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Linux Snobs, The Real Barriers to Entry 1347

McSnarf writes "It's not Windows. It's not distro wars. Sometimes it's just the arrogant attitude that keeps people from switching from Windows. 'As I spoke to newbies, one Windows user who wanted to learn about Linux shared the encouraging and constructive note (not) he received from one of the project members. The responding note read: "Hi jackass, RTFM and stop wasting our time trying to help you children learn.""
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Linux Snobs, The Real Barriers to Entry

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  • Two Experiences (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:27AM (#15156326) Journal
    My freshman year (2000) in college started with me not knowing what a "linux" was. This all changed when a friend handed me a Debian distribution burned to an ISO. He encouraged me to repartition my hard drive and install this next to my Windows 98 SE installation. Like a lot of new people, I hosed my hard drive. I ended up doing fresh installs on both OS's and getting the dual boot to work. There were cheap little games and some truly great and historical open source software on that disc also. The next day in class, the guy couldn't get me to shut up about how great it was. I had hit a few snags but the answers were all online.

    My first college kegger could not compare to the first time I ran Linux. Nor would a kegger ever be as memorable. A free operating system? That works?

    A year or two later, I'm in a new class. There's a kid sitting in front of me going on and on about Linux. Up to this point, I've used Debian, Mandrake & Red Hat so I drop a question out there:

    Me: "I really like Mandrake, what do you think is the best distribution?"
    Student A: "It's obviously Gentoo."
    Me: "Gentoo? I haven't even heard of that one..."
    Student A: "Well, it's clearly the superior distribution."

    Ok, so my first encounter with Linux people working against Linux people in a childish d*ck measuring contest. To my horror, I overheard the following conversation thereafter ensue between him and a person in the class looking for a Linux installation experience:

    Student B: "I use Windows and I'm confused even as where to start..."
    Student A: "That's easy, just install Gentoo."
    Student B: "I ... Where do I get a disc for that?"
    Student A: "They're freely online, you just have to find them and install them--I recommend an ftp install so that you get the latest versions of everything. And with Gentoo, you can just emerge [] whenever you want to update. "
    Student B: "'Emerge'--what does that mean?"
    Student A: *snorts* "If I have to tell you, there's no point in you even getting Linux."

    And on it went, with Student A asserting his superiority. When I got home, I tried to install Gentoo []. It took forever, I hit a million snags but eventually got it working. I hated it. After talking again to them, the only reason Student A was using Gentoo was because he had some crazy chipset he needed to compile everything for (a dual AMD setup which was rare back then) and he also revealed that he spent every Sunday night "emerging."

    Luckily, I intevened with Mandrake and gave him something close to Windows that an idiot probably could install. I told him all the cautionary advice I had to give and I feel that he most closely identified with me.

    The truth is: not all Linux experiences are for everybody.
  • Good call. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by darkitecture (627408) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:34AM (#15156381)
    Good call.

    God knows how long I put off learning the ins and outs of Linux distros because of the Linux catch-22: Linux sackriders go on about the superiority of Linux and insist that you're still living in the Dark Ages if you're using Windows, yet if you even feign interest in wanting to learn and perhaps getting some guidance from them, they shun you for being a newbie.

    Thank God I'm stubborn and like reading enough that I gorged myself on dozens upon dozens of books so as I had a large enough Linux vocabulary to 'fake it' and subsequently was 'accepted' into certain online Linux cliques. I was then 'allowed' to ask questions and thus was no longer 'out of the loop.'

    Seriously, if people are so adamant about making other people aware of the advantages of Linux then for crying out loud, help them learn or at the very least, point them in the right direction. Don't smack them upside the head for not knowing. It's one thing to be a Linux pusher, trying to convince Windows users to try out the alternatives, it's another thing to be a Linux snob and to shun people for not-knowing-yet-wanting-to-know.

    I personally don't have enough patience to teach too many people about Linux, especially from scratch. So what do I do when someone asks me about it or wants to learn about it? I give them a whole bunch of useful e-books and related reading materal on CD and tell them to start by taking a bite out of that. I also give them a copy of whatever easy distro I have laying around and tell them to install it on a second computer and just 'play' with it. Then if they're still interested, they've got a decent enough foundation for me (ore more likely someone with more patience) to have a crack at enlightening them further.

  • Sad but true (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrother.optonline@net> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:36AM (#15156395) Journal
    Today, Linux growth includes a vast number of new comers, sometimes well versed in technology but at other times not so well versed. These new users are coming to us and asking us to help them cross the great divide. I hope that more people will extend a hand to someone who sincerely appreciates Linux and wishes to be part of the Linux community, and help offset those who see new comers as bad.

    Everyone starts out as a newbie at one time -- sorry to burst the bubble of those of you who thought you were imbued with the power of the Linux kernel neo-natally. I remember when I first got into computers back in the TRS-80 era and went to college only to discover there was a whole other side to computers you didn't see in Popular Electronics. I learned C and Unix, and now all these years later I've learned Perl and begun absorbing Linux. I'm not the smartest guy on the block, but I'm also not Gomer Pyle, Web Developer.

    I've noticed a tendency for those steeped in the mystique of Linux to see anyone with an opinion contrary to theirs as some kind of infidel, interloper, or at worst, lower that your average lawyer. You dare not point out flaws in logic or try to compare two distributions, lest you incur the wrath of "the gods." A perfect example is my comments yesterday about whether Linux should use proprietary drivers []. My idea is that yes, it sounds like a good idea, until reverse engineered equivalents are available or someone comes along and starts a graphics company that uses open source exclusively for their drivers. Seems logical enough and the moderators agreed. But some folks thought I was ignorant:

    But let me clue you in on something. Torvald's motto of "world domination", is a joke! He isn't being serious! I'm sorry you didn't understand this before, but now you do.

