Forum policy: roughness vs. usefulness



  • Split notification:
    This topic was split off from the "Acronyms":http://developer.qt.nokia.com/forums/viewthread/6963/ topic.

    [quote author="mariusg" date="1308738074"]As for RTFM and its siblings I'm trending towards a something entirely different. In other large forums they sometimes have a policy to avoid the use of those entirely, to promote a newbie friendly atmosphere. This if from the Ubuntu forums:

    bq. If you wish to remind a user to use search tools or other resources when they have asked a question you feel is basic or common, please be polite. Any replies for help that contain language disrespectful towards the user asking the question are unacceptable and will not be tolerated. This includes things like STFU, RTFM, and LMGTFY as well as the obvious forms of disrespect. (http://ubuntuforums.org/index.php?page=policy)

    I'm on board with that, let's leave them for darker places on the interwebs :)[/quote]

    Well, here I disagree. In order to stay useful, we need to maintain some standards, and that includes teaching people asking questions to first try to help themselves. In fact, I find not making an effort to try for yourself before asking disrespectful to the rest of the community. A RTFM or LMGTFY are IMHO appropriate responses to such "lazyweb" queries.

    Let me quote a "section":http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html#not_losing from the "How to ask questions the smart way" guide, which I think is in general applicable to DevNet:

    [quote]
    Odds are you'll screw up a few times on hacker community forums in ways detailed in this article, or similar. And you'll be told exactly how you screwed up, possibly with colourful asides. In public.

    When this happens, the worst thing you can do is whine about the experience, claim to have been verbally assaulted, demand apologies, scream, hold your breath, threaten lawsuits, complain to people's employers, leave the toilet seat up, etc. Instead, here's what you do:

    Get over it. It's normal. In fact, it's healthy and appropriate.

    Community standards do not maintain themselves: They're maintained by people actively applying them, visibly, in public. Don't whine that all criticism should have been conveyed via private e-mail: That's not how it works. Nor is it useful to insist you've been personally insulted when someone comments that one of your claims was wrong, or that his views differ. Those are loser attitudes.

    There have been hacker forums where, out of some misguided sense of hyper-courtesy, participants are banned from posting any fault-finding with another's posts, and told "Don't say anything if you're unwilling to help the user." The resulting departure of clueful participants to elsewhere causes them to descend into meaningless babble and become useless as technical forums.

    Exaggeratedly "friendly" (in that fashion) or useful: Pick one.[/quote]

    I tend to agree with that. And no, it is not a licence to shout at every noob for no reason at all.



  • RTFM, and any other acronym that has F for "fucking" does not make sense to me - on many levels. DevNet profanity filter kicking in there, but I'm sure you understand.

    LMGTFU thankfully doesn't have that, so it's more on the borderline. I'm eager to hear peoples opinion.

    It's not a question of "if" we should keep a standard (or what that standard should be), it's the "how" I'm prodding.



  • The 'F' stands for 'Fine', right?



  • [quote author="Andre" date="1308741306"]The 'F' stands for 'Fine', right?[/quote]

    You're probably pulling my leg, but I'll answer anyways ;)

    Not originally no; http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=RTFM

    There is a whole family of those acronyms, according to Wikipedia. Mostly plain old rude ones we should avoid, but some funny ones - WIDGI has potential!:


    Encouraging the reading of the manual or other background information

    RTBM ("read the bloody manual") (In some countries, e.g., the UK and Australia, this is a fractionally more polite alternative with identical meaning)
    RTFA ("read the fucking article"—common on news forums such as Fark.com and Slashdot, where using "TFA" instead of "the article" has become a meme)
    RTFE ("read the fucking e-mail")
    RTFC ("read the fucking code" [also "reboot the fucking computer"])
    RTFSC ("read the fucking source code")
    RTFQ ("read the fucking question")
    RTFFAQ ("read the fucking frequently asked questions")
    UTFH ("use the fucking help")
    UTSL ("use the source, Luke", a play on the famous Star Wars quote, "Use the force, Luke", referring to freely available source code)

    Encouraging the use of at least a basic search

    UTFG ("Use the fucking Google")
    JFGI ("just fucking Google it")
    JFWI ("just fucking Wiki it")
    JGIYN ("just Google it, you noob")
    STFG ("search the fucking Google" (the initials are consonant with STFU)
    STFW ("search the fucking Web") (the initials are consonant with STFU)
    WIDGI ("when in doubt, Google it"—also occasionally "WIDGIT")
    WABM ("write a better manual" - an answer to UTFG when the manual is not written well)

