Ask a gardener a question

Why Everyone Stopped Asking Jeeves

Chicago Bears wide receiver Willie Gault liked to correct anyone who insinuated that his team’s record, “The Super Bowl Shuffle,” was an act of hubris. After all, it was recorded a full six weeks prior to the Bears gaining entry into the 1986 Super Bowl; two players even declined to appear in the accompanying music video, fearing some sort of karmic reprisal.

“If you listen to the record, it doesn’t say we’re going to the Super Bowl,” Gault told the Chicago Tribune. “We didn’t say we were going to win the Super Bowl. It said we were going to do a dance, and it’s the Super Bowl Shuffle.”

Collaborating with nine other teammates, the Gault-led rap was a recording industry anomaly. It was a novelty song performed by athletes that fans both in and out of Chicago found entertaining. More than 700,000 copies of the single were sold, and 170,000 videotapes were moved in its first year of release. Rather than have egg on their face, the Bears wound up winning the Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, their moonlighting session would have an unforeseen consequence. Declaring their goal to “feed the needy” in an early verse, the profits were supposed to go to charitable causes in the Chicago area. It proved to be a lot more complicated than that.

The Shuffle was born out of Gault’s interest in stardom outside of football; he wanted a career in acting or music. In 1985, Gault was introduced to Richard Meyer, owner of Chicago’s Red Label Records. After Gault appeared in a video for one of his artists, Meyer told him it might be fun to record something with the entire Bears team—bringing with them a built-in level of awareness that would help bolster Meyer’s new label.

Gault liked the idea and floated it around the locker room on the premise that profits would go toward area charities. Walter Payton, who was once in a band, loved the premise; others, like William “The Refrigerator” Perry, were already doing commercial spots and didn’t mind poking fun at themselves. Only Dan Hampton refused. He thought it was presumptuous and would come off poorly.

Willie Gault Markus Boesch, Getty Images

Meyer had a songwriter rework a title named “The Kingfish Shuffle” after an old Amos ‘n Andy radio series character, personalizing lines for each of the 10 players who agreed to have speaking parts. “The Super Bowl Shuffle” was recorded within a week, over two sessions, during which a gleeful Payton ran around pinching the other players’ hamstrings.

Naturally, every radio station in Chicago found airtime for it. The song was so successful both in and out of the team’s area that it eventually made it to #41 on Billboard’s Top 100 chart. Emboldened, Meyer arranged for the team to film a music video to accompany the song.

Dan Hampton may have been on to something: The night before they were scheduled to film the video, the Bears dropped their first game of the season to the Miami Dolphins. It was a 38-24 drubbing, and the team showed up for filming the following morning, December 3, in a foul mood. Payton, who was initially supportive of the project, was so dejected he refused to appear until weeks later. (They spliced his footage in.)

Incredibly, the VHS copy of the video moved so many units it threatened to unseat Michael Jackson’s Thriller on sales charts. In February of 1986, the song was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. (It lost to Prince & the Revolution’s “Kiss.”) Best of all, the Bears’s victory at Super Bowl XX was, at the time, the highest-rated in the game’s history. What started as a glorified joke had become a lucrative venture.

Just how lucrative would quickly become an issue for Illinois’s attorney general.

Gault and Meyer had succeeded in orchestrating an unlikely hit, but they did fumble one detail: No one had checked in with the head office of the Chicago Bears to see if “The Super Bowl Shuffle” had their official blessing.

The Chicago Bears celebrate after William “The Refrigerator” Perry scores a touchdown during Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots. Mike Powell, Getty Images

The ownership wasn’t entirely amused. The song did seem boastful, Gault’s protests aside, and they were concerned about exactly how this proclamation to “feed the needy” was going to go. If an NFL team made a public announcement that funds were pending, then the Bears wanted to know when and how much.

They contacted Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan, asking if 50 percent would be a permissible amount of the proceeds to donate. Hartigan’s office responded that 75 percent was the letter of the law; Red Label was thinking more along the lines of 15 percent.

