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When Do You Read the Instructions?

Cliff posted more than 9 years ago | from the some-assembly-required dept.

Communications 135

An anonymous reader asks: "I originally submitted this as a poll, but the answers I'm guessing, were way too long. However, I would like to ask the crowd at Slashdot: When do you read the instructions?""So when do you reach for that instruction booklet? Do you:

  • ...research on the internet, in magazines and also pestering friends who own one, so you're an expert before buying said item?

  • ...carefully read the box and all of the instructions even before unwrapping the protective plastic?

  • ...study the instructions and the quickstart guide?
  • ...refer to the instructions and study the quickstart guide?

  • ...lose the instructions when throwing the packaging away, but study the quickstart guide hoping for the best?

  • ...look at quickstart guide when it's not obvious how to turn it on?

  • ...frantically search the instruction book after letting the 'magic smoke' out of your appliance hoping you'll find somewhere saying it's suppose to do that?

  • ...after it's been smashed to pieces with a hammer?"

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Importance... (3, Insightful)

megaversal (229407) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129139)

Depends on how important it is... if it's for my servers that thousands of users at work need to access, you can be sure as hell I read the release notes.

If I'm just playing around... that's it, I play around and look at the manual if there's a problem.

Re:Importance... (1)

redcliffe (466773) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129143)

LOL, I normally install a new program, then when it breaks my carefully crafted configuration then I look at the README and Release Notes.

And for the last time /. I'm not a cowboy, and I don't need to slow down!

Re:Importance... (1)

Celt (125318) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129261)

For software I never read instructions unless I run into problems, same goes for computer hardware
I've more or less never needed to read instructions for TV's, VCR's, DVD Players, Microwaves etc etc
ffs there easy operate :)

never read instructions unless I run into problems (1)

da5idnetlimit.com (410908) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130170)

This goes under :

Reading the instructions...only when everything else has failed... 8p

Re:Importance... (2, Interesting)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129231)

Do embedded help options (ls --help) count as reading the instructions?

Re:Importance... (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129279)

That would be the quick start guide. "man ls" would be the instructions.

Re:Importance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11129337)

That would be the quick start guide. "man ls" would be the instructions.

info ls actually. The GNU folks have a personal vendetta against man pages and intentionally make them as skimpy as possible.

Re:Importance... (1)

CptChipJew (301983) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129613)

OT, but man ls and info ls show the same document (at least on OS X) :)

Re:Importance... (1)

Cmdr TECO (579177) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130081)

OS X ls isn't GNU ls, so there isn't any 'info' documentation for it; info just shows the man page.

OS X generally only installs the GNU stuff in cases like make where the GNU embrace-and-extend and all-the-world's-an-i386-linux crowds have make it awkward to do otherwise.

Re:Importance... (1)

PhlegmMaster (596165) | more than 9 years ago | (#11134312)

Except info has waaaaay better navigation support.

Re:Importance... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11130096)

The GNU folks have a personal vendetta against man pages and intentionally make them as skimpy as possible.
It could be worse -- it could be netpbm.

Me... (1)

redcliffe (466773) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129140)

I look at the box, and then try it. If it's not obvoius how it works then after some fiddling I might look at the instructions. I've worked in a computer shop for the last 3 odd years and it hasn't failed me yet.

objdump -d (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11129142)

... and then I read the instructions.

When it breaks (1)

digitallife (805599) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129174)

I think the only time I ever touch manuals and instruction books is when something breaks or is bugging the hell out of me. Usually it doesn't help much either :)

I never (4, Funny)

Konster (252488) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129175)

I never read manuals, but I'd be willing to start if they started putting pictures of naked women in them.

I also use Windows...no manuals needed! Plug and Play! USB! I never buy stuff from companies that don't have an 800 tech support number. Let THEM read the manual to me!

Re:I never (5, Funny)

Lamieur (839373) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129240)

Some of us are too shy to call vibrator-vagina-maker's tech-support... I admire you.

Re:I never (1)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129312)

If you're not too shy for that, you probably don't need one of those. Confidence is worth more than both good looks and hard cash, when it comes to chicks.

