An Optimized Alternative to RTFM

RTFM ya dingus!

RTFM or “Read the Fucking Manual” is a phrase shared when new engineers ask for answers to questions that they can answer themselves.

The phrase implies that the person seeking help hasn’t made the effort to try and answer the question on their own.

As experienced engineers know, this is a reasonable assumption to make.

However, RTFM should be replaced.

It’s a put down–and an acronym that beginners can’t be expected to understand.

It’s used to discourage out-of-group members to pollute the conversations held by in-group members. It also signals that the person using RTFM is an in-group member, like speaking in Esperanto 🙄

In reality, it doesn’t encourage better behavior in the future. It often leads to more questions, because it’s so cryptic and rude.

Consider this alternative:

“If you spend 5 minutes Googling this you’ll know more than me about this topic. “

It seems so obvious, but it isn’t.

This phrase covers every checklist item I can imagine:

  • It’s short (enough)
  • It flatters by suggesting they are capable of answering the question on their own
  • It demonstrates modesty
  • It demonstrates that free information is close at all times–even when a stranger isn’t online and willing to dispense guidance for free
  • It recognizes that their isn’t a single manual for information. RTFM dates from a time when compilers came with a single manual–there was no StackOverflow, etc.

Much better than RTFM!

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Take a Break Ya Dingus!

Control + C

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The Zero-Indexed Stock Market

The major pop finance websites (Yahoo Finance, Google Finance, The Motley Fool) purposefully lie to you.

What’s their lie?

They lie by using this chart:

Non-zero-indexed S&P 500 returns

Instead of this chart:

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Software engineer? Start a podcast.


What should a software engineer do to maximize their career from a position of being in a full-time role?

  • Study for whiteboarding interviews?
  • Brush up the Github profile with make-work?
  • Start a blog to quietly publicize your achievements in your full-time role?
  • Cynically job hop every 2 years?

I’d suggest an alternative (or an additional option):

Invest in your personal network, showcase your personal brand and practice your storytelling skills by…

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Tales from the L at 1AM

For a 1-year window of time in Chicago, I commuted from my apartment in Wrigleyville to the downtown Loop at midnight via Chicago Transit Authority metro (AKA “the L”).

I’d ride home at noon once my shift was over and the sun had risen to its apex.

Here are a few tales from my bizarre Chicago public transit experiences.

Midnight on the L

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How to Survive the Graveyard Shift

So you have a job that pays you to come to the office outside of 9-5.

May god have mercy on your soul, your bodily health, and your sanity!

I’ve been there–heed my advice:

Tired Max Mautner

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Making Markets, Pawn Shops, and Farmer Joe

My first full-time job out of college was at a small (<100 employee) Chicago finance firm.

It was crazy.

Crazy Mang

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The Declaration of Independence

The 4th of July is the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence–a document adopted by the Continental Congress to declare political independence from the British Empire.

I have a murky awareness of the series of events and the group of individuals who began (and finished) the Revolutionary War.

American schools tend to focus on specific events to avoid the murkiness, including the authoring and signing of the Declaration of Independence.


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