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Author Topic: Naming and Shaming Bad Forums with Bad Ethics  (Read 5644 times)
Stephen66515
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« on: December 26, 2010, 09:03:36 PM »

In this thread, I want to highlight one main forum that I feel needs to be named-and-shamed.

The following forum, is a supposed programming "help" forum...well...they might have SOME programming info on there...but thier forum is certainly not worth bothering with.

You see...unlike here, at Donation Coder, where users take the time and effort to help, the following site seems to love to use the phrase "Search on Google".
That phrase is an obvious "Go away, I cannot be bothered", which makes you wonder...why do they bother replying, if its not of any help?

Quote
I'm starting a small application and in it I want a very simple IRC client.
I can't find anything using google to where to start or how to do this?
Is there anyone here that knows or have worked with an IRC client before and can help me get a very simple app started or direct me in the right place.
Quite a normal question right?

I thought so...Now heres the FIRST reply...which I should mention...is from a MODERATOR!

Quote
Re: Simple IRC Client

Posted 26 May 2009 - 07:01 AM
Google Search

After a few other posts of the moderator saying "GTFO and Google it" and the user actually not clicking on that these people dont care, another user says the following:

Quote
Well... you probably didn't click on the 3rd link did you, because it has a complete solution ready for use.


Btw: 2nd link on the google search, redirects back to this thread.. Infinite loops atw

Now...I'm pretty sure its common knowledge that google is dynamic, and what shows up #2 for one person, might be #8 for another person 10 seconds later...


The site im going to name and shame is.........


The forum post that the quotes where taken from is...........






This is the reason I love DC...I have NEVER seen a user dismissed and told to GTFO and Google It cheesy


Do you know any other major forums who are guilty of this?  If so, post them!
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« Reply #1 on: December 26, 2010, 09:28:29 PM »

Do you know any other major forums who are guilty of this?  If so, post them!

GTFO and Google it~! tongue

But seriously, yeah... Any guitar forum is full of trolls and tools. It's annoying. People haven't got the decency to be polite. RTFM is not an acceptable answer.
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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2010, 11:23:17 PM »

@Stephen66515: "Ethics" is usually more about maintaining moral principles in behaviour and business. It would seem to be just plain rudeness/bad manners to tell people to "google it" or "RTFM", and my principles prevent me from being rude to others.
After years of lecturing, consulting and generally trying to maintain a politely helpful and positive approach to people's questions (including being a volunteer on aardvark), I eventually decided on three (sorry, four) basic rules:
Rule 1: that there is no limit to our ignorance (including mine), and I should accept that;
Rule 2: to limit the contribution of my cognitive surplus to such people and their infinite ignorance/questions, by encouraging them to take more responsibility for seeking out/discovering their own answers.
Rule 3: that people generally seem to have little respect for and to have a limited capacity to internalise answers/knowledge which have come too easily to them, so generally avoid giving them any answers.
Rule 4: in any event, avoid "telling them the answer" or pushing my opinion forwards without substantiation in theory, experience and good practice (this takes work to communicate).

When I have strayed from these rules, I have usually regretted it (I think it has happened once in the DC forum).

Therefore, rather than tell people to "google it" or "RTFM", IF I decide to assist them at all, then - and even if I think that I know the answer already - I nowadays usually google it, or check Wikipedia (say) or RTFM for them, and then send them the results or source links, with the suggestion that  they could probably get even more useful information if they hunted around a bit more themselves or played about with the google search string. This is just helping people to help themselves.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2010, 05:23:33 AM by IainB » Logged
barney
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« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2010, 11:35:15 PM »

Quote
RTFM is not an acceptable answer.


+1

Never has been:
  • it attempts to show [smug] superiority, usually by an inferior in one way or another
  • it assumes that you haven't read the manual
  • it assumes you have the same degree of comprehension as the poster
  • it ignores that there often is not a manual, at least one worth reading
  • it basically ignores any degree of human worth ...

I could go on - RTFM is one of my biggest gripes - but that list is adequate for the moment, methinks.

That sort of thing is what drove me out of Tek-Tips a decade+ ago, as well as several other forae.  The elitist stance infects many forae, or at least some of their branches - try looking at the Warriors Forum, for instance - and tends to be a creeping blight.  It's been an amazement and a delight to discover DC's lack of it Kiss Thmbsup.
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2010, 01:38:16 AM »

Well, part of me can kind of understand the angle. But there's a huge difference on how to go about it.