Re:I never (1)

XO (250276) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130309)

Good looks and hard cash breed confidence, though.

Re:I never (1)

KILNA (536949) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130951)

Where:
Confidence = c
Eyecatching = e
Money = m

Confidence is most important, looks are secondary, and money comes last... at least if you're looking for a woman who you'd actually want to be with right? You can always counteract being good-looking with a little bit of money, and a lot of condfidence. But you can't have more confidence than your looks, or you'll end up looking like an ass. So the equation goes:

e=mc^2

YMMV. It's all relative

Re:I never (2, Interesting)

yuri benjamin (222127) | more than 9 years ago | (#11132656)

Yes, but if you have no money, ie m=0, then no matter how confident you are, e will still be zero:

e = mc^2
e = 0 x c^2
e = 0

Re:I never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11136022)

Using IE without a firewall is like having unprotected group sex blindfolded.

That's hot. Are you trying to sell me on IE w/o a firewall or are you warning me against it? It's hard to tell really.

Re:I never (1)

mrzaph0d (25646) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130201)

hrm. i remember something here ./ that i of course can't find. but it was something about how the differences in cultures makes for different instruction manuals. i think the most "naked women"-esque example was either an italian or spanish manual for a color printer featured examples of nude photos.

not sure though.

When (1)

floydman (179924) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129188)

I read the article, i am going to read the instructions.

Half the fun... (1)

emplynx (735511) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129191)

...is opening up a new box and figuring it out yourself. A lot of times if I'm installing hardware (especially USB), I see if the quick start guide says to install software then plug in or visa versa. But I definitely don't follow things step by step through the manual. I often look at the book when something doesn't work, but most "troubleshooting" steps found in support manual are so amateur that they are useless. I don't like to call customer support for anwers; many times I'll just post on a relevent message board.

Re:Half the fun... (1)

TFGeditor (737839) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129587)

"...most 'troubleshooting' steps found in support manual are so amateur that they are useless."

Amen. Nobody makes good manuals anymore, including program language software vendors. Seems most everybody now thinks "Help" is adequate. The only salvation is third-party manuals, which are usually frightfully expensive.

My kingdom for a good tech manual!

#define instructions (2, Insightful)

kipple (244681) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129212)

if you call "instructions" that small piece of paper that goes with the object, well, no I don't read them. They are usually useless - spending more pictures and pages for the dummy window (l)user, and not telling any technical detail. It's more entertaining to search for the "technical manual" on the Net, if there's any.
The only case when I -very quickly- read them it's when I'm looking for the default password of a piece of networked equipment. which usually it's not even written down.

cheers

---

open source is like poker: would you trust a deck of card that you cannot see being shuffled, but you have to trust who said it was done?

Re:#define instructions (1)

vigilology (664683) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130257)

"open source is like poker: would you trust a deck of card that you cannot see being shuffled, but you have to trust who said it was done?" Shouldn't that be closed source?

Re:#define instructions (1)

kipple (244681) | more than 9 years ago | (#11135550)

my example is closed source. I cited open source for comparison :)

Re:#define instructions (2, Insightful)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 9 years ago | (#11135307)

Huzzah! I remember when "manuals" had enough information to write drivers, as a matter of course. Dot Matrix printer manuals used to come with documentation of the printer control codes, and instructions on how to make a BASIC program to do graphics, and such. Modem manuals used to come with full explanation of the AT command set and all redgisters. (And no, I'm not speaking in hyperbole, I'm citing specific examples!)

Nowadays, you are lucking if the modem manual says "User are to make under installing the device apon application to Window 97 device mangler by demanding d:\setup with perseverance." And then repeating the same thing in French, German, Korean, and Afrikaans, so the book looks thick and informative.

Old school manuals, I used to read cover to cover, excited to learn new things. New school manuals, I just don't bother, unless I don't have teh opportunity to use the device, and I am bored, I might flip trhough it while waiting at a red light on the way home, or something...

I'm confused (4, Insightful)

MyGirlFriendsBroken (599031) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129215)

Are there devices out there which are not operated by a hammer?

