Thursday, July 10, 2014

How to answer questions

Are you somehow responsible for operating a DBMS in production? Congratulations! You are going to get a lot of questions so learn how to be efficient while answering them. Questions can be cheap to ask because speculation is free. A non-speculative answer is expensive when it requires research and experiments. Good and bad questions will arrive faster than good answers can be provided. How do you remain productive assuming you don't ignore the questions? Make the answer as inexpensive as the question. Problem solved? Here is a short guide.

Preferred version

I prefer these questions over the ones that follow. I don't know whether the non-preferred variants are asked more frequently or whether I am more likely to remember them. My blogs, smalldatum and mysqlha, have a lot more detail.
  • Q: Why are you using Y?
  • Q: What would it take to get you to migrate?
  • A: One of the most important reasons that doesn't get enough attention is the value of operations expertise. That is hard to find and it takes time to get expertise for new products. That expertise can make a good product great. Migration requires something that is significantly better to be worth the cost, time & risk of migration. [insert many more reasons]. 

Less preferred variant #1

This is a variant of the first. It deserves a short answer. X is usually the system that the person sells. It is better to understand why Y is used before suggesting a replacement. But this might be a good way to get a potential customer talking. 
  • Q: Have you considered using X?
  • A: yes | no | maybe

Less preferred variant #2

Here the question morphs into an assertion. I tend to get this at conferences. There are a lot of new DBMS products in development. Some of them are very interesting. They are more likely to win new customers than migrate existing users of "legacy" products. Alas, no team has the resources to do proper benchmarks or even spend a few days thinking about each of them.
  • Q: Why aren't you using X?
  • Q: You should be using X!
  • A: Why do you think I should be using X?

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