Personally, I am one of those people who only resorts to forums and other forms of communication to get a solution to an issue I am facing after I have researched it myself. If that is in your nature, it is _bloody_ annoying to have people ask the same simpleton 'how do I do X' or 'why does Y not work' question if the same question, when asked to almost unchangedly, throws up results on the first page. (Personally I tend to go 3-5 pages deep, and try different ways to summarize my issue as well.)

Is it so much to ask of people that they do a bit of research before they ask a question? News flash: you are usually not the first to run into a particular issue. News flash: nobody got hurt by doing a tiny bit of self-study as opposed to just angling for an answer.

If it was me, I would not have said RTFM. I would not have said 'google it'. I would have given a link to google search results (maybe use letmegooglethatforyou or wth it is named), and added the links of the results I found. I would have written that they could have done the same thing, had results faster, and not wasted my time: I love answering questions but it is a far more enjoyable matter for both sides if you have a discussion worth noting. "Yes, I looked around, but all of them seem to imply knowledge Y or ignore limitation Z."

So, please, I implore everyone: teach people who ask a question that studying for themselves doesn't hurt them. It makes for a far more pleasant forum that is far-less one-way.
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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2010, 04:40:16 AM »

Yep, most forum noise comes from those who ask in a shoutbox kind of way and replies with no ambition of adding anything to the thread. I don't care so much for that, have gotten used to it. What annoys me is what link also shows, a massive poster with tons of virtual fame/"rep", a moderator even, posting in a way he should not. That is typical for many forums and I think it comes down to that few have any real active and visible management or any idiot can set up a forum, throw in some ads and call himself Admin. Probably not that easy to find people doing free work these days. So how things are run can come down to few individuals = there is a risk it will blow smiley Those who eagerly volunteer are rarely the best candidates for such jobs but they often get them. This also apply to quite large forums btw. If out of control forum management is to blame.

RTFM is a perfectly good answer to many questions, especially when it comes to tech stuff. Depends on context of course. I think it is also used as a way of hinting the person asking has no grasp of what he is on about.

IainB, you cannot be thinking about normal popular tech forums in the year 2010. You assume X wants relevant information/knowledge and is not just looking for a quick workaround which must be so super easy to implement person will consider accepting it. Or you dream of reaching consensus for communication rules first, then we chat afterwards? Don't work like that, is chaos in uncontrolled environment where many grown ups act like children - but I do believe most comes down to lack of management. It is possible to delete posts, to correct posts, to give warnings, to ban etc. Basically letting users including new ones know there are certain written and unwritten rules. I don't see much of that. Can be delicate task and not all can do it but without door is open to "rep" hunters, trolls and whatever is drown in. Gets a life of its own and if a forum is more or less "controlled" by a handful of massive posters it is hard to change anything. They have their kingdom and forum admin is probably just glad he does not have to be bothered since it seems to run ok Wink I sense that is pretty normal. Does not have to be a problem but can be.

Not sure it is wise to name and shame forums unless very good reason. You can find threads like the one about irc client every where, every day. Need to evaluate overall value and management to declare something worthy of getting listed. That a moderator is the first to go Google it is not a good sign of course.
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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2010, 06:28:21 AM »


RTFM is a perfectly good answer to many questions, especially when it comes to tech stuff. Depends on context of course.

Strongly disagree. RTFM is never an acceptable answer to any question. Because it is not an answer at all. It's just a thinly disguised way of telling someone to get lost.

I think when IainB said "IF I decide to assist them at all" he hinted at the ideal response for when you suspect somebody is being too lazy about seeking answers. Instead of grumping, say nothing at all.

Wow.

Silence...

Such an elegant response.

Almost Zen-like in its efficiency, sincerity, and humility...

Consider: It only takes a few seconds to type RTFM and hit the enter key. But it takes exactly zero work to ignore something completely and go elsewhere. Ideally where you do have something real to contribute.

---------------------------------------------

Looking at the DIC forum thread in question, something interesting does come up. The moderator's response was not just to tell the person to Google search. He actually provided a search link...which apparently had gotten misinterpreted as a "get lost" response.