    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RTFM



  • Yes, I was (I probably should have added a smiley), but this is also from the same wiki page you referenced:

    List of expurgated expansions

    • Read the field manual (military contexts)
    • Read the fine manual
    • Read the freaking manual
    • Read the friendly manual
    • Read the full manual
    • Read the full-on manual

    I think that Ubuntu's forum policies are not a great example to follow, and certainly not something to be followed on a programmer-oriented environment like DevNet. Note that they cater to different kinds of communities: end users vs. programmers. I think more aptitude for self-guidance can be demanded from the second than from the first group.

    In my opinion, it is not acceptable to just answer RTFM to a first-time poster with a reasonable question. It is acceptable to use as an answer in cases where someone, despite having been pointed to the actual documentation on multiple occasions, keeps on asking for easy-to-find bits of information.



  • Interesting discussion. I like the way things digress here. ;)

    I have a strong aversion to the mentioned acronyms above, and let me tell you a story to explain why.

    Back in the 90ies, when I was still young and naive, I finally got over myself to post questions on a Linux forum. I had asked in an honest way out of a pure need to figure out how to fix something that didn't work. I had searched all forum archives before - it had been made VERY clear that that was the expected baseline - to make sure no-one had asked the exact same question before. Surely, I preferred not to be told that I did it wrong.

    So I shot my question and the result was exactly that: I had apparently done something wrong. I didn't search for the right term, or should have known that that was documented in whichever man page, or having this kind of knowledge was an obvious pre-requirement for using Linux in the first place. Needless to say that my urge to ask anything again was very limited.

    Over the last years, I have heard similar stories from many people - particularly women - who are simply afraid of asking questions because someone might tell them to RTFM and make them feel stupid or excluded or unwanted.

    I vowed to myself that I don't want that to be the case on any site that I am in any way involved with. I want to everybody to be comfortable with asking questions. And if you feel answering is not worth your time, just leave it to somebody else. Sometimes no answer is better than a rude one.

    In conclusion: I am in favor of the Ubuntu approach, it works beautifully on all their means of communication. KDE has similar rules and I felt at home there from day 1. :)



  • [quote author="Andre" date="1308743747"]
    I think that Ubuntu's forum policies are not a great example to follow, and certainly not something to be followed on a programmer-oriented environment like DevNet. Note that they cater to different kinds of communities: end users vs. programmers. I think more aptitude for self-guidance can be demanded from the second than from the first group. [/quote]

    I disagree. An important part of Ubuntu's communication to users is to move a part of them over to the contribution side - which makes them developers. We (partly) move API-users to API-authors.

    Besides, to me it's simply a matter of respect for the other person.

    [quote author="Andre" date="1308743747"]
    In my opinion, it is not acceptable to just answer RTFM to a first-time poster with a reasonable question. It is acceptable to use as an answer in cases where someone, despite having been pointed to the actual documentation on multiple occasions, keeps on asking for easy-to-find bits of information. [/quote]

    The tricky bit here is that although some might be really annoying and not willing to read for themselves, their forum threads will show up in search results, independently from the prior discussion.

    What would the impression be to someone new stumbling over this specific thread? Certainly not a very encouraging one...



  • [quote author="Alexandra" date="1308744291"][quote author="Andre" date="1308743747"]
    I think that Ubuntu's forum policies are not a great example to follow, and certainly not something to be followed on a programmer-oriented environment like DevNet. Note that they cater to different kinds of communities: end users vs. programmers. I think more aptitude for self-guidance can be demanded from the second than from the first group. [/quote]

    I disagree. An important part of Ubuntu's communication to users is to move a part of them over to the contribution side - which makes them developers. We (partly) move API-users to API-authors.

    Besides, to me it's simply a matter of respect for the other person.
    [/quote]
    Respect goes both ways. Abusing help channels without being willing to put the effort in yourself, is disrespectful to the community.