    Or that I was suggesting the wholesale destruction of Liunx:

    No, if making Linux non-free is the only way to develop greater market share, then you can keep it, binary drivers and all. I'll take freedom, thank you.

    I'm sorry to say that some in the Linux community seems to become more insular as each year passes, which is a shame because there are so many great people pushing it. Linux is a great operating system, works well for just about anything you need. It could eat away at Windows' advantage in the marketplace with just some tweaks to make it so easy to install and run that Joe Average doesn't think twice about it. But if the more fanatic members of the community keep treating every new person with a new idea or new question like some kind of pariah, Linux will remain just another operating system.

  • Snobs? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by maino82 (851720) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:39AM (#15156419)
    While I agree that there are a few elitists out there, I'd hardly say that the vast majority of linux users are snobs who won't give non-nix guys the time of day. The only reason I ever got into linux in the first place was because one such "snob" took the time to sit me down, help me install debian on my machine, and then walked me through setting things up, installing programs and even (and this one still surprises me to this day) recompiling my kernel. Now that I know how difficult it can be to explain a lot of this stuff to a non-nix person, I appreciate the time he spent explaining things to me that much more. I don't think he was an oddity in the field either, since most people I've met or have chatted with are more than willing to share their knowledge and help problem solve. I've found that that is a lot of the fun of linux: Figuring out how to fix something that goes wrong. There's nothing more satisfying than having someone come to you with a problem and seeing that rediculous amount of satisfaction on their faces when you finally are able to figure it out.

    Granted, there are those nix users who don't want to lend a helping hand or will look down on anyone asking about something they see as "obvious" or something that even a "n00b" should know. However, you find a few of those wherever you go no matter what OS or software you use, Microsoft products included.
  • by guysmilee (720583) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:40AM (#15156430)
    Are there community awards to award portions of the linux world that do provide outstanding support?
  • by popo (107611) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:45AM (#15156470) Homepage
    I couldn't agree more.

    I can't think of a successful industry, anywhere that doesn't invest a significant (if not major) portion of time to new customer acquisition. The word "Newbies" all by itself, reflects a culture hostile to new blood.

    Its amazing when you compare Linux culture to Mac culture which almost resembles a cult in its "love-bombing" approach to new members.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:48AM (#15156500)
    I've worked as a developer both for Oracle and Microsoft and also in a hardcore Linux environment (embedded systems.)

    I used to like Linux. It was reliable, fast, etc. You know the deal.

    However, I became so tired of the arrogant, insecure, superior-attitude Linux freaks that on principle I switched back to Windows. I just didn't want to be associated with these people anymore.

    The funny thing is, the people I worked with in Microsoft, although they were certainly nerds, they were polite, helpful, and just used their OS to get things done. Their OS was not used to create their own personality. They had lives, had normal emotional reactions to things, and did not have a defensive/superior attitute to their knowledge.

    I really believe the problem is that the Linux freaks use Linux to define their personality. And being superior in their Linux knowledge makes them feel better about themselves. (How sad.)

    This is why I use Windows. Yes, I know Linux is technically better, but I am happier being around normal people.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:51AM (#15156519) Homepage
    I know of a few people who can attest to the same scenario repeating itself as well. I am scratching my head over a problem I am experiencing. Seems nothing I do will work and nothing I have read to that point addresses the issue I am experiencing. What do I do? I post of a forum. I try to be as detailed as possible. Listing what I've tried and the results I get from it. Listing all the symptoms I have identified until the moment of posting.

    No sooner do I post the question than I find the answer myself since I never stopped looking for answers elsewhere. So then I am faced with the question: Should I attempt to retract my posting or should I reply to my own question with the solution? Most of the time, I decide to do the later. Even though it makes me seem like an idiot answering my own question, I am always hopeful that someone else asks the same question but doesn't find the answer on their own.

    The forum I frequent most is the Fedora forum and, frankly, I see no evidence of snobbery on there. So I guess perhaps the answer is to direct people to the forums that are most suited to the users with questions. I know from previous experience that the IRC bullies out there use IRC as a means to maintain a level of social dominance and treat channels like territory. Clearly, they have their own issues to sort out and are best left alone.
  • RTFM! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sedyn (880034) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:02AM (#15156643)
    The barrier to entry that I found most annoying was learning the terminology. When you know the only answer you're going to get is "RTFM" and all you really want is to know what manual to read.

    For example, say I want to learn how to do something using the command line. Googling a phrase that describes what I want to do rarely yields optimal results. Since I don't know what the command is, I can't type "man thing I want to do".

    If you know a good solution to this problem (like a book that is worth reading/purchasing), or a really good site, etc then I don't care if you tell me to RTFM, as long as you tell me where to get it. The same goes for learning new languages, even though I find that getting that documentation is a lot easier.
  • A similar approach (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:09AM (#15156704)
    Ask the question, then use a throwaway account to provide an obviously idiotic "answer". The know-it-alls will be jumping all over themselves to prove "the other guy" wrong.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:32AM (#15156910)
    Back in the days, when linux was young and new (read: 92ish), you couldn't even RTFM. There was no FM. We waded through source (and thiiiiis high was the snow. And we had to go uphill. BOTH WAYS. Without shoes!).