Re:I'm confused (1)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129226)

Are there devices out there which are not operated by a hammer?

There are a few devices that are not operated by hammer. My hammer is actually operated by the liberal application of some device ;)

Re:I'm confused (4, Funny)

Stanza (35421) | more than 9 years ago | (#11131826)

Originally posted by MyGirlFriendsBroken (599031)
Are there devices out there which are not operated by a hammer?

No wonder your girlfriend is broken.

Re:I'm confused (2)

Cuthalion (65550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11133751)

It's like they say. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like your kid brother.

Always (1)

beaverfever (584714) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129225)

...research on the internet, in magazines and also pestering friends who own one, so you're an expert before buying said item?

...carefully read the box and all of the instructions even before unwrapping the protective plastic?

Yes and yes. I always read the instructions. I wish everyone would.

Re:Always (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11135956)

Pussy.

never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11129245)

readmes are for wimps; manuals are for girls.

Re:never (1)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129327)

Why did you post this as AC?

To be honest im used to many many products not having any instructions at all now, due to the fact that the manufacturer KNOWS that people wont read them.

Best way round this i ever saw was in the FF games, i think it was FF7 where was you played for the first few hours, it actually taught you the instructions. Only problem was there wasn't a way around it so every replay you would end up learning the same things again.

I know its not possible for simpler objects like microwaves etc, or even most computer hardware. But somethings (such as TVs and Video Recorders) should make use of this i think.

Re:never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11129470)

To be honest im used to many many products not having any instructions at all now
[...]
I know its not possible for simpler objects like microwaves etc

Some GE microwaves have a help button that can be pressed in succession with another button. The digital display scrolls with brief instructions on each function.

Re:never (1)

djsmiley (752149) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129679)

Hadn't seen them tbh, but KOOL!

Guess that kind of proved my point, for the first time ever, a valid slashdot comment. Rejoice.

I gotta ask whats the adv. cost of one of these, im from the lowly UK and not many microwaves here have digial displays...

Re:never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11129918)

Around $200+ U.S. [geappliances.com] They have a bare-bones green character display, nothing too fancy, but still legible enough to read.

Instructions should not be required. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11129267)

If the user interface is well thought out and cleanly designed, no instructions should be needed to use the device (software or hardware) correctly.

If you require instructions, the device is too complicated and is badly designed.

The obvious exception is where the equipment is dangerous / mission critical / requires complicated user interaction. For example, cars have a pretty simple interface (at the minimum: a wheel and two pedals), but you need to know the rules of the road to use these machines safely.

Difference between boys and girls (4, Interesting)

harikiri (211017) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129307)

I remember reading somewhere that the reason boys and girls differ in their computer expertise (on average) is due to the following:
  • Boy jumps onto the computer, plays with it till he breaks some part of it, and is forced to figure out how to fix it.
  • Girl, terrified of breaking the computer, demands to be shown what to do before using it.

Note: Yes this is a broad generalisation, but this is slashdot.

Because the guys jump into using it so quickly, they learn faster through trial and error. The pace of learning with girls is a lot slower due to their desire to know how stuff works first.

This has parallels with "reading instructions". From the large sample of friends that I have, very few of them (male) ever choose to read the instructions.

Personally, I'm affronted that I even need to read the instructions (especially for consumer electronic items). In this day and age, electronic items (VCR/DVD/camcorder/digicam) should be usable by anyone who spends 60 seconds playing with it (think iPod). In short, we should not ever need to read instructions.

Re:Difference between boys and girls (3, Insightful)

david duncan scott (206421) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129892)

I'm not so sure that they learn faster. They may pick up particular tasks more quickly, but they may also miss (I know I have) whole areas of function simply because they haven't stumbled into them yet.

Reading the manual gives you the CD-ROM drive. Playing with things gives you the cup holder.

Re:Difference between boys and girls (2, Insightful)

Bishop (4500) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130525)

And those of us who read the documentation, and aren't affraid to break anything, learn the fastest.

At a minimum I will skim the docs. Even if the item is very simple. The item may use new features or have a different interface. I want to get the most out of anything I buy.

The sibling post's cd-rom or cup holder comment is true.