    [quote author="Alexandra" date="1308744291"][quote author="Andre" date="1308743747"]
    In my opinion, it is not acceptable to just answer RTFM to a first-time poster with a reasonable question. It is acceptable to use as an answer in cases where someone, despite having been pointed to the actual documentation on multiple occasions, keeps on asking for easy-to-find bits of information. [/quote]

    The tricky bit here is that although some might be really annoying and not willing to read for themselves, their forum threads will show up in search results, independently from the prior discussion.

    What would the impression be to someone new stumbling over this specific thread? Certainly not a very encouraging one...[/quote]
    I doubt that, to be honest. It sounds bit academic to me. The search results will return the whole topic, including the many occasions where the person in question was pointed to the right documentation. Yes, in the possible case where one just opens topic after topic, and one of those is found by accident by a person who lets him/herself be scared of very easily, you might have a point. It is not like such a thing happens frequently around here.

    I am sorry to hear that you felt scared off when posting in some linux group. That was probably undeserved. But like I said before: I don't think that such a reply is acceptable in the casus you described. But that is something else than trying to force people here to be overly polite and nice to each other. Yes, users should have a helpful attitude towards each other, but IMO, some users are helped best by being clearly told they are screwing up, out of line, or just overtaxing the community with their queries. To me, that includes being told to go read the fine/full/freaking/friendly manual, instead of staying reliant on being spoon-fed direct links.



  • [quote author="Andre" date="1308743747"]Yes, I was (I probably should have added a smiley), but this is also from the same wiki page you referenced:

    List of expurgated expansions

    • Read the field manual (military contexts)
    • Read the fine manual
    • Read the freaking manual
    • Read the friendly manual
    • Read the full manual
    • Read the full-on manual
      [/quote]

    Those have arrived after the use of RTFM became widespread. If we want to have an acronym that tells people to go to the documentation we should invent our own, and I can add it to the acronym feature.

    Like:

    HALATQD - Have a look at the Qt documentation
    PCTQD - Please check the Qt documentation
    TQDIYF - The Qt documentation is your friend

    Something that doesn't have the historical luggage of RTFM. Pretty much anything with "fucking" in it is a no go. Alexandra agrees!



  • The big problem with "allowing" some of the F containing acronyms in some cases, is where to draw the line. I don't know, and I doubt anyone else can come up with a clear definition of that - it's all matter of personal taste and circumstances.

    So my conclusion here is to avoid that at all.

    From my experience, it's better to avoid insulting stuff - even if only in some cases. It tends to cool down a discussion. Being told "please read the Qt docs, it's there" is much better to ones blood pressure than just "RTFM". And as we all know, writing answers when one is in a rage adds even more fuel to the flames.

    So, if you didn't notice yet: I'm with Marius and Alexandra here :-)



  • I 100% agree with keeping a low, informal, friendly and (very) polite attitude (so: no F words at all); but I also think that the forum quickly loses quality if there are lots of RTFM-like questions (see f.i. my other thread on closing the neverending stream of QString-conversion related threads).

    I don't see anything bad in replying with a link to the documentation and/or related topics and eventually closing the thread: at least, it gets indexed by google (so, if someone else who has the same problem does a search with similar words, he/she gets a good result).

    OTOH: I'd like to see no mercy towards people who just want a readymade solution, without even caring of trying something by themselves first.

    BTW, a very related issue is:

    !http://www.klocwork.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/If-you-want-them-to-rtfm.jpg(improve)!

    which is where our efforts should go: improving the documentation, the wiki articles, and turning good forum threads into wiki pages.



  • @peppe: Well said :) It sums up much of DevNets raison d'être



  • Sold. :P



  • Hi,
    I also agree on that, things like RTFM should not be in here, thinks like LMGTFY are OK in my eyes.

    So will we block these not wanted acronyms then here on dev net?



  • Where's the line between LMGTFY and RTFM? It's hard to tell. Just be polite with users, because they might be offended easily. Or even get discouraged to post what (to their eyes) are "easy" questions, because they're afraid of such an answer.

    Let's just don't use them or limit their usage to a bare minimum (as I said: I don't like leeches).



  • [quote author="peppe" date="1308754881"]Where's the line between LMGTFY and RTFM? It's hard to tell[/quote]

    LMGTFY is not insulting in its words at least. It's a borderline case too, whereas RT*M is beyond the border, in my opinion. If used at all, we should agree to keep it minimum. No?



  • Keep lmgtfy to a minimum is absolutly ok for me, but sometimes for users, asking things ten times or similar, it is a valid answer, right?


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