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"RTFM" can expound the virtues of a particularly fantastic manual, or it can express the frustration of having to direct someone to the manual in the first place. The ambiguity introduced by the accronym is kind of fun - you can suggest both at the same time to a degree.

RTFM is fun, but most often, an explicit version of it is used. I've often told novices "There is a really good tutorial on that at XXX. Read through that and let me know what problem you run into next, it is probably something simple". I've also told a great number of novices "I told you to do XXX. You didn't do it. You keep asking the same question. You're ignoring my answers. Don't come back until you've atleast tried XXX or you get a new question." Sometimes, I'm more rude than that. Far more rude.

Juerd defended the use of RTFM in the polite sense. I'd like to defend the use of RTFM in the nasty sense. Both are valid.

Juerd mentioned IRC. #perlhelp is a great chance to help people. People come in there without any direction other than they've decided to use Perl, and it is a great chance to be a positive influence - encourage them, point them at resources, empathise with them in their learning process, and let them blow off some steam as they talk about what they're trying to do. When you listen to them, often they give you some ear time, too, and you can expouse the virtues of CPAN and the documentation and good style. It is usually a good, healthy, process.

Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes someone with a really 1337 name wanders in, uses wretched grammar, complains that something doesn't work (presumably they mean for them on their system), abbreviates everything, asks questions without question marks, and uses cut and paste to resend their "question" to the channel over and over. This isn't a razor, but a stereotype. Sometimes this isn't a positive indication, but 9 time out of 10 giving a helpful reply to one of these individuals incites them into a rage. Saying, "Your variable is losing it's value at some point. The best thing to do is indent your code, get rid of the globals and pass data using the function call syntax like this", provide an example, and suggest that the problem will likely go away on it's own if they do that, but if it doesn't, you'll look at it, makes them mad. Really mad.

Being reasonable ourselves, we like to assume that other people are reasonable, and that this "novice" is merely trying to solve a problem and is perhaps a bit frustrated. These people aren't novices; they're well versed in conning people into doing things for them through feighted anger and summoned hostility. Their refusal to do even simple things themselves when lead by the hand forces people to either do it for them or get locked into a bitter battel. They don't not learn things because it is too hard to, but because it is easier to scream and cry. They might be kids, but I've known plenty of adults to conduct themselves in this manner.

Saying "RTFM", even where the nasty "F" is implied, communicates that you aren't willing to do the task for them if they don't consider it worth doing themselves. It communicates that they have everything they need at their disposal to do it, but it isn't your problem, and they can't make it your problem.

Using "RTFM" in the ambigious sense communicates that you're willing to help, give pointers, even ensure that good, correct documentation is available if it isn't already, but the person seeking help should politely respect that isn't your problem, and should procede with the understanding that you're willingly sacrificing somne time even though you don't have to. No, this isn't a concious understanding, but the unconcious mechanism works very well. It is the same cool, short, but well meaning help you'll get if you ask for directions in New York. "I don't know you, I'm not going to go out of my way for you, but I mean you well, and I hope this helps".

Juerd hit the nail on the head. Avoiding the pathological cases let you focus not only on your own work so that you can keep that IRC channel open, but it also lets you give attention to people that actually do need help still after they've read the documentation or followed your initial bit of advice about indenting their code or using some module.


In reply to RTFM's dual meanings. Was: RTFM works perlfectly. (Re: Re: Re: Re: Debian removed perlreftut) by scrottie
in thread Debian removed perlreftut by Juerd

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