A large bulk of users with 1 rep ask remedial vague and constantly reoccurring questions, many are not down voted and some are answered. aren't we enablers for laziness? it seems to be acceptable usage of SF. When things are documented better elsewhere and are easy to find - shouldn't we just tell them to RTFM and do our entire industry a favour?

  • 17
    No, in the pink-and-fluffy world that is SE, RTFM is very frowned upon even if, it is frequently necessary. A simple Down Vote and when you can close vote is sufficient. I Have been known to leave a comment Serverfault should not be expected to provide Reading Manuals as a Service. or similar. – user9517 Apr 29 '16 at 16:19
  • 9
    I know your pain, but RTFM is really the most bland answer a human being is able to give. Because it applies to 99% of all questions in the world, regardless how many years of expertise and technical knowledge the questioner has. The more appropriate action is to tell the questioner that he has to put in some research effort and downvote or closevote the question until it is improved. – Daniel May 2 '16 at 9:18
  • 7
    I'll generally link to - and quote - TFM in the process, with a view to providing a dupe-target. (If one doesn't exist already) – Sobrique May 4 '16 at 13:14
  • 7
    Possible duplicate of RTFM inappropriate? – Mast May 5 '16 at 16:40
  • No, not if you want people to return to the website. – johnny May 9 '16 at 14:55
  • is there any users you don't want on this website? – Sum1sAdmin May 9 '16 at 21:30
  • Isn't "RTFM" the complete opposite of what StackExchange is supposed to be about? – Dave Cousineau May 10 '16 at 21:05
  • 3
    the complete opposite, really? so it's exclusively a question and answer site for managing information technology systems in a business environment...for people who won't RTFM, - maybe RTFM is offensive (I get that) - it's also very practical advice – Sum1sAdmin May 12 '16 at 10:51
  • 1
    @Sahuagin The restriction on RTFM answers does not obviate the need for people to do some research prior to asking a question. In fact, the tooltip for ownvotes even mentions This does not show any research effort. The kind of question where you may want to say RTFM! are those where writing the question is clearly more difficult and a longer process than reading the docs. If people don't learn to read the docs then the day they have no internet they're screwed. – user9517 May 12 '16 at 17:16
  • There are many questions I've had where I would happily accept "RTFM" as an answer if it also included a link to a f-ing manual!!. Sadly, some manufacturers have very confusing, hard to find, and/or poor documentation (cough, Microsoft, cough). And having spent 17 years slowly learning how to parse the arcane verbiage that makes up Cisco documentation, I would never relegate anyone asking a Cisco-related question to attempting to parse it straight from their f-ing "manuals". I come to SF.SE after R-ing the FM, because sometimes the FM is F-ing Useless. – Todd Wilcox May 17 '16 at 14:25
  • What's wrong with referring to the friendly manual? – 0xC0000022L Nov 26 '18 at 8:35

If the questions are of a low quality, they should be downvoted and/or closed. You haven't linked to any of the questions you consider remedial, but I'm assuming that you mean ones that show little or no research effort and that are very basic. The very basic ones can be closed as off-topic with the following close reason:

Questions on Server Fault must be about managing information technology systems in a business environment. Home and end-user computing questions may be asked on Super User, and questions about development, testing and development tools may be asked on Stack Overflow.

If the question is not otherwise bad, and it's about Unix, you can vote to move it to Unix/Linux.

You can also vote to close with a custom reason, where you are free to write what you want. Here's an example:

This question is being voted for closure because the author does not show a level of technical understanding or appropriate due diligence in researching the topic that the community judges as being a minimum barrier to participate.

