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I do this. Another trick when you’re faced with something where you’re pretty sure the solution presented is wrong, but you want to frame it collaboratively, is to present it as “I find myself wondering…” or “I can’t help wondering…” It’s non-confrontational and offers people a chance to save face if they didn’t consider the point you raise. More informally, I like to raise hypotheticals about problem cases and phrase it as if I’m joking: “So, what if three duplicates of this request happen at the same time? Am I crazy?” No, I’m not, but it offers a laugh in a situation that can come across as scolding or criticism.
When trying to gain knowledge for myself, I make it a point to try to read the code, tests, and docs first. Often I’ll use automated tools like diagram generators as well (where available). Then, and only then, do I approach the original authorities; and I take the approach that, once I’ve done this work, other people should be able to ask me questions about the subject.
That seems really useful and I’m totally stealing it from now on. Thank you.
I like to tell the story about The Russian Method, though I’m not sure that’s a valid name. In English it’d probably be The Soviet Method. Just that I worked with a bunch of brilliant people from different former Soviet countries, so either it’s from education there or it’s coincidental.
Anyway, once in a while this would happen:
Something new to me came up, be it early Git or getting to work on something I hadn’t seen before. So I’d figure out whom to ask, and they’d start drawing on a whiteboard or A3. Once The Big Picture emerged, I’d be asked if I understand it.
It got expanded and I got asked again and it got more detailed until I had a “yes” or at least a “I guess so”.
Then I’d be asked if it answered my question.
And often enough it did. Or altered the question slightly.
I’ve tried this as well and found it to be a good method when the person with a question is new to the subject.