Ask Yoda: What the Heck is RTFM?

by Ramesh Natarajan on June 9, 2010

Photo courtesy of Orange_Beard

When you are hanging out in your favorite forums or mailing lists, you might see a newbie asking for help and don’t know where to start.

Before you ask them to RTFM, ask them to read this post to understand about RTFM.

A young Padawan will eventually become a powerful Jedi Master. So, don’t be upset on the young padawan when he asks what is RTFM.

Padawan: Can someone help me?

Yoda: Help you I can, yes.

Padawan: How do I catch a Dinosaur?

Yoda: RTFM

Padawan: Yoda, thanks for your answer. I really appreciate it. Can you please tell me where should I buy the RTFM? I want to catch a big Dinosaur. Should I buy a big RTFM?

Yoda: RTFM!

[ Finally, young padawan realized that he has been asking the wrong question. ]

Padawan: What is RTFM?

Yoda: Read the fabulous manual, you should.

[ There is your answer from Yoda himself. RTFM = Read the Fabulous Manual. Young padawan is still not satisfied with the answer. He goes on a quest to find out what the heck is RTFM. He finds out there are more than one meaning for RTFM. ]

Padawan: I see following variations for RTFM.

  • Read the Fine Manual
  • Read the Friendly Manual
  • Read the Freaking Manual
  • Read the Flaming Manual
  • Read the Fantastic Manual
  • Read the Flipping Manual
  • Read the Forgotten Manual
  • Read the Famous Manual
  • Read the Factory Manual
  • Read the Full Manual
  • Read the FAQ and Manual
  • Read the FAQ Moron

Yoda: Done a good research, you have.

Padawan: I still think RTFM is not exactly any one of the above. What is it? Tell me now! You can’t keep it as a secret anymore.

Yoda: Powerful you have become, the dark side I sense in you. RTFM!


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sunil Gandhi June 9, 2010 at 2:11 am

Nice Way of putting in the obvious and a long forgotten rule ! !

2 Freddy Galarza June 9, 2010 at 6:09 am

RTFM = Read the fu**ing manual!!!

It doesn’t matter how polite you wants to be, that’s the exact meaning you’re searching for…

3 Anonymous June 9, 2010 at 8:32 am

I have never seen it any other way than read the fu**ing manual

4 Patrick Dickey June 9, 2010 at 10:11 am

Personally, I hate RTFM in any of it’s incarnations. Typically when I go to a forum to ask the question, it’s because either a) I couldn’t find what I wanted in the manual using the search terms that I had (for example searching for “Can OpenOfficeOrg use external web links created in Excel 2007″ doesn’t find anything, but when I ask on a forum, they point me to the portion of the manual where it talks about the external web links) or b) The manual’s information is too technical for my taste. ***Note, I’m phrasing this from the standpoint of the average user who will come to the forums.***

So, just telling someone to RTFM in any incarnation isn’t the best way to help them. Granted, it gets old pointing people to the same locations in the manual repeatedly. But typically the user will have tried the “Help” function first, and not found what they were looking for (or as in the case of the external web links, didn’t realize that that was the right area and they had to keep reading). Going a little further by giving them a link to the right section of the manual (and/or telling them what you did to find that section) will help them in the long run.

Also the manuals need to be written with the average user in mind–not someone who’s technically inclined per se.

Sorry for the mini-rant, and have a great day:)
Patrick.

5 Anonymous June 9, 2010 at 10:24 am

Long before the internet was freely available to the public, in the days of dial-up FidoNet BBS (Bulletin Board Service) people used to tell people RTFM, sometimes spelling out what RTFM stood for when the newbie asked. Not the nicest in mixed company, as Freddy Galarza said, when first used, it stood for Read The Fu..ing Manual. Somebody once responded, I already know how to do that, I don’t need a manual for that, please answer my question.

6 sudomoo June 9, 2010 at 11:13 am

i refuse to join or participate on any message board or help forum that lectures about searching or RTFM. if the geniuses that know it all can’t be social to people then they should get off the internet. what good is joining a social board and then being told to go look elsewhere for an answer. i don’t care how stupid a question seems if you can’t talk to someone then don’t bother lecturing about RTFM.

7 brad June 9, 2010 at 11:24 am

As long as people say RTFM in forums, chatrooms, IRC, etc etc.. it will NEVER EVER be the often touted “YEAR OF THE LINUX DESKTOP” .. people just don’t realize they were once newbies.. and forgotten where they came from, and what it took to get them where they are today.. its a sad commentary really.. if RTFM was banned from forums, irc channels, chatrooms, etc, people would embrace linux and any said distro’s userbase. Cause it’s ALWAYS that one problem that means the difference from saying “linux sucks” , “i thought linux was great” blah blah blah and going back to windows. So helping that ONE person with that ONE simple question might make the difference between a new user, or an anti-linux window using zealot..
that’s my .02 now i’m Broke

8 KimTjik June 9, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Hm… I’ve reminded myself about the virtue of reading the fine manual for a long time now. This is actually what I’ve put in my .bashrc:

http://omploader.org/vNDNjZQ

No, it’s not a joke. I apply the wisdom of its meaning to myself and not others. Comments above make me think I’m banned from social events with fine manners. Don’t worry I’m Ready to Talk with Fine Manners.

9 Vonskippy June 9, 2010 at 3:34 pm

As long as there are stupid people asking basic questions, there will be RTFM responses.

As one of those rude, arrogant, bastard experts – I actually expect people to try to LEARN, not just whine and have THEIR problems solved for them.

Sometimes RTFM is indeed a bad answer, and that’s when the doc’s are outdated, poorly written, poorly indexed, or just plain don’t answer the question.

But when the noob whines about not getting a answer to his question that’s clearly spelled out in Chapter 5 paragraph 3 line 2 (with syntax, a full explanation, and 4 examples) or when the first 10 hits on Google spell out the exact answer, then you better believe that RTFM is the appropriate response.

Thanks to the downward spiral of public education, people are getting dumber by the minute. It’s not my job to hold their hands, do their work for them, and wipe the dribble off their chins.

Don’t like it? Then call me during business hours, and I’ll gladly bill you $175/hr to solve your problems, I’ll have a smile on my face, and I won’t even mumble that you’re a major dumbass until I’m back in my office and have cashed your check.

Free support is just that, free. If you don’t like it, get your money back. Bwahahahahahahahahaha.

10 Apache July 13, 2010 at 3:41 am

Battlestar Galactica Version :)

Read the Frak Manual

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