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Linux Snobs, The Real Barriers to Entry 1347

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the you-all-know-them dept.
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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  • duh (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:26AM (#15156318)
    Well duh! Of course it's the arrogant users that are keeping people from trying Linux. That's precisely the reason why I use a Mac.
    • Re:duh (Score:5, Funny)

      by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:32AM (#15156365)
      That's precisely the reason why I use a Mac.

      I managed to escape from that cult, and you can too brother!

      Meet me by the fence tonight at 1am. I'll have a van waiting. We can take you to a place where Father Steve will never find you. There is another life out there for you, trust me!

      -Eric

    • Re:duh (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RexRhino (769423)
      Mac users aren't arrogant... they are zealots. There is a big difference.

      An arrogant person won't bother to explain why their OS of choice is superior, because they can't be bothered to deal with "idiots".

      A zealot will talk your ear off telling you exactly (at least how they percieve it), their OS of choice is superior.
    • Re:duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jamrock (863246) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:44AM (#15157647)

      Hey! I resemble that remark!

      Thanks much, that comment made me laugh out loud. Oddly, while some Mac users can be intolerant fools who sneer at Windows users as "lemmings" and "sheeple" among other much worse things, the Mac community is generally welcoming, civil, and helpful to people who ask questions out of genuine curiosity. And no, we're not some kind of cult who slavishly defend Apple and His Steveness from the Great Ignorant Unwashed. In fact you'll find that Mac users tend to be the most vocal critics of Apple, especially if they do something unpopular; fortunately they've been doing almost everything right in recent years, so there's been an extended honeymoon between Jobs and the faithful. The best description of Mac users' attitude toward Apple is to say that the Macintosh belongs to US, Apple and Steve Jobs are merely its stewards.

      The vast majority of us can't be bothered to get into flame wars and childish shouting matches. Unfortunately, the rabid frothing zealots among us (most of whom are completely clueless about Macs in the first damn place) are the ones who give the entire community a bad name. These are the idiots who send obscenity-laced messages to journalists who make even the slightest derogatory remark about Apple, so it's no surprise that the prevailing view in the mainstream press is that Mac users are all "fanatics"; it's mostly only the fanatics they hear from. The rest of us are too busy doing more important things. Like reading Slashdot.

    • Re:duh (Score:5, Funny)

      by identity0 (77976) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:35PM (#15158627) Journal
      Are you kidding me? The Mac community is composed of 30% latte-sipping wannabe 'artists', 50% trendsters with too much money, 25% hippies, 4% Hollywood actors, and 1% Steve Jobs. And Steve is the least arrogant one of the bunch.

      That's why I Switched(tm) to OpenBSD, the least arrogant OS community!

      I can go up to the head development guy, Theo, and he answers all my questions!! Usually the answer is how evil George Bush and Richard Stallman are, and how stupid I am for being a stupid American that supports stupid people and asks stupid questions because I am stupid. I don't know how that solves my problems, but at least he answers!!!!

      Stupid Steve Jobs never answered my love letters. Arrogant bastard!!!
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:26AM (#15156320)

    In my experience, I'd have to say this article is right on the money. While snobs can be encountered for just about any OS you care to name, the Linux snobs are particularly shrill. This shrillness may be attributed to a variety of causes, including social ineptitude, feelings of intellectual/moral/fiscal superority, attempted concealment of their own limited knowledge, etc., but there is just no excuse for this sort of behavior. Linux is first and foremost a collaborative effort, and by failing to live up to that ideal, Linux snobs subvert the very point of Linux itself.

    Yes, it is true that the answers to your questions are out there...Linux does have copious documentation. But the fact of the matter is that a simple answer to a simple question can do much more than save the newbie hours of combing through MAN pages...it can also foster the sense of community that is the very lifeblood of Linux.

    Linux users need to understand that when disillusioned Windows users come to them asking for help with Linux, they effectively become representatives of Linux...ambassadors, if you will...and they need to behave accordingly. Abusing new Linux users for their lack of knowledge, rather than helping them to learn more, only harms the cause.

