The question that got me wondering about this is here: Displaying nmap result gradually as results are found

The answer to the question is directly quoted from the nmap man page. I was tempted to flag the question for closure, but the question is well written and technically on-topic.

  • Your question seem related to that question there: meta.serverfault.com/questions/6124/… As for me I would had googled that question to give the answer, even if it's not my area of knowledge.
    – yagmoth555 Mod
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 13:25
  • 3
    It's worth noting that in the nmap question, the verbose flag is doing something that most people would not anticipate verbose to do. It would be an easy thing to miss when scanning a man page.
    – pragmar
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 17:31
  • Related: Is it okay to tell users to RTFM?
    – user
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 16:46

4 Answers 4


RMaaS (Reading Manuals as a Service) is part of our community services...

Although I often comment with:

Server Fault is a site for information technology professionals -- as such we have certain professional expectations when people ask a question here, and one of those expectations is that you will have done some research, found and read the vendor documentation and/or tried a solution before asking the internet for help. ...

We also have the motto:

Good questions get good answers.

So if the question does not make your eyes bleed and your more advanced experience allows you to more easily find the relevant answer in the manual and you're inclined to answer, please don't hesitate just because of that.

(Please don't forget to include the correct attribution when you quote a section of the manual verbatim.)

Fairly often the reason I can point to the manual in the first place is only because I already know exactly what keyword/jargon to look for and where. Simply starting on the first page won't easily get you there. I.e. try searching the 57 separate man pages that make up the terse OpenSSL manual or search the Bash manual for the meaning of . (a period) in shell scripts...

  • 9
    Also, man pages and similar docs are quite often written quite densely and you have to read them very carefully to catch implicit meanings. Asking in that case is fine.
    – Sven
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 13:56
  • 5
    Some man-pages are 22,147 word books (like monit). Having a guide find the key details is really helpful.
    – sysadmin1138 Mod
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 17:17

man pages are hard to read, often difficult to understand, and written for a highly technical audience with extensive prior knowledge. I hate man pages, and I personally do not read them except as a last resort.

I will read literally anything else before reading a man page.

So as long as it's a well phrased question that shows some basic thought process, then go ahead and answer to the best of your ability.

And if it's poorly phrased and shows no thought process, then that's the reason you don't answer it - not because the answer can be found in man.

  • 1
    Some users may not understand the statement in the man page that answers the question. I have certainly had that experience, and most annoying is when the man page author seems to assume that I already know how to use the tool, which is really what -h is for.
    – Paul
    Commented Nov 5, 2016 at 1:25
  • 2
    +1 for "I will read literally anything else before reading a man page."
    – Archemar
    Commented Nov 12, 2016 at 9:57
  • man pages are reference documentation. This means their intent is not to teach you to use the tool but rather to fill in the gaps: be a complete, authoritative list of what the tool can possibly do. Tutorials and reference documentation are both useful and complement each other, they are simply intended for different use cases. Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 7:41
  • Their terseness and technicality are simply a necessity to squeeze that completeness into a comprehensible amount of text. Commented Feb 15, 2018 at 7:50

I pretty much always answer these with a quote from the relevant man page (RMaaS ;) ) and a link to the man page. I usually Down vote the question for lack of research too if it's a fairly easy thing to find either in the man page or with a simple Google search. I down vote a lot.

  • -1 for saying you downvote for "a simple google search" - that's never been an acceptable reason to downvote here and you know it. The idea is for Server Fault to be the top google search. Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 12:20
  • 8
    @Mark, Please review the (generic) Help centre article on how to ask a good question. In particular point 2 that begins Search and research Server Fault should be your last stop in your quest for an answer.... If the answer to a question is easily found on google then it fails the This question does not show any research part of the tooltip on the downvote button too. I think that (again) we'll have to agree to disagree.
    – user9517
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 12:33

If you are not feeling charitable, give it a down vote and hopefully a comment linking them to the man page.

Or, just do as the other person on that QA did, and post a quote to the relevant part of the documentation, with links to the whole man page.

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