When I hit it, it brought up several potentially useful links, the second (which pointed to http://sourceforge.net/projects/thresher/ ) definitely should have answered |337BuNNy's question.

Now why JackOfAllTrades didn't just provide the SourceForge project link is anybody's guess. But I suspect he was probably trying not to presume that one citation would be sufficient.

So I think in this case  "What we have here, is failure to communicate."  Wink

Of course a far better response to the original question can be found a little further down in the same Google search. Take a look at StackOverflow to see how it got  handled there.

 Cool




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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2010, 06:42:26 AM »

No you don't have to answer but some will and so you have the noise - which you also will have to wade through. High standards of what is worthy of spending time on will likely make you go silent so if that is cool then they work. In real life you as a visitor/user will need forum management to step in/up to secure those standards.

RTFM is answer to many questions, like for example on how to assemble your computer properly. Read help files can also be useful. Actually just looking at options, settings in programs can do wonders. Many times people ask because they are lazy and are looking for solutions they think are easier than those they deep down know they should explore. That is when RTFM is ok - or skip the manual but spend time understanding the problem so understandable questions can be asked and answered. Life is hard Wink

On the other hand I would be careful about relying on a Google search. You don't know what you get.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2010, 07:00:36 AM by Bamse » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2010, 07:04:35 AM »

It seems to me that there are 2 distinct senses of "RTFM" being used here.

The most common being "read the f***ing manual and p**s off you lazy <expletive>" sense. I don't see that as ever being acceptable. As above, silence is the elegant way to deal with extreme laziness. ("I want to write a <blah>. Post complete source." -- Spelling and grammar errors omitted -- We've all seen them. Some kid wants someone to do his homework, or whatever...)

But telling someone to read the manual (F omitted) is certainly valid. And there's a decent way to do it. Tell them the overview of what's in the manual, then tell them to refer to it for details or more information. I do it all the time. But that's RTM and not RTFM.

Granted, I can't see myself ever bothering to reply to some lazy slob who clearly is looking for an easy out.

Still, the general fear of "RTFM" prevents me from posting, and instead, I do extensive research.

As pointed out above, Stack Overflow really has a good community with people posting decent questions and helpful responses. It's one of the few places that I have posted or would post at.

Then again, it's run in part by Joel Spolsky, who ran the Joel on Software blog and discussion forums for a long time. The JoS forums are really no longer used much, but he obviously got some good experience there in running a very successful discussion forum. I know many of the moderators there, and they're all level-headed people and not power-freaks.


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40hz
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« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2010, 07:30:27 AM »


But telling someone to read the manual (F omitted) is certainly valid. And there's a decent way to do it. Tell them the overview of what's in the manual, then tell them to refer to it for details or more information. I do it all the time. But that's RTM and not RTFM.

I'll agree to that. I say "You really need to read the docs." all the time. Cool

And I am not ashamed. Grin



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mouser
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« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2010, 09:13:13 AM »

I think "read the manual" is a completely valid response, but only when it's fair to assume that *IF* the person opens up the manual/help file, they will be able to easily find the answer they are looking for.

Most of the time, if the person is asking for help, it means that they cannot find the answer in the manual when they looked, and so even if the answer is in there somewhere, simply telling them to "read the manual" is not helpful.  In those cases a more helpful answer would be "it's in the manual, in this section, at this location."

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« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2010, 10:19:43 AM »

One problem with manuals is they're not always free or available. As an example, our company paid $15,000 for a phone system, which came with a service & support contract, and zero documentation (which is still an ongoing battle that will not end until I win).

One's stress level can easily effect how "dumb" a question they will field. Like if you are on-site, with a client breathing down your neck, and you have to shit something brillient...now! - We've all been there - Especially when dealing with a new, proprietary, or both system. There is then a tendency to do a broad hip-shot question (that sounds stupid...) in the hopes of finding somebody that is familiar with said system ... So they can help you formulate the right question, and get an answer. e.g. Manuals are only helpful if you either have a specific question, or sufficient time to read the entire thing from cover to cover.