    Just remember....you were a n00b yourself once...
    • by schabot (941087) <s.chabot@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:38AM (#15156411) Homepage
      Just remember....you were a n00b yourself once...

      Speak for yourself. After my mother re-partitioned her drive and mounted the smaller one at "/womb" I was compiled from source.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:45AM (#15156468)
      [...] The important concept to bear in mind when discussing software issues with Linux apologists is the "Linux Fault Threshold". Clever use of this concept helps you to avoid losing your temper with someone who might actually be able to render practical help, while ensuring that you give the correct dose of venom (60cc of scorpion juice, administered per anem with a rusty syringe) to the vast crowd of mindless apologists who just want you to use their pet operating system because it makes them feel good and gives them something to boast about on Slashdot. I provide this as a service to all the blind, alcoholic, incontinent grandmothers out there who appear to be installing Linux without any trouble if the Slashdot comments on any article remotely related to user interface design are to be believed.

      The Linux Fault Threshold is the point in any conversation about Linux at which your interlocutor stops talking about how your problem might be solved under Linux and starts talking about how it isn't Linux's fault that your problem cannot be solved under Linux. Half the time, the LFT is reached because there is genuinely no solution (or no solution has been developed yet), while half the time, the LFT is reached because your apologist has floundered way out of his depth in offering to help you and is bullshitting far beyond his actual knowledge base. In either case, a conversation which has reached the LFT has precisely zero chance of ever generating useful advice for you; it is safe at this point to start calling the person offering the advice a fucking moron, and basically take it from there. Here's an example taken from IRC logs to help you understand the concept.

      <jsm> Why won't my fucking Linux computer print?
      <linuxbabe> what printer r u using?
      <jsm> I don't know. It's a Hewlett Packard desktop inkjet number
      <linuxbabe> hewlett r lamers. they dont open source drivers [LFT closely approached!]
      <linuxbabe> but we reverse engineered them lol. check the web. or ask hewlett for linux suuport??[but avoided, he's still talking about the problem]
      <jsm> Thanks. I already did that. But I can't install the drivers on my fucking computer. I've got a floppy disk from HP, but my floppy drive is a USB drive and Linux doesn't have fucking USB support.
      <linuxbabe> linux DOES have USB support!!!!!!
      <jsm> yeh for fucking infrared mice, and for about a thousand makes of webcam it does. Get real here. For my fucking floppy disk drive, I am telling you through bitter experience it does not. Even if someone has written the drivers in the last week
      <jsm> which I sincerely doubt, how the hell am I going to install them given that my floppy drive doesnt work?????
      <jsm> this ought to be in the kernel. what good is a fucking operating system that doesnt operate?
      <linuxbabe> Imacs dont have floppy drives at all [useless point, but not LFT. All apologists make pointless jabs at other OSs]
      <linuxbabe> so you ought to be greateful that Linux does. drivers like that shouldn't be bundled in the kernel
      <linuxbabe> makes it into fucking M$ bloatware. bleh
      <linuxbabe> download drivers from the web!!!! apt-get is your friend
      <jsm> So everyone keeps telling me. Unfortunately the fucking modem doesn't work under Linux either, and since the Linux installation destroyed Windows, that leaves me kind of fucked.
      <linuxbabe> Linux doesnt destroy windows
      <jsm>mandrake installer does. It "resized" my Windows partition and now the fucker won't work
      <linuxbabe> you shuold have defragmented. windows scatters data all over your hard drive so the installer cant just find a clean chunk to install into. it isn't linux fault [distinct signs of LFT being approached]
      <linuxbabe> that windoze disk management blows
      <jsm> so why doesn't my fucking modem work?
      <linuxbabe> what computer ha

      • That pretty much sums up about every conversation I've ever had with a Linux fanatic.

        The phrase "Sorry, Linux can't do that" has never crossed a Linux fanatic's lips. However, they defintely don't have any problem with the phrase "It's not Linux's fault! It's the fault of whoever made that device NOT run with Linux!"

        -Eric

        • by poofyhairguy82 (635386) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:47AM (#15157046) Journal
          The phrase "Sorry, Linux can't do that" has never crossed a Linux fanatic's lips.