Re:Difference between boys and girls (1)

liqnitro (522687) | more than 9 years ago | (#11132275)

I will have to admit when I got my first computer at 13, that was my exact experience. Cleaning the drive I had somehow managed to delete command.com from it then reboot, hillarity ensues. I also remember trying to fix it without anyone realizing I broke it. I did manage to actually get the thing working after I little effort, thank god, that command.com was in c:\dos. Although you say that is the primary way people learn how somehing works, I realize I learned more just by fixing problems that occurred during ordinary usage. I do agree, imterfaces should be so natural using them should be second nature.

Re:Difference between boys and girls (1)

mirabilos (219607) | more than 9 years ago | (#11132401)

Uh, I'm a boy and I even learn non-computer games
such as Magic faster by RTFM than by just trying.

Playing (under assistance) during RTFM helps,
though. Watching rarely, even assisted.

Re:Difference between boys and girls (2, Insightful)

jaelle (655155) | more than 9 years ago | (#11135694)

Actually, as a girl (more or less) I do a bit of both. Something very complex (like C++) I'll read up on it some first, then get in and break it. I break Linux distros regularly.

It did take me awhile to get over a childhood of being yelled at for messing with stuff my brother always got to play with.

Leave girls alone and give 'em tools, and they'll break stuff too!

It Depends (2, Insightful)

Ann Elk (668880) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129367)

  • If I'm buying something I've never used before (software, home electronics, kitchen appliance, whatever), then I: a) research it to death on the Internet, b) research it to death at the library/book store, c) research it to death by pestering my friends, then d) go to a store and make an impulse buy.
  • If it's something new to me, then I always read at least parts of the manual. How much of the manual (and how closely I read it) is usually determined by the complexity of the product. Did I read the manual when I bought my first USB pen drive? No way. Did I read it when I bought my first DVD player? Somewhat. Did I read it when I bought my first wireless access point? You bet.
  • If I'm upgrading something, then I may or may not read anything. Did I read the release notes when upgrading from Mozilla 1.7.3 to 1.7.5? No. Did I read them when upgrading from Fedora Core 2 to Fedora Core 3? Of course.

Study the instructions and the quickstart guide (2, Insightful)

u-238 (515248) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129396)

When you first get it, you're usually too excited to be bothered by a thick manual. The quickstart suffices for a while, while you fiddle around with it.

But for complex gadgets with more than an on/off switch, and I'm talking things such as digital cameras, mp3 players and the like, there are typically more options than you could manage to figure out on your own, even if given the time. A lot of the extras in gadgets like these are harder to do than a street fighter combo.

Take the time to read through the entire manual, usually while sitting on the pot, and aquaint yourself with all the tricks and extras it has to offer. There's no other way.

Not for common tasks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11129611)

Tasks are always pretty much the same from product to product. For instance: adding a USB peripheral, adding SCSI peripheral, changing a monitor, replacing a keyboard. Most unique tasks are OS based (eg. adding users, changing passwords). But if you're an admin or hardware tech, you should rarely need to read instructions.
Obvious exceptions are default passwords are understanding DIP switches.

Re:Not for common tasks (1)

david duncan scott (206421) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129950)

I once had a temp gig valet parking cars. Did you ever try to find reverse in a stickshift with an aftermarket smooth walnut shift knob? I killed ten minutes cautiously trying up to the left, down to the right, pulling up on the knob while shifting, pushing down while shifting...

The one that really killed me was a Saab. Who puts the ignition in the console between the seats? I began to think it was an anti-theft device.

Re:Not for common tasks (1)

Howie (4244) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130166)

Hehe. Just spent a week in a rental Saab 95, and at the end of the week I was still scrabbling around the steering column before I rememebered.

Apparently though, it *is* an anti theft device. At least on older Saabs, that's some kind of physical lock for the transmission. This was a shiny new one, and it seemed just like any other ignition key (aside from it's location) to me. I guess die-hard Saab people like to feel the lineage.

Re:Not for common tasks (1)

marc_gerges (561641) | more than 9 years ago | (#11135742)

The reason is that a lock between the seats has a lower chance of rearranging your right knee in case of an accident.

