emgrasso: (raptors logo)
[personal profile] emgrasso
There's an old joke about a plumber who looked at a problem, took out a hammer, hit the pipes once, solved the problem, and presented a bill for $100.

When asked for an itemized bill, he produced:
Hitting pipe with hammer $10
Knowing where to hit $90
______________
$100

I have just had a week like that, only more so.

A client I consulted for previously hired me to help implement some software tools changes, and I felt like I accomplished nothing. I spent most of the week exchanging emails with people trying to figure out what they wanted to do and what information and tasks would be involved in accomplishing it.

I didn't even get near the point of hitting the pipe with the hammer, but the customer was very happy with the progress, because I knew what questions to ask and kept asking them until I was able to start sorting out the requirements for the project.

Knowing what questions to ask or figuring out what questions to ask is a big part of my skill set, either in this kind of project definition or in actual troubleshooting. It's not clearly related to any particular OS or software package, and in the recent past I've run into a number of situations where people I know are technologically competent displayed an amazing lack of it. Information I expected to be available, because of course you would collect it if you were dealing with a problem, just wasn't there. Sometimes not even when I asked for it because there had been no record-keeping or logs had been erased, or written over of not kept in the first place. I must be way the heck out on one limb of Dunning-Kruger.

I need to remember that knowing where to hit is valuable. I also need to remember that I can't expect most people -- even most technical people -- to do even a basic job of problem analysis without being led by the hand.
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