          That is because such a generalization is often wrong. There are very few things that Linux can not do what so ever.

          There ARE many things that requires tons of command line hacking and compiling and other nasty things to get done though. So I guess the true statement would be "Sorry, Linux can't do that easily," but since easy is a relative term I don't expect anyone who considers themselves to be elitist to state such a thing.

          The worst thing Linux zealots do is create such a hype (such as a "replace everything with Linux and it will work better") in the first place.

      • by NicM (188290) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @04:14PM (#15160121)
        > Why won't my fucking Linux computer print?

        This kind of belligerent, vague question is probably the reason this person doesn't get answers. Very few people with actual, genuine clue are going to get involved when the person asking hasn't even tried to make their initial question complete or useful. It not only looks like this person has an attitude but that they are also going to make anyone who answers do a lot of work to get enough clear information out of them, such as their set up and what they've tried already, so they can give an answer. Many people help others on IRC (without being paid, in their own, personal free time) because they enjoy it, and if it looks like someone is going to be unnecessarily hard to help, many will just go do something else.
    • You know why I dislike these articles ?

      Short :
      - they convey the thinking that most Linux users are snobs or that the problem is worse in Linux and FOSS
      - they convey the thinking that snobs are mostly a Linux problem
      - they say they talk about barrier to entrance for new Linux users, but strangely enough, these new Linux users always ask highly technical things

      Because then, the trolls are out, you know, the people that talk about "snobs", and then, magically, these snobs transforms into "linux users".
      I'm refe
    • This shrillness may be attributed to a variety of causes, including social ineptitude, feelings of intellectual/moral/fiscal superority, attempted concealment of their own limited knowledge, etc., but there is just no excuse for this sort of behavior.

      There's another possibile explantion one should mention:

      I think the computer corallary to rule that "once you save someone's life they become your responsibility" is: "once you help someone with a computer-related problem, you become their IS guy". Perhaps

    • 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,
    • One of the strengths of Linux is that if you have a problem, you can often contact the developers directly.

      One of the weaknesses of Linux is that if you have a problem, you often come into direct contact with the developers.

  • by ZiakII (829432) * on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:26AM (#15156322)
    I have been using Linux as my OS of choice for a year now and am willing to admit I'm far from being an experienced Linux user. The main thing that helped me when starting to use Linux was Google. If I didn't have Google I don't think I would have solved most of my problems. From what I have seen any problems that I had there where already tons of information out on the web answering these questions if you looked and didn't take the easy way out and post without even trying to search for it on the internet.
  • Two Experiences (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> 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 [gentoo-wiki.com] 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 [gentoo.org]. 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.
    • by AEton (654737) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:48AM (#15156493)
      Dear Penthouse Forum,
      My freshman year (2000) in college started with me not knowing what a "linux" was. This all changed when a friend encouraged me to repartition my hard drive and install this next to my installation. I ended up doing fresh installs and getting the dual boot to work.

      The next day in class, the guy couldn't get me to shut up about how great it was.

      My first college kegger could not compare to the first time I ran Linux. Nor would a kegger ever be as memorable.

      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. And with Gentoo, you can just emerge whenever you want."
      Student B: "'Emerge'--what does that mean?"

      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, Student A revealed that he spent every Sunday night "emerging."

      Luckily, I intevened and gave him something close. 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.


      Love and kisses,
      esr
  • Just use Google (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stecoop (759508) * on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:28AM (#15156339) Journal
    What I have found is that there are really tough question in the Linux world or just common mistakes. Sometimes these questions are repeated many times but there may be a reason the questions are asked over and over again. When I use the popular search engine Google to fetch the answer to a question I have, the first hundred results are usually some chat thread with my question being asked and some brilliant and insightful genius replies back with the comment to just use Google. Even better, you can go read a chat thread and it has 20 pages of 20 entries and another brilliant and insightful genius replies back sating he already answered the question and to use the search function to get the answer. What is bad, the question usually fall to the side since the rest of the group thinks it has been answered satisfactorily.
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:31AM (#15156358) Homepage Journal
    This article seems as much flamebait as anything.
    I read through and a lot of what he was describing sounded like listening to the anonymous cowards on here.