    Linux was a system for people With The Clue (tm). Without, you were doomed. You had to know more about TCP/IP than that it isn't the Chinese Secret Service to get it working. We turned bitter and jaded, but at the same time, we became really good at what we're doing. We were happy in our little world, flying up on cloud number 9 and look down at the barbarians and illiterates using Windows, who have no clue and get heart attacks when an illegal instruction is encountered and they wonder if the special forces are gonna break down their door for doing something illegal.

    Of course, with Windows we could have done the same. In less time. Well, not really, but it was mostly dick waving and about feeling better. Hey, we have The Clue! You, little peon, cannot even THINK about running Linux.

    Now, Linux has matured. It grew. vi isn't anymore THE editor. No, neither is emacs, you misguided emacs followers! It's some notepad-ish thingamajig that runs on X. Imagine! Needing X! What decent program dares to refuse running on shell?

    Along comes newbie bob. He's seen Linux, he thinks it doesn't look that bad and he decides to give it a shot. A barbarian invading our sacred halls. And he is asking those questions. You know, THOSE. THOSE questions that you've heard a million times before. Those questions that you simply know he will find if he only typed something cryptic (but completely logical for you) into google. Fu.., are you too stupid to google?

    Nope. He just doesn't even know what to look for. And, worse, he can't "read" the answer.

    The problem lies on both sides of the trench. The old masters and gurus get tired, being asked the same questions over and over, from people who don't even bother looking stuff up and if, don't understand and want EVERYTHING right NOW and WITHOUT wasting a moment to learn. Of course, if you happen to be someone who wants to learn and are unlucky enough to ask the very same question, you will be lumped into the same pot and get a "RTFM, moron".

    On the other side are the clueless people who just heard that Linux is Oh So Cool, that you can do "stuff" you can't do with Windows, and who want to do it too. Unfortunately, they're looking for the fast pass. No learning, no understanding, I want a button to click! And the number will rise with the advent of DRM and the promise that Linux might cure this disease.
  • Re:Hah, no kidding (Score:2, Interesting)

    by manonthespoon (607414) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:40AM (#15156981) Homepage

    You answered your own question. People hit up IRC for answers because:

    "I want an answer now!"

    Not all IRC channels are created equal, but many of them are full of people who are really just interested showing off how much they know by "helping" other people.

    I think your average l33t kiddie's instinctual reaction to being asked a question to which he does not know the answer is to puff up and make himself appear bigger and more threatening. Admitting that they don't know the answer or aren't familiar with that kernel/server/programing language would be devastating for their fragile egos.

    Oh, and to summarize the article: People on IRC/Forums, cloaked in the anonynmity the internet provides, were rude to other people. What's the big deal? I've found this same elitist "RTFM, n00b!" attitude on every forum or public IRC channel i've spent much time on, and that includes windows, mac, and linux specific support forums and community sites.

  • Kwitcherbellyachin (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Asklepius M.D. (877835) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:47AM (#15157043)
    Whew! It's getting a little warm in here! Let's take a collective breath here and realize that none of us are (personally) under attack. Then let's reread the article (RTFM). Okay, now that we're done hyperventilating, we can respond in an educated, enlightened fashion. The article makes a valid arguement that snobbish and impatient linux users can frighten off potential converts with unduly harsh responses. As mentioned ad nauseum in the replies above, newbies ask questions - often repetatively, and this can grate on the nerves of otherwise sane individuals who are just trying to help. This article isn't attacking us, it's pointing out that enough people have been scared off by poor attitudes that it's worth writing an article about (and apparently hits home enough to inspire some heated conversation here on slashdot.) None of us want to deter potential Linux users from trying our favorite OS, so let's look at some things we can do to mitigate a very real problem.

    Remember the old axiom "there are no stupid questions." A t-shirt I once saw added a disclaimer to this: "but there sure are a lot of inquisitive idiots". Both comments have elements of truth. Remember that most computer users don't know a CPU from a GUI and when you tell them to RTFM they glaze over and dream of a BLT on rye. Lesson number 1 is talk to newbies in newbie terms. We all hope that newbies will take time to learn the linux lexicon, but we have to keep in mind that most non-geeks only look for support when things go wrong. Even the geeks among us don't take the time to learn the technical terms for everything we come across. (Otherwise we'd all know how MDRTB differs from MRSA and how neither requires an EEG to assign an ICD9 code.)

    So, using language that newbies understand ("monitor?, you mean the lizard?") let's try to answer their questions directly. Sure, mention ways for them to search for solutions to their own problems, but directly answer the question as well. Does it really take more effort to type " is the number your computer uses to talk to itself" as opposed to "google TCP/IP and RTFM, hope that helps"? People tend to be more receptive to learning once they have fixed the broken thingamajig. If we find ourselves getting frustrated with the newbies, what makes "RTFM n00b, or SFTU" a better response than "you're asking the same question, please see above" or, better yet, not answering at all!? We are under no obligation to answer any question, so if we CHOOSE to answer, let's try to be a little more civil - else leave the "assistance" to somebody else. For those of you who will insist on protesting that they're annoying you on your #noobhelp irc channel: either place the offender on ignore without answering (leave the question to someone else), or, preferably, go to a different channel to discuss the history of Plan9 and how it's so much cooler than BeOS.

