ntang (ntang) wrote,

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On bad advice.

I hate it, I hate it, I hate it SO MUCH when people ask questions in public (mailing lists, LJ communities, where-ever) and people give stupid, useless answers. A privately asked question is one thing, or a group discussion where everyone is invited to contribute, but sometimes people come off as "official" and end up turning people off and giving them the wrong impression. I've just seen a lot of bad advice recently on a lot of technical forums, and it's pissing me off.

I'm on the various Netsaint mailing lists, for instance. I regularly see people ask simple questions with simple answers, and people give them stupid answers. For instance, people apparently are illiterate and can't read basic documentation. For instance, people seem incapable of running any of the plugins with the --help option to get docs spewed onto the screen. check_http users are notorious for this, I don't know why.

check_http is a very nice plugin. It allows you to check webservers on any port, any ip, using virtual hosts, checks http or https (secure servers), can do several forms of pattern matching against the reply it gets, and lets you choose how it should respond to redirects and lets you set timeouts. It's basically all you need to check 99% of the websites out there.

But, as I mentioned, people are illiterate, and/or too lazy to read the docs, so they ask us stupid questions like "how do I check another port" or "how do I search for a string" or whatever. Now, the correct answer is "read the docs - there's a flag that you can specify that allows you to do that". Another correct answer is "-p lets you set the port, or "-[insert any of the regex functions] [regex] allows you to search for text". The problem is, other similarly illiterate idiots come on and say things like "Well, you can write a script that will parse out the output and..." at which point those of us who are literate and not lazy asses have to come on and explain that it already has that functionality built-in and it's not the half-assed product that the aforementioned illiterate, lazy ass described it as. There's no need to write a script to do that, there's no need to do funky crap, it already has the functionality available to anyone who can read and type (not even at the same time).

Similar things happen in other places. For instance, it seems to happen a lot in places like lj_dev or the support section and other (semi-)technical areas like that on LJ.

Now, I admit, I'm not a rocket scientist, there's a lot I don't know, but I also try to temper my responses accordingly. I double-check things before I talk about them. If I know I'm not sure about something, I state it. When I can, I back things up with links or specific instructions. I still make mistakes, but I try my best to avoid it, and I make sure I've done at least a little homework before shooting off at the mouth. It's not that hard, and it makes you look much less like an incompetent, stupid, illiterate, lazy ass when everything is said and done.

Is it that hard...?

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