I get a lot of email. I expect you get a lot of email, too. A fair proportion of my incoming email is people asking for help with very specific problems. Sometimes, I help, then blog a general version of the question and answer later to help anyone else with the same problem. Sometimes, I reply quoting my hourly rate. Sometimes, I don’t reply at all.
This feels a bit hit-and-miss, so now I’ve made a new rule. If you need tech support, I’ll help you. All you have to do is post the question to StackOverflow, then email me the link (note: don’t tweet it at me. I keep up with twitter even less well than I keep up with my inbox). One of two things will happen next:
Someone other than me will help you with your question, and others will also be able to benefit from the answer.
I’ll deliver the tech support you were hoping for, and others will also be able to benefit from the answer.
The key here is that it’s all about sharing, and about web-scale sharing. When I have to reach out to a project lead for an answer on something, I like to update documentation or at least publish a post on my own blog about whatever they told me. I do this because otherwise I’m just one of the hundreds of people who ask the same question, and I’m contributing to the problem rather than solving it. By acting as a conduit for information, or by conducting our conversation in a publicy-searchable forum, we share that knowledge with anyone who needs to find it. Even better, see if you can answer another question while you’re there asking your own!
This idea is all about open source; we built our success on the shoulders of those who went before us. Now it’s our turn to stand steady and allow the next generation to climb up when they are ready.