    Let's sum up today's lesson: 1) Newbies ask questions. 2) Newbies have never heard of man pages and don't know what /etc, /var/log, or man pages are. 3) Newbies know that their doohickey is broken and want it fixed. 4) Linux user /= geek. 5) If you can't contribute (civilly) directly to the noob's problem, STFU. They'll find google on their own if you don't say a word. 6) ANSWER THE QUESTION. If you feel you're being repetetive, post a FAQ on your home page and link to that. 7) If you went on the defensive after reading the article, then you qualify as a linux snob. Leave the "teaching" to those of us who said "oh no! people are being scared off!" and ran to the keyboard to type a calm and helpful response.

  • Mandatory Comment (Score:2, Interesting)

    by moehoward (668736) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:52AM (#15157111)

    I feel that I must make a comment on this story because is is so true. The reality of the Linux-snob mentality is far beyond what this story notes. Linux users are so into trashing MS for its arrogance, but their own arrogance is equivalent. Corporate arrogance or personal arrogance is still arrogance. It is childish, obvious, and sickening. I'm glad that a Slashdot editor had the balls to post the story.
  • Yes, I can. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gentimjs (930934) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:53AM (#15157130) Journal
    Seen it. Had it said to me. I'm a 8+ year linux/unix user/admin but I must confess my m@d $k11lz with routing (think ospf and bgp) arent quite at the "routing god" level yet. Last year routing for my /28 got busted. One of the other admins (who knew more about routing) busted it. When I tried, and failed, to correct the problem I asked him for help. He said, and I quote; "Its a problem with ospf .. I'll leave this one as an exercise for the reader." .... after about six hours (im serious) of reading low-level crap at his advice which turned out to have nothing to do with routing, I finally found the problem and corrected it. He had made a typo.
    The whole time, the "RTFM" guy was in the same room trying not to laugh.
    Many of these people (admittedly, myself included) sometimes dont have the social sense NOT to tell people to RTFM right to thier face.... even fellow *nix users.
  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:57AM (#15157170) Homepage
    It didn't used to be this way. Back when I was the proverbial linux noob, I could count on Linux IRC channels and internet forums to basically be the most helpful places around. Yes, I had to RTFM before I could expect to get any help, but people were also pretty cognizant of when TFM was FU (useless), or when my question clearly went beyond what TFM covered. Compared to my experiences in just about any other venue -- in particular my ill-conceived ventures into gaming forums -- it was pleasant, helpful, and generally convinced me that Linux had some of the best tech support anywhere, for free.

    I think a lot of the attitude of the users came from the fact that Linux was hard to use and get running, and nobody got it running without a bit of a struggle on their own part and were thus sympathetic to others. Like you say, we were all newbs once. This is why I'm sympathetic myself to claims of people getting snubbed by Linux forum goers.

    Yet I'll admit that I'm also naturally sceptical, call it snobish if you will, just because it seems that half the time the person who is saying they're not getting the help they need is getting the help they need and only some of the responses are "RTFM idiot", or the person doesn't have and doesn't want to get necessary information and refuses to meet anyone halfway. A recent and extreme example was some guy who posted here crying about how he was treated on the Ubuntu forums. Now Ubuntu apparently borked his boot loader, which I have the deepest sympathies for. Yet after browsing the thread he posted to, I found out he was being a dick from the word go. He responded to every offer for help (usually requiring some action on his part, this not being a problem that just fixes itself) with sarcasm and "Why should I be expected to do/know that? Just fix my problem! 'Linux for humans' my ass!" and eventually people tired of this and he got told off, and these posts became his selected samples of why Linux users suck.

    Now, for the rest of the people who sincerely wanted help but got the finger instead, I don't know what to say. It didn't used to be that way. Personally I think it's a result of Linux's growing popularity. The user population has grown, so that a previously select population now obeys more general rules of humanity, i.e. most people are cockmongers -- see the afforementioned gaming forums for an example. Linux has gotten much easier to install and use, so some people have no problems at all, and some of these people are cockmongers, and thus they think anyone who did have a problem must be an idiot. Basically, because they never really had to fight their way out of newbie status, they don't have the perspective previous users did, and thus have disdain for any newbie who can't blindly stumble their way through.

    Or maybe it's the other way around. The users who used to be helpful, now being innundated with requests for help from the much larger linux community, some of the usual decent kind but of course a good number coming from cockmongers, they've become bitter, jaded, and yes snobish. That'd be a shame. Free software and Linux specifically are scaling wonderfully as a system and development model. Yet it is quite probable that the previously wonderful free support is not scaleable, and the failure mode is apparent snobbery.
  • Bravo! But... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Captain Sarcastic (109765) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:58AM (#15157188)
    I agree wholeheartedly with you. I've had my share of "gorilla gurus" who are not above intellectual bullying when someone asks a question.

    I am reminded of the attitudes displayed in Ray Bradbury's story "The Other Foot," in which (for those who may not recall) a town full of black people who emigrated to Mars en masse shortly before World War III find out that they will be receiving white refugees. Their immediate impulse is to start putting "Blacks Only" signs on restaurants and hotels, thus re-creating the situation that they had fled years before, only with themselves at the top.

    Many of these "gorilla gurus" have most likely been on the receiving end of derision and scorn for not working with Windows, and have also either been given the same treatment when they started learning about Linux. It becomes like the geek version of the stereotypical fraternity, where these people associate poor manners with the rights of the "initiated," and now that they find themselves in a position of relative power are prepared to make those under them pay and pay and pay.