That was the reasoning in the 'good old times' anyways. I guess with seat belt tensioners and airbags it's less of an issue.

Re:Not for common tasks (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130262)

Or to stop drunk driving ;)

Re:Not for common tasks (1)

david duncan scott (206421) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130516)

Maybe, although I might have found it faster if I'd been drunk.

Of course, in a way I should have known. I used to drive a Beetle, and after you find the battery underneath the back seat, life should hold few surprises.

Re:Not for common tasks (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130585)

With enough caffiene you can notice anything...I've been writing code for 8 hours, and it feels like i've been going 20 minutes...maybe it's the same with Gecko ;)

Re:Not for common tasks (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130625)

Oh shit...sorry, I replied to the wrong comment, that won't make any sense.

Makes me wonder why car designers do things like that. I mean, is there a reason, or is there some guy in Europe that just wants to be an arsehole, and has to put things in different places when he has a bad day?

Re:Not for common tasks (2, Interesting)

david duncan scott (206421) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130924)

In the case of the Beetle, aside from the common response that "They put the engine in the wrong place, so what'd you expect?", my theory is that there was a copper shortage at some point that made VW engineers allergic to wiring. How else can you explain the windshield washer, which was a tank hooked up to the over-inflated spare tire with a regulator valve preventing you from flattening the spare on dusty roads? It was elegant, in a way, but bizarre.

Then again, for years the gas cap was in the trunk...

Re:Not for common tasks (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130970)

Things like that explain why the Beetle dealership that I used to walk past everyday closed down I guess. But to be honest, those fords which replaced them aren't a lot better.

I'll take a Holden anyday.

Re:Not for common tasks (1)

david duncan scott (206421) | more than 9 years ago | (#11131627)

Yeah, but they put the steering wheel in the wrong place!

Re:Not for common tasks (1)

lachlan76 (770870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11134179)

I take it you live in the US?

Re:Not for common tasks (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 9 years ago | (#11135103)

I think its really important to check out the controls of a vehicle you're not familiar with. It bothers me that rentals never have the manual. You don't want to be driving in bad weather and have to mess around trying to get the defroster or the windshield wipers working.

When I was 19 I had an experience that taught me not to start driving an unfamiliar vehicle without checking it out. I was working for a guy whose business was in Dijon (France) but who lived way out in the country, over an hour away. One he rented a car and I had to drive it from Dijon to his country place. I was supposed to follow his brother-in-law, who drove like a bat out of hell on narrow, winding, country roads. It was all I could do to keep up with him. After a while, it began to get dark. I tried to turn on the headlights, but couldn't figure out how. Finally I just leaned on the horn until I got the other guy's attention and then gradually slowed down and got him to show me how to turn on the headlights. Ever since then, I've made a point of making sure I know how the important controls work before I head out.

The weirdest thing I've ever encountered is the gearshift on the Deux Chevaux. (For Americans, this is the French equivalent of the Volkswagen, a small, low-powered, cheap car that just about anybody could afford. I think that it has never been legal to import them into the US because their light construction didn't meet US safety standards.) The shift lever goes in and out of the dashboard. You rotate it to get additional positions.

The answer is simple (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129612)

when Cowboy Neal tells me to!

problems (2, Insightful)

PerlDudeXL (456021) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129642)

If I have problems with some specific hardware I look into the manual or if I need some tech-specs
like horizonal or vertical frequencies of a monitor. Most of the time those QuickStart guides
are useless for be because they focus on setting up the hardware in windows environments.

I bought a new TFT Flatscreen and the manual was provided on a CD. My luck was that the screen
accepted my XOrg settings and worked right out of the box. The manual itself was a set of html pages
that didn't work under linux using firefox due to some hardcoded uppercase filenames (probably javascript)
that couldn't be found. If instruction manuals are provided only on CD - please as a PDF.

Magic Smoke (no not that kind) (2, Funny)

AdiBean (653963) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129671)

I read the directions once I've let the magic smoke out of the device in question. You see, all electronics works on magic smoke. This is easily proved by the fact that if you let the magic smoke out of your electronic device, it generally no longer functions.

