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RTFM!!!!! (but if you didn't, no biggie)

by nysus (Priest)
on Dec 15, 2017 at 13:12 UTC ( #1205574=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I was recently involved in a debate with marto. On the whole it was mild and though it started to go in circles, I think productive. I have no interest in rehashing the particulars of that debate. It's over. And this post is not directed specifically at marto and I thank him for his time and consideration. But I did want to add a few thoughts to this very age old, and probably tired, discussion about RTFM.

I'll first say that yes, I agree, "RTFM" is very good advice. It was advice that was pounded into me probably within days of me joining the PM community 17 years ago. It is advice that I reflect upon quite often. One interpretation of it boils down to: "Be self sufficient. Don't expect others to do your work for you. Be very respectful of others' time and effort and don't expect an answer if you can't be bothered to put some work in for yourself."

But like all rules of thumb, "RTFM" is open to wide interpretation. And so I offer another interpretation: "Learn how to figure things out for yourself, you'll be a better programmer for it. But if you feel like you are in over your head and you're feeling frustrated, go ahead and ask. It can't hurt. We'll try to be helpful, within reasonable limits, and you'll get the benefit of the doubt that you put in some effort into trying to figure it out."

I would like to encourage Monks to provide that benefit of the doubt. It's most people's instinct to want to reciprocate when they see others being generous with help. And so I think erring on the side of generosity and helpfulness does a lot to enhance and build the reputation of Perl. Sure, there will be some takers who don't reciprocate or who constantly ask questions that can be answered with just a cursory read of the manual or google search. But we should be careful not to be so guarded against them that they prevent us from helping those who genuinely need a helping hand and that will be very appreciative of any specific guidance they receive.

It's not easy advice to follow. We live in a dog-eat-dog, kill-or-be-killed kind of society that values hyper efficiency. Going out of your way to look something up for someone that strikes you as a lame brain does not seem like a very good use of your time. But I think, in the end, having faith in the good will of others gets us further down the road of progress. And I think that spirit of gift giving and reciprocation is what makes PM such a great community and Perl such a great programming language. I will do my absolute best to carry on the tradition.

$PM = "Perl Monk's";
$MCF = "Most Clueless Friar Abbot Bishop Pontiff Deacon Curate Priest";
$nysus = $PM . ' ' . $MCF;
Click here if you love Perl Monks

  • Comment on RTFM!!!!! (but if you didn't, no biggie)

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Re: RTFM ( How can we improve the FM? )
by LanX (Bishop) on Dec 15, 2017 at 16:59 UTC
    Seems it was more "What did you try and how did it fail?" than RTFM.

    Instead of answering

    you could have said something like

    • "Yes but point A is unclear and the concept of B is ambiguous"

    In general we are interested in improving documentation not in duplicating unread things.

    Maybe try to be less emotional and more goal oriented about it. :)

    Cheers Rolf
    (addicted to the Perl Programming Language and ☆☆☆☆ :)
    Wikisyntax for the Monastery

Re: RTFM!!!!! (but if you didn't, no biggie)
by shmem (Chancellor) on Dec 15, 2017 at 15:23 UTC
    $::Laziness. _(m?!\)Oo. M xyz ___ doesn't mean to "skip RTFM": +:$ $::Impatience. G°\ \ / / hurts while learning things: +:$ $::Hubris. /\_¯/(q / / doesn't mean to know it all: +:$ $::--------------------- \__(m.===·==· -)--])?);sub AUTOLOAD{map{print +&& select($,,$,,$,,$|/++$-)}map{pack c,($|++?1:13)+ord}split//,shift||ESE +L} alarm if$Herl.Pack("\cG"x4 ."Itrs\c_`mnsgdq\c_Gdbj\c_O`qk"),er(qq.dq\t +.)

    Just an email signature. For some gleeful fun, run that with -w ;-P

    That said, yes, almost all answers to any question about perl have already been given, specially if we're not dealing with obscure edge cases or being hooked upon blead perl. Sometimes advice which empowers the questioner to solve their problem on their own ist best.

