Every now and then, while perusing, or perhaps responding to a question on a forum, I’ll see a response from another user to the originator of the question that is of the form
1) “Why bother?”
2) “There’s no need for that”
3) “Just do it this way”
I came across an example of this earlier today in a music forum when a user of a music product called MainStage (an application to support musicians for live-performance ) wanted to know how to record what he (or she) was playing into Logic (a digital audio workstation, intended for composition and recording).
I usually find the “why bother” response quite jarring. For one thing, it’s a condescending, almost religious response that essentially implies that “I know better than you” but quite frankly, that’s often just not the case.
Much better of course would be to (a) answer the question if you know how and then (b) ask nicely why the user wants to do something that you think is not worth doing or might be the wrong way to do it. In such cases, everyone gets to learn something.
Now, I don’t know why the user asked that particular question although I can certainly come up with my own reasons as to why I would want that functionality. (Hint – inspiration can come at any moment, need a way to capture it)
But the real reason I’m always bothered by the “why bother” retort is because responders often fail to recognize that (sometimes very significant) progress often comes from people who are combining elements together for new purposes that were not obvious to others. There are plenty of examples where people didn’t know that “it can’t be done” and so they went ahead and just did it.
Even if you’re certain you know much more than the questioner, you might be surprised. Remember that teachers and professors continue to learn new things from their students.
So whenever you see a question that doesn’t fit into your own mental model of how things are supposed to be, how about pausing for a moment and ask the user why they asked that particular question. At worst, your questions will help clarify what’s needed. Others may be having the same difficulty or confusion. At best, well, you might discover something that helps you improve your own work or even takes it in a new direction.