Re:Magic Smoke (no not that kind) (1)

XO (250276) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130352)

Yes, and the easiest way to do this is by supplying too much voltage, causing the magic smoke to get really agitated and look for a new device.

Depends. (1)

Firehawke (50498) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129748)

Depends on the product, really.

For the wireless router I picked up, I looked long enough through the manual to pick up the configuration address for my browser-- I already knew how to set it up otherwise.

For my recent motherboard upgrade, I checked the manual thoroughly to make sure there weren't going to be any surprises on the compatibility front, especially with RAM.

For videogames, I typically check the story section, a quick glance at the controls, and a quick glance over the weapons, with a later full-readthrough when I decide to see if there's anything I've missed. MGS3, which I picked up at launch, is a great example of such. I checked the CQC stuff in the manual, but I knew enough about the rest of the game from the previous games and demo to have no problems.

So, all in all I typically avoid using the manual unless I have to, but I don't hesitate to use it at that point.

I read instructions every day (1)

ramunas (771197) | more than 9 years ago | (#11129813)

I translate them :)

manual? (1)

mongolian (768610) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130084)

Read the manual? I'm sorry, Manuel is not home now.

Depends on the thing... (2, Interesting)

Howie (4244) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130203)

If I'm looking for something for a very specific purpose, and there's a particular feature I want ot be really sure is going to work how I want, then I won't buy without being able to download the manual beforehand. I recently bought a Pioneer AV amp, and wanted to be clear on whether it *really* had 3 digital ins, or 1 and 1 you could switch from optical to electrical, for example.

Other things only get the manuals read when I'm either really bored or really stuck. I've never read the manual for my original ipod (it was a mac-only CD, and I didn't have a mac, from memory, so I couldn't even if I wanted to).

It's worth pointing out that I do suffer from a case of 'I wish I'd known it could do that' every few months as a result.

My VW Golf has a wierd hidden feature that I don't think you'd ever be able to find without reading the manual - you can change the period of the intermittent wipe, but there's not explicit control for it. You turn it on, wait, then off, then back on again. The length of the wait becomes the delay between wipes. It's kind of clever when you know about it, but it's pretty poor UI that you would never guess it. Then again, the Mercedes-style wall-o-buttons isn't so great either.

I do now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11130214)

As I get older, I find my confidence gives way to caution. I just bought a new soldering iron. I've been in electronics for over 20 years. What could be simpler than a soldering iron?
Of course I got it to melt solder, but reading the manual showed me two things I wouldn't have picked up otherwise.
1) There's a hard limit to the temperature you can set by using a hex wrench and adjusting a 'ring' around the knob.
2) The sponge has a hole in the middle. I just assumed it was for solder to fall into the holder, but you are supposed to use the piece from the center as a wick to draw water from the bottom and keep the sponge wet. Neat.

Only when (1)

Jebediah21 (145272) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130478)

Only when I can't get the device working or I want to fully understand what can be done with it.

Rarely. (1)

pi_rules (123171) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130536)

Only if it'll get me fired if I screw up or killed.

Expensive hardware comes in at work? Yeah, I'll read the instructions (I don't do that type of stuff much though).

New gun? Yep, read the instructions. Unless I already have one just like it.

Re:Rarely. (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 9 years ago | (#11134943)

damn bosses - firing you for getting killed.

Safety (2, Insightful)

c (8461) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130583)

If there's a potential safety issue (beyond just using electricity), I definitely read the instructions. You don't assemble and use something involving exposed chunks of metal spinning at thousands of RPMs without reading unless you've got a deathwish. That means power tools, small engines, etc. Ignore the safety sections of the manuals, though. That's always generic boilerplate drivel like turn off the engine and let it cool before filling with gas and don't touch the blade when saw is operating. The important stuff is in the assembly, operation and maintenance sections.

I might read the instructions for expensive/irreplacable items, as well. Unless I don't own them.

c.

on the throne (3, Insightful)

kcornwell (555464) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130666)

I read instructions for nearly everything I buy while I'm on the can. The time required is usually enough to scan for anything important or interesting. The technical specs are almost always interesting, and sometimes I miss a feature that is not obvious in the product (think cell phones).

