Have you ever solved a particularly nasty bug or fixed a problem while writing an email to a co-worker about the problem? Merlin Mann of 43folders has a great post describing how to Solve problems by writing a note to yourself. Basically, as Merlin says, “concentrate on coolly describing exactly what you want to accomplish as well as what happens when you try the approach that hasn’t been working for you.”
As a writer, I can identify with this way to communicate a problem because it always helps me to record my thoughts in writing. Time and time again I have stored drafts of an email to my fellow information architect about a DITA catalog issue or other such minor problems where I figured out the solution while drafting the email. Usually by removing myself from the frustration and breaking down the problem into searchable bits, I remember something critical or I discover the missing piece of information that was blocking my progress.
I’ve also read that pair programmers will position a cardboard cutout in their workspace so that they can describe a problem to the cardboard cutout in such a way that the answer reveals itself. This paper calls it a Sidebrain: a sidekick for the programmer’s brain, hee hee. We used to have an Austin Powers cardboard cutout, but he didn’t seem insightful enough for me to try this approach.
I can laugh at this tonight, but today I learned the hard way that there is a big difference between troubleshooting installing the CCM (Change and Configuration Management) solution and installing the CM (Configuration Management) product. That one little C adds a layer of complexity that I just wasn’t ready to work with today. I am installing the Configuration Management as a baby step to understanding all the interdependencies with the CCM solution. Even still, the email I wrote out trying to describe my problem about CM (while the recipient thought I was talking about CCM) helped to clarify the mystery of the extraneous C. My Google searches at BMC led me to a wonderful Diagnostic and Troubleshooting Guide that had the exact troubleshooting information I needed for why my Configuration Management Tuner won’t start, and I wanted to share it here in case it helps someone else.