Get Your Feet Wet Before You Ask "How's the water?"

One of the most important things we try to teach our non-tech-savvy family and friends when we're helping them with their computers and devices is this:

Experiment. Play. Learn. Teach yourself. You're not going to break it.

This is even a lesson we teach to kids, when learning about almost anything. One part that kids often lack is the judgment of is it safe to learn on their own? Adults are more equiped to make this judgement, and are more equiped to handle minor problems or consequences.

I want to share this lesson with my peers. The ones who are tech savvy, are programmers, and are smart, educated people, equipped to solve more complex problems. For the most part, you do this, and that's awesome. You know that the first step to solving most of your challenging problems is to stop and think, and then to google it, and then to bounce between those two for a while before looking for help from others.

There's a piece of judgement that's not so common among us, however, and that's when to test the water. Often times, when thrown into (or voluntarily exploring) a situation that involves a new technology, we aren't quite sure whether to stop and think, google, or ask someone else. Many times, we'll jump quickly to "hey, so-and-so worked with this, let's get her input." What if you could avoid talking to that person altogether before getting her involved?

Figuring out when to test the water yourself, and really get your feet wet is tough. What if there are lots of obstacles that your peer already figured out, and she could help you avoid the same mistakes? That's a really good reason to get her input. On the other hand, what if there aren't? What if she got her feet wet and jumped in, and you could do it too - easily figuring out the task at hand without much difficulty at all? But how do we tell? How do we know?

I don't have a good answer, but I think I'd ere to the side of getting my feet wet. Often times, we can avoid distracting our peers by simply trying something ourselves, and then making a judgement later about whether or not we need help. There are some things we can do to help, though. Blog. Document. Share. Don't just spit it out or get it into text, though - articulate the problems and solutions thouroughly and completely so your peers can search and find and read and learn, on their own, while still getting some hard earned beta from you if they need it.