    Asking a Mac user which is the best operating system will result in one answer, asking a linux user to discuss the various distros is another.

    Audiophiles will deride a newbie for asking silly questions, gamers will take the piss out of n00bs for aiming wrong or asking about the best weapons, hell even office staff will give you a 10 minute diorama about their red stapler, but if you ask them what the differences are they will fly off at the handle.

    Nobody knows about all the distros or databases and theres not really a one size fits all solution so people get embedded in their current system.
    Sounds like he just found people on their off days, but I agree with the general article contents - it extends to all walks of life and multiple subjects.

    And I've not even touched on vi vs emacs ;)

  • Difference (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrAfFiT (802657) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:32AM (#15156370) Homepage
    One huge difference is that the Microsoft tech support guys are paid to listen to your stupidities. You are a lot more patient and understanding when you're paid.
    • Re:Difference (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ergo98 (9391)
      One huge difference is that the Microsoft tech support guys are paid to listen to your stupidities. You are a lot more patient and understanding when you're paid.

      There's lots of pay support options for Linux, as well. I'm sure they'll happily guide you through long, drawn out support if they're charging by the minute (with something like Ether [ether.com], anyone can provide that sort of pay service).

      What I think they're talking about, however, is the general community. On a Windows-related forum, it is entirely true t
    • Re: Difference (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:59AM (#15156608)
      > One huge difference is that the Microsoft tech support guys are paid to listen to your stupidities.

      Yep. In internet forums some Linuxers will tell you to RTFM, and some Windowsers will tell you they don't consult for free. I don't see a heck of a lot of difference in the net effect.

  • 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.

    • by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:27PM (#15158571) Homepage
      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.
      Yeah? So what else is new?

      This isn't really anything to do with Linux. It's "Computer Geek Syndrome," plain and simple -- the feeling of superiority a nerdy, introverted person gets when he realizes he understands something better than someone else does. Some people who only ever use Windows have this same anti-n00b attitude. The only difference is that they don't scare anybody away from using Windows, because all the computers come with Windows installed. Thus, you either put up with that obnoxious nerd when you have computer problems, or you go looking for nicer, knowledgable friends.

  • by xIcemanx (741672) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:34AM (#15156382)
    Certainly not: '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.""

    Just do what this guy [bash.org] does and you'll be fine.
  • by fudgefactor7 (581449) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:35AM (#15156394)
    And every time I mentioned it in the past I got my ass handed to me on a plate. I've asked questions in forums, emailed software maintainers, and done the RTFM, and read the FAQs. And sometimes there are no answers, yet you get the same old "RTFM, n00b" answer, followed by "STFU." Nice. It also doesn't help that some of the documentation on TLDP.org is out of date--which is one step away from being outright wrong when dealing with rapidly changing software. If Linux wants more users (or OSS in general) you need to (1) fix the documentation so that it's always up to date to the newest version; and, (2) fix the culture of the dipshits that are out there. If they don't want to help, that's fine; but to hear over and over again the same unhelpful advise is only shooting your cause in the foot.

    Do I care that this will cost me Karma? Nope. You've had it coming, and I've lost Karma before on this so ....
    • 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?
  • Sad but true (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrotherNO@SPAMoptonline.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 [slashdot.org]. 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.

  • Grow some skin! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by redelm (54142) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:37AM (#15156403) Homepage
    Of course this happens! In the MS-Windows world too. Everywhere. People want and need help. They ask others. Often they get it, sometimes not.

    However, to universally blame the help provider is completely wrong. The asker may be intruding. The asker may be insufficiently respectful or remunerative in other ways.

    Beggars cannot be choosers.

  • -1, flamebait (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis@gm a i l .com> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:38AM (#15156410) Homepage
    There are assholes in every camp. I'm sure I can just as easily find Windows and MacOS snobs [well the latter is a given].

    I've personally helped a half dozen people switch to Gentoo. Not all of us are meanies [though I play one on TV].

