Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 158 Stack Exchange communities.

What is meta?
Here's how it works:
  1. Any Stack Exchange user can ask a question
  2. The community provides support, votes on ideas, and reports bugs
  3. Your voice helps shape the way Stack Exchange operates

Possible Duplicate:
Does SO encourage developer laziness?


My post is a dupe. I tried to have it deleted but can't. Please follow the original thread where it belongs. If possible delete or close my post.


I've been following Stackoverflow for sometime now and I find it to be one of the most usefully sites on programming. That said I think one should try its best to only ask a question when the solution to the problem has been thought of, at least for a while.

I do notice that some fellow programmers here shoot without even reading the functions docs, take this question for example.

How should one reply to this?

Down voting the question? The user is new, down voting would probably mean nothing to him and would scare him away from Stack Overflow.

Respond? Would probably be an incentive to laziness.

Tell him to go and read the docs? Would be a dull reply and be of little value to the site.

How do you guys, and how should we all respond to lazy-questioning?

share|improve this question

migrated from Oct 25 '09 at 16:48

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

marked as duplicate by Ladybug Killer, fretje, random, BinaryMisfit Oct 26 '09 at 12:13

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Good question but belongs on – Eric J. Oct 25 '09 at 16:47
RTFM is the same as LMGTFY. Be inspired here and here… - and I consider this a dupe:… – Ladybug Killer Oct 25 '09 at 20:17
You as the asker cannot delete your question with upvoted answers. – random Oct 26 '09 at 0:55
@John Smithers thanks for pointing out the question is a duplicate! When I originally posted it on Stack Overflow I searched and found none. It then got transferred to Meta and I should have looked it over here, but I did not. My mistake. – Frankie Oct 26 '09 at 0:55
up vote 4 down vote accepted

I'd say to just answer the question with a link to the source in the documentation. If the aim of the site is to be the end all resource for programming questions, repeating something from the documentation isn't going to hurt that.

Although I try not to ask these types of questions if I can avoid it, I often look up basic RTFM type questions on SO mainly because I find the site easy to use and often people answer with tips beyond the basics that the man page would provide. For example, "This method doesn't work as documented, try this workaround..."

Also, documentation for some products is organized to where you need to know the name of the command or class before you can look it up, which makes it kind of like looking up the spelling of a word in a dictionary. Task based documentation isn't as common as it should be, but the questions asked here tend to be more task oriented and easier to look up.

Suggestion: It is clear that these questions bug people. Maybe we could initiate a tag like RTFM (with a less inflamatory name) that moderators/high-rep users could apply. Then people that hate these things could set them to be ignored.

share|improve this answer
Your tag idea is extremely interesting. It would solve all those, what's the php difference of == and ===, and still allow them the answer without annoying the users who don't want to see those questions. – Frankie Oct 25 '09 at 17:28
Just need to come up with a good name. RTFMP? Adding please on the end softens it, right? – JohnFx Oct 25 '09 at 17:33
That's usually what plz-gimme-teh-codes is used for. – Ether Oct 25 '09 at 17:40
That's "Read The Fine Manual"! :-) – Dan Oct 25 '09 at 19:47
I accepted your answer and believe the tag system would do wonders to minimize the problem. On the other hand my question has an exact same duplicate so I voted it's deleted. – Frankie Oct 26 '09 at 0:53

I tend to respond if I know the answer. I don't want to spend time judging the questioner if it is a valid question with an available answer. Even if the answer is in the docs, by being on this site certain questions assume a FAQ-like quality and that is fine with me.

share|improve this answer
Your's is a good and valid answer. However the user who questions before reading or thinking is bound to repeat the questions already made. Wouldn't that, in the long run, mean that we will have thousands of identical questions? – Frankie Oct 25 '09 at 17:10
@Frankie: Both the Ask A Question page and the community are good at eliminating duplicate questions. – RichieHindle Oct 25 '09 at 18:44
@RichieHindle I agree with you, they both are. But look at Jeff's "treating users myopia" entry on First time posters, especially those who post the sort of questions that made me pop up this question are bound to ask without reading putting all the effort on the community. If StackOverflow has a sustained growth, the community will be able to stop first-time-posters flooding the site with the same questions, however, if the growth becomes exponential it will be a pretty hard task on the community to do the house-cleaning. – Frankie Oct 25 '09 at 19:50

Some sort of tag seems a good idea. Otherwise, perhaps give a brief answer, with a link to the docs or a google search.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .