Fwd: Re: [Wine]re:re:HELP

Julian Hall wine at kaotic.co.uk
Sat Oct 9 13:50:30 CDT 2004

richard wrote:

> I agree with that, Its very hard to write documentation at a level 
> that's easy to understand, but not offensive to those with some 
> knowledge.
> The main observation I have is the more knowledgeable a person becomes 
> the harder it is for them to communicate. There is a lot to be said 
> for proof reading by a novice.
> However, the posting that started this thread the standard of English 
> was poor, and could be interpreted in many ways.
> Richard
> _______________________________________________
> wine-users mailing list
> wine-users at winehq.org
> http://www.winehq.org/mailman/listinfo/wine-users
Hi All,

I've not used WINE to a major degree, wanting to get my system to behave 
itself with the hardware first before I dump Windows and go to a pure 
Linux environment.  However I have worked for 7 years in a tech support 
capacity, so I find myself in a position where I sympathise with both camps.

The developers / programmers are all experienced *computer* users, not 
just Linux or Windows users, and in general like myself have probably 
grown up with an RTFM mentality.  When I started in computers you had to 
know what you were doing because if you didn't the only answer you got 
was "read the f'ing manual" (RTFM).  Hence I grew with computers in a 
self-help environment.  This mindset can lead to frustration when faced 
with a request/demand for help from someone who it is clear has not made 
any attempt to help themself.

This is where this thread, predictably in my view, kicked off with a 
complaint/demand for help from someone who

a) appears to have poor English skills.  However English is my ONLY 
language so I refuse to berate someone who is obviously struggling to 
make himself understood but at least is making the effort.  If English 
is his first language and he is simply very bad at it (and with some of 
the customers I've spoken to that's not impossible) then I rescind that 
somewhat kind viewpoint.  Many a time I've had to choke my response to 
"oh you mean the double dot..    don't use your jargon on me!" simply 
because I've asked the customer to enter a colon.

b) has not made much if any attempt to help himself, despite his claim 
of having tried for two years.  Does "trying for two years" simply mean 
running WINE every couple of months in the blind hope it will work this 

c) Does have a *valid* point regarding documentation.

I have A Level Computer Studies (apologies to those not in the UK but 
this is a qualification attained before leaving school at age 18 ish, so 
draw your own comparisons).  During the compilation of my practical 
programming project work I had to include full documentation of how the 
programs worked.  When I wrote my documentation I aimed at the "shallow 
end of the gene pool" or to put it kinder, the novice user.  I was 
explicit in what could and could not be done, giving clear examples of 
valid data entry and made sure that it was proofed by at least one other 

The environment today has changed radically from when I started in 
computers 20 years ago.  The RTFM mentality has given way to the T/SMH 
mentality (Tell/Show Me How).  I should not complain unduly since it is 
the existence of this mentality which has kept me in employment the last 
seven years.  It goes without saying that T/SMH and RTFM do not sit well 
with each other.

Programmers / developers, even experienced users have to accept the fact 
that not everyone is willing/able to RTFM anymore.  However 
users/novices have to respect the fact that the former group are (as has 
been mentioned before) giving freely of their time and energy, and a 
little gratitude would not go amiss.  I am sure there is a happy middle 
ground along the lines of:

"Hi X,

To answer your question fully would take some time, but have a look at 
the following links.



If you have any questions after reading these, please feel free to ask."

This approach is not an unhelpful one as it gives the user advice on 
where to find what they need, without "spoon-feeding" them.  I know 
several of the regular contributors here do use this technique and I am 
happy to see it.

If the user responds with a comment to the effect that they wanted help 
not links, then my attitude does harden to "tough... you've been shown 
where to get the answer, so go read it".  If on the other hand (going 
back to documentation) the referred websites are full of esoteric 
acronyms, I would not be surprised or object to the questioner coming 
back with a supplemental "OK, but about point 1, how do I do X?" as that 
proves they have at least tried to help themselves.

To summarise, questioners need to ask specific questions, and at least 
*TRY* to understand any answers/ websites they are given.  However 
equally those who answer need to be mindful that the person they are 
responding to may not necessarily know how to "compile the latest 
source" or "provide us with the debug output".  Could I suggest, please, 
that where such comments are made that a little extra time is given to 
explaining how to obtain that which has been asked for?

I hope I have not unduly upset anyone with my comments above.  I have 
been lurking on this forum for just over a year now and I have always 
been impressed with the dedication of those who respond to the regular 
please for help.  You are all doing a great job, and this is the first 
time I have seen this issue blow up in the way it has on this occasion.

Kind regards,


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