Stop Waiting for Someone Else to Tell You How to do it

Manuals are not scary. You should be reading them.

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I'm old enought to remember when video games came with manuals, (I guess I might start having to say that I'm old enough to remember when they came in boxes too, anyways) I remember as a kid my mom would drive us to the store to buy a video game and on the way home I'd start reading the manual, because back then the obvious first step to playing a game was learning how to play it. Today video games don't come with manuals, and that's not because they don't come with boxes anymore. Games don't have manuals anymore because nobody was reading them.

This is not a new phenomenon, especially in software, there are articles dating back to the early 90s written about the fact that it seems nobody reads the, often quite useful, documentation that developers put out, but the phenomenon is not exclusive to software at all. Here are a few examples of places that I've seen people claarly not taking advantage of the manual.


So when I was in 6th grade my dad and one of his friends became interested in beekeeping. So my dad bought a book (Beekeeping for Dummies) so that he could know what he was doing, he read the whole thing, I read the whole thing, my dad's freind bought a different book and he read all of that one, then spring came around and we got some bees. We were inexperienced beekeepers, but we knew what we were doing.

Some amount of time passes (it could have been that year, or it could have been the next) and we hear about some sort of hobbyist beekeeper meeting thing where we lived, so we decided to go. We went and we were probably the least experienced beekepers there, but by the end of it my dad and his friend realized that a lot of the poeple there didn't really know what they were talking about. As the years have gone by we've met more people who have kept bees for a long time who also never seemed to bother to read up on the topic, they get by of course, but they'd have a much better time with it if they spent twenty bucks and a few hours on good instructional book. If you are going to do something, why not learn to do it right.

Arch Linux

So I recently started using Arch Linux and when looking around at the people who frequently talk about Arch Linux there seem to only two types of people: people who are offended by the ArchWiki, and people who actually use Arch. The reason that people get offended by the ArchWiki is that the ArchWiki fourm is one of the only places on the internet where the response to a basic question (allegedly) is not a basic answer, but instead it is "Read the Manual". And the reason the people who actually keep using Arch use Arch is that they are not afraid to read the manual, in fact reading the manual is basically neccecary to run Arch since, unlike most other operating systems, Arch has to be installed manually from a command line, then every piece of software on the system also has to be put there manually, you won't have someting as simple as a file explorer on the system unless you put one there yourself.

Arch users are typically viewed as elitists because of how they allegedly treat people on their fourms, but by directing people to read the manual or error message, they are avoiding exchanges that look like this:

I just ran this command and it came up with an error. What should I do?

What did the error say?

Oh uhh it said I should try running the command with the -s option

Did you do that?


How about you try doing that.

Thanks! I did that and everything seemed to work this time.

Yes, these types of exchanges do happen and they are nearly a complete waste of time, the person who was giving direction here would undoubtably be annoyed but they would at least hope that the person they helped would have leraned to do a little reserch on their own to solve their problems. Nine times out of ten, if you are having issues with something and there exists a manual the solution to your problem should be in the manual, internet fourms exist for the other ten percent of problems.


Probably the worst place I see people not taking advantage of manuals is in my computer science classes, while I am sure this sort of thing exists in just about any sort of class, it seems that in the realm of programming, new people (which is a significant chunk of the industry given it seems to double in size every five years) have been conditioned to think that nobody reads documentation, so they don't eiher. I've seen this sort of attitude among many of my peers, I try to condemn it when I can because the idea that someone can seek to become a professional at something, but at the same time refuse to read the stuff that will make them actually know what they are doing (or write the stuff that lets others do the same) is disgusting.

In most of the classes I took we used C++, which is not the easiest of programming languages. When I'd have a problem, I'd go to my textbook which I'd already read and when that didn't suffice, I'd find myself on looking at official documentation. I learned to navigate that site, and will almost always have it open when I'm writing a non-trivial C++ or C program because it is such a great resource. I remember one day I was talking to some guy who said he hated and refused to use it. I left that conversatoin confused, sure the site is not the prettiest, and it is has its fair share of technical jargon, but since I had already overcome thos obstacles i knew the benefits of it, you shouldn't let the difficulty of a manual stand in your way of taking advantage of it.

Why did I write this?

I'm not writing this becasue I am some elitist Arch user who is trying to convince everyone to think like they do. I'm writing this more for myself than for you. A lot of what I wach on YouTube are tutorials of things that I don't actually use because every once in a while I'll come across something that I want to try. Recently I came across groff and decided I wanted to try it out, but I had some question about it and I wasted a lot of time watching more tutorals (many of low quality) on the topic but I never got my question answered. Finnaly I went to the manual and within seconds I had found the answer to my question. I found what I wanted when I stopped expecting others to solve my problem and went to solve it myself.

Reading manuals is a skill I need to practice, and one you should to.