    So much for a possible cause. A solution? Perhaps reminding these people that the same attitudes pervaded the Commodore 64 user groups... and where are they now?
  • by auctoris (888249) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:00AM (#15157205) Homepage
    Here's one of my favorite episodes with a Linux snob. I updated Firefox to v1.5. Obviously some of my extensions stopped working. I e-mailed the author of one of the extensions and said:
    "Will there be an update to [extension x] to allow it to install on Firefox 1.5?"
    He responded:
    "You shouldn't be using Firefox if you don't know how to make extensions work with it..."

    Oh yeah, this is going to get people running to Linux and Firefox--don't use our software unless you know how to code. This wasn't a simple "change the max version" issue. It was something in the code.

  • Re:Hah, no kidding (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Blakey Rat (99501) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:16AM (#15157370)
    I had a similar experience, except I don't use IRC chat very often so I don't know the 'invisible rules.' I was trying to get help setting up the IVTV drivers for my Hauppauge card to run MythTV on my computer. The Ubuntu chat room (that the support link goes to) told me to ask in the MythTV chat room. So I did.

    First I got yelled at for asking the same question twice in 10 minutes, because it was unanswered. Despite there being something like 250 people listed in the room, NOBODY was chatting whatsoever-- and they yelled at me for asking the same question twice in ten minutes!

    Then I got yelled at because this was "the wrong room" to ask questions about setting up hardware. I asked what the right chat room was, and the answer was basically, "I don't know, but not here." Gee, that's helpful... the Ubuntu forums (that the Support menu links to!) told me to come here, and you tell me to go away.

    Then I was yelled at because someone in the IRC channel who was trying to help me (which I do appreciate) asked me to paste in the error log. So I did, and I got yelled at by someone else for "spamming" the channel with 8 lines of text. (To remind you, this is a channel with NO conversations going on except mine.) God forbid I paste in 8 lines of text and spam the 248 people sitting in the room and not even talking at all.

    I've had equally bad experiences with mailing lists. Look, if I want to answer a specific question, I don't want to have to go through the effort of signing up for the mailing list, whitelisting it in my email client, "confirming" that I actually signed up for the mailing list, posting my question, then waiting for an answer that may or may not come.

    Please, PLEASE, use web forums for support. They are far, far superior. They are searchable, they are linkable, they aren't full of 248 people doing absolutely NOTHING except complaining when other people are being helpful.

    And whoever runs the IVTV project: What is the point of creating drivers that are so difficult to install that no mortal could possibly do it? What's the point? Why not spend your time counting cracks in the sidewalk, it seems like that would be equally productive.

    After my experience with IVTV drivers, including having two different Linux gurus walking me through the process over email, just makes me come to the conclusion that open source has nothing to do with producing usable software, but is instead just a huge circle-jerk for techies so they can pretend they're better than you. Out of the hundreds of people exposed to this problem, only two were actually helpful, and even with the help of those two I never got working IVTV drivers installed.

    (And for the record, the Hauppauge card was recommended to me by a MythTV forum, so it's not like I bought some weird-ass hardware from Mars.)

    Now I'm a lot more selective:

    1) I won't use an open source product unless it's at least version 1.0. All those sub-1.0 projects are the ones that are impossible to install, use, get documentation for, or get help for, and I'm sick of it-- screw it.

    2) I won't even bother trying to get support unless there's a support forum. If I have to sign up for a mailing list, I'll just delete it and use something else. If I have to go into a IRC chat room, same.

    3) I won't even bother trying to use the product unless the website is actually slightly useful. Firefox, for instance, has a very usable and useful website (until you go to report a bug, but that's another topic), where IVTV has a Wiki with perhaps a total of 500 words worth of documentation.

    (FYI, if your Wiki tutorial sucks, nobody's going to come down from heaven and fix it for you for the simple reason that the people confused by the tutorial *don't know* what the correct process is-- if they did, they wouldn't need the Wiki in the first place. It's more efficient for the developer, who knows the process by heart, to spend 10 minutes fixing the Wiki than random Joe on the internet spending 10 days researching how to install the software and fixing it when he's done only to be told by the developer that he did it all wrong. Wikis are as bad as mailing lists and IRC chat rooms.)
  • Re:Linux sNOBs (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:21AM (#15157405)
    Not all Gentoo users [] are nice
  • Re: Difference (Score:2, Interesting)

    by smallguy78 (775828) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:23AM (#15157426) Homepage
    That's what MVPs do - share their knowledge in the community for free, in exchange for being able to demand large consulting fees from companies.
  • Re:Hah, no kidding (Score:4, Interesting)

    by caluml (551744) <> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:46AM (#15157661) Homepage
    A good example to bad IRC channels is the Wikipedia one. The servers had a major outage today, and the error message said: Visit the IRC channel for more info. So in I go.
    It's people basically discussing their sexlives, and the treatment of women in Islam, and if you ask a single question about the foundation servers, you get kicked. Which seems pretty bad to me.
    I can understand in non-"official" IRC support channels, but when it's listed officially by the site/distro/software website, it should maintain a friendly, semi-professional image. As it's the first place people trying out Linux or new software might experience. Of course, #n00bsWTF on can do what the hell they like.
    I remember my first days with Linux. I tried man, and I couldn't work out how to quit it, so I Ctrl Z'd it each time. Upon logout, I got the warning about stopped jobs. Little things like that are confusing. vi is confusing. (vim less so). You can scroll up in less, but not in more. Simple things for us are ultra confusing to people that don't know Linux. Think back to the days when you knew nothing about Linux/Unix, and remember them when helping out people in the same boat.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:00PM (#15157787)
    I've found that this elitist attitude is everywhere. It's just more prevalent (and upfront laced with profanities) online. Some of the worst examples I've seen personally:

    (and not in any order)
    1)Apple engineers
        - What bug?
    2)OpenSSH developers
        - Fix it yourself.
    3)Comcast corporate forums and fanboys
        - How dare you ask a technical question or make a request that puts Comcast in a bad light.
        - We're wearing red shirts today, where's yours?
        - Don't like our nonworking towers? You just complain too much.
        - Our DSL always works. We don't sell modems with security flaws either.
    7)Police officers
        - I've been here 25 years and what the law says isn't what the law is. I know the law and you don't.
    8)Hardware manufacturers
        - It's your software.

