PDA

View Full Version : How to answer sloppy RFI's



David G
05-17-2008, 11:04 AM
An RFI is "Request For Information". Mark's recent thread about confusing a new fellow (who was just looking for information) by throwing in references to gronicles - raised an interesting side issue for me.

How does one deal with sloppy, and/or incomplete, and/or inadequately researched inquiries?

I'm relatively now to the forums, but I have 30+ years experience as a woodworker. Cabinetry, furniture, boats, architectural millwork, antique restoration, outdoor (gates, gazebos, pergolas) etc. I'm perfectly willing to share and show off my knowledge and experience - here, and on other forums. However... Sometimes (frequently?) the questioner will inadequately lay out the problem. If find that frustrating.

To some degree, part of needing help and advice is not knowing enough to know exactly what sort of help you need. Knowing how to frame the question is a big first step toward a solution, but requires some mix of knowledge, experience, and problem solving skills the asker may not possess.

With that in mind... sometimes I've spent a good bit of time formulating a set of questions to be answered in order to frame the inquiry so as to be answerable. Frequently, though, the asker doesn't take the time to respond to the list. Instead, they respond to the possible answers that others have subsequently put forth (and that aren't likely to be on target - except by sheer dumb luck - due to having such a hazy target to start with) by saying "yeah, but...". Now, eventually, that approach can narrow and focus the inquiry to the point of being productively answered. Sometimes, though, all parties just grow weary and drift off.

Another approach that I've sometimes adopted is to put together a group of links or other resources to refer people to. Essentially saying - go do some research, and if you have further questions, come back. I have no idea whether most of the folks avail themselves, or not. I have had a few messages back, thanking me for the info - but not many.

Then there are the times when I just feel like responding by telling them to go away, do some research, and come back when they have an intelligent, well-formulated question to pose. I don't tend to indulge this Surly Old Coot side very often, but I'm tempted all too often.

Reactions? Has anyone else struggled with this issue?

"Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don't know and I don't care" -- William Safire

paladin
05-17-2008, 11:09 AM
some of the "problems" may be that the person posting does not have english as a first language....we have a lot of folks from other countries posting, and sometimes it seems extremely rude to me to read some of the responses. Give the person a chance.

Bill R
05-17-2008, 11:13 AM
With clients in my sideline business and most of my co-workers, I usually try to talk to them to determine exactly what they are asking. Not everyone can easily pose a concise, to the point question, especially if they are not completely familiar with the subject. I am one of those people, so I try to be understanding.

HOWEVER...


there are the times when I just feel like responding by telling them to go away, do some research, and come back when they have an intelligent, well-formulated question to pose.

That is what I usually do at work with certain cow-irkers. I get sick and tired of dealing with continuous stupidity from morons who should know better, but are just too damn lazy to figure it out for themselves.

SchoonerRat
05-17-2008, 12:23 PM
The problem is that in order to know all the questions to ask you have to at least have asked some of them already.

You will spend much of your time during your adult life getting your "client" to be able to properly communicate his "needs" to you.

Get used to it.

It's called LIFE

The guys or gals who post pics and ask the right questions aren't beginners. Many of them are actually pros, and are stuck with something they've never seen before. Beginners are always hard to help "by remote control" as you have to from an on line community.

The "gronicle" thing in that particular reference probably didn't help much. And I would like to point out here that Gronicle is in fact a brand name (like Coke or Kleenex) for the generic device properly known as a left handed franistat. Companies hate it when their trademarked brands go into public domain.

If he is asking the question without adequate documentation, he is a beginner. A beginner goes into overload with too many questions. I can't really blame him. He doesn't want questions, he wants answers, and answers are a whole lot easier to deal with than questions are. Hell, at minimum you don't have to find answers for them. They're already answers.

Beginners don't last too long around a place like this. It can be a tough town round here. Either they grow up quick, and they become easier to help; or they leave quietly.

PICTURES!!!!

Ask for pictures. You learn a lot by touching, and tapping, and smelling; and sometimes even with that information---it's not enough. Problem is---you can't do any of that on line. But you can ask for pictures.

David G
05-17-2008, 01:42 PM
some of the "problems" may be that the person posting does not have english as a first language....we have a lot of folks from other countries posting, and sometimes it seems extremely rude to me to read some of the responses. Give the person a chance.

Paladin - you're right. Forums tend to draw from all around the world. I'm pretty attuned and sympathetic to that situation, and it's not the one I struggle with.