Be ‘Nice’ To Newbs?

Recently, people have been posting a lot of forums I skim and asking- no, demanding people be nicer to the newbies. Now I’ll admit that I’m somewhere near the middle of the road when it comes to techno savvy and the internet. I know enough to get into (and usually out of) trouble. I know what to do when I blow things up. But it’s not my expertise in the general internet world that makes me different from a newbie when I’m learning a new product, it’s my attitude and experience. Too many newbies cry home to momma because of a perceived attitude from the regulars, and they decry the ‘Here’s the directions.’ replies as mean.

Guess what, guys? It ain’t mean, it’s helpful. See there are two kinds of people out there installing software: The ones who want to learn and the ones who don’t. Period. That’s it! If you want to learn, you approach things with a learning attitude. If you don’t want to learn and just want the magic smoke of the internet to be magically perfect, then you need to stop installing software anywhere, especially on your computer.

If I want to learn about something, you look it up. If you want to understand something, you read about it. If you don’t get it, you ask for help. Sure, we all take shortcuts once in a while. I know that Bill knows more about changing permissions on 100+ files in Unix than I do, and I may ask him ‘Is there a simple command to do this?’ Or I may look at my “UNIX in a Nutshell” book, check up on permissions, google something like ‘change permissions unix’ and go from there. I try to look it up first, or in parallel to a shout-out to folks on the sturdy tubes ‘Anyone remember the command for…’

Not that search tools are perfect. I’ve had more headaches than I care to count when I’ve used the wrong terms. And you can’t search on ‘Thingy’ as much as I wish you could. But in the screwed up searches, I learn more about the software.

There are a lot of newbs out there who just want to be told what to do, with hand holding along the way. There is a point where documentation, written by techies for techies, is too obscure for the rest of the world to follow along, and I’ve been there too wondering what the heck they mean by ‘subst arg|var’ when I’m using the GUI. But before (most) products hit that point, they have some semblance of documentation, be it official or unofficial. There are wikis of documentation, a read-me, or sometimes forums. And while you troll those resources, you will start to pick up bits of information.

Should we old dinos be nice to the newbs? Of course. We should be nice in general. But newbs need to also stop assumed that a quick ‘Read this’ isn’t us being mean, but us handing you the first bit of information. If the newb replies ‘I read that and it didn’t help!’ well, maybe you should have said so earlier. If you reply ‘Jerks, I don’t want to read that! Just help me!’, can you blame anyone for not?

Newbs, be nice to the dinos. They took the time to learn, and so should you.