How To Ask Good Questions When Working Remote

Write One Self-Contained Message

One of the most important rules when asking the question is to write one, self-contained, message.

Something like this is a good starting point.

Ask Questions In Public

A lot of teams have a tendency to ask questions in private, because they know which person usually has the answers.
This will get the question answered — but it’s not the best way. Here’s why:

  • It leads to more work for the person who’s answering
    Someone else might have asked the exact same question last week, and maybe someone will next week. This person will end up answering the same question over and over.
  • Your team doesn’t get smarter
    Anything that goes on in private chats or mails is invisible to the rest of the team who might be struggling with similar questions.
  • Someone else might know better
    Even if you think you’re asking someone who you think knows the answer, they might not be the best person to answer it. Someone else might have much more expertise with a particular topic, but if you ask in private you’ll never find out.

Share The Answer

Sometimes you can’t get your answer in a public forum. Maybe you’ll have to explain the problem in-person or do some extra troubleshooting with someone. That happens. When it does, you should always write down the answer where you asked the question.
Perhaps your colleagues who tried to help you are curious, or perhaps they will struggle with similar questions. Asking questions in public doesn’t help much if you don’t also share the answers in public.

Ask Good Questions

A lot of stuff has been written about asking good questions. This guide is excellent and friendly, and this guide is also excellent — but much less friendly.

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