The accounting dragged on through 1987, with Red Label claiming album returns needed to be calculated before they could estimate profit. Middle linebacker Mike Singletary threw his gold record in the garbage in frustration at the delay, saying that, “It doesn’t represent an accomplishment. It doesn’t mean a thing unless it gets food to the hungry people who were supposed to be fed out of it. I thought it was a clean-cut deal. It’s taken a year.”

Eventually, $331,000 was liberated from an escrow account and turned over to the Chicago Community Trust for distribution. The 10 players with speaking parts made $6000 apiece, and all donated their salaries to contribute an additional $60,000.

That $6000 would later become a sticking point for six players (including Gault), who filed a lawsuit in 2014 claiming they hadn’t received additional payments from the lucrative merchandising and distribution of the video for non-charitable causes. Meyer’s daughter, Julia, is currently the owner of the “Shuffle” and remains vigilant about its availability on streaming sites.

While the Shuffle ultimately had a net positive outcome, it’s worth noting that the song’s success had some unfortunate consequences. On the heels of the video’s popularity, a number of pro sports teams recorded some terrible tracks of their own, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dallas Cowboys, and Los Angeles Rams, who recorded a single titled “Ram It” with the help of Meyer.

“No charities are involved,” Meyer said.

Ask the Expert: Questions and Answers

Thanks to everyone who has asked questions of our exepert panel over the week. You can view the questions and the answers from our panel below.

Didactic questions (answers from Susanne Czachs)

Question 1: If the audience is not interacting with you during training what do you do?

Question 2: How do you keep learners motivated and engaged?

Download Susanne’s answer to questions 1&2

Question 3: How can I include interaction and engage my audience in a large, lecture-style presentation?

Download Susanne’s answer to question 3

Question 4: How can I make my presentation clear and helpful for audiences learning in their second language?

Download Susanne’s answer to question 4

Question 5: Should I try to make my slides useful as a resource for students to study after the presentation?

Download Susanne’s answer to question 5

Question 6: Can you suggest some easy gamification tricks to best engage participants to Cochrane training activities?

Download Susanne’s answer to question 6

Question 7: Can you explain how trainers can use flipped classroom approach?

Download Susanne’s answer to question 7

Social Media questions (answers from Sarah Chapman)

Question 1: Can social media help my students create a learning community?

Question 2: Are there any examples of Twitter being used as a learning tool to supplement teaching?


Question 1: How can trainers gain more experience in conducting Cochrane reviews if they are not already part of an author team?

Ask the Experts

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How much does Ask the Expert cost?

This service connects you with one of our professionals for only $25 per question. You will be allowed up to 2 follow-up questions.

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The charge will appear as “ASHA” on your credit card statement.

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Your name or email address will not appear with your question and any follow up questions.

Will others be able to see my question and answers?

Yes, once the expert has answered your question(s) the question will be visible to others. Remember to NOT include identifying information about you or your partner(s).

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Go to the Ask a Question page on our online store to purchase a question. Once that is done, you can post a question to our online system. Please note that you are still able to post your question, even if your order says it is processing. We will then respond to you no later than 48 hours, but usually within 12 hours. You can then engage in a discussion with our assigned team member and get your question answered.

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The 11 Best Places to Ask Your Hardest Business Questions (All Online!)

Owning a business is like a road trip– full of steep cliffs, scenic overlooks, and the occasional flat tire. Like all great road trips, it can get pretty scary if you run out of gas.

No one is a born startup wizard— you don’t have all the answers, and that’s okay.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of places to ask your deepest, scariest questions.

Read on to find places full of knowledgeable and experienced peeps who can give you answers. They won’t be able to grow your business for you, but they’ll certainly do their best to help.

1. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Community — Learn The Nuts and Bolts is the digital arm of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is a government-run organization with the mission of supporting the country’s small businesses. On the site, you can post to discussion boards dedicated to subjects like starting and registering a business, filing and paying taxes, and marketing and advertising.