  • perhaps there's other issues at play, I can see from the related question that a version of this question was asked before - but it wan't matched when I created mine - same expression in the title 'RTFM' – Sum1sAdmin Apr 29 '16 at 12:14
  • Do you mean meta.serverfault.com/q/872/120438 ? That one is 6 years old; community standards change over time, so it's not necessarily a bad thing to bring this up again. But IMAO it's better to close the question with a good close reason than to just comment with RTFM. – Jenny D Apr 29 '16 at 12:17
  • 1
    @Rob-d If you comment you better use a well wrote comment, as a simple "RTFM"'s comment can get into an argument easily, and get revenge downvoting, etc... – yagmoth555 Apr 29 '16 at 12:32
  • -> i don't think they even stick around that long - but no, I would just throw it out there, it's kind of - shouldn't we make them be better admins – Sum1sAdmin Apr 29 '16 at 12:35
  • @Rob-d We should. Like this question: serverfault.com/q/694010/120438 - where I voted to close, and added a comment with information about where to find the relevant docs. – Jenny D Apr 29 '16 at 12:42
  • @Rob-d And here's an even better example: serverfault.com/q/665258/120438 – Jenny D Apr 29 '16 at 12:43
  • @Jenny - what about this one just in - serverfault.com/questions/773835/why-ethernet-mtu-size-is-1500 – Sum1sAdmin Apr 29 '16 at 12:51
  • 1 upvote 2 favourites and an answer, from Google. – Sum1sAdmin Apr 29 '16 at 12:54
  • @Rob-d Really doesn't belong here. It might possibly be on-topic at Network Engineering, I'm not sure. – Jenny D Apr 29 '16 at 12:54
  • @Rob-d However, as I said, the thing to do is to downvote, and if you can post a comment that's not too snarky (a feat that is often beyond me...), do that. If it's egregiously bad, flag it. – Jenny D Apr 29 '16 at 12:59
  • i flagged it as discussion – Sum1sAdmin Apr 29 '16 at 13:00
  • 4
    @Rob-d Better yet, just don't bother at all. If they can't be bothered to RTFM, commenting isn't going to do any good. As Jenny answered, just throw on a downvote and/or close vote and move on. shouldn't we make them be better admins Not for free, and not for lazy, jerkoff help-vampires, no. It's not what they want anyway, they just want the codez/someone else to do their job for them. By downvoting and close voting, you get them to a question ban quicker, which means less dealing with their particular crap. – HopelessN00b Apr 29 '16 at 18:54
  • Last quote definitely should be in list of close reasons. – Alexey Ten May 12 '16 at 7:51

It's generally not acceptable to say things to the effect of:


It's rather hostile. I know these people annoy us, and it feels good to chase them out with vigor. But the severed heads on the battlements are not any kind of deterrent, and it makes for a hostile environment.

Sometimes they just need to know that it is documented somewhere, and where to find it. Link to it; if copyright allows, post an excerpt, and if not, post a summary of whats to be found. As my tech-writer friends are fond of lamenting:

You can lead a technician to documentation, but you can't make them read it.

They need incentive. Making it worth their while to go to all the bother of reading pages of indirectly-related material to synthesize their actual answer. Patience is very lacking among all of us, old-timers and new-kids alike. It's part of the job, as there is never enough time to figure it out and also read everything.

And if that doesn't work, the close reason of, 'insufficient understanding' is appropriate. That's the closest we have for an RTFM and GTFO answer.

  • 1
    thanks, I'll STFU and bite my tongue for the most part - else-wise I become a Google service. I commented on one or two questions with the 'let me google that for you' link - which is a cheeky way of saying RTFM - but I'll cease and desist with that. – Sum1sAdmin Apr 29 '16 at 13:17
  • 1
    IIRC "let me google that for you" links are/were blocked, but maybe that block is only on answers and not for comments. anyway, sometimes I notice that the problem people describe is more than sufficiently documented, but if only you already know the correct jargon/technical term. Please don't hesitate to point that out. This Q&A is only one such example although I would have left a comment rather than an answer. – HBruijn Apr 29 '16 at 13:23
  • @HBruijn The block has gone away. I'm looking into why, and get it back. – sysadmin1138 Apr 29 '16 at 13:26
  • Agree with the middle ground. As systems get more complex, there will often be cases where one is required to deal with something new. That said, documentation is often poor and difficult to use. Helping someone (even someone who may not appear to have done enough homework) while also pointing to the correct documentation not only solves the immediate problem, but also helps that person and others who follow to better use that documentation. – Colt May 12 '16 at 2:13

A short RTFM answer is constructive, if you give a hint at the correct manual. It's very constructive, if you mention the relevant section. The user may have tried to read the manual and did not know in which section he should search for the answer or he may not know that there's more than the sparse readme.txt.

