How to ask smart questions

Fill in the general education questionnaire

Before starting the first task of pre learning, please carefully read the content in sections "Signup"open in new window and "FAQ"open in new window on the official website and fill in "The general education questionnaire of 'One Student One Chip'"open in new window.Note: The general education questionnaire can be repeated many times, and only those who score 100 can apply for admission defense.

Read "How To Ask Questions The Smart Way" and "Stop Ask Questions The Stupid Ways", and write an essay of your thoughts on them

Your first task in the preliminary is to read the articles "How To Ask Questions The Smart Way"open in new window and "Stop Ask Questions The Stupid Ways"open in new window, and write an 800-word essay about your experience of asking and being asked questions, and what you think about "good questioning" and "Independent problem solving through STFW and RTFM".

This task is not intended to be a waste of time, nor is it intended to prohibit you from asking any questions, but it is intended to show you "what is the right thing to do". When you are willing to work on these "right things" and try to ask questions in a professional way, you have already taken the first step to become a "professional".


Try to find and understand the meanings of the three acronyms in the above article.

You may feel offended by the F word, but in fact the meaning of the F word is never the point, it just reflects the legend behind the three acronyms and makes them easier to remember. For example, RTFSC originated with the first words of Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux, in a reply to an email dated April 1, 1991, which is still available on the Internet mailing list. Interestingly, Andrew S. Tanenbaum, in Lessons Learned from 30 Years of MINIXopen in new window cites this e-mail as an example of how easy it was to learn the MINIX operating system: Linus Torvalds, as a student, learned MINIX in about 10 days.

It's not so much learning to ask questions as it is learning not to ask questions.

Many students, more or less, have the illusion that.

I asked a master for advice, he gave it to me, and I learned it.

But have you ever thought that in the future you will join a company and your leader will ask you to attempt a technical solution; or in the future you will join a school project team and your advisor will ask you to explore a new topic. You may think: I'll be surrounded by great coworkers, or I'll have senior colleagues to guide me. But the reality is that your coworkers have their own KPIs to fulfill, and your senior colleagues have their own projects to work on, and no one wants to be chased around by you asking questions, so how are you going to get things done when there is no master to tell you the answers one day?

If you don't think you can do it on your own, you probably lack the ability to solve problems on your own..

But fortunately, this ability can be trained. The masters they've developed their independent problem solving skills long before you did: they've solved a million weird problems while you've been asking them for advice on a stupid one. In fact, your ability to solve problems is directly proportional to your dedication to solving them independently, and when a master tells you the answer, it's a demonstration of the master's ability, not yours. Therefore, in order to develop independent problem solving ability, and more importantly, to correct your own mindset: you come to learn, you should do your best to solve all the problems encountered independently (of course, except for some due to the framework code defects).

I'm a master who enjoys helping others

Take Nanjing University's terrifying PA course as an example, we have seen too many situations like this: at the beginning of each semester, there are always a few enthusiastic senior students from the previous semester answering all kinds of questions for novice students, and these novice students do feel the warmth of the enthusiastic senior students shielding them from the wind and rain during the brutal PA training. However, after a month or two, these enthusiastic mentors would suddenly disappear, leaving these newbies waiting in the cold wind of PA; while some other students would have already developed the right mindset and skills during the month or two, and grown into professionals who can take charge of their own business, and continue to move forward under the encouragement of PA. We don't know the mysterious reasons for the sudden disappearance of these enthusiastic seniors, maybe they felt the pressure of their own school work, maybe they got tired of answering these endless questions, or maybe they suddenly felt that the help they provided to the newbies was not really helping them. But whatever the case, the novice students will no longer be able to complete their PA training on their own, as they will be faced more difficult questions than they were at the beginning of the semester, only now they are finally on their own.

So, while we don't deny you the sense of fulfillment that comes from helping your fellow classmates, we think there are a lot more serious issues to think about:

what if some student asked a simply question, can you drill down to the root cause of it?

When a student can't solve a problem without asking you, is what you did before really helping them?

More importantly, can you take responsibility for the future of these students?

If you ask "what do you want this student to be like", I think we all have the same goal: to let them become a professional in the future. But at the same time, you need to realize that learning is a long term process. If you just tell him the answer to a question and he becomes a professional, how can you justify the sweat of the senior engineers who have been working on the front line for years?

So, every time you give them an answer, every time you help them solve a problem, you are depriving them of the opportunity to receive professional training. Instead, if you really want to help them you can try to point out the missing concepts and skills without interfering with their training, let them do the research/read the manual/look at the code if they need to, guide them to come up with their own thinking about the problem, and then try to summarize the solution indenpendently. It's not easy for you or for them, but learning is a costly process: if you make it easy for them to get the answer to a problem, then they won't get the training they need by solving the problem.

Channels for asking questions

  • Group chat (recommendation), the more active students can hopefully be developed into teaching assistants. Discord Serveropen in new window
  • Private chat with TAs (TAs also have other work commitments and may not be able to respond in a timely manner).
Last Updated:
Contributors: Zihao Yu