Read the full manual. Read the fine manual. Read the flippin' manual.
Whatever explanation you like to use for the popular acronym “RTFM,” the point remains – it’s very important to read the manual. For me, this was an idea handed down by my grandfather and one that was (and continues to be) quite counter-intuitive to my personality type.
One of the bikes my grandfather built (Skarke is his last name).
My grandfather is a computer engineer who worked for Hewlett-Packard for many years (before that spending time in the military as a radio operator). He is the very definition of meticulous. Whether he’s working on one of his hobbies like live steam locomotives, gunsmithing, photography, archery, building custom road bikes (see above), or just trying to fix something around the house, his degree of planning is truly an art form. I have always been in awe of his ability to sit down and just figure something out. It’s remarkable.
Part of this ability stems from his keen desire to just understand things – which is where reading the manual comes in to play. I will always remember as a kid, when I would get a present that had a manual, he would insist we sit down and go through the manual from cover to cover before even starting to unbox it.
Today, I still have to resist the urge to just start ripping into things as soon as I get them, but reading the manual has proved invaluable over the years.
I had a bit of fun with the Heaterizer manual
A few days back, OpenSource.com posted an article called “RTFM? How to Write a Manual Worth Reading”. As one of SparkFun’s content producers (and an avid believe in RTFM), this struck a chord with me. It’s worth a read if you ever need to write a manual of your own, or just want to get some insight into the thought process behind writing a manual. It’ll also give you some appreciation for a really well-written manual – I know it did for me.