The Asshole Response

I subscribe / follow / participate in a lot of technology focused forums and groups throughout the World Wide Web.  It is my feeling that they should be good places to make friends and ask questions of people who have similar interests and knowledge to share.

Unfortunately, I see a disappointing number of unfriendly responses that I tend to think of as the “Asshole Response”.  These responses are usually very short and often make use of acronyms like RTFM and reference URLs like lmgtfy.  Sometimes they aren’t responses at all, but just links to some third-party site without any explanation.

Now, I acknowledge that the stated policy of many groups is that questions must be well-researched, but I think that this is a mistake.  By their nature, forums and groups, especially on sites like Facebook, are a waste of time for most  of the participants.  So, the argument that a poorly researched question is a waste of time holds no weight.

There’s more to a community than just questions and answers.  It would be better to encourage people to ask first when they’re having a problem.  When that fails, use a search engine, and if the search engine fails, use a medium that is curated and intentionally focused on questions and answers such as StackOverflow.

For the record, I’m saying that anyone who leaves a response of RTFM or something similar is an asshole and is degrading the value of the community.  If you’re too busy to answer the questions of people who know less than you, that’s fine…  Do what you need to do and don’t waste your time in online communities.

I might tell people that their question is outside of the scope of the community’s focus; or refer to a better source of information, like documentation; but I won’t leave an Asshole Response.

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