Here are some example questions from SBA users:

  • How much money does it cost to open a small e-commerce store from your home?

  • What is the best online fax service for a small business?

  • Looking for advice about how to research for and complete a financial forecast for my business plan.

  • I am planning to do some SEO but do not know where to start. Can anyone please suggest me something about SEO for the website?

2. Local Meet-ups — Meet Your Peeps

Ok, so going to a local meet-ups doesn’t happen online, but you can find the perfect groups and events using the web.

Everyone knows meet-ups are an awesome way to meet like-minded business-people, but they also present an opportunity to get tough questions answered.

Many meet-ups are location and industry-based, such as the Boston TechJam and the NYESN Food & Entrepreneurs Networking Party. You can find a meet-up near you on by searching with keywords such as “tech,” “nonprofit,” or “automotive.”

You can also connect with local peeps through your local BNI chapter or Chamber of Commerce. Both bring smart people together to discuss best business practices.

3. QuickSprout’s Forum — Discuss Web Traffic

QuickSprout is all about website traffic and conversion. Conversion— turning website visitors into customers— is an important way to measure how effective your website is. With 182,363 forum users, QuickSprout offers info on everything from SEO and content marketing to conversion optimization and traffic growth.

QuickSprout is a great resource for anyone doing business on the web. Conversion and traffic numbers are key to spending your time and efforts wisely. QuickSprout is the perfect resource for advice and tips on how to improve these numbers.

4. AMEX’s OPEN Forum — Unite With Others

American Express’s OPEN Forum is the broadest on our list. You can find answers to questions ranging from money & financials to marketing to leadership & management.

OPEN Forum gives you access to industry experts and peers who have been in your shoes. Once you join OPEN Forum, you can submit questions, get answers, and share your own advice with others.

5. StartupNation’s Community Forums — Go to The Community

StartupNation emphasizes both networking and getting answers. The forums cover a pretty wide array of topics, and they focus on the basics for people just getting started in business. Most of the people answering your questions are startup entrepreneurs just like you.

What’s neat about StartupNation is the Getting Inspired forum. Entrepreneurs share success stories, inspirational quotes, and questions like, “Who is your business idol?” It’s your one-stop shop for motivation and enthusiasm.

6. mosaicHUB — Contact The Experts

MosaicHUB is a little different from the other places on this list because questions are answered by “experts” who are contacted by mosaicHUB. The site has access to experts on just about anything from legal, accounting, and IT to social media, graphic design, and HR.

Answers on mosaicHUB come in a friendly, informative way and usually result in more conversation.

To use mosaicHUB, simply create an account (for free!) then type your question in the box, and click “Ask an Expert.”

Some questions people have asked:

  • What are some good tips or a better way to either gather clients or keep clients involved without the usage of the internet?

  • How will charitable contributions (on behalf of my business) impact my business’s taxes?

  • SEO. Do it myself or farm it out?

7. Reddit — Ask The Crowd

Reddit is a crowd sourced news website. Users can post a story, comment, or question and others respond & comment on it. Posts are voted up or down by users, so all of the most useful and relevant information finds its way to the top where it’s super easy to find. You can follow subreddits to create a custom front page that’s relevant to you.

Subreddits work like tags to categorize posts and make them easy to search. And there are tons of subreddits that are awesome for entrepreneurs like:

  • /r/smallbusiness

  • /r/growmybusiness

  • /r/startups

  • /r/socialmedia

The crowd on Reddit can be snarky (clever and witty comments get updated the most). Be prepared for the absolute truth—redditors won’t sugarcoat it!

8. Google Search — Let Google Do The Work

As if you hadn’t thought of that, right? Sometimes we overlook Google, but there’s something to that magic algorithm. If you have a question, chances are the answer is somewhere on the web, and Google will find it.

All you have to do is type your question into the box and Google will take it from there, bringing together the most relevant answers and information into one convenient place.