    This article is pure flamebait.

    Tom
  • 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 lyapunov (241045) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:41AM (#15156433)
    I landed a job as UNIX admin from learning UNIX out of necessity and then as a hobby. When I got out of the military and started to school I purchased a computer so I would not have to work in school labs. My mathematics degree required two core CS classes, algorithms and data structures and the CS department uses Linux. So rather than piss and moan I purchased another hard drive and dual booted my machine. The reason that I purchased another hard drive is so that I could revert because I knew that I was not going to get it right the first few times. After being able, to once again do my homeword at home, I spent another 6 months getting my printer to work. It was an Deskjet 612 that used the printing performance architecture (PPA) drivers that some guy in Oregon reverse engineered with little or no help from HP. I figured if he had the wherewithall to accomplish that I should be able to at least get it working.

    I spent many hours reading books on Linux in general, and countless hours browsing the web for help on UNIX printing. Wound up switching to CUPS, when it was fairly new, and managed to get it working. It was a lot of work and the only reason that I was able to do it was that I had the attitude that the "machine is not going to win."

    Most people want everything handed to them, and if you do not have a self started attitude UNIX is fairly intimidating.
    The quote that I developed about Microsoft and Bill Gates is this:

    "Bill Gates brought computing to the masses, pity they weren't ready for it."

    • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dire Bonobo (812883) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @02:44PM (#15159273)
      > Most people want everything handed to them

      No - most people just don't care about computers all that much.

      Do you expect people to tinker with their cars?
      Do you expect people to tinker with their television's wiring?
      Do you expect people to tinker with their plumbing?

      Then why would you expect people to tinker with their computers? For most people, a computer is an appliance, and deserving of no more tinkering than a tv. You can whine about people being "not ready" for computers all you want, but that won't change the basic fact that mature technologies don't need to be babied to function properly.

      It isn't people that aren't ready; it's computers.
    • 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?
  • by euxneks (516538) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:45AM (#15156465)
    I try to read as much documentation as I can. I also try to help out other newbies by giving them answers (if I know the answer), and also where you can find the answer (in the documentation).

    I think this helps them out by giving them a good answer but then also showing them how to find other answers on their own.

    After all, knowledge is meant to be shared.
  • 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 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.
  • by Malor (3658) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @09:54AM (#15156552) Journal
    This has been true for as long as I can remember. If the software is inadequate or confusing, blame the user. It's happened to me, even here on Slashdot.

    Way back in the stone age.... sometime in 1997, maybe? Maybe 1998. Not sure. Anyway... Linux was _just_ starting to get deployed occasionally in business. I had a couple of DNS servers up on an early RedHat box. The box lost power... these were just desktop machines sitting in someone's cubicle. (We hadn't grown to the point of needing 'real' servers quite yet, and an actual server room was a year off.) My primary box took a LOT of filesystem damage, and it took me ages to fix it. So I commented in a slashdot thread that ext2 was very fragile, and that it was one of Linux's real weak points.

    You just wouldn't believe the crap I got. Slashdot doesn't seem to archive that far back, so I can't give you links, but _most_ of the replies I got blamed me for being stupid. I "should have used a UPS"... ok, I could grant that, but remember we were a shoestring outfit, and we didn't need those on Windows servers. A couple people went off on me for, get this, not knowing how to use a disk editor to find my secondary superblocks and repair with those. I kid you not. Linux was perfect, and ANYTHING that went wrong was obviously the user's fault... to the point that I should know how to manually repair my filesystem. Instead of admitting that the filesystem should survive a power failure, it was my fault for breaking it.

    Several years later, after Reiserfs and ext3 came out, we had a similar conversation, also here on Slashdot. Suddenly everyone is all about how great the journaling filesystems are, and how bad ext2 sucks. It was probably even some of the same people, but the original conversation had already been lost, so I couldn't prove it.

    People just will NOT criticize software they're emotionally involved with. It's the most ridiculous thing I've seen... these theoretically intelligent, rational software designers that become absolutely insane when you suggest their software is imperfect. Blame the user! "You're just too stupid to use our software. Go away."