RTFM doesn't have to be mean:
Read
The
Furnished
Manual
 cheesy
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Deozaan
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« Reply #12 on: December 27, 2010, 11:18:49 AM »

They really are mean to new users, aren't they? Every new forum member gets a mean title:



Quote
New D.I.C Head
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Renegade
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« Reply #13 on: December 27, 2010, 11:21:02 AM »

They really are mean to new users, aren't they? Every new forum member gets a mean title:
 (see attachment in previous post)
Quote
New D.I.C Head


Hahahahahaha~! cheesy
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40hz
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« Reply #14 on: December 27, 2010, 11:28:40 AM »

I think "read the manual" is a completely valid response, but only when it's fair to assume that *IF* the person opens up the manual/help file, they will be able to easily find the answer they are looking for.

Most of the time, if the person is asking for help, it means that they cannot find the answer in the manual when they looked, and so even if the answer is in there somewhere, simply telling them to "read the manual" is not helpful.  In those cases a more helpful answer would be "it's in the manual, in this section, at this location."



Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! For saying that.

So obvious. So correct. So often forgotten or ignored by people (like us) who should know better.

Always open the book and show them the page. Always.

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f0dder
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« Reply #15 on: December 27, 2010, 12:43:19 PM »

Always open the book and show them the page. Always.
Yeah. "Google it" is such a lame reply - but showing a google query that gave you good results can be a valuable lesson smiley
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Stephen66515
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« Reply #16 on: December 27, 2010, 04:37:15 PM »

Therefore, rather than tell people to "google it" or "RTFM", IF I decide to assist them at all, then - and even if I think that I know the answer already - I nowadays usually google it, or check Wikipedia (say) or RTFM for them, and then send them the results or source links, with the suggestion that  they could probably get even more useful information if they hunted around a bit more themselves or played about with the google search string. This is just helping people to help themselves.

Agreed, the best course of action is certainly to look for a valid google search string, and possibly give some links to WHY thats the string they SHOULD have searched for.

The main reason behind me posting this, was the fact that I _HAD_ googled for the answer, and when I clicked on a few links and didnt find anything, I found that forum, which then directed the original poster, and of course, anybody else who had GOOGLED it to find that post, BACK to google, which was kind of frustrating, and not exactly helpful.

I ALWAYS check google first before asking anybody outright, and ONLY if I cannot find my desired answer, or I find the answer but am still not 100% sure, will I ask somebody about it.
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« Reply #17 on: December 28, 2010, 01:39:32 AM »

The post does not mention which application or which irc clients you have looked at via Google. If you mention details it hints you are not clueless or just looking for others to do the work for you. Being vague is big warning sign and could be why that moderator spend a whole 10 seconds making a link from your very own words. 75% RTFM smiley You don't need help using Google! Later you mention that you have tried link no. X but it did not work. This should be in first post, don't assume people know what you do. Low quality question with vague info get low quality answers. Link no. X should never be used, may be an idea to mention site/link instead.

If you did give details there is also less risk of getting caught by a postcount hunter or other fools. They will stay clear and opposite post might attract those who actually know something about the problem, have experience other than using Google. Also until you appear somewhat convincing, deliver details, the thing about "I have tried this" is not worth much. Did you really? or is the real question where did you screw up? Not that many like to announce they skipped 50% of a guide to solve something. I don't know that forum but on a typical tech forum declarations about what has been done is to be taken with a grain of salt. Often related to "I will find a faster way to solve this than..." There are several filtering mechanisms at work Wink
« Last Edit: December 28, 2010, 01:41:29 AM by Bamse » Logged
40hz
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« Reply #18 on: December 28, 2010, 05:49:52 AM »


If you did give details there is also less risk of getting caught by a postcount hunter or other fools. They will stay clear and opposite post might attract those who actually know something about the problem, have experience other than using Google. Also until you appear somewhat convincing, deliver details, the thing about "I have tried this" is not worth much. Did you really? or is the real question where did you screw up? Not that many like to announce they skipped 50% of a guide to solve something. I don't know that forum but on a typical tech forum declarations about what has been done is to be taken with a grain of salt. Often related to "I will find a faster way to solve this than..." There are several filtering mechanisms at work Wink

Of course, none of that would be necessary if the people that didn't want to answer a question - or didn't have enough information to answer it - simply didn't respond at all.

Unfortunately, there's a large number of self-appointed "forum police" types that seem to feel the need to post at length about why they will not answer a question being asked.

Interestingly, these same people never seem to do anything other than remonstrate and lecture people about the "proper way" to use what they seem to feel is their forum. You seldom see them actually provide answers.