9. Quora — Ask A Question

Quora is an awesome question and answer web forum. It’s not just business and entrepreneurship, it’s everything (users have even asked what the trick is to parallel parking!). Think of Quora as similar to Reddit, with up and down voting of answers, but with a lot more emphasis on the Q&A format.

What’s neat is that you can submit questions anonymously. This is where you can get down to the deep and scary questions. Users on Quora are very straightforward and honest.

10. — Call an Entrepreneur

Clarity is unique because you can actually call top experts like Mark Cuban and Eric Ries. The site has over 30,000 experts. They’re not all famous, but they’re all successful and knowledgeable in their fields. You can talk to whoever you want, ask questions, and receive expert advice.

Pricing varies by expert, but you’ll be charged by the minute. After each call, experts are rated and reviewed.

11. StackExchange — Get The Right Answer

When you ask a question, StackExchange users answer. The best or most correct answer is selected and moved to the top of the page, so it’s readily accessible. This makes it super quick and easy to find answers if your question’s already been asked.

StackExchange is full of specific Communities like:

  • Personal Productivity,

  • The Workplace, and

  • Salesforce

StackExchange is extra awesome if your questions have a right answer. The most popular Communities are programming, engineering, math, and science-related because there’s no wading through a thousand different answers that may or may not be the right one.

Ask Away

Some questions are hard to ask, and some answers are scary to hear.

All of the places on our list are great for connecting with experienced people who can give you the answers you need.

Whether you want the cold, hard truth, or some inspirational stories, there’s something for everyone. Pick the place that’s right for you and ask away!

Your Turn: Where do you take your deepest, scariest questions? Let us in on it!


6.6 years ago by Eric Normandeau ♦ 10k Quebec, Canada Eric Normandeau ♦ 10k wrote:

Asking the right questions effectively is central to the pursuit of science and posting questions to online forums is a great way to improve that skill. Furthermore, knowing how to use forums is a great asset for your scientific career: it will help you overcome obstacles faster and connect with people who are doing similar research . However, in order to get the most out of online forums, you must first learn how to ask good questions.

Asking questions on forums is somewhat of an art form: easy to try but difficult to master. It is easy because we have been asking questions from a very young age. On the other hand, it is difficult because it is not enough to ask any question; we must ask good questions so that other people will be willing to spend some of their time to help us.

To quote Eric Steven Raymond, author of How to ask questions the smart way : “the kind of answers you get to your technical questions depends as much on the way you ask the questions as on the difficulty of developing the answer”. A well crafted question attracts good answers like a magnet, while “hasty-sounding questions get hasty answers, or none at all”.

This tutorial explains some of the fundamentals of asking good questions on forums. It is intended to help maximize your chances of receiving useful answers.

Before you ask

The first thing to understand is that it is normal, and even essential, to ask questions when learning about a new subject. Online forums exist specifically to help tapping efficiently into the knowledge of other people and to learn to solve problems faster. The second thing to know is that, before posting your question on a technical forum, you are expected to try a few things on your own.

Here are some steps you should go through BEFORE posting a question on a forum. Keep in mind that your ultimate goal is not really to ask a question, but rather to find a solution to your problem and the next steps are very likely to help you find that answer without having to ask other people. Keep in mind: using an existing answer is always faster than asking a new question. Even if these steps do not produce an immediate answer, showing that you followed them will make other people more inclined to help you. Indeed, people are much more likely to help if you show them that you have already tried a few avenues yourself.

The first step is thus to search Google. This step alone should answer 95% or more of your questions so, as basic as this sounds, we cannot emphasis this enough: FIRST SEARCH GOOGLE. For example, if you received an error message from the program you are trying to use, cut and paste the message directly into Google. Posting a forum question that could have been easily answered with a simple Google search is often seen as disrespectful of other users, and such a question will potentially be closed or deleted on many forums. If Google did not return a satisfactory answer, the next step is to read the manual of the program you are trying to use. If your question is about a file format, find and read the documentation of the format. If there is a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), you should definitely read that too. As the name implies, this document lists questions that come up frequently, so yours may be answered in there. For the manual, the FAQ or wiki site of the program, search for keywords that are related to your question. If you still have no answer, you should experiment some more and try to solve your problem yourself and ask for the help of a friend or colleague.