Google (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11130822)

> When do you read the instructions?

What's wrong with Ask Slashdot? Here's yet another example of a question that can be easily answered using Google [google.com] .

I know it is time to read the instructions (3, Funny)

notcreative (623238) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130896)

when the object has caught fire.

Re:I know it is time to read the instructions (1)

Drantin (569921) | more than 9 years ago | (#11131351)

Ah, yes. The other Magical Gas... Phlogiston.

pretty much pegged me... (1)

Zarf (5735) | more than 9 years ago | (#11130938)

...research on the internet, in magazines and also pestering friends who own one, so you're an expert before buying said item?

Got me right off the bat. I don't buy often, I only buy what I know will work, and I have a full and complete understanding of what I'm buying before I do.

Guess I'm a late adopter.

I've tried (1)

bluGill (862) | more than 9 years ago | (#11131282)

I've tried, but you can't follow them. Betweem being written in some language that doesn't exist. Sure it looks like English, but even in the most slang versions English doesn't allow the grammar used. As a native English speaker I'm often unable to figure out what is intended.

That above assumes that the step is there. In most cases the instructions go from step 4 to step 6 without any indication. (that is the numbers are 1,2,3,4,5,6..., but there is a step 4.5) Often I notice this because I can figure out step 4 myself, and I know I need to get to step 6, but I'm not sure how to get there.

two reasons why I do it (2, Interesting)

bagofcrap (260283) | more than 9 years ago | (#11131326)

When stuff is broken, attitude being why should I spend my time figuring something out, if its written, in big red letters, "Don't press the big red button."

The other reason is for non-consumer level gear. A Linksys router I would fully expect to be plug and play. A high-end Cisco router? perhaps not.
A 3rd party microcontroller dev-kit? I had to look up the datasheet for the power regulator they used to find out what kind of power it wanted. At which point there aren't as many manuals written at which point its not really an answer.

take that, /.!

As my sig always used to say.... (3, Funny)

Verne (249617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11131610)

Instructions should be read first, or not at all. Anything else is admitting defeat.

What are these "manuals" of which you speak? (1)

sakusha (441986) | more than 9 years ago | (#11131706)

Manuals? What manuals? I use a Mac, our software is always so well designed that it doesn't need manuals.

Re:What are these "manuals" of which you speak? (1)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 9 years ago | (#11136461)

Even if you need to move it?
How to pick up and carry your Mac [apple.com]

When do I read the Instructions? (1)

Spock the Baptist (455355) | more than 9 years ago | (#11131786)

When all else fails...

Huh? wha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11131900)

Like that piece of paper that comes in the box of condoms telling you which is the business end?

Re:Huh? wha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11131933)

Hopefully that's before "it's been smashed to pieces with a hammer". Ouch.

Depends . . . (1)

Dausha (546002) | more than 9 years ago | (#11132011)

When do I RTFM? I'd say the informal rule I use is 1) when what I'm getting into is unlike anything I've done before and the cost (typically) of failure is catastrophic, or 2) if I'm really stuck.

What's a good example of the first? I'm not sure, since I don't typically read the manual. I would suppose when I installed Gentoo the first couple of times I read the manual. Now, I just use a checklist. Originally, building a system like that was totally unfamiliar and I was really stuck.

When I was a kid, and computers were made of rocks and bits of straw, I tended to have access to games that didn't have manuals. So, I had to learn how the interface worked literally by pressing every key. It was more fun that way.

I agree with the comment of another. Modern consumer electronics should be intuitive enough not to require a complex manual, or there should be an "idiot" option that takes the consumer by the hand and drags them through the process and tells them what every little thing does. Sort of like tutorial mode on CivII.

Manual (1)

liqnitro (522687) | more than 9 years ago | (#11132185)

Like most people here I RTFM as a last resort.

Depends on risk to life and limb (2, Insightful)

74Carlton (129842) | more than 9 years ago | (#11132215)

My new table saw? yeah, I read the directions. A portable radio? no.