Why anybody would want to waste the effort of 100+ words just to say "no" to a complete stranger is beyond my ability to comprehend.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2010, 05:55:44 AM by 40hz » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: December 28, 2010, 09:46:59 AM »

Quote
Why anybody would want to waste the effort of 100+ words just to say "no" to a complete stranger is beyond my ability to comprehend.

Demonstration of self worth?

A friend and I shut down a sailing forum shortly after we started it because of that.  Something like ~80% of the posts were basically saying, "I am important,"  but had no content, helpful or not, to support that claim.  Guess those folk just liked seeing their name(s) on the Web?
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« Reply #20 on: December 28, 2010, 10:25:47 AM »

well, to be fair, a real RTFM reply to a request for help can be quite informative if it really does tell the user that the answer to their question can be found in the manual.
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« Reply #21 on: December 28, 2010, 11:04:43 AM »

Quote
a real RTFM reply to a request for help can be quite informative if it really does tell the user that the answer to their question can be found in the manual.

I have yet to see an RTFM that did not assume that the manual had not been read.

OK, that's one (1) thing.  There's another, more important thing, to my mind, although I may be a bit more sensitive to it than most.

Let's say I post a help request.  Maybe the answer is in the manual, maybe not.  Let's say it is in the manual, but I did not comprehend it.  Pointing it out to me does not really help, if I did not understand it the first time.  See, when you make that response, whether you're really trying to help or not, you have no idea who is on the receiving end, how well they understand what's available to them.

Over several years, I've helped dyslexics deal with PCs.  (I was amazed at the number of different types of dyslexia!)  OK, these kids aren't dumb.  They do have a different learning mechanism than is utilized in mainstream education.  It's equally effective, it's just different.

And, several decades ago, I spent something like eighteen (18) years training folk to run mailing and bindery machinery.  That was a bit different, in that physical presence was required.  But I might have to say the same thing a half-dozen different ways before the ah-ha! moment occurred.  The difference, of course, was that being physically present, I could see that moment.

So, not having that physical presence, you cannot see whether I've had that ah-ha! moment.  But, you could assume it did not occur when I read the manual.  That assumption doesn't often happen.  And even if you do point out chapter and verse in the manual - once again assuming I've not read it - that may not help.  After all, I didn't understand it the first time.  

So, RTFM is never a valid response to a cry for help.  If I haven't read the manual already, I probably won't, in spite of your admonition.  If I did read, but not understand it, even pointing out the location in the manual won't necessarily help.  If you're going to respond, try an answer in your own words, otherwise you'll just waste your time and frustrate me.

[edit:  typos]
« Last Edit: December 28, 2010, 11:08:47 AM by barney » Logged

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« Reply #22 on: December 28, 2010, 11:37:34 AM »

some things i try to remember when participating in a forum:
_______

- not everything i read requires a response from me

- when in doubt, grant the benefit of same.

- when lacking something useful or nice to say, refrain.

- don't try to play the cop. that's the job of the forum moderators.

- don't respond to rudeness with rudeness. that's the exclusive prerogative of the forum host. he or she sets the tone and is judged by it.

- if regularly affronted, don't argue. go elsewhere.

- ridicule is not an effective teaching method.

- be aware that english is not everyone's first - or preferred - language.

- don't nit-pick grammatical details when the meaning is clear. and when it isn't, seek clarification before taking offense.

- if you must rant or flame, don't 'go live' immediately after the spellcheck. compose offline and let it sit for a few hours. then delete it.

_____

can't speak for all, but it works for me.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2010, 11:44:06 AM by Gwen7 » Logged
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« Reply #23 on: December 28, 2010, 11:44:42 AM »

Good list Gwen7

- if you must rant or flame, don't 'go live' immediately after the spellcheck. compose offline and let it sit for a few hours. then delete it.

or rewrite it ten times and then delete it smiley
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Stephen66515
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« Reply #24 on: December 28, 2010, 12:18:18 PM »

Good list Gwen7

- if you must rant or flame, don't 'go live' immediately after the spellcheck. compose offline and let it sit for a few hours. then delete it.

or rewrite it ten times and then delete it smiley

Or do as I did, and go to a legit forum, with nice users, and have a moan about it there haha
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