The Art of Asking for CADD Help


As my week hosting the “Ask the Expert at the AutoCAD Exchange” website approaches its end, I’d like to share some insights I have gathered during my 20+ years as an AutoCAD and other Computer-Aided Software user and consultant.

Progress begins by asking the right question, in the correct manner. Asking the right question is similar to setting the right destination for a trip, or aiming a bullet towards the correct target, or defining the correct goal, objective or problem to solve.

I begin all my classes by asking students to tell me all their wishes, problems and questions, in that order. I suggest you approach Computer-Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) in general and AutoCAD in particular, contemplating your wishes, problems and questions, in that order. Approach your wishes with faith that the program, whatever it may be, is omnipotent, capable of performing the way you require. Believe that all you need to do is simply to “discover how to do it.”

Therefore, NEVER address a question as “Is it possible to ______ (you fill in the blank)?” Given enough time, talent and money, you can get programs to do *anything* [within reason] you can define. Instead, formulate your question as, “How do you ______ (you fill in the blank) using _____ (fill in your favorite CADD program)? Close-ended questions that can be answered with a short Yes or No, usually fail to ask the real question you want answered of how to do something. Please beware that if anybody answers, “No, you can’t do it,” all they are admitting is that they don’t know how, not that it’s impossible. Something may not be possible this instant, but resigning to the status quo would simply stifle innovation. Instead, think positive. Assume you can find the answer. Believe, indeed realize, that you already have what it takes to receive the answers to your most important questions. We know and have access to more information than we are aware of and realize.

Here are the steps to follow to find answers, solutions or implementations for your questions, problems or wishes.

  1. Like a good physician or project manager, begin by taking vital signs, diagnosing the problem or defining the goal. List what you already know and have, including the software, versions, Operating System (OS), hardware, etc. Many problems stem from a lack of updated drivers, software patches, etc. Make sure your system is up to date. Some problems can be attributed to specific computer configuration issues. Make sure your problem can be replicated on other computers. Sometimes simply changing computers stations can solve some problems. Be forewarned that finding the cure or solution to a problem may not be worth the testing and lab work required.
  2. Don’t be afraid to “dream” and wish. The best features are almost always dreamt up by naive, ignorant, lazy or child-like users who feel “there must be a better, simpler, quicker way!” If you feel that way, email me a detailed description of what you’re envisioning. Sometimes the solution is easier than you think. Often, the real genius stems from wishing for a better way, and describing the new function or method clearly.
  3. Use F1 Help or Google. F1 takes care of the dangerous RTFM fault (Read The Fricken Manual) that many novice users fall prey to. If you’re a beginner, then find your closest Community of CADD Users to tap into their help. Some online communities are amazing. Most of them are free and replete with many generous members willing to share their expertise. Along the same vein, buy a book or, as a last resort, take a class dealing with the subjects that are likely to equip you with the tools necessary to deal with your wishes, problems or questions. If you use Autodesk products, learn to access the Knowledge Base at www.autodesk.com. If you can’t find answers in the resources mentioned in this page, then it may be time to “cry uncle,” and contact an expert.
  4.  Be specific. Provide examples. Use pictures and source files. Don’t rely on just spoken or written words. Run benchmarks so you can be objective about the program’s speed, or lack thereof.
  5. Pray. If you’re agnostic or atheist, visualize or meditate. Expect an answer or solution. If you still have doubts, like any normal human being, read about Blaise Pascal’s Wager here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal’s_Wager. You either have nothing to lose or everything to gain. It’s a no-brainer, good bet.
  6. Help others. This will create “Karma” so that when you really need help, it will somehow come to you as if by providence. Helping others will help your own “help muscle” grow so that when you have to use it to help yourself it will be fully developed and ready to work for you. Don’t expect to become an expert F1-Help-System searcher or Google query creator overnight. It takes practice. But as power users will attest, more than half the battle is learning how to write search or help queries or questions. Make it a practice to ask the right questions. Believe the promise, “Ask and you shall receive” and act on it.
  7. Don’t give up. Instead, try solving a simpler or related but easier challenge. Divide and conquer. Be patient. Your diligent work and tenacity will prevail in the end.

There is no need to suffer, spinning your wheels unnecessarily, when you have access to great online communities like www.augi.com and www.autocad.autodesk.com to get help for free. Don’t suffer. Ask and you shall receive an answer. Make sure you follow up and let me know if the solution, tip or trick I suggested worked or not. I often can’t sleep well until I have figured out all issues I’ve been asked to resolve, and I believe the best helpers tend to feel the same way.

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Explore posts in the same categories: 3D BIM CAD, Basic Essential CAD, Uncategorized

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