    Fortunately, there's enough people in the Linux community now that the lunatic fringe doesn't dominate quite like it did, but these people are still out there.

    It was ridiculous then, and it's just as ridiculous now. It doesn't happen as much, but it still sucks.

    • by Valdrax (32670) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:03AM (#15157235)
      [Devotees] just will NOT criticize [anything] they're emotionally involved with. It's the most ridiculous thing I've seen... these theoretically intelligent, rational [people] that become absolutely insane when you suggest [the object of their affection] is imperfect.

      This more generalized statement applies not just to software, but to politics, religion, sports teams, brands of cars, etc., etc. Nationalists, religious zealots, OS zealots, hardcore fans, etc. are all the same kind of person -- someone who cannot handle objectivel criticism of something they love because they think that criticism and disdain are equal. They have a "mommy is never wrong" kind of love instead of a "my kid's not perfect, but I'm still proud of him" attitude.

      These people drive me insane in every arena of life that I encounter them in.
  • by MrEcho.net (632313) * on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:10AM (#15156714)
    http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html [catb.org]
    Before asking a technical question by e-mail, or in a newsgroup, or on a website chat board, do the following:

    1. Try to find an answer by searching the Web.
    2. Try to find an answer by reading the manual.
    3. Try to find an answer by reading a FAQ.
    4. Try to find an answer by inspection or experimentation.
    5. Try to find an answer by asking a skilled friend.
    6. If you're a programmer, try to find an answer by reading the source code.

    I might be marked down because of this.
    But what I see day to day in the IRC, very few new people do these very simple things.
    This is why we go off on them, they dont even try to find the answer on there own.
  • 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.
  • by PenguinBoyDave (806137) <david@daCHEETAHvidmeyer.org minus cat> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:33AM (#15156919)
    Others on the list agreeing with the posting. This is a problem I have heard over and over and over again from people who tried Linux, but when they went to their local LUG they were told to RTFM and to google it before asking questions (oh...and mention that you are trying to find the answer in Google usually fends off another flame from someone.

    I sat nex to a woman on the plane the other day who had tried to get Linux running (she was successful in getting it installed but she wanted to get Apache up and running (I know...a simple task) and get a streaming media server going for her music and movies. After much grief from the LUG she said "Screw Linux" and bought W2K3 Standard server, two clicks of a mouse later she has a streaming media server.

    I switched from Linux to Mac at home because, well, Mac just works...and it works well. At my office I no longer use Linux...I use Windows XP because it is the corporate standard...and I don't have much of a choice. The funny thing is, we were on the verge of switching to a Linux desktop in myu department (development) but when the GIS desktop management people got hooked up with their local lugs and were greeted with the same love described by the article and by a few people here, they said "at least Microsft does't tell me to read the fine manual or talk down to me like I'm an idiot. I had my fair share of run-ins with the snobs referred to here, and to be sure, MANY that I know are not snobs and in fact are more than willing to help because they want others to learn and see the value in Linux.

    Frankly, I'm over the Linux thing (but I can't change my login name to MacBoyDave). I've been a Linux guy since 1997 and since I boought my first Mac, I've bought two more. I still use Firefox and Thunderbird, To be sure though, I'll never recommend Linux as a desktop to anyone again. I said it at a LUG meeting (and was told to leave) and I'll say it again (and earn the troll mod, I'm sure)...Linux people are their own worst enemy.
  • by ndykman (659315) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @10:51AM (#15157105)
    Seriously. Apple and yes even Microsoft (don't laugh!) has had lots of success in listening to non-technical users and trying to meet there needs. Both companies get users in front of software, ask them to use it, ask them questions, and learn from them. Now, they all fall short (it's hard to meet everybody's demands), but they know that the simplest questions can lead to great insights and opportunities.

    If a user can't figure out how to do something, that is a problem to be dealt with. The reason that MS is overhauling Office 2007 so radically is based on user feedback and studies. Granted, it may not work, but if it does, it will keep Office on top of the heap (and may lead to some interesting ideas in other applications). When a user has a hard time doing something, it is a chance to make something better, more effective, and maybe, just maybe, to learn something new.

