January 19, 2019

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!