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qq => qa


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Most will wonder what kind of programmatic expression or what kind of mathematical formula makes up the title of this blog.
In this blog, for once I don't want write about programming nor maths, although the expression makes a lot of sense in the daily world of software development, more in particular in the support work that comes with software development.

Honor who honor deserves, I didn't invent this expression, but I learned this expression from business coach and mentor Carl van de Velde. The Carl van de Velde training institute is probably the most influential training institute for business managers and entrepreneurs in Belgium and I had the luck to attend a series of seminars and training sessions in the past couple of years.

What Carl van de Velde frequently offers during his training seminars, is the opportunity for attendees to ask questions of any kind related to business. Carl van de Velde isn't shying away from any question but before giving the opportunity, the room is given one big advice: The quality of the answer is in direct relationship to the quality of the question. In short, we come to the title of this blog:

"A quality question leads to a quality answer."

So, why are we bringing up this topic on a blog of a software development company? Well, one of the pillars of what we want to offer as a company is first-class technical support for our products. Our engineers strive to give you the best possible answer, solution, tip as fast as possible. In a nutshell, a quality answer.

And I think that by now you realize how important YOU are in that equation. Yes, there is a direct relationship between the quality of the question and the quality of the answer. If one goes to a doctor and tells the doctor: "Can you help me because I do not feel good?", it's clear that 99.99% of doctors (and that 0.01% are very questionable doctors) won't prescribe right-away medicine X or Y to help you. The quality of the question is so poor that the doctor will come up with a series of questions so he can detect what is wrong and do the right thing to help the patient. Imagine this same patient coming to the doctor and telling: "Doctor, yesterday I played football and another player kicked my right foot ankle and every since, it is swollen and hurts a lot when wanting to lift it. The effectiveness of the doctor diagnosing the problem and proposing a solution will be way higher.

The same in software. The scene with the doctor translates in the software world to the question in the first scenario "Engineer, the software doesn't work, please fix the problem". In the second scenario, we get: "Engineer, when I open the file attached on a system with Windows 10 64bit OS with your software version 5.67.012 and then click button X and select item Y, I get the message 'Error 103: item ABC cannot be selected'". In what scenario will the user get the most effective & efficient help?

Given that we don't want anything more than giving your quality answers, what can you do to come with quality questions?

  • Provide exact information about the operating system you use: OS version, 32bit or 64bit...
  • Provide exact information about the IDE you use, that is the Delphi version number including the updates/patches applied.
  • Provide exact information about the version of the software you use.
  • Provide exact information about your display(s). Is your question related to using the software on a normal or high DPI screen. Do you use the software via RDP, on a virtual machine, on a multi-monitor machine... Include such information if this can be relevant to the question.
  • If the question relates to an error message, provide the error message in full detail. Even better, using a stack tracing tool like Eurekalog or madExcept and provide stack trace information.
  • If the question is in relationship with web development, inspect the browser console for possible error message and save the console log and include it with the problem report.
  • Preferably test with the latest version of the software to avoid cases where you report problems that have been solved or request features that have already been implemented.
  • Perform a test on just the functionality concerned in a component in a new project as validation that the issue is not in code unrelated to our components.
  • By far the most efficient is to isolate the problem and provide a sample source project + step by step information how an issue can be reproduced.
We're sure you have other excellent ideas to increase the quality of the question. Share these below in a comment. It will help us tremendously to improve the quality of the answer for you!

Bruno Fierens


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