You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Just reading over at MetaLutheran a whinge about RTFM. Having offered this advice in desperation on the past, here's my two cents:

Josh (and many like him) are confusing _effort_ in searching with
_effectiveness_ in searching.

Example #1:

Child: Where are my school socks?

Mother: Where have you looked for them?

Child: Everywhere!

Mother: Here they are, in your sock drawer!

Take it as given that the child has indeed searched literally everywhere, but not found what they were looking for because of an ineffective search strategy. Searching exhaustively in and of itself will not necessarily find you what you are looking for - you have to know _how_ to look. And, you often have to know _what_to look for.

Example #2:
In the bush, you can look and look and look and not see a person standing near you because they are camouflaged. But if you look for a camouflaged person, "through the trees" instead of "at the trees" you will see them.

The manual is the best place to look for the right thing, but you still have to know what you are looking for and how to read it.

Testy techs do grab for this too quickly in my opinion, because many users are very needy and will often play helpless because they are too lazy to find out for themselves, and a tech support call will given a guaranteed iron-clad answer. Some people by habit just pick up the phone and call or send an email because that's how they learn - by asking someone else - rather than trying to find out for themselves. And others just want to get back to being productive rather than wasting time trying to sort out a problem that is not their department anyway (and they might make it worse- best to log a tech call).

Proper training of staff about their proper area of responsibilities (Should you call tech support to help you make a bulleted list in MS Word? No. Should you manager send you on an MS Word course to teach you how to use the tools of your trade? Yes), and of tech about how to speak to humans (Grunts, sneers, sarcastic remarks and long periods of silence are typically not regarded as helpful), goes a long way.

By the way, many manuals written by techs with poor communication skills are fairly useless. It is the synthesis of technical ability and communication skills that makes a tech an asset to both the computers and the people who work with them. They can act as a kind of priestly interpreter, divining the true gnosis generated by the 999th iteration of the Deep Thought project for the congregants at large.

And if they still don't understand, they can always RTFM.

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