    The problem is that too many open source projects seem to exist to reinforce one's view on what software should be and must be. So, negative feedback is just reinforcement that the developers "really get it", and that these "newbies" don't. After all, why bother making software anybody can use? If the cool people are using it, and want to join the club, what else do you want? How better to prove you are smarter, better, more of a hacker, whatever than to make people jump through hoops to provide they have what it takes.

    I think OS projects have done a good job in attracting coders and developers, but sometimes, it takes more than that to make a successful piece of software, and too many projects suffer from a myopic mindset of what makes a piece of software work or not.

    Finally, I think too many people have a overdeveloped sense of superiority from the mere fact that they use an a particular OS, browser, tool, etc. Sure, it's understandable, but meanwhile, there are tons of people that just want to do something at work or at home, and could care less if the software is open source or not, because it doesn't add any value for them. And until this mindset is address, the RTFM responses will continue.
  • Culture of Hazing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by catdevnull (531283) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @11:02AM (#15157226)
    Entering the Linux world reminded me very much of my experience in the Marine Corps.

    You're introduced with verbal abuse and treated like a complete sub-human moron. Then, you gradually get promoted and you pass on the tradition of bashing newbies.

    As with any "geeky" culture, the Linux crowd has a tendency to attract people with some issues:

      -socially challenged individuals ignorant or apathetic toward others
      -marginalized zealots of a "cult" technology (misunderstood or cast aside by the dominant paradigm)
      -insecure, passive-aggressive people with a chip on their shoulder

    Not all Linux-heads are like this, but like religious fanatics, it only takes one or two loudmouths to misrepresent the whole movement to newcomers or outsiders.

    Now, if you want to reply with a flame or you feel a little defensive about what I've typed here, you might want to evaluate the motives behind your emotional response. I'm not talking about everyone in the linux community, I'm just making an observation about the types of people I've worked with in IT and the linux community over the last 15 years and these are some tendencies of my own as well as those around me. Some, if not most, are helpful and encouraging.

    If you're one of those jerks (I've seen alot of them here on Slashdot), get help. Learn to be patient. Don't continue the chain of abuse, grasshopper.

  • 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.,
  • My RTFM Story (Score:4, Insightful)

    by randomErr (172078) <ervin DOT kosch AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @01:03PM (#15158351) Homepage Journal
    About a year and a half ago I was using GAIM and ran into a glitch. I checked there site and a new version had come out. I upgraded to the new version on my Win98 system. Yeah I know but, the accounting package our company had didn't work right on anything else at the time.

    The new version crashed upon startup. The website hadn't had anything posted about upgrade problems. So I went to the IRC channel for GAIM and asked them if there was an issue. The channel had the usual 'Welcome to GAIM' text. Two developers were in the channel at the time.

    One developer told me to read the site about and check that channel. Again, neither had been updated. The second developers called me an idiot, and said I should know more about GTK. The GAIM project has just updated to GTK 2.6 from 2.4; 2.6 is not Win98 compatible.

    So I asked if there was work around. The next 20 minutes the second developer berated me for asking such stupid questions with the first developer 'Amen-ing' everything he said.

    Finally a third developer who came into the channel and flipped out at the immature attitude of the first two. #3 told me the whole story about the new version and GTK. The third developer changed the title on the channel and left to put a note on GAIM.

    While that person was away I asked if they have been a lot of problems with GTK for while. I was then told that they were thinking about dropping development on Windows because to many Windows people were using GAIM, and not enough Linux people.

    After all that I left the channel, changed my name, and came back to see what was going on. Two more people came in with same basic questions on GAIM and GTK. I was able to divert the wrath of the cruel developers and actually give the people some help.

    So there's my horror story with OSS and OSS tech support. I still use GAIM on occasion, but I and most of my friends are moving over to Google Talk
  • by Glamdrlng (654792) on Wednesday April 19, 2006 @03:48PM (#15159894)
    Someone who has always impressed me as a class act is Wietse Venema [porcupine.org]. 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.

I wish you humans would leave me alone.

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