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How much time should you spend looking something up before asking a question?

ben profile image Ben Halpern ・1 min read

What's your overall approach here?

Discussion (18)

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raphael_jambalos profile image
Raphael Jambalos

I usually spend around 30mins. If I'm not sure what the answer is, I try to construct a very specific question to my boss or colleagues. I make it in a way that gives the person enough context to answer my question and to know what I'm really asking.

That often helps me clear my thoughts and find out what really it is I am looking for. If that didn't enlighten me, I hit send and I wait for the answer.

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Mike • Edited

I spend as much as time as I can until I reach I point where I feel like I'm going in circles. I'll document the details on my end while I read through tutorials and scan forums. Once I gather a basic understanding of the problem at hand, I'll create some type of small scale project to see if I can put the pieces together and make it work.

Now, say I run into a point where I just can't figure something out. If I reach a point where I feel like I'm scanning different material, but comprehending it the same way, and still not understanding it, then it's possible I'm starting to go in "circles". Basically, my brain is comprehending the same information, but expecting a different result (result === understanding). At this point, I might then ask for help or I might take a break. I find small breaks can help my brain reset/relax.

With all that said, I think you should do enough due diligence in your research before asking questions, because ultimately it will help you become better at what you're doing. Do as much research as you think you should do and then reach out for help, this industry will let you know if you asked too soon . =). Or you can do what I do, and do as much research as you can until you almost go insane, but I don't recommend it. =). Eventually you'll get your own rhythm.

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Espoir Murhabazi

The stubborn and arrogant part of me can spend up to 5 hours trying to figure out the answer by myself.
But at work, it was advised to not exceed 1 hour.

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ben profile image
Ben Halpern Author

Is that hour explicitly stated as a guideline?

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espoir profile image
Espoir Murhabazi

Yeah, it was not explicitly stated, It was advised that after searching for a solution for more than one hour to go and ask your collegues.

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AndyRosenberg • Edited

I think it’s acceptable to ask your teammate a “top of your head” question before diving into research. If they don’t know the answer off the top of their head, spend 30min-1hr researching, then circle back. Their initial response may help inform your research.

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PhyberApex

This is the approach I use as well. I think it's really not healthy to try to solve something for hours if a quick question could have given you the needed hint. With that being said you should try it yourself first and not just skip the thinking part completely. But more often then not I get a hint in the right direction from a quick talk to a colleague.

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cescquintero profile image
Francisco Quintero 🇨🇴

Depends. If the thing is on my domain(Ruby, Rails, backend) and I have an idea of what I'm looking for, I'd spend half day.

If the thing is on my domain but have no idea, I ask immediately to any pal who might know about the thing or know someone who could know :D

If the thing is not on my domain, same principle, ask someone who could know or have them refer me to other who could know :D

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Gabriele Cimato

I follow a "best effort first" approach.

I try my very best figuring it out on my own. When I succeed this is usually the best way to have it "stick" in memory for the future.
If I have exhausted my options then I chat with someone about it. The important thing (as someone who has been on the other side most of the time) is to try and make an effort. This is useful for many reasons, first of all your questions can be more clear (thus easier to answer) and you show that you actually put some effort and don't expect to have everything handed to you.

This applies at any level from junior to senior!

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Shannon Crabill

20-30 minutes, or sooner if my queries aren't returning quite what I was looking for.

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citizen428 profile image
Michael Kohl • Edited

For me, it's a function of the expected payoff for putting in the time myself. Is it something where I think I'll benefit from the learning experience/frustration long-term? My personal time limit just increased by a lot. Is it something I don't really care about/won't need often/likely to forget until I need it again? It may be as short as a couple of minutes.

In other words: do I just want the fish, or do I want to learn to catch this specific fish?

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citizen428 profile image
Michael Kohl

Caveat: this answer is for when I'm on my own time. One somebody else's time hourly rates etc. are used to establish a sensible upper bound, but the overall framework still applies.

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Adam Crockett

Step 1 go in circles
Step 2 reflect on time spent to information ratio
Step 3 ask for help

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Pavel Morava

In my experience, if something is impossible to google, it is the time to reevaluate the question because the answer doesn't exist.
Thus it is futile to ask further.

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Fyodor

As long as you can 💪🏻

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Jared

I work by myself, so probably longer than most. It depends on the issue, but I can spend up to an entire day trying to sort it out before reaching it to someone I know.

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Frank Font

Zero minutes when I'm pair programming or mobbing.