Just long enough (1)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 9 years ago | (#11132332)

to deterimine if I supposed to install the CD/software or hardware first.

Always (1)

mirabilos (219607) | more than 9 years ago | (#11132373)

I'm always reading as much as I can as early as I
can. This has saved me a lot of hassle (e.g. I
never bought a "copy"-protected CD because it was
lacking the "CD Digital Audio" logo).

Of course, everyone else I know is even too lazy
to read the quickstart guide or the less-than-1K
BSD licence throughoutly.

meatspace work (1)

BigBir3d (454486) | more than 9 years ago | (#11132875)

Last night I installed a new faucet and sprayer in the kitchen sink, and then went over and replaced the sink and faucet in the bathroom. You bet your ass I used the instructions (although the bathroom instructions were horribly incomplete). Most other projects (new chainsaw was the last one) I do use the instructions the first time. Messing around on my Mac; don't bother with them.

My 1/50th $ (3, Interesting)

Fubar420 (701126) | more than 9 years ago | (#11134111)

Figured I'd share this one, since it's relevant to the topic at hand.

I just bought myself a new digital camcorder, all the bells and whistles, natch. So I record a few friends and I outing to buy an XMas tree, and a few other things. So often, especially with complex equipment, how to do something is not always immediately clear;

Want to turn on night-mode or light assist? Oh, you need to switch the camera to program mode, go into the menu and select the moon icon.

Want to take still pictures? Move the dongle to the top, and press the record button. Cant do that? Oh yeah, we ship you a card full of sample images so you have to erase it first.

You want to erase it? Just flip the dongle back to the bottom, choose picture review, and then format card.

Now, its time to transfer the video off. Well, the camera has USB2.0 and FireWire (dv) output, but only includes the USB cable. Well, no matter, my mac's in the shop anyhow. So I plug in the USB cable to a windows box I found collecting dust, since I couldnt find USB drivers for the camera in linux.

So when I plug the camera in, windows just stares at me. I read through the quick start manual, and it says flip to "picture" mode instead of "movie" mode. Seems odd to me, but whatever.

So I flip it, and the software comes up, and says pick some pictures to download. Sure enough, lots of sample images, but no mention of getting my movie off.

So I go back to the manual.

And then, several hours of reading it later (could they have cut the esperanto section and included an index PLEASE???) I find a small one line comment hidden at the bottom of the page that discusses hooking my camera up to ANOTHER CAMERA.

That note?

"You will need to purchase a seperate DV cable to transfer video from the camera"

So yeah, I play first, and then read the manual, and then post on slashdot how shitty the manuals are :-)

It Depends (1)

R-2-RO (766) | more than 9 years ago | (#11135063)

If I get home and don't have to poop, I don't read the instructions until if/when I hit a roadblock. If I do have to poop, the the manual may be used as bathroom reading material.

I'm thinking I should have gone anonymous with this one.. *shrugs*

Re:It Depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11136167)

I'm thinking I should have gone anonymous with this one.. *shrugs*

Yes, but only because you used the word "poop."

Depends on circumstance. (1)

TiggsPanther (611974) | more than 9 years ago | (#11135808)

I rarely look properly at the instructions unless something either breaks or I can't figure out how to use a certain function. But there are a few exceptions.

  • On the bus - If my shopping trip was via public transport (or someone else is driving) I will skim the instructions during the journey home. It gives me something to do - unless I also went to the comic shop
  • Unfamiliar stuff - If it's unlike anything I've got before then I'll read them so I don't screw up.
  • Research - I've downloaded a few PDFs of manuals of stuff I've not bought because it's the only way to find out whether they do what I want.
  • Games - Basic controls. The rest I pick up through play.
  • Some assembly required - If it's a physical item that needs putting together then I will read the instructions as my make-and-do skills suck.

Charging (1)

charlie763 (529636) | more than 9 years ago | (#11136388)

I usually read the instructions while the battery is charging and I can't do anything with the device, but am too interested in the device to wait.

I always RTFM (1)

ohmygod2 (613076) | more than 9 years ago | (#11136677)

Read the F!@#ing Manual!
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