Prepare Myself for "Stupid" Questions

We had a booth at one open source conference with a wide ranges of open source software users. It is good to talk to end users from time to time, because when you're isolated for too long from end users you don't know how they perceive the project.

We got all sorts of questions. I considered some high quality and some "stupid". In the end, all questions need to be answered, otherwise we look stupid ourselves.

By "stupid questions", I mean the questions that are so wrong that you don't even know where to start. But the user actually thinks the question is legit. I think we normally handle high quality questions very well because both sides know what they are doing. It's the "stupid" questions that we handle badly from time to time.

It's not very good tactic to try to educate the user from ground up and try to rectify their understanding, because we don't have that much time and the user is not here to receive a lecture. Another aspect is that by rectifying all the errors you actually make the other side feel stupid while originally he or she might actually be feeling good and wishing to engage.

The best way I can think of thus far is to use analogies. For example, one user asks, "can product A generate an intermediate medium that can be consumed be product B because the underlying technology is the same?" The analogy would be "no, it can't because it would be requiring BSD binary to run on Linux. The underlying format is ELF on both platforms but there are things that just don't allow to do that." Use things user can relate to to make them quickly grasp the idea.

It does take some effort to improvise analogies on the spot, though, but as least I have a way to deal with those questions now.