Today I had the impression I was hostile with one of my non-tech co-worker. He asked me something, and instead of giving him a full well-formed answer I redirected him to reading his emails. It’s only later that I realized what I had done because he seemed a bit pissed about it.
It’s something I am not even aware of anymore, I systematically redirect people now, it’s all in my conf file. After thinking about it, I noticed that tech people tend to answer like this, they redirect you all the time. I know because I have been redirected myself all the time when I was a newbie. So there is quite a progress here. I remember thinking, wow that’s harsh, I was only asking to go faster, if you know the answer, why don’t you just answer me. And that’s what my co-worker told me, he said yes but I haven’t read my emails yet, that’s why I was asking you (duh). Right. Well, now it’s time I explain to non-tech persons or tech newbies or even my younger self why tech people redirect them.
The shoulders of giants are the entire Internet, not me
First of all, there is nothing hostile about redirecting someone, we don’t do it out of bad intentions or just to piss you off, we do it because what you are asking can be answered more efficiently by what we are redirecting you to. For example, if you ask what a host file is, I will redirect you to wikipedia or even better google. I have no interest in explaining to you what a host file is because it will just be like reading the wikipedia page to you, not to mention that my answer probably won’t even be as complete. My younger self would say, yes but a human explanation is always better, shouldn’t we stand on the shoulders of giants to learn? Sure, a human explanation is better, but it is better for an answer than needs human intelligence, like my host file is not working, and I tried everything to make it work, I have no clue anymore, can you help me?
But for questions that clearly have their answers somewhere, in documentation, in a forum, in an article, you should rely on those sources to learn because those are the shoulders of giants. You will certainly go faster by asking a person the answer (yet, I haven’t seen precise benchmarks on this), but this person has other things to do and doesn’t want to waste her time answering something that you can easily resolve with a little effort.
You should be autonomous
Consider this like a show of respect and consideration, if we redirect you it’s because we think you are capable of finding the answer on your own, you are not some clueless person who needs to be handled. So that’s why I redirected my co-worker, it’s because I have no interest in opening my emails and reading them to him, he can do it, I have other things to do. There is nothing hostile there.
Advice for non-tech people
If you are not a tech person but you work with tech people, asking the tech person can be quicker but if there are tools where you will find the answers, don’t be surprised to get redirected to those tools. I had an analytics developer friend who was raging against the marketing people because instead of looking up in the analytics tool he had specifically built for them, they kept asking him to extract the stats. You should know that answering things that just need using some tool, is very annoying to a tech person; personally it always makes me feel like my capacities are undermined, like I am some kind of mere secretary. No, you should ask tech people only well formulated questions, of things you truly don’t understand, and not things you are too lazy to look up. Otherwise, you will get redirected.
Advice for tech people
People redirection is a good practice, I used to try to make an empathetic answer to not sound too harsh, but the thing is, without redirection you always get asked the same kind of questions, and in the end you get annoyed. However when you redirect for good, in a polite simple way, the requests you get improve and you can be more helpful. In other words, you shouldn’t get people used to ask you easy questions if you don’t like answering them. My colleague is a specialist for asking me this kind of questions, I hope now he understands how to do for next time.
Posted in Devsworld