If an answer essentially tells the OP to "Read the ¤cough¤ Fine Manual", should we flag it?

I'm not talking about rude answers (that's a given), but answers like "Look up X in the Y" (and maybe don't even provide a link!).

For example, see this answer...

enter image description here

To my mind, this isn't even as useful as Let me Google that for you.

("How to deal with RTFM comments?") suggests that RTFM answers are verboten, and they certainly seem against the spirit of "How to Answer", but I haven't yet found anything to make it official.  

So is it official? Should we flag answers that essentially, but politely, say, "RTFM"?

  • 2
    Yes, it's official: downvote, comment, flag. Do any or all three. – Cody Gray Jul 19 '11 at 8:09

I think this solely depends on the tone of the comment/answer, there are different kinds of RTFM answers/comments (only made up examples because I'm too lazy to go looking for them):


You can bet what to do with that.

RTFM: <LinkToManualAndOrSubsection>

Downvote, comment, explain why this is not really helpful.

If you would've read the Manual you'd know it. Anyway, you're looking for this <LinkToManualAndOrSubsection>.

Not worth a downvote, but not an upvote either. If you wish you can leave a comment pointing to one of the many discussions about One-Link-Only-Answers.

The manual clearly explains it in <LinkToManualAndOrSubsection>, it's easy if you follow these instructions. Basically you just have to blablablablablabla...

Awesome, upvote!

  • 17
    +1 for the Spectrum of RTFM Helpfulness – Charles Jul 19 '11 at 7:51
  • All 4, current, answers seem to come down more for commenting and/or downvoting, but NOT flagging except for rudeness. I don't recall seeing a lot of this (Farseeker excepted), but that's just an impression, not evidence. When I've flagged RTFM answers (so far), they've been held as valid -- but that's anecdotal. ... This answer seems to be the consensus. – Awesome Poodles Jul 20 '11 at 1:30
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    I suggest that there is never a time it is appropriate to say "RTFM". "RTFM" is always rude. If you can say "RTFM: <LinkToManualAndOrSubsection>", you can say "Here is the relevant page in the manual: <LinkToManualAndOrSubsection>" – Andy Lester Nov 2 '12 at 17:39

I always leave a comment and usually a downvote asking the op to explain their answer, and to tell them that RTFM and LMGTFY answers are not acceptable here.

We see this a lot on Server Fault. Long-time *nix users get frustrated at newcomers who haven't read the appropriate man page, forgetting that most man pages are designed for someone with a lot more experience at *nix than your average newcomer, and the man syntax is incredible obtuse as well (it involves remembering arbitrary numbers based on what particular function you want to man)

  • That is fine advice, and I shall strive to follow it. I looked for examples of where you had done this (to get some ideas) but this search, and this search, turn up nothing. Do you have links to posts where you have used this kind of diplomacy? – Awesome Poodles Jul 19 '11 at 8:00
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    Even as a fairly able *nix user I find most man pages just a wall of text and they make me chortle ironically when I am reminded of the "do one thing, do it well" mantra. :) – Kev Jul 19 '11 at 12:20
  • @Brock - here's one: serverfault.com/questions/69757/… (p.s. I have a different name on server fault) – Mark Henderson Jul 19 '11 at 20:34
  • Thanks, Mark/Farseeker. – Awesome Poodles Jul 19 '11 at 23:00
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    googling man whatever doesn't require memorizing section numbers. – Ben Voigt Jan 13 '12 at 21:58

Sometimes being told the name of what to look up in the Manual, or the section of the Manual to read is very useful.

  • Examples? – Awesome Poodles Jul 19 '11 at 10:15
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    Yes, but it should be accompanied with a little more information than just a link to the manual. Answers that are less than a sentence are typically not helpful. – Cody Gray Jul 19 '11 at 10:29
  • 1
    I find a shocking number of users who actually don't know where the manual (MSDN documentation) is located. Pointing them to MSDN may be the most helpful thing anyone can do, in that case. – John Saunders Feb 1 '13 at 1:32

There is a Chinese saying;

if something helps somebody then don't flag it.

  • 4
    Errr...no, seriously, no. If it's violated the rules, it's going to be toast. – Time Traveling Bobby Jul 19 '11 at 7:43
  • flag'em all then Is there something in php equivalent to LinQ in C#? @Bobby – Bastardo Jul 19 '11 at 7:48
  • flag all those too [finding for a detailed tutorial for HTML [closed]](stackoverflow.com/questions/5763406/…) @Bobby – Bastardo Jul 19 '11 at 7:49
  • And flag most of them too What are some good websites for learning HTML? @Bobby – Bastardo Jul 19 '11 at 7:50
  • flag the one with 8 upvotes, who knows how many people benefited from it.. find the text starting with another text – Bastardo Jul 19 '11 at 7:54
  • flag the answer of that guy with 28k rep C#-like String.Format() function in JQuery? – Bastardo Jul 19 '11 at 7:55
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    May I quote myself: If it's violated the rules... And yes, some of these answers violate rules...the rules that Duplicates should be flagged/voted to close and not answered with a link to the original question. Also some of these questions should be flagged/closed, because they're subjective/argumentative. – Time Traveling Bobby Jul 19 '11 at 8:03
  • @Bobby sorry Bobby, I have to disagree with you and whoever thinks like you because I believe any answer which is helpful should remain in somewhere in the community.If an answer which helps people violates the rules then rules must be flagged. – Bastardo Jul 19 '11 at 8:09
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    Good thing Stack Overflow isn't hosted in China, then. This rule doesn't apply here. Things that are actively harmful to the site should be flagged, regardless of whether or not they've helped someone. – Cody Gray Jul 19 '11 at 8:36
  • @Cody those answers and questions are not harm, won't ever agree with you guys.Go flag'em let people not find those answer and take the chance from to find some answers to their problems gl. – Bastardo Jul 19 '11 at 9:09
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    No idea what that comment says. You've tried to turn this into a discussion about specific answers, but that misses the point entirely. None of those were mentioned in the question. The point is that it is quite irrelevant if someone finds an answer helpful if it violates the rules of the site. Research the "broken windows theory" for more details. – Cody Gray Jul 19 '11 at 9:10

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