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Bart’s Punishment For Asking Dumb Questions

I will use Google before asking dumb questions

Using Google to find answers is a good idea, but when it comes to finding answers to technical questions, hitting the documentation first is a very smart move that may save you some humiliation later on.

When you ask “obvious” questions on forums or mailing lists, there is a good chance that the more experienced forum contributors will hit you with an answer like this one: RTFM before asking dumb questions.

Tim Hall has noticed a trend in the Oracle forums:

It feels like most posters these days don’t even bother to open the manuals before asking a question. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked a question, that is answered by the first couple of paragraphs in the manual. It’s just lazy beyond words.

OK, so Tim is predicting the downfall of Oracle forums because posters don’t bother to RTFM first.

Now, with the help of Oracle Blogs Search and Google, let’s see what other bloggers have written about this subject:

RTFM – by Tom Kyte:

I do recommend and point people to the documentation, but I don’t think I give RTFM answers… I will answer with a gentle reminder such as “well, when I typed your subject into the search field, I found these 5 articles, did you see them?”.

How To Be A Good Guru – by Andrew Clarke:

Telling some newbie “RTFM” is an act of pure arrogance. It just feeds the respondent’s ego without helping that questioner learn anything, except maybe not to ask for help in the forum again.

But it’s in the manual! – by Jonathan Lewis:

I’ve just seen a note on the news group advising someone to check the online manual for a piece of code to report which objects are using how much space in the buffer cache. This is the reference and this is the code… There are two flaws with this code – it gets the wrong results, and it’s inefficient.

RTFM, Newbies etc – by Niall Litchfield:

RTFM says “you’re wasting my time and I think you are stupid”. I wouldn’t say that to anyone in one-to-one conversation, I don’t see why it is acceptable in email. (unless you are 14, male and on a video games forum obviously).

Read the ******* Manual – by Andrew Gilfrin:

First let me say I’m not a prude, but neither do I have a mouth like a toilet. But I do find the acronym RTFM incredibly offensive.

How to get users to RTFM – by Kathy Sierra

The “F” in RTFM is the biggest clue that most of us blame the user for not reading the manual… since we can’t force our users to do anything, if we want them to RTFM, we need to make a better FM.

And finally, here is what I say:

  1. Don’t use the acronym RTFM.
  2. Do point people to the documentation.
  3. Don’t blindly trust the documentation.
  4. Do test, test and test, even after you read the documentation.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask dumb questions. What’s dumb to some, is genius to others.

Feel free to add your own DO or DON’T, or even ask dumb questions, I promise I won’t throw an RTFM on you 🙂

Filed in Oracle, Tips on 14 Nov 06 | Tags: , ,

Reader's Comments

  1. |

    Good post. Just makes the issue more clear for us none native English speakers.

    Next time I will link to:


  2. |

    And if you’re going to take the time to tell someone to RTFM, tell them which FM to read, and where to find it. Same goes for searching.


    Wednesday, July 19, 2006 Finding Information – How do you find answers to other questions?

    Thursday, July 14, 2005 Oracle Docs – For when people tell you to RTFM!

    (Hm – July seems to be the time of year this topic bugs me. 🙂

  3. |

    Your Google cartoon is a bit off topic since the Oracle docs are still off limits to Google:

  4. |

    I have seen read the fine manual too. Also funny is

    Once I almost wrote RTFM twice but I wrote :


  5. |

    Here is a video related to the topic, not directly related to Oracle though!

    (Warning Sound)

    (Warning Sound)

  6. |

    and remember everything that goes around comes around ………….

    9 out of 10 times i have found answers on oracle forums as opposed to Google….I agree dont use “Google” for everrrrrrrrrrything!

  7. |

    Unlike the Oracle documentation, the OTN forums are indexed by google. For example: dbms_sql

  8. |

    It’s good to look at the documentation but the weak point of it is to find for example special snytax for local indexes or even worse what’s the default if i create an index on a partitioned table? is it LOCAL or GLOBAL? i searched too long for this important point (looked at the user_ind_partitions to find the answer);

    LOOK at he create table clause it’s remembers me on a SQL statement with > 100 NESTED LOOPS in the plan.

    hard to find the right stuff.

    but I still like to search in the manual specially the 10.2 search ist great.


  9. |

    In some situations, especially when you want to know or change the default options of a SQL statement, DBMS_METADATA can be a quick alternative to consulting the docs.

  10. |

    good tip Eddie! Karl

  11. |


    Just to clarify, I made no mention of RTFM in my blog post and I don’t use that response in forums. I agree that an RTFM response is pointless as it doesn’t help the original poster.

    My point here is that people need to take responsibility for themselves, part of which is reading the manual. 🙂



  12. |

    Thanks for the clarification Tim.

    Even though you did not mention the acronym “RTFM” in your post, I did feel that in your heart you were saying: “Read The Manual” people (no “F” whatsoever :)).

  13. | interesting to read that the robots are disallowed to access the beta documentation :-p

  14. |

    According to Justin Kestelyn: these (robot.txt) exclusions will be removed shortly, when testing is complete. — July 20th, 2006

  15. |

    I rarely tell people to read the fine manual, and when I do, I tell them which manual to read and will often point them at the chapter. The main reason I will do it, is that sometimes the question reveals a basic lack of understanding that is hard to give in less text than is in the manual. A forum or mailing list is a great way to get information that can be delivered in a few paragraphs. But when you need more than that, only the manual, or a good book will do.