If you still are without an answer, you clearly need to post a question and you should find an appropriate forum to ask it. Once again, Google should be helpful. It is important to search the forum to see if the question has already been asked and answered, as is often the case. You should also be aware of the forum’s rules, which can often be summarized by the following points:

  • Remain polite at all times
  • Do not post off-topic questions
  • Do not post homework questions
  • Do not cross-post (posting a question on multiple forums)
  • Some forums discourage posting subjective questions

You may find that all the preliminary steps described below look a bit long, but if you turn them into a habit, they are guaranteed to save you a lot of time.

The fundamentals of asking the right question

Here is a non exhaustive list of important items to keep in mind while formulating your question:

Choose a good title: It should be brief and precise. A good title will help you attract more people and get answers faster. It will also help other users decide if they are likely to be able to help you without having to read the whole message. An ideal title should be a single sentence and contain all the elements needed to understand what you are going to ask. Titles can be declarative (“Looking for a tool to convert fasta sequences to EMBL”), interrogative (“What is the best way to convert a sequence from fasta to EMBL”), or compound (“Converting fasta files to EMBL: which are the best tools?”). Look at existing questions that have received multiple good responses and use their style as an example.

Avoid asking multiple questions in the same post: In general, people tend to answer only one question at a time. Consequently, if you ask multiple questions in the same topic, you will probably receive answers to only one of them. If you have multiple questions that are important to you, create one post per question, but remember to go through the pre-posting procedure described above for each one. Similarly, once you receive a good answer, avoid asking additional questions in the same discussion. It is fine to ask for clarification on details of an answer, but if you think that a new question can stand alone in a separate discussion, you will get much more visibility by creating a new post.

Give some context: Describe why you are having that problem, not only the specific details of the problem. For example, instead of asking how to convert from file format A to file format B using program C, say something about your ultimate objective. For example, explain why you need file format B in the first place. That way, another user may be able to suggest a better way to reach your goal.

Describe your problem carefully: Now is the time to give enough details about the problem you are experiencing. What Operating System (OS) and version are you running? What program and version are you using? What kind of input file and options did you use? What errors did you receive? It is important to be precise but not overly verbose. If your question is too long, people will not read it. If it is too short, people are likely to misunderstand it and give you a bad answer. Also, you may find that the process of defining your question helps clarifying your problem and may even lead you to a solution.

Show what you have done: You must show the other forum users what steps you have tried to solve you own problem. This step is crucial and will have two important consequences. First, it will serve to motivate them to help you. If you do nothing to help yourself, you send a powerful message to people that they should not spend time and energy to help you either. Second, it will help them better understand your problem and thus yield more useful responses. For example, if you are asking about a programming issue, do not expect users to write a full program in their response. The correct approach is to first create the code that you are capable of and then ask for guidance when you encounter specific coding problems.

Use text formatting: Most forums give you the possibility of formatting your text to make it more readable. You can use bold and italic characters, lists, and formated internet links as well as bits of code to make your question more readable. For example, if you are asking a question about a script or a pipeline of commands, it is useful to add a short example of your code. The code should be long enough so that other users can run it on their computer and contain enough comments so that people can understand what it is doing. Formatting that code properly will ensure that it is more readable in the discussion.

Provide Input and Output files: For programming questions, it is helpful to include a truncated input file and an example of the output format that you desire. If you are using an application that is not working the way you expect, provide a full input file and the error message. This will help potential responders to experiment on their own with your problem and come up with an answer.