If you answer "read the official docs", you could have not answered at all, as you do not contribute anything. The user either has thought of reading the docs before, or he wasn't asking constructively himself.

And some short example may be way more helpful than a pointer to a too complicated section in the official docs. See the new stackoverflow documentation site, which tries to solve exactly this problem.


It's all fun and games until a forum thread telling the OP to RTFM/Just Google It is the top result on Google for that problem. Since the Stack Exchange Network exists in large part to try and prevent this, I plead to please don't ever let it become what it set out to displace. Either close the question so it doesn't show up on Google, or post the relevant excerpts from TFM. Even better, explain it. Getting dismissive RTFM replies is frustrating when you're legitimately just a new person who did RTFM and it's either not making sense or not working as expected.

  • 1
    To be fair though, I was referring to the parasites – Sum1sAdmin May 3 '16 at 19:32
  • 4
    and I'm referring to how people think they have a better parasite detector than they do – Anna May 3 '16 at 20:15
  • 6
    We're quite good at spotting parasites, thank you very much. Since you're new here, I'll remind you to take the tour and learn that our site is targeted toward professional operators. It is not targeted toward developers, enthusiasts or random people who want their PCs fixed or want the basics of some technology explained to them. – Michael Hampton May 3 '16 at 23:20
  • 4
    mike if you took 1 second to look at my profile you'd realize this isn't my first day on the stack exchange network, so pardon me if it's plainly obvious that maybe you're on the unfortunate end of the dunning-kreuger curve regarding your "parasite detector" abilities. I'm also not the scapegoat for whatever windmill-dragons you imagine are threatening the glorious hallowed halls of the stack you moderate (yes, I can read profiles!) I'm just a casual user trying to contribute with what I have. Relax.You'll never get anything done if you attack people who are trying to help solve your problems. – Anna May 3 '16 at 23:31
  • 8
    I did look at your profile. You've been here all of two days. Your time elsewhere on the network only means you probably understand the underlying software; it does not mean you know what is acceptable or unacceptable here. None of this qualifies you to come in and begin insulting people. You will cease doing so immediately. – Michael Hampton May 4 '16 at 8:02
  • 7
    Anna. Close to 80% of the people who ask questions on Server Fault have an account with more reputation on another SE site. This suggests that close to 80% of the people asking questions know how the system works. Knowing how the system works does not obviate the need for people to read the tour - reading the site name 'Server Fault' misleads people into thinking that they can ask any IT related question here and that is incorrect. – user9517 May 4 '16 at 10:48
  • 6
    Right now I don't really think you understand the problem you are trying to help solve. The best way for you to help solve the problem is to go and answer some questions on the main site so that you can get a better understanding of what the problem is - wear a man's shoes and all that. I look forward to seeing your contributions. – user9517 May 4 '16 at 10:48
  • The problem I'm trying to solve is forgetting why this entire site network exists in the first place. – Anna May 4 '16 at 14:58
  • 1
  • 2
    and yet in that example they still gave the answer, which is incredibly helpful for someone who might be googling that error message trying to read the manual in the first place. no matter how big of an idiot you think that or any asker is, the response there should remain the bare minimum standard for stack exchange. server administration comes with a bit of a god/superiority complex, but its also sometimes a lot of thankless shovel work and someone taking a minute to give a straightforward answer might just make some harried admin who just forgot the -6 flag was a thing's day – Anna May 6 '16 at 15:59
  • It would have taken the OP less time to read the documentation and gain (most of) the information in the answer than it did to ask the question in the first place only to be told to read the documentation... I also note with a tinge of sadness that you seem not to have upvoted an apparently useful answer but hey no one is perfect at playing the SE game. – user9517 May 7 '16 at 6:08
  • 2
    See, the trouble I have with people not reading docs and asking crappy questions of the internet in general is that you are creating a dependence on others rather than educating people to be self sufficient. If the only thing you can do is 'ask the internet' then the day your internet is not there you're screwed. – user9517 May 7 '16 at 6:18
  • I'm a bit curious, what prompted you to come answer this question? – Reaces May 8 '16 at 19:14
  • it was in the sidebar of something I was looking at – Anna May 9 '16 at 17:49

You must log in to answer this question.

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