email and send it to the alias than it would to look up the answer in Books Online, you’re wasting 2000 people’s time”. She got 17 responses, 15 of which commended her. She has of course mellowed a little in her old age :-)

When one of my daughters comes to me saying they don’t understand how to do a math problem, I always ask them if they have read the instructions at the top of the page in their math workbook. Usually the answer is no, in which case I refuse to help until they’ve read the instructions, tried the problem again, and can explain what they think they’re supposed to do with the problem. The real world doesn’t have a friendly Dad there all the time to explain how to solve a problem.

There are good reasons why products come with manuals, including:

  • So that a company’s product support is not inundated with simple questions, saving the company money
  • So that people can easily figure out how to use the product’s functions without bashing their head against a wall in frustration
  • So that a company doesn’t get sued by failed Darwin Award candidates
    • E.g. “Do not operate the TreeMasher X3000 chainsaw with the diamond-tipped CutThroughAnything (TM) blade while drunk”
    • E.g. “Do not attempt to unclog your new in-sink Eviscerator (TM) waste disposal unit using your hands while it is running”
    • E.g. “Consuming excessive Jägermeister in Seattle will result in uncontrolled karaoke singing”

However, sometimes reading the manual does no good whatsoever. For example, on our recent European trip, we rented a BMW in Frankfurt for a couple of weeks of touring around. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to start the damn car. I tried looking in the manual, but it was in German, which neither of us understands. Eventually (after 15mins of increasing frustration) I figured out you have to press the start button while pressing the brake pedal. But that was my fault, not BMW’s – the manual did say how to do it, but I just couldn’t understand the manual.

Most of the time though, you can get a good idea of what you’re supposed to do by reading the manual. We’re currently writing the Denali JumpStart training material for Microsoft (like we’ve done since 2005 – see here for a description of the 2008 work). When we got hold of CTP-3 in early July we didn’t install the VMs we’d been given and then start randomly playing with stuff. We read BOL for the features we’re covering, and then started playing around. Why? So we didn’t waste time.

Books Online is pretty comprehensive in terms of syntax and in the last year or two their guidance and background explanations have improved and expanded immensely – kudos to the BOL team! So at least have a look in there first.

There’s a good reason why the website Let Me Google That For You exists – because people get annoyed when others ask questions for which the answer can easily be found. The LMGTFY tag line is “For all those people who find it more convenient to bother you with their question rather than google it for themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like helping people out on twitter, forums, and over email (to a point) – but I get really terse really quickly if someone sends me a question for which the answer is in BOL or shows up near the top of a simple Google search (e.g. a recent email I got was “where can I get a description of the what the input parameters to sys.dm_db_index_physical_stats are?”). You’ll know if you’ve offended if my reply just contains a URL.

Bottom line: Don’t waste everyone’s time, including your own. Read The F-ing Manual. Search online. Do some due diligence. And then feel free to ask all the questions you want – we’d all love to help you. But only after you’ve invested a little time trying to help yourself first.