    Then, it is all about economics. Of course not all perl programmers have a deep knowledge about the platform they work upon, and for most cases that's not even necessary, since perl is very good at abstracting away the intrinsics. So, sometimes it is just more efficient to ask, say, on IRC

    <me> I am having problems installing Foo. I get Can't exec "bar_blurb": No such file or directory
    <them> what OS, what version? which perl?
    <me> Debian jessie, perl-5.24.1 in perlbrew
    <them> do "apt-get install libbar-dev" and you should be done.
    <me> worked! cool, thanks a lot.

    instead of prodding e.g. the depths of my OS and its package manager (but imho to be a really good perl programmer, you have to know your platform and its tools).

    Last, we are all being blind. Of course it is all documented in the manual pages. But which one? If I am able to make a good educated guess, I grep the pod section, but what if I don't? Blindness is even more the case when it comes to bugfixing, because I don't write code to write bugs, and so finding my very own bugs is the most tiresome and tedious work I have to do once in a while, and at the end there's mostly *facepalm*. In contrast, finding a bug in someone elses code often is only a matter of minutes.

    My knowledge is obvious to me, but not to others, and I can only guess (sometimes) what knowledge they have. But overall, most Monks know the points I addressed, are being very polite and tolerant and going much out of their way to answer things, some casual misinterpretations nonwithstanding.

    perl -le'print map{pack c,($-++?1:13)+ord}split//,ESEL'
Re: RTFM!!!!! (but if you didn't, no biggie)
by 1nickt (Monsignor) on Dec 15, 2017 at 13:44 UTC

    You will not become a proficient programmer if you do not become self-sufficient and use the documentation provided. "I glanced at it" doesn't count as "trying to figure it out."

    "I read the doc and I don't understand where it says 'blah blah' -- I tried it with this code but I got this unexpected result. Can you help me see what I've missed?" does count.

    The way forward always starts with a minimal test.

      Like I said, I'm not interested in rehashing the particulars of that debate. Old news.

      $PM = "Perl Monk's";
      $MCF = "Most Clueless Friar Abbot Bishop Pontiff Deacon Curate Priest";
      $nysus = $PM . ' ' . $MCF;
      Click here if you love Perl Monks

        That was no debate. That was you being confronted on your approach to learning, which you've shown repeatedly is essentially "give me the answers without me doing the necessary work." If you didn't want to be taken to task again about that approach, posting a meditation defending it in these halls of learning was probably not the way to go.

        The way forward always starts with a minimal test.
Re: RTFM!!!!! (but if you didn't, no biggie)
by Anonymous Monk on Dec 15, 2017 at 15:52 UTC
    think that spirit of gift giving and reciprocation is what makes PM such a great community and Perl such a great programming language. I will do my absolute best to carry on the tradition.
    You've been here 17 years, 702 posts, 18 posts (2%) in the thread that you refuse to discuss. Part way thru you take a break from that and suggest that (1205532) perl programmers shoot themselves in the head. In the thread you refuse to talk about you keep missing the point, then paraphrase (1205484) someone else, while even managing to drag down a one line quote to the gutter, remaining ignorant to the fact that it's not applicable in this context. You're a gem, for sure the behavior we want to encourage here. Reply with one worth while contribution you've made.

      suggest that (1205532) perl programmers shoot themselves in the head

      At first glance, I thought the cylindrical red thing in the picture linked to looked kind of like a shotgun shell, which I am guessing your comment is referring to. But taking a closer look, and especially googling the part number printed on the side, reveals that it's just a lithium ion battery.

        Other guy here, not a smoker or ecigarette smoker

        First , second , third and fourth glace, the picture read as shotgun cigarette or instant suicide cigarette

        Saw some commentary that also saw it the same way

        I looked again now, and saw some other commentary thats talking about that vape belongs in a museum

        Whatever the message nysys is trying to communicate, this AM called it

        Did you really need to google that? It's quite obvious that the pic shows a modified car cigarette lighter and a battery to power it. A clever hack this guy could have had good use for :-)


        You can lead your users to water, but alas, you cannot drown them.

      I read your manual. It was an easy read: "IGNORE ME."

