The very best technical talents often have massive troubleshooting chops. But troubleshooting isn't inherently a technical skill; it's a set of tools to achieve clear thinking and knowledge.
This is science!
For your consideration: the clearest expositions of technical troubleshooting strategies and tactics since Sun Tzu did it for war.
In no particular order, here are links and a few choice excerpts.
ESR, the ninja-slicing, recursive-software-naming, Free Software advocate who is a key figure in the culture of open-source, wrote one of the foundational documents of hackerdom. As of this writing, it's at version 3.7, last updated December 2010. The beauty of it is, in telling you how to ask questions the smart way, it also teaches you troubleshooting.
How To Ask Questions The Smart Way
Eric Steven Raymond
Do the best you can to anticipate the questions a hacker will ask, and answer them in advance in your request for help.
- Be precise and informative about your problem
- Describe the symptoms of your problem or bug carefully and clearly.
- Describe the environment in which it occurs (machine, OS, application, whatever). Provide your vendor's distribution and release level (e.g.: â€œFedora Core 7â€, â€œSlackware 9.1â€, etc.).
- Describe the research you did to try and understand the problem before you asked the question.
- Describe the diagnostic steps you took to try and pin down the problem yourself before you asked the question.
- Describe any possibly relevant recent changes in your computer or software configuration.
- If at all possible, provide a way to reproduce the problem in a controlled environment.
Giving hackers the ability to reproduce the problem in a controlled environment is especially important if you are reporting something you think is a bug in code. When you do this, your odds of getting a useful answer and the speed with which you are likely to get that answer both improve tremendously.
Microsoft Support Knowledgebase Article ID: 555375 - Last Review: July 22, 2005 - Revision: 1.0
How to ask a question
Author: Daniel Petri MVPIn fact, if you know of ANY other top-notch sources of troubleshooting wisdom, put a link in the comments!
Good examples of questions will include information from most of the following categories: - What are you trying to do?- Why are you trying to do it?- What did you try already, why, and what was the result of your actions?- What was the exact error message that you received?- How long have you been experiencing this problem?- Have you searched the relevant forum/newsgroup archives?- Have you searched for any tools or KB articles or any other resources?- Have you recently installed or uninstalled any software or hardware?- What changes were made to the system between the time everything last worked and when you noticed the problem? Don't let us assume, tell us right at the beginning.
There's one I'm trying to find that I had as a mousepad - it was about 10 troubleshooting tips - one of them was something like "Problems don't just go away on their own. If you haven't fixed the problem, the problem isn't fixed." Anybody know what that's from?
(I'll try to fix the formatting on this post later, ok?)