Adopting newcomers to FOSS/Linux

Just remember the time when you started off with Linux or FOSS. You felt that you can’t find out a solution to your problem. What next? You tried asking for help on forums or any other help channels. Since you were noob, you didn’t even know how to ask questions or what exactly went wrong. You just knew that what you expected to happen, didn’t work. Just have a look at the following conversations:

n00bjoe: I have problems with totem. it cant play music. I am opening it and it refuses to play my media files

geekady: FFS,  Can you please STFW or RTFM?

n00bjoe: ???

There is no dearth of such conversations all over the net, now look at this one below:

n00bjoe: I have problems with totem. it cant play music. I am opening it and it refuses to play my media files

geekfam: You should get the codec pack. Install the gstreamer based ones.  Maybe this <insert link here>  can help you. I got this by 1-min googling and I advise you to do so in the future. I saves time and you can get quicker results.

n00bjoe: Thanks, it works

geekfam: Welcome. Remember always to google before asking questions. Google is your friend.

Did you find any difference between the two conversations? In the first, even though the geek is highly knowledgeable, there is hardly any throughput and in the second one, being a bit polite does magic.

If I come across such posts on forums where some first-timer has asked a question which is not deemed-fit as per the rules, I refrain from replying to it if I cant solve his problem. If I can solve his problem, I do add the small notice at the end citing what rules and regulations he should follow while posting.

The Bottom Line

I can never expect a first-timer to know all those complex geeky terms like gstreamer, licensing, Xorg, restricted etc etc. Everyone is not a techie and technology is not a toy just for the tech-evangelists. A little politeness doesn’t harm. I can’t argue with those people who have made and forum or IRC channel an excellent place for discussions. Even if they do use harsh words, they aren’t at fault, though I just request them to be a bit patient. In such cases let the other people handle those newcomers. After all its a social place

Case Study

Let’s take an example of a discussion forum: Ubuntuforums Absolute Beginner Talk . Go and have a look. The place looks like a mess. Each question is asked many times a day, sms lingo are used abruptly sometimes. Why was this category created? To save the whole forum from the newbies who don’t know how to post, how to answer and the special rules of the forum. It’s like a training ground, the person who qualifies and learns the rules comes out and uses the other sections.

I hardly see any harsh words used over here. This is the place where even newbies who have learnt sometimes post the solution of the problem asked by others. Whenever I went to that place, I answered the question and added that small notice at the end of the post. “Please use google before asking a question, you can save ours and your time too“.


I am an advocate for making FOSS/Linux go mainstream and now just remain in the hands of the the geeks. Some people say that they would prefer Linux being less famous, but they can’t stand those stupid people using Linux. Well, they look stupid just because they don’t know what they should be knowing. It’s our duty to tell them.

I have seen many people(including friends) get pissed off just because they asked the question for the first time and got a harsh reply. They didn’t even knew what are the rules. I even had a hard-time explaining that it’s not that people are harsh, they just want everyone to stick to the basic rules.

The post isn’t rant, but probably a feedback from the newcomers coupled my suggestions for the solution. Don’t get me wrong. I just want the guests to feel like home.

P.S: Don’t bash me for making a reference to Ubuntu(forums). There is actually lots of “Ubuntu Hate” all around. 😀


20 thoughts on “Adopting newcomers to FOSS/Linux

  1. I actually doubt the geek in the first one knew the answer. Much more likely he’s trying to cover his own ignorance and look like a hotshot at the same time.

  2. Aye, but I mean, often people say “RTFM” to avoid revealing that they can’t answer that question either and be all “look at me, I’m too good for that question!” Stupid ego-boost thing.

    1. Oh yeah!
      I have met many so-called-geeks who pretend to know everything. Just when you ask them simple questions like “types of file-locking provided by an OS”, then they go dumb-struck.

      Yeah, stupid way. In the case they cant answer, they should better keep their mouth shut.

  3. It happened to me when I was new — after I had clicked on every relevant looking link on the first seven pages of Google listings. I was furious at the guy who told me to Google it. Was seven pages of listings not enough for him?

    Turned out I was using the wrong word for what I wanted. If he was actually knowledgeable, he would have quickly pointed out my error — like a different person did the next day for me on a forum.

  4. I don’t see this as much of an issue as it once was (Ubuntu leading the pack). In many places its just a matter of pushing the person to answer. Many helpers feel as if the questioner hasn’t even tried to help themselves and expect you to do it all for them. All you need to show is that you’re trying in return. Finally can we please stop calling people “noobs” or anything similar, its quite derogatory and already provides you with an excuse and an over generalization to laugh/ignore/ridicule users with.

    1. Nick,
      For me n00bs means those persons who have just entered the world of Linux. I never want to frown down upon them nor use it as a derogatory word.
      Thirdly, I never laugh/ignore/ridicule them. It’s quite obvious that they are newcomers, so might be knowing less than others.

      1. Then why not call them new users, or someone not quite sure? Calling them “n00bs” already gives you the premise that you have superiority over them, and there really is no need to. The word itself already makes you look like some immature child, and is completely unprofessional. I like to think that when you get community support, you get friendly help from people who try not drown you in acronyms or there own specific culture. Finally the word “n00b” or any of its derivatives are *not* welcome in #ubuntu.

        1. Oh sorry for that. If you check out some of my posts, I do use the word “new comers”, its just that this word is so common, that I happen to use it unintentionally. I never explicitly intend to hurt them.

        2. I mentally distinguish between “newbie” and “n00b”. I think of “newbie” as “new, eager to learn” and “n00b” as someone unwilling to learn (“willfully ignorant”).

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