Tell me what I need to know RIGHT HERE AT THE TOP

A user asks a question in 3 parts. The title, then two paragraphs.

Title: Run compiled c program without ./

At this point I’ve already formulated an answer: “You can put “.” at the end of your path. There are risks to that, but it will solve your problem.”

The user clarifies in the first paragraph:

Quick question. After compiling a program, I always have to explicitly tell it to run from the current directory by prepending ./ to the name. For example $ ./testprog -argument1

The user has again demonstrated again that what I’m answer is correct. Perfect! At this point, I’m done thinking. The user, however, continues:

Is there a way to set up some kind of alias which would allow me to call it simply by saying $ testprog -argument1 , essentially allowing me to run the program from any location?

I’ve already registered everything and the last part doesn’t contradict what I’ve got in my head, so I’m done. Now, what are the 3 most important words in that question? They are from any location. Re-iterating the most important part of a topic in a long piece of writing is good, but introducing the most important part of your question at the end of it is very bad.

Let’s beat this horse to death:

Imagine you’re calling 911 (or 000100108111112119, or 999 depending on where you live… wow). What discussion are you going to have? “I was watering my flowers and I saw a little bug, so I kneeled down, blah, blah… part of a wall fell down, my leg is broken and squirting blood.” You’re either going to tell me something like, “I’m have an exposed broken bone and arterial bleeding from the leg. I’m at 123 Any Street, Middle of Nowhere, South Pole,” or you’re going to end up passing out before you finish the call. You’ve told me what you need, how urgent it is, and where to find you. Do that with your questions, and do it in that order.

Why does would 911 ask for the nature of the emergency before the location? It allows them to prioritize your call if there’s an overflow (or know that this is the 10th call about that same car accident in 3 minutes), to select the resources that need to be sent, and then where they need to go because there’s a lag of at least 30 seconds between when you tone out a fire truck or ambulance and the time the vehicle makes it out the door.

Here’s another life experience: “Jeff. Jeff, wake up. Jeff? Jeff, help I’m hurt.” Want me to move in 3 words? Start with help I’m hurt and I’ll be on my feet before the 5th word drops. Try anything else and it might be a minute before I’m moving.

So, with all this blabbering, here’s the “how to” lesson:

How do I determine the important part?

Write whatever you feel you want to ask. Remove a sentence. Remove another. Keep pulling out sentences until you’re down to the last one. Now put them back in reverse order of what you removed and make it sound like something normal from that. Alternately, try to build a tree structure where each level is more specific than the last. Save my soul for this one, but if it’s your thing consider the Twitter Rule of Importance: can you express your thought in 140 characters? Start with that converted to normal English.

Whichever way you look at it, reducing your thoughts to a bare minimum will help with your ordering. Provide all the details, but tell me the important part first, especially if it defines the scope of your problem.

When working with a non-professional, the professional has to spend the time to ask questions helping them to determine the importance of things. When you’re a professional speaking to another, save their time because you know enough to understand which parts should be important.

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