Earlier this week I read a very basic question on a sprinkler design forum. Some say there are no bad questions. Those hypothetical people may never have been in a Facebook Group.
The question clearly showed the lack of understanding on the part of the person asking the question.
You can imagine what happened next – the keyboard warriors went to battle. They had fun blasting the novice into the internet oblivion.
And this happens all the time.
It doesn’t have to be Facebook. It happens on Facebook for Businesses (also known as LinkedIn), email forums, Reddit, and other online technical forums.
It is also not limited to the digisphere. A bad question in a conference room or in the field gets chided at best or embarrassingly criticized at worst.
Did we all not start somewhere with nothing?
I’m not a second generation Fire Protection Engineer, but my guess is those that are third and fourth generation practitioners don’t come out of the womb spelling escutcheon correctly.
I'm still not 100% convinced I spelled it right just now.
We all started knowing literally nothing. We each are on our own journey learning piece by piece and at different paces that never really ends. The best experts that have spent three decades in the industry are still always trying to improve.
Is there harm in asking a dumb question? Yes, but it’s not the embarrassment in the moment or the obvious display of misunderstanding. It’s the discouragement to ask the next question.
When Average Jim (I have to use Average Jim because Average Joe hits a little too close to home for me) actually seeks an answer to a basic question and gets lambasted – you know what he’s not going to do? He’s not going to ask the next five questions that he also needs answers on.
On the very first morning of my very first internship, I asked a bad one. I was maybe 15 minutes into that first day when the site project manager asked me to make copies of a handful of documents. I asked if the staples had to come out before making copies.
Dumb question? Yeah. Do commercial copiers appreciate hard metal through their sensitive little feeder claws? No. And had I ever used a commercial copier before? No.
If I hadn’t asked, would I have been the dufus that destroyed a commercial copier 15 minutes into his first internship? Yeah brah, that would have been moi.
I heard so much crap about asking that question, but I was glad I did. I also never had to ask it again.
Eventually my questions got slightly more sophisticated and a little better, but I did start at nothing.
I’m not going to change human behavior. I can’t help people act online like they would in a face to face conversation.
What I can do is provide a better avenue for those people who don’t want to be vilified but do need answers to their question.
With nearly a couple decades of internet usage we know now that it isn’t Vegas - what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet. Like forever.
It’s getting more and more difficult to ask a question that isn’t tagged to your name, your company, or your reputation. Your forum question you wrote in 2007 when you didn’t know anything on pre-action systems? Yeah it’s probably still searchable.
Goodness knows I’d rather not have my kids go post-by-post from what I put on Facebook during high school. Same would go for a client seeing questions I would have had early in my career.
So what can I do about it now? Create a quality avenue for the question - any question - whether it’s expert-level or at square one - and not tie a personal reputation to it.
If you haven’t checked it out, the Daily Forum is a place for a single, filtered, anonymous question each day. There are experts there from a wide variety of backgrounds and locations that have far more knowledge than I could hope to gain.
Experts from across the globe, from AHJs to Designers to Researches to Installers to Engineers. Last I checked we were approaching nearly 3,000 subscribers just to those questions.
If you have a "dumb" question, if you don’t want to ask your boss, if you need an outside opinion, and you don’t want your identity tied to something it? Send us your question here. Also consider bookmarking the page so you can send in that question the next time you're stumped.
The link toward the bottom of this email “Have a fire protection question?” is always there for exactly that same reason.
Chances are, if you have an interest or can’t find an answer, someone else is looking for it too. When you ask, we all learn. And that’s exactly what this site is all about.
Free NFSA Virtual Conference Tomorrow
This year's National Fire Sprinkler Association Business and Leadership Conference went Virtual. The virtual seminars are this week (Thursday the 30th and Friday the 1st). Registration is live, it is FREE, and CEUs will be awarded. Check it out here.
I had the pleasure to talk about the changing digital media opportunities in fire protection with the host of the Fire Sprinkler Podcast, Chris Logan, as part of the virtual conference. I believe we'll air at 2:35 pm Eastern Time on Thursday.
A New, Free, Fire Protection App
I've gotten asked a good handful of times - "Will you make an app?"
While I am quintessentially a millennial who disowns being a millennial, I have thought about making an app.
The good news is, there's already one that I was able to help beta test and can now share with you. It's free and was developed by Michael Swahn and the helpful engineers over at Sebench Engineering out of Atlanta. It's now live on both Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. Here's links to get it:
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=al.pragmatic.sebench.android
The app has quick-calculations for Fire Pump Tests, Hydrant Flows, Equivalent K-Factors, Flow/K-Factor/Pressure Calculations, and Friction Loss. Download it today with the links above.
Thanks & I hope you have a safe and great rest of your week.
Get Free Articles via Email:
+ Get calculators, tools, resources and articles
+ Get our PDF Flowchart for Canopy & Overhang Requirements instantly
+ No spam
+ Unsubscribe anytime
Get access to every tool, the downloadable Toolkit, Sprinkler Database, Calculators and more:
Joseph Meyer, PE, owns/operates his own Fire Protection Engineering practice in St. Louis, Missouri. See bio on About page.