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

Joseph A. Caputo jcaputo1 at
Mon Mar 24 19:16:42 UTC 2003

> -----Original Message-----
> From: mythtv-users-bounces at
> [mailto:mythtv-users-bounces at]On Behalf Of Cedar McKay
> Sent: Monday, March 24, 2003 1:05 PM
> To: Discussion about mythtv
> Subject: RE: how best to answer questions (was: RE: [mythtv-users]
> ringbuf1.nuv)
> 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.

Except in this case, we seem to have located a potentially unclear or
confusing portion of the docs (i.e., the omission of specifics about
creating the '/mnt/store' directory).  Don't get me wrong; I think the docs
are great, but just like the source code are constantly being refined.  So
here's a refinement to be made.  In this case, I saw that the docs don't
actually say to create '/mnt/store', so I thought I more specific reply was
in order.  Of course, I guess I do tend to give most people the benefit of
the doubt & assume that they have read & followed (or at least think they
have) the manual.  Maybe that's not a good thing to assume, but then I'm a
'glass-is-half-full' kind of guy :-)

> 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.

I still maintain that I've seen this be an issue somewhere! :-)  In
retrospect, I think it was on HP/UX and had to do with a chain of symbolic
links that crossed and re-crossed various NFS mount points... sheesh, what a
mess that was...

> 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.

I don't disagree, I just felt that if a helpful, personal response was
convenient (at the discretion of the responder), that it would be a good
thing *in addition to* a reference to the appropriate docs.

All that being said, it's been a long time since I really looked at the
howto, and I didn't make the connection that Robert is the maintainer (kudos
to you, Robert!)  If I were in Robert's position, I probably would have done
responded similarly.  I can't tell you how many times I've written in-house
tools with complete documentation (generously provided both electronically &
hard copy!), only to have co-workers ask the most basic of questions.  It
tends to get me quite annoyed, since I went to great effort to provide
usable documentation.  And you're right, Robert's reponse was terse, but not
rude.  There have been many times when I wished I could tell my co-workers
to RTFM, but it's much harder to do that without looking like a jerk when
the person is standing in front of your desk.  So I guess I've just been
conditioned to provide a little hand-holding.  Maybe if I institued an
email-only support policy...

Anyway, I don't mean to offend anyone or insinuate that anyone has been
rude.  If anything, it's a good measure of the maturity of the project that
many questions *can* be answered by pointing to the docs.  And, if not,
someone will almost always offer a more detailed solution.

-Joe C.

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