question

Fatherjack avatar image
Fatherjack asked

How to resolve questions with long winded resolutions

I have been involved with a couple of questions that have gone on to create a 2nd page of comments following my first answer. Now I must admit to not being very good at reading missed questions if I have been away for a while and dont keep a list of questions that have comment strings running on them so I am probably guilty of leaving questions 'blowing in the wind'. If you have been affected by me like this then I apologise. This extended comment string has led me to offer 'offline' help by getting the questioner to email me direct for us to continue to work on the problem.

So far I have a 50% success rate - 1 got fixed the other had to be given up as unresolved. The problem that we got sorted had the solution posted back on the original question on this site.

What I want to ask is whether this is an OK thing to do? I wouldnt expect others to do it as they might have a life and therefore have something better to do with their spare time and I wouldnt suggest that any question being asked should expect it but am I acting incorrectly?

Please note:
This is still on a voluntary basis, I am not a private contractor, in whole or part, and dont request or accept any form of payment or remuneration for this work.

meta-askssc
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DaniSQL avatar image
DaniSQL answered

I guess you are doing the right thing and I say keep it up. It is generally a good thing offering personalized help especially when the problem is urgent and also when someone doesn't want to post the metadata here on the forums. But make sure you post the final solution after the problem is resolved!! BTW I love Your Disclaimer about payment:-)

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Kev Riley avatar image
Kev Riley answered

It's not always easy to carry on a conversation in comments - you can't format things as nicely.

I sometimes try to edit my answer/question to include new information, or further clarification - but then the conversation when read from fresh just doesn't flow...

Also if comments get voted, then they automatically bubble up to be visible over non-voted comments when the number of comments goes over the threshold - leading to an even more jumbled up thread.

I've never taken a question off-line, but have considered it....

This is one area where the traditional forum format probably wins over this Q&A format.

In answer to is it OK - I can't see why not. It helps if the final resolution is posted as answer to the question (as I've seen you do, or prompt the OP to do)

One thing I would be wary of though is posting an email address in the text of an answer or comment. I noticed you made contact via your blog, which works for you, but not sure how we could make connections for those of us without blogs or websites. Again, the main forums over at SSC have a 'private message' facility, which if ASK and SSC ever get to the point of being merged somehow, we could possibly utilise.

4 comments
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Just out of curiosity, why the hesitancy to post an e-mail address? I generally hand mine out freely, if its on my business card I have a hard time considering it private information personally but I know some people see it differently.
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just to prevent from being harvested automatically by web spiders/scrapers...
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That makes sense. Personally, I stopped worrying about it when good spam filters became available.
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Kev, this is my very problem, things get jumbled and if its a complicated question it generally needs a complicated answer - the comments simply dont cut it.
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Grant Fritchey avatar image
Grant Fritchey answered

As far as I'm concerned, you could ask for payment as long as you weren't advertising on the site. I've had questioners on the SSC proper site that asked me to basically become their slave. I told them I'd answer a question or two, but if they want me to do their work for them, here's my rate. They usually stop asking right about then.

As far as these extended questions go, it's frequently an indication of two things. First, the question itself is probably way too expansive to be properly answered on a site like this. Second, the OP is probably woefully unprepared to deal with the job that they're in and are honestly hoping you can provide them with free consulting to save their jobs. I know that this is not always the case, but it is often enough.

My take is pretty simple. Do what you can until you've hit your limit and then stop. We're not paid to be here. It's a free site and we're all just volunteers.

Funny thing is, I just did an editorial on this for Steve. I'm sure it'll be posted soon.

2 comments
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+1 Well said: "Do what you can until you've hit your limit and then stop"....It seems he is happy helping so far thats why I said keep it up!
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Ahh Grant you make me smile sir :)
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TimothyAWiseman avatar image
TimothyAWiseman answered

I think you are doing a good thing trying to help them, and if e-mail is a better format for you then I see no problem with going that route. Of course, the community does appreciate it when you post the final anwer back to the site.

Also, you specify you do not charge for this. I see no reason you have to stick with that. I do think there is a line. This is a community site and I would not like to see people shilling their consultancy services here openly, nor do I think it is right to use it to harvest potential customer names and solicit them. But if they keep asking for more and more individualized help off the site, then I see nothing wrong at that point with saying there is a limit to the free help and negotiating a full blown consultancy at that point.

1 comment
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Thanks for your comments, I'm certainly not setting up a charity (!) and my time is limited, but when it seems a little extra work will get someone working I want to help and its just the communication aspect that I find easier to have a thread of emails than a jumbled stream of comments.
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Matt Whitfield avatar image
Matt Whitfield answered

From my point of view, your presence here is highly valued, and I think it would take a lot to rescind that point of view. I wouldn't worry about crossing 'the line' because I am sure someone will be happy to let you know gently if you do so.

With regard to advertising I see absolutely no problem with advertising 'in context'. So, if something gets really long winded and you then say 'look you can hire me to sort this out for you if you like, here's my rate' then that's just fine. It's the same for me with my products - if there is a question where they naturally fit in to the answer then I will include them (and Apex/Red Gate equivalents where they exist). But I wouldn't post up a question which was solely devoted to advertising, I just wouldn't feel comfortable doing that, and I don't think it would be the right thing to do.

But from what I have seen from your answers and interactions, you seem to know all this already!

4 comments
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Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. We got rid of the poker casino thing pretty quickly though! :)
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I think it is perfectly fine to mention your own products when they are apropos, and yours have always been. But I think that it is possible for other people to be less responsible and take it too far very easily. In my view, some in the right context is just fine, but we do not want the site overrun with advertising.
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Matt, thanks for your kind words, I'm glad I'm worth having around(!). I agree that there is a line where this ceases to be a forum and becomes a Craigs List/SQL Services Advertising site and I hope that the community will encourage people who want that to find somewhere else to do their business. I was more concerned about the ethics of going offline than the business side of it actually. I didnt want to upset people by doing it but also want to give my best to the person with the problem. randomly sorted and poorly formatted comments dont enable me to do that if the problem goes on a bit.
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@matt: Dont hold yourself back from marketing your products. IMHO its ok to promote a book or products if it is done in a balanced way; and compared to other SQL Server experts out there guys in this forum are very reserved about marketing themselves. Unless it is overdone i dont think the community would be ticked off by mentioning a line or two about your company and/or your products.
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