    I think the problem is that no one wants to do any problem-solving anymore. When confronted with undeniable evidence, many just start ignoring the situation, hoping you'll move on. If there's even just one weak, anecdotal piece that they interpret in their favor, they'll latch onto that, instead of looking at your mountain of evidence. And here's where what I'll say will soothe (what's left of) the consciences of the bad people and prove the previous statement: not every example above has been 100% bad; some good people do exist.
  • Re:Difference (Score:2, Interesting)

    by brufar (926802) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:05PM (#15157828)
    So very true, even in a decent forum with helpful people it's hardly worth your time to have to pry the details out of the person you are trying to assist.

    User: Linux can't see my hard drive to install Tell me how to fix.

    Linuxhelp : We need smoe more information to assist you, cold you provide some details ? Distro, Type of HD, What it's connected to..

    user: distro X y and Z none of them work, this linux stuff is crap, if The next thing I try doesn't work I'm going back to windows..

    Linuxhelp: You still haven't provided information on the HD you are trying to install to. or how it's connected.

    user: ist's a RAID 1 Drive

    Linuxhelp: and is it connected to the motherboard or a card that's plugged into your system

    user: promiseTX

    and this continues on, and on, and on..

    The point of the paid support is a valid one, at what point do you tell the guy to go back to windows becuase you are tired of literally prying the deatils of his problem out of him so you can try to assist him.. way too much work, move on to the next guy that's willing to help himself and provide detailed info. this one can RTFM.

  • Re:Linux sNOBs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Aellus (949929) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:13PM (#15157894)
    This is all because the FM's are written by the snobs who dont want to tell you what to do in the first place. I have poured over a lot of documentation for how-to-do's in linux, and barely any of them were any help at all. When you ask for help in the community, they bite your head off for being such a newb. Honestly, I think the linux community is worse than a bunch of 15 yr olds playing counterstrike.
  • by spitzak (4019) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:14PM (#15157904) Homepage
    If Microsoft users could easily locate the correct conference room on the Microsoft campus and walk into a meeting and ask questions, I'm sure they would be yelled at plenty and told to get out the meetings and rtfm. It would actually be worse if often enough somebody at the meeting, instead of yelling, would say "oh yea I know what that is, you do this and this to fix it" and thus answered the question 100 times faster than any other method, thus encouraging the user to face the abuse because the odds are that the results will be better.

    Microsoft does not have this problem because you need to get past security to get into the conference room. Linux can't implement this because people will just say they are getting *more* snobbish.

    But there is a more important problem. In Linux it literally is 1000 or more times easier to find and walk into that conference room than to find the documentation or call the support line. Real, usable documentation has got to be easily locatable, just by knowing the name of the program you are trying to use. Unfortunatley "man" pages are still the best, if "man xyz" does not say "no documentation available" it will actually produce the information I need. I have yet to see this with any html system or google where you can spend hours searching (ie a clear "you will not find what you are looking for" would help).

    Also the command line needs some work. It is not unfriendly because it is not a GUI, but because it is lacking some stuff that too many programmers think is "gui stuff". A previous poster complained about the difficulty in telling somebody how to read a README, getting them stuck in less or vi. But the "noobie" apparently was able to locate the README file easily using the command line. They knew it was there, but not how to read it. They were told "try vim or cat or less", but that is just stupid. Why doesn't the command line let you type the name of the damn file (ie type "README") and it then acts exactly like those GUIs and open the file in the GUI text editor. Too many idiots think that somehow this function is impossible unless there is a mouse and you push the button twice. Get with it.,
  • Layers of support (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jbohumil (517473) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:21PM (#15157977)
    As I move from newbie to barely productive to competent I try to turn right around and participate in a forum that matches my previous skill level. I find that very often there are other people struggling with the same thing I just painstakingly figured out.

    I think if more support fourms were somehow structured into levels and more people would participate at the level of expertise they possess it would help. It is frustrating to deal with the same first-time user questions over and over again, but a structured forum that includes a level for extreme beginners not only gives the beginners a place to feel safe to ask stupid questions, it gives those slightly more knowledgeable a place to feel like a useful part of the community support process.
  • by MrCopilot (871878) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @12:56PM (#15158287) Homepage Journal
    Way back to distro #1 for me. I remember reading alot of forums trying to decide which is best for me. I found myself thinking, the only thing these guru's respect is technical skill and polite and thoughtful questions.

    Some may call that snobbery. I didn't really see it that way. To become a guru able to answer forum requests requires a level of experience that SHOULDN'T be dismissed. I abhor stupid questions and try to avoid asking them at all costs. If that means reading for two days then so be it. Every Newb to Linux should be told in no uncertain terms the "Support rules".

