Well, let me try to provide a perspective that I haven't seen mentioned much.
I've been using LaTeX since around 2000 or so. One would think that I know my way around. I have mastered several programming languages since that time, TeX isn't one of them ;) ... I'm the proverbial one-eyed among the blind, at best, when it comes to TeX et. al. And it's not helping that some colleagues, including those that introduced LaTeX for our documentation process know even less than I do.
I will definitely appreciate a link to a specific manual, a quote from it and all that. Even a gentle Read The Friendly Manual in the well-known acronym form won't offend me.
But if I have my MWE condensed down to half a dozen lines of
\usepackage and put considerable effort (and time) into working out why something doesn't seem to work the way it should (in my opinion anyway), it's not helpful to point me to the manual.
Maybe I'm not the average user in my reputation range or whatever, but when I turn here, it's really because I am literally reading the manual
or after I did my best to find a solution on my own (often including reading or at least skimming several of the involved packages' manuals and usually several Q&As here on this site), usually having put in quite some time already. And sometimes the fact that the answer turns out to be trivial can be attributed to the same reason rubberducking works or because I didn't really understand what I was looking for in the first place (you can't understand recursion before you understand recursion).
And what does the manual mean anyway when I have half a dozen lines of
\usepackage? Which one ...?
A lot and I mean really a lot of the issues I came across with LaTeX came merely from the fact that:
- Somehow I got the order of
\usepackage wrong ... and somewhere this is probably even mentioned, but sometimes not. Sometimes in fact the questions, answers and the comments provide so much "between the lines" here on TeX.SE, that I would say reading the manual isn't an option when the sort of knowledge I am seeking is "floating around" somewhere else.
- The package version for some particular package was wrong ... as an example
tabu - seemingly a frequent offender - seems broken (cells no longer colored) in the more recent 2.9 version, whereas the older 2.8 that comes packaged on my Ubuntu 18.04 has no trouble. If I use just
tabu alone I cannot reproduce the error I run into. But with those three or four dozen packages used in the project in which I get this interop issue, I see it immediately. But creating an MWE from that behemoth of a project is ... not fun, or quick to do. And it's also not what I am paid for when LaTeX is "just" used to create beautiful documentation for the actual product.
- There is so much contradictory advice out there! And while reading the TeX book can be enlightening (as I realized as of late), for LaTeX a lot of the Common Sense™ seems to have evolved. And sure, that's nice. But I am still being recommended books from 2004 and earlier (e.g. here). LuaLaTeX and XeLaTeX were not around back then, if I'm not totally mistaken. The handling of all sorts of non-Latin characters (and the glyphs they are supposed to turn into) was a frequent thing I battled and it's gone with LuaLaTeX, but along with it I can also (it seems) throw out a whole lot of that Common Sense™ I picked up along the way. Oh well ...
Fortunately for me as German native speaker the situation isn't quite as bleak. Numerous books on TeX et. al. are available in my native tongue. And yet some of them also don't touch sufficiently on points like the next one (IMO) ...
- It's hard to make sense of the log files. They often look like a dog rolled over the keyboard to type it out and it's seemingly more an art rather than a science to know what you're looking for. Thanks to the TeX book I am finally learning how to better read the log file.
I found the comment on another answer here (and I am quoting, because comments are volatile) sums it up quite nicely (emphasis mine):
I have had invaluable help on tex.stackexchange with answers ( where I
am still grateful for ) I could ( probably ) have found out myself but
only after many hours, if not days, of study and trial and error. For
me, and I believe the majority of latexers, LaTeX is an invaluable
tool but not a topic of research. Having a background in programming I
do provide MWE's when I have one. My point being: I don't think
rtfm-ing people away is compatible with the daily practice of the
site. (nilo de roock)
And after all, if TeX and its family were a trivial subject matter, we would not have a dedicated SE site for it, would we?
TeX is old. In IT terms it's comparable to Earth's age when life conquered land masses for the first time or so. The corpus of available documentation is vast. Some is actually hard to come by (yeah, TeX book ... I'm looking at you!). Some is outdated (Git, btw, is another good example of a complex tool where this is an issue), in other parts the TeX book can still be of help even today. Some conventional wisdom isn't even in any manual ... or I've been reading the wrong manual all along.
So to the experts "in the room" I want to say: Thanks for the help so far, please be patient and be gentle (but firm!). We, I, will get there! All things are hard until you master them ...