Friday, October 13, 2006


Lurking on software help/user fora is an instruction on a lot of things apart from learning the software. Particularly in human behavior.

One really interesting aspect is the way the experts behave. Every forum has its experts - the people who 'own' the forum - baap ka raaj (pop's kingdom). Some of these kings are kind - they lead you step by step even if you are new.

There are others who go: "Go figure, you idiot. Don't come on this forum unless you know the basics" or "How dare you waste our time asking such trivial questions. Don't you have a brain?". And there have been times when i have seen these responses (like this and this!) and have gone "Whoa...Izzat ka falooda (crushed self-esteem)".

One user help list i regularly visit is that of a statistical software called R which i use extensively for my work. R is both a software package and a computing environment AND it's free+open source! - the best brains in the world contribute to this project. It's probably THE standard for statistical computing.

Anyway, all this is beside the point. This post is about a hilarious exchange i saw on the list. BTW, people who participate on this discussion are almost never AFAIK beginners. Actually, most are pretty advanced users who just need some tip here or there or some technical clarification. And then this:

The question
I saw this and went "uh, oh...this guy's had itttttt". I mean, "because my gf. is using it in her university project"? 100 marks for honesty, but 0 for being sensitive. And this is what happened...

The Response
(underlining mine)
This response even made it to the wikipedia entry on RTFM!!!

Also see these two interesting related wiki links : UTFSF and Flaming

Solid, na?


Kshitij L said...

My respect for you increases with each post.

RTFM is something only forum people have the luxury of saying. People who sell software come home and tell war stories of stupid customers. Every third day. For the last fifteen years.

Sharan Sharma said...

Hi Kshitij,

> RTFM is something only forum people have the luxury of saying

Absolutely! In fact, i won't be surprised if some of the tired software folks participate in fora just to take all their frustration "damn. what a stupid question...he's just like Rajiv at XYZ...let me give him a dose"

Sandeep Bhasin said...

De Bono's Code Book is passé… WTF! (you know what I mean.)

Sharan Sharma said...

> you know what I mean

yes, i very well now do :)...

Kshitij L said...

Another thing:

It's nice to see open source software used by professionals/people who need real power.

Apart from Linux, GCC and Firefox, I haven't seen OSS programs used by professionals extensively.


Sharan Sharma said...

Hi Kshitij,
Yes, this particular case for instance (the R software), you really need to know what you are dong to be able to use it.

Statistical s/w commonly in use basically throw out seom 50 tables and then the use sees what 'looks good'. In the case of 'R', it is a command line s/w - on pull-down menus etc. + you have to specifically request ever output - so it makes you think.

So with all this, obviosuly only the purists in the field use it - tell an average commerical guy and he'll run away!

Sharan Sharma said...

...and the number of spelling mistakes in my comment...gosh! Sorry.