    FIRST. Read the Fscking Manual

    SECOND. RE-READ The Docs.

    THIRD. Google your problem.

    FOURTH. Scan the Forums for your problem and then Ask Informed Questions that demonstrate the above.

    FIFTH. Share your knowledge when you find THE answer, Everywhere you asked the question.

    The biggest problem for the "Guru" is a bunch of already addressed issues clouding up a very active community. After the fourth time you answer the same question that is posted as a sticky in the forum you start to get annoyed. True, we shouldn't take it out on new users, but people are people.

    I discovered these rules on my own. I challenge myself with every broken dist-upgrade or NVIDIA Upgrade for what seems like forever and I rarely have to ask for help. I don't want to ask. That's the point, I should be able to fix it myself. If I wanted Support I would have bought my DISTRO and Support Package. (or OSX or WIN) I actually feel kind of defeated if I get to step/Rule 4. Uh, Oh this one's new to the scene, may take a few days.

    My experience is there are assholes everywhere. FOSS is no different, but sometimes, the asshole is right and the answer IS in the F'n Manual.

    Currently at home, I am working through a Kanotix/Debian Sid Xorg7 dist-upgrade Snafu that happened last night.

    Thank GNU for elinks.

  • by helix_r (134185) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:39PM (#15158678)

    Part of the problem is that "RTFM-ing" is becoming more and more intractable. There is way too much bad information out there on the web. If you want to find out how to do something, you google it and come up with 90% bullshit, then much of the remaining stuff that looks promising is incomplete, or assumes some unstated context.

    Man pages don't help either. In much the same way that you can't learn a language by reading a dictionary, you can't always learn how to do something in linux by reading the man pages for the involved commands-- especially if you might not even know which commands apply.

    In many cases, it makes sense to ask on a newsgroup/forum. In fact, I think the really good distros got that way because they have active and friendly forums where people can ask questions-- yes, even questions that have been already asked.

  • It's Not The Newbie (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Illbay (700081) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:56PM (#15158858) Journal
    I'm not sure what kind of person Linux snobs think they're dealing with.

    The problem is, that they DON'T think about whom they're dealing with. "Linux snobs" (only a subset of the set of "Linux users" I should add) are typical of the type of person who is well-informed and even highly-developed in their understanding of only a narrow range of things, and hopelessly inept outside that range.

    This is not unusual in human beings generally. For instance, there are brilliant physicians who have the bedside manner of a fruit-bat--they just don't interact well at all with the people that they ostensibly are there to help. It is in everyone's best interest if they improve, but they'll never be naturally gregarious.

    So it is with a lot of "computer geek" types of which the "Linux snob" is comprised. They aren't too comfortable with interpersonal relationships to begin with, and many of them are positive social misfits. Their natural response to having to deal with someone "inferior" is to be, well, a "snob."

    FWIW, there was a time in the early days of "microcomputers" when nearly everyone was a hobbyist and an elitist snob. Somehow, the community overcame that, and computers moved into the mainstream, so that even the "un-nerdiest" among us are well acquainted with their use.

    Therefore, I disagree with the premise of the Article: I think that technical streamlining is the key to wider acceptance. The snobs can be overcome now as they were before.

  • by alexo (9335) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:45PM (#15159277) Journal
    lyapunov wrote:
    > Most people want everything handed to them, and if you do not have a self started attitude UNIX is fairly intimidating.

    No, my friend. Most people want their computer to work, just like any other appliance.

    Most people use cars to get them and their families from point A to point B. Those that supercharge their engines, lower the suspension, etc. are a tiny minority.
    Same goes for VCRs, dishwashers, telephones, etc. They are supposed to make our lives simpler by saving us time and allowing us to spend it on things we consider more important.

    How is a computer different?
    People want to communicate, shop, pay bills and trade online, play games, read news, work, organize their photo albums, balance their budgets and many other things a computer is suitable for. They rarely want to spend huge significant time and effort just to be able to do that.

    > I spent another 6 months getting my printer to work.

    Your perseverance is commendable but are you sure that it was the best use of a 6 months time?
  • Re:duh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NMerriam (15122) <> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:55PM (#15159372) Homepage
    Although one critical difference between a smug bastard and a zealot is that the zealot, in the course of displaying WHY his system is The Best (tm), will actually show you 100 cool features you might not have discovered on your own for some time. So while they might both be equally annoying, the zealot has imparted useful information and not JUST attitude.
  • by danpsmith (922127) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @03:28PM (#15159660)
    To me it seems like any question you ask, you get a snappy response or someone trying to make you look like a fool. As a person who's been using computers in some capacity for over 15 years, it's quite irritating to my senses. To linux snobs, it doesn't matter how much you know if you are just beginning in linux, because you are a linux n00b that's worthless and should "go back to windows." Another thing I really hate is the insistance that Windows is the wrong application in every place. I was having a candid discussion about how I was reinstalling windows on my laptop because I couldn't get the resolution to go past 800x600 in linux and I didn't feel like farting around with it anymore. I got berated by people telling me how awful it was to do this, no suggestions otherwise of how to fix my particular problem besides general FAQs which I had already gone through and saw fail, and looked at as a hater of OSS. Well, I run linux on my second computer, and I would love to transition my main computer to linux but the support just really isn't there and I don't get a great deal of pleasure farting around with my computer when I can just use the free windows I have installed and get some real use out of it. To Linux nazis like the ones I encountered tho, there is no in between. If you are running windows on anything you are an ignoramous who knows nothing about computers... If you want people to use things, this is hardly the way to go about it.
  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @03:31PM (#15159694)
    But since there isn't a single laptop on the market that Linux supports 100%, this argument sums to, "you can't use Linux on a laptop."
  • by Glamdrlng (654792) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @03:48PM (#15159894)
    Someone who has always impressed me as a class act is Wietse Venema []. When someone on the Postfix mailing list asks a question that's already answered in the man pages, his response is polite and concise: "The answer to your question can be found in the (postconf|postfix|postsuper) man page". It's a response that is neither insulting nor dismissive, and it shows that Wietse thought about your question long enough to determine which man page has the answer, and maybe even asked himself if the explanation in the man page is sufficient.
  • Re:duh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by linguizic (806996) * on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @04:18PM (#15160151)
    Does it seem odd to anyone else how our identities are wrapped up in which OS we use?
  • Couldn't agree more (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gravis777 (123605) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @04:45PM (#15160395)
    I finally went back to Windows on all my machines. I was a member of a LUG for a while, and was utterly bashed on when I became one of the early adoptors of DVD on PCs. At the time, there was no DVD support for Linux. I played with some of the early projects and made one or two contributions to early CVS, but was attacked by fellow Linux users because I was quadruple booting Linux, 98, NT, and BeOS.

