RTSM == Read The Stinking Manual. I know, I know … I’m treading on thin ice here with that acronym, especially for you real programmers and army veterans know what the real acronymn is, and what it means … consider this the “cleaned-up, sanitized, ready for prime time Christian” version of a rather old, well known and often delivered deragatory.
Whenever I hear the phrase (usually in the secular form), I’m reminded of an oft told story from the annals of the computer help desk that dialogs as follows:
Tech: “XYZPDQ Computers – this is Brenda – How may I help you?”
Cust: “The cup holder on my XYZPDQ 500sx is broken.”
Tech: “Cup holder???????”
Cust: “Yes, the one that comes out of the front of my computer.”
Tech: “I’m sorry, but I don’t think any of our computers come equipped with a cup-holders.”
Cust: “They most certainly do! It’s right here in front of me, it has a label on the front that reads CDRW and 24x10x40!”
Tech: “[stunned silence and the prayer 'forgive them Father, for they know not what they do**']”
A variation of this theme found its way in to the Washington Post in an article entitled Why Won’t We Read the Manual? [via via WPTS] . Of course, aside from people running their floppies in the dish-washer and/or Protestants refusing to use Windows because’ they don’t believe in Icons’ (no lie), there is at least a handful of reasons I can think of that manuals are not read.
First being that we live in a society that no longer reads, but wants everything delivered in the stylings of MTV. I mean if I can’t get my Sunday school students to read Titus over the course of a week, how can we expect them to RTSM to a computer or digital camera? The article describes how Subaru, instead of jacking up their help desk, opted for a small fold-out “quick guide” that could be tucked in the glove compartment or above the visor.
Hmmmm … perhaps that’s an idea for Church web servants? Print out a little fold-out that users could keep next to their computer? Distribute them via your church’s library, or even in a Wednesday night bulletin. Create a .PDF version and the user can download it and print it for themselves. Seems sorta stupid for something online, but I could see how it might appeal to more ‘senior’ users.
Back to causes for not reading manuals. There is what I call the “bindary bilkathon” that is otherwise known as technical books. It appears tht many companies offer manuals that are online, difficult to read or just plain old wrong – compelling you to buy a book on the topic. Where it really gets suspicious are those huge software companies whom also possess interest in a publishing firm.
Finally, there are those manuals written by geeks like me who are better at producing regular expressions than expressing ourselves in a regular fashion. Or to use a very old programmer’s addage : “if it was hard to write, it should be hard to use.”