how best to answer questions (was: RE: [mythtv-users] ringbuf1.nuv)

Cedar McKay cedarmckay at
Mon Mar 24 18:05:05 UTC 2003

>Anyway, it seems to me that a project like MythTV attracts a higher
>percentage of Linux newbies than many others, because... well, because it's
>so cool!  And, even though the documentation is pretty good & a lot of good
>effort has been expended on it, sometimes no amount of documentation is
>enough for a complete newbie (not necessarily kmallick2000) who is not
>familiar with fundamental *nix concepts, like paths & command line syntax.
>For instance, the documentation you pointed to shows an example for what to
>do if you want to change the default '/mnt/store' to '/var/video'.  It would
>be easy for a real newbie to assume that if they don't want to change the
>default that they don't have to do anything, as there is no example for
>creating & setting the permissions on the '/mnt/store' directory. 
I agree on this specific issue. Perhaps the docs should say something 
like "most systems by default do not have a /mnt/store directory, you 
must either create it or change the path to a directory that does exist".

However, in general I don't think it is rude to just point someone to 
the manual. It might be a bit terse just to say "read the docs" but 
supplying a link not only to the docs, but to the specific section that 
will help the newbie shows that some consideration was put into the 
question. Sure its short and direct, but the documentation is likely to 
be more complete and correct than anything you could whip off in 15 
seconds. For instance (not trying to pick on you) half of your two part 
reply was wrong! /mnt/store and /mnt/store/ seem to be equivalent. So in 
effect you have just made the newbies life more complicated by 
introducing a red herring.  Also as Jay showed yesterday, sometimes the 
"two line reply" that you suggest seems to inexplicably infuriate the 
newbie. What most people on the list would interpret as "brief but 
helpful" or perhaps even "terse but to the point" was taken by him to be 
an insult of some kind. This is especially strange since Edward's reply 
was pretty long, polite and helpful. My point is that pointing to a 
specific section of the documentation might be more helpful than any two 
line reply and could avoid being seen as rudely terse.


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