    I tried going back to Linux about a year ago, and gave up. I was trying to install video drivers, and I asked a couple of people how to do that. I got a RTFM response, to which I responded, I did, and I still have issues.

    There is a difference between the Mac and Linux communities I would like to point out. Both communities think they are better than Windows users, and will tend to rub it into Windows users faces. The difference is that Mac users will help each other, whereas the Linux community support is SO bad, that Microsoft started offering it with their new virutal machine software.

    I am starting to find that more and more Linux software is being written by snobs too. I wish I could think of the software I was trying out, but the install directions stated simply "Install in the normal way". I spent a greater part of an hour trying to figure out that the normal way ment "make, make install, install" or however it is. Of course, then the program would not install because I did not have the proper libraries, and the website did not tell me where I could obtain these libraries. I hit up on a couple of other Linux newbies, because the Linux "pros" did not "have time to mess with miniscule issues like these". After two days of work and research, we never did get the program running. I booted back into Windows, found a similar program for Windows, installed and was up and running in two minutes.

    My problem has seldom been with the Linux OS. The Linux OS is great, it is sturdy, and when properly configured, will run circles around Windows. My problem has ALWAYS been either the lack of information or the overload of information (try reading a man page sometime, the man page for tar alone hurts my head), horrible directions on how to install the program, missing libraries, inability to find Binaries (RPMs usually) for my particular distro (whether it be Fedora, Suse x64 or Mandrake), and almost nonexistant support from the community. Most of my friends and myself know that Linux is a better OS, but refuse to waste our time trying to get a stupid application to work, or a driver installed. I am triple booting on my machines now, but its no longer Windows, Linux, and BeOS, it is now XP Pro, XP x64, and XP Media Center. And that is the way it is going to stay until there is a dramatic change in the Linux community.
  • Lycoris Forum (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Arvoshift (932753) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @04:46PM (#15160398)
    I'd have to say, when I was a complete n00b and decided to use linux for the first time, I played around with many distros and by far the best community suport came from the lycoris forum. I was not once flamed for a stupid question (and believe me, there were many) and my overall experience was nothing but a helpful one. To any new linux users out there, Lycoris does come highly reccomended simply for the high tolerance to "stupid" questions and quick responses with real answers on their official forum. On a side note, I still use windowze as I work for a publishing and graphic design company so adobe and quark are used and interoperability with those two (mainly on macs) in particular is paramount.
  • by npsimons (32752) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @05:34PM (#15160714) Homepage Journal
    First you ask:

    How is a computer different?

    Then you say:

    People want to communicate, shop, pay bills and trade online, play games, read news, work, organize their photo albums, balance their budgets and many other things a computer is suitable for.

    I think you just answered your question. Computers are *not* single purpose devices; they are capable of doing many things, and with that power they are also complicated and will not always "just work." If someone wants to communicate, they should get a cell phone. If they want to pay bills, they should get a checkbook. If they want to trade (I'm assuming stocks), they should call up their stock broker. If they want to read news, they should get a newspaper. If they want to work, they should work. If they want to organize their photo albums, why does that require a computer? If they want to balance their budgets, they should get a ledger. None of these things I have listed is a cure-all for the others, but they work reliably, time and time again, and the user won't have to have any "special" computer skills to use them. If they can't be bothered to learn the skills to operate a computer, or pay someone to do it for them, they shouldn't get a computer.
  • Learning Linux (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Science (843617) on Thursday April 20, 2006 @09:06AM (#15164040) Homepage
    Was this Linux project person born with a defective gene or did his mother carefully raise him to be a foul-mouthed jerk? I am in the process of learning Linux, and, yes, I am reading the --- manual. Even with a manual there are still questions to be answered. This is why our educational system has teachers. Otherwise we would simply hand kids a stack of books in kindergarten and tell them not to bother us again. I'm sure Linux person had teachers who helped him learn (at least to read--I assume HE read the --- manual) and probably answered his questions. There are people in this world who are jerks and idiots. It is best to step over them (wouldn't want to get any on your shoes) and continue on your journey. I will continue to ask questions AND read the --- manual on my journey to learn Linux.

Saliva causes cancer, but only if swallowed in small amounts over a long period of time. -- George Carlin