Why questions don't get answered, or "No, I've already RTFM, tell me the answer!"

Michael A. Peters mpeters at mac.com
Thu Dec 29 10:47:33 UTC 2005

On Wed, 2005-12-28 at 21:37 -0600, Charles Howse wrote:
> I'd like to start a calm, respectful, reasonable discussion of the reasons
> that we tell people to RTFM, or reasons that people don't get their
> questions answered on mailing lists and usenet groups.

When I first started using Linux, there were several times when I tried
to RTFM but completely failed. Often it was because I simply did not
understand the manual.

This was with ppc so people were kinder because it was a smaller group,
some people like ppc David Gatwood took time to help me out while a few
others did tell me to RTFM - and that's probably what kept me in Linux.

Documentation is a mess. Many cli binaries don't have a man page, some
man pages say look at the info documentation, some w/o man pages aren't
even adequately documented in /usr/share/doc/package, many gui apps
don't have scrollkeeper documentation, yelp doesn't display man or info
(it use to), tetex has its own documentation system separate from
man/info, documentation on the web is sometimes outdated or distro
specific or wrong or bad advice, etc.

When documentation is a little better on the desktop (searchable man
pages and searchable scrollkeeper, less documentation systems that the
documentation might be stored as, etc.) there will probably be less of
this issue.

I personally think every CLI executable in /usr/bin should have a man
page, and every GUI app should have scrollkeeper documentation. yelp
should support man pages (and perhaps an FAQ) and yelp should be
searchable for all documentation it supports (not just the find widget
that seems to only search through what it is viewing).

Plugins for yelp to allow it to extend to other documenation systems
that really can't be done via man/scrollkeeper (like tetex) would be
nice too, but I'm not holding my breath on that one.

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