Life is difficult and complex. Nobody knows the correct solution to every problem that might appear. But there is a simple strategy to improve your chances: Call a Friend. Or a coworker. Or the Internet. Its easy. It often solves the problem. It creates ties to new people and strengthens the ties to people you know already.
When I am stuck with a problem my escalation strategy works more or less like this:
- ask the coworker right next to me
- ask Google, Stackoverflow, specialized forums (including bug databases and issue trackers) or twitter (Kent Beck answered twice when I complained about JUnit problems on twitter, and I wasn’t even asking for help).
- ask specialists I happen to know. E.g. the administrators of my employer LINEAS for system/OS problems, a close friend for Unix and Scrum issues, a former coworker for scripting problems, a different former coworker for management questions and so on.
- ask a specialist that I happen to know a twitter account of.
I can’t remember a single instance when anybody reacted negative on being addressed with a question. Just one requirement: Put some work in your question. Make sure you read the manual, asked Google and the FAQ. Make sure this shows in the question. And don’t demand help. Ask for it.
So, think about it, who is on your lifeline?