And… If You Wanna Teach a Man to Fish, Teach Him to Fish!
It’s a month old now, but I’ve been meaning to write on this post that, from its title, claimed to be a tutorial on Unix-based command line redirection. I use *nix systems on a regular basis, and I actually got suckered into clicking to this article. It was a waste of time. And then I got even annoyed by thinking about things on a deeper level. I hate thinking.
The post literally mentions the most elementary use of the
>> operators, and that’s it. That alone is not a waste. Redirection is indeed a powerful capability, and it’s good to spread word to the masses about its usefulness. However, there is a bit more to command line redirection, and the fact that the author provided no other information about it is a shame. And that leads to my main point…
Selfish blogs suck.
In all fairness, the post in question and the site are coming from the Mac OS X point of view, where the target audience may not necessarily be command line fanatics. (Not getting into any anti-Mac talk here. Only saying the average Mac user likely does not use the command line often, if at all.) However, my issue is not just with the limited scope, but with the selfishness of the article.
If the intention is indeed to teach newbies (and not just make money from ads), shouldn’t one combine some concepts that might not otherwise be thought of by the reader on their own? I realize there are people who automatically fire off the RTFM response, but the supposed target audience will not even know where TFM is. Go ahead and leave extra stuff out of your post if you have not the time or desire to add it, but show the readers where they can find it! Don’t leave them stuck on your site if you’re only going to tell a part of the story. Alas, what I can only see as the desire for a few extra pennies from AdSense got in the way of an otherwise decent tutorial. No, let’s call it a tip. Which brings home my second point…
If you’re going to teach someone to fish, show them more than just how to tie a hook on the line.
Such a limited post with no hints at more information is not only selfish, but it doesn’t do the reader much good. The very first comment on the post sums this up nicely. The commenter, a self-proclaimed idiot in command line use, thanks the author for the “insight”, and then asks why/how they would use this. Even better, a responder offers a cryptic
g++ execution as if to suffice as an example. I really doubt someone asking about command line redirection recognizes such compiler calls from the shell.
If the original poster had simply added a few outside sources (see below), it could have been a vastly more valuable post. Other than a quick “try it out” at the end, there is no hint that other facets to redirection exist. What about a suggestion to add
& to the end of the command to run the job in the background? Unfortunately, I see this “Quick! Let’s post something, anything!” approach all too often in the blogging-for-dollars world that exists these days. Even more disappointing is when the major aggregator sites validate theses types of posts by put putting them on their popular pages, which is exactly where I found it.
Sure, no one (especially, yours truly) is perfect, and the blog that is the current target of my angst is by no means the worst offender of such things. Also, by nature, the Web is a tangled mess of all sorts of good and bad “stuff.” I just like to think these grumpy, old man posts I make every so often might do something to create more good than bad. In the end, if you happened to read this whole thing, remember to follow the spirit of the World Wide Web and make sure to spread around the link love. It makes everything more useful and me a little less grumpy.
Oh, if you came to actually find out more about command line redirection, please check out these EXTERNAL links:
- I/O Redirection from the Advanced Bash-Scripting Guide
- Redirection and Process Substitution
- Wikipedia Article for Bash (the default OS X shell – with segment on Redirection)
And, should you desire to be a better blogger, try these on for size: