You are facing a technical problem but there doesn’t seem to be an answer. You need to reach out for help, but you don’t know where to start. There are a myriad of different approaches available to try to get help, which should you choose and why? (Forums, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, books/articles, contacts such as MVP’s and other SME’s and more). Which ones will provide the quickest route to a correct answer?

This blog post is to provide a quick summary of the options available and recommendations for how to get help from the technical community.

Before you ask, do your research:

Do not pass go, do not collect $200 until you do your own research.

Use your favorite search engine (www.bing.com, www.google.com) and really look for the answer. Most of the time, it’s out there somewhere. It helps to have keywords for what you are looking for. As an example for Operations Manager I search on: “SCOM” or “Operations Manager” plus what I’m looking for. As an example: “Override best practice in Operations Manager”. Do not skip this step for two reasons:

  1. Most likely this is the quickest way to find the answer you are looking for.
  2. If you haven’t done your research before asking questions you will be far less likely to get an answer to your question when you ask it.

 

What are the options to get help and why to use or not use them?

  • Forums: The forums should be your first visit if you don’t find what you need on a search. Forums provide a great place to search for answers or to post a question when you need some help. For Operations Manager these include:
  • Documentation: The answer to most questions is available in publicly accessible documentation available through either online reading or videos. So… Read the Friendly Manual (RTFM)
  • Blogs: Blog content is often the first available answer to new technical issues which occur. Blog content becomes less relevant over time from when it was published as often the blog content is not updated after it is initially created. If you find blog posts which match what you are looking for, most of them accept comments so you can ask a follow-up question of the author. For Operations Manager blogs I follow include: (there are plenty more, I’m just including a small subset below)
  • Reddit: Reddit has a good source of “hive knowledge” there are communities at:
    • /r/sccm (configuration manager) (https://www.reddit.com/r/sccm)  
    • /r/scom (operations manager) (https://www.reddit.com/r/scom)  
  • Twitter: Twitter is a great way to ask people questions but it is a horrible way to get answers. Trying to answer a technical question in 140 characters is bluntly a bit of a joke. So my recommendation is NOT to use Twitter to ask technical questions. The only benefit to Twitter versus some other approaches is that it is public so the answer is shared when someone answers on twitter.
  • Facebook: If there is a group specific to the technology Facebook can be a good way to ask questions and share information. As an example, the OMS side of things has a group available at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MicrosoftOMS/

  • LinkedIn: There are lots of groups available in LinkedIn including one dedicated to Operations Manager at: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/140289
  • Books/articles: While books and articles aren’t necessarily available online there are many situations where they have solid answers to technical questions. For Operations Manager check out the Unleashed and Mastering books.
  • Personal contact through email, LinkedIn, or Twitter: While it may sound like a great idea to just hit up a bunch of SME’s with your question this is a quick way to not get an answer. While most of the MVP’s and SME’s will reply to a quick question or two from someone they do not know they have their day jobs to do and they are under no obligation to answer. If they have to choose where to spend their spare time, it’s more beneficial to answer someone in the forums than to answer a message which was directly sent to them.

    Please note: It is highly frowned upon to send the same question to several different SME’s at the same time in separate communications. This comes across as disrespectful of their time and may cause you to no longer receive any replies back from them as a result.

 

So what to do to get help?

Now that I know what resources are out there, what do I use and when?

  1. Do your research: Spend time searching on the topic on the web, review the forums, documentation, books and blogs to find your answer. Most of the time the answer is out there somewhere.
  2. Use the forums: When you have a question, raise it in a forum for that technology. If you aren’t getting any assistance you can leverage other social media technologies like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to raise attention to the question.
  3. LinkedIn/Facebook groups: If you aren’t getting what you need on the forums then I would try some of the groups which are available around that technology.