      I don't always follow that advice. But when I do, it feels great.

      $PM = "Perl Monk's";
      $MCF = "Most Clueless Friar Abbot Bishop Pontiff Deacon Curate Priest";
      $nysus = $PM . ' ' . $MCF;
      Click here if you love Perl Monks

        Perhaps you only "glanced at it"? This thread is amusing, nice to see you don't practice what you preach. We have a few regulars who exhibit this behaviour.

Re: RTFM!!!!! (but if you didn't, no biggie)
by sundialsvc4 (Abbot) on Dec 16, 2017 at 01:22 UTC

    When someone asks a question, let us simply strive to answer it, without judgment.   If the answer is not sufficiently clear, ask for clarification.   If the question is “something so childishly-simple that you knew the answer to it fifteen years ago,” remember that fifteen years have passed.   If the question is not lame but is (to you) obvious, remember all the very-many times that the roles were reversed.   If you think that the OP’s situation is best answered by providing context, try to write your response not only for this one person, but for however-many anonymous Super Searchers™ that will inevitably follow.

    PerlMonks is one of the very-oldest technical forums on the Internet, and, although it is “by-definition officially” focused on a fairly-specific programming language, its continuing tradition is that “here you can very-quickly find expert answers from the very-best of the very-best of the long time players in this crazy computer-programming game.”   Let us strive to keep it that way.

    When anyone reaches out on an Internet forum to ask a question ... they are exposing themselves.   Just like we once did, way back when.   They just might have their backs against a wall.   The clock is ticking fast.   We were once there too ... hell, we’ll be back there, soon enough!   Let’s write a response that we will still be proud of, decades hence.

      I'll chime in on this thread finally.

      "Let’s write a response that we will still be proud of, decades hence."

      One of the oldest responses on the Internet is "RTFM", no matter how you slice it. It's also the most realistic response to anyone who is having an issue when it has been proven that the docs clearly portray how something should be done.

      Now, I am in agreement with others that if the docs are followed but are either inaccurate, ambiguous or otherwise confusing, ask a question about it, and, I'm in agreement with sometimes you just need a quick answer so ask it (Rubber Duck Debugging), but I do not agree with asking questions when one has the time to read the docs thoroughly but don't. That don't go over too well.

      As a (what I like to think as a somewhat) prolific software author amongst a few languages who is vehement on keeping documentation as accurate, legible and understandable as possible, I want to know when my docs aren't portraying the usage of the API or binary I've written so that it is completely understood. It takes me as long, or even longer to write my usage documentation than it does to write the code, and oftentimes longer than writing the code and tests combined.

      When one has time to take a few moments to read the docs, then say they were scanned (without actually testing what the doc says) is actually an insult to any software writer who takes the time to write really decent documentation.


      Hypocrite, you don't do any of this. You never post working code. You chastise others for posting code efforts! You are frequently challenged on the lies you tell, and you never respond with anything to prove such claims to anyone who is critical of your posts. If you cared at all for this site, rather than your own self promotion you'd simply stop posting. You add nothing of value to anyone.

        Following very-closely behind the “RTFM response” is the “pointless forum-internal-politics response.”   Please keep this in mind as we all strive to reduce the noise-pollution on this site.

        When someone posts a question on any forum, they want an answer – not a treatment of the fact that one person that they don’t know does not like – really does not like – another person that they also don’t know.   But they do notice such things as they consider whether they should dare post “here” at all, or just do what everybody else does now, and go to StackExchange.

        A technical forum that is dedicated to the support of a particular programming system should be dedicated to that purpose, and should be kept to that purpose by the forum’s fellow-members and/or by its moderators, in order to keep the information quality as high as possible and to keep the forum attractive to future potential participants.

        (Frankly, nobody (else) gives a rat’s arse about this now-famous and never-ending vendetta . . . including me.   In fact, it’s kind of cute, in a perverse and backwards sort of way.)

        And, in spite of this vendetta, the site by-and-large continues in its present purpose, although today I can’t help but notice that the lion’s share of daily inquiries about the Perl language are no longer being handled here.   Which is a shame, because I remember what used to be.

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