Use good and simple English: Using correct grammar is important. It will make your question easier to understand and, once again, people will be more willing to help you. As a consequence, you should avoid slang or SMS style sentences. It is also preferable to avoid specialized abbreviations; even if you are asking a question to specialized people, they may not all recognize the abbreviations in the context of a forum. If English is not your first language, you can mention it in your post, but try your best to write a clear sentences and a precise question. If you need help with your English, you can ask a friend or colleague to review your text. Once you have finished writing your post, re-read it, look for missing details, and seek to improve its clarity and grammar. It should be possible to give an answer by reading nothing but the question. This last step will go a long way to make people feel that it deserves an answer. Time spent making your original post clear will be saved many times later on clarifications.

Tone and curtesy: It is important to be courteous and to remain polite at all times, but also to be direct to the point. You can say “Hi”, “can you please explain”, and “thank you”, but avoid to be overly friendly with “My dear friends” or “Dear fellow programmers”. Also, anything that sounds like begging, for example “Help!”, “Urgent!”, and “Please Help!” is to be avoided. People are likely to avoid answering such posts. Forums are all different. Take some time to look at a few threads with good questions go get a feeling of what is the proper tone and level of politeness on the forum you chose.

Avoid cross-posting: Asking the same question in different forums or online communities at the same time is referred to as “cross-posting”. Cross-posting is considered rude because you are making two or more communities work for you when only one may be needed. It therefore abuses the time of other users. If some time after posting a question you have not received an answer on a given forum and you feel that posting on another community may be needed, provide a link to the original question within your new post. Once you find or receive a satisfactory answer, be sure to make it available on both forums.

Follow through

Now that you have asked your question, what should you expect? If you did things right, knowledgeable forum users are likely to try to help you. If you messed up, you can expect anything from people asking clarification and giving bad answers to having your question closed or deleted. In any case, users and moderators are likely to leave comments for you. Read them and try to use them to improve your present or future questions. If you are new to the forum, note what you did right and wrong. Use that knowledge to improve your future posts and make them more useful to the forum’s community.

If your question is not in line with the forum’s topics or policies, it may also be moderated. This means that moderators may modify your question, for example changing the title, fixing the grammar, and editing what you wrote. In general, this happens because the moderator is trying to help you improving the question and rising your chances of getting a useful answer. Sometimes, it is possible that the moderators will not explain to you why they have changed your post. They may even involuntarily change the meaning of your question. This usually happens when your original question was not very clear. In any case, the best thing to do when your question gets moderated is to be patient and confirm that the editing did not change the original meaning. You can even add a comment asking for clarifications about why your question got edited.

If you think that the people on the forum have helped you, you can give something in return. A lot of forums have a mechanism where you can chose an answer and mark it as the correct solution. If one of the answers helped you solve your problem, be sure to indicate it. It is a good idea to add a brief note at the bottom of your question that describes how you ended up solving your problem. You may also contribute to the community by helping other people. Even as a novice, your point of view is very valuable to help solve the problems of other beginners. As you gain more knowledge about a subject, helping other users can be an enjoyable way to contribute to your field. Have a look at the questions on the forum and identify those you can answer. As with asking good questions, posting useful answers requires some practice, but similar principles can be applied.

Closing notes

Forums are all about community. If you respect their etiquette and code of conduct, you will find them extremely useful and even pleasant to be part of. Also, if you follow the guidelines of this tutorial, you should be on your way to getting more fun and usefulness out of technical forums. On a larger scale, following and contributing to a few forums in your area of research is also a good way to establish contacts and create opportunities for your career.


This tutorial was greatly inspired by, and borrows heavily from, the following sources. We highly recommend them to anyone wanting to learn more about how to ask questions on online forums.

Eric Steven Raymond: How to ask questions the smart way


Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome. Please contact the corresponding author (see below) if you would like to discuss anything about this tutorial.


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modified 19 months ago by aadilkhan9409 • 0 • written 6.6 years ago by Eric Normandeau ♦ 10k 2

Great! Fixed a couple mis-spelled words, hence my updates. Awesome job!

ADD REPLY • written 6.6 years ago by Josh Herr ♦ 5.7k

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