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The decline of Linux boards.

Posted 12-14-2013 at 11:27 PM by Randicus Draco Albus

It is painfully easy to see. Look at almost any Linux users' forum and the obvious jumps out. Almost no knowledgeable members. This is true of all pan-Linux boards: LinuxQuestions, LinuxForums, LinuxFormat,, etc. It is also true of many distro-specific boards.

The Cause
In their drive to attract Windows users, the people who manage most boards have enacted policies of enforced "politeness". "Read the manual and ask questions about the parts you do not understand" is considered "rude". Those who violate the spirit of the board are chastised. To make matters worse, on many boards politeness must even be shown to obvious trolls. Those who tell the trolls to stop whining or to go away are severely chastised, while the trolls are given shoulders to cry on. Members who inform those too lazy to read the instructions where the answers are to be found and suggest reading those answers, are soundly rebuked for being "Linux elitists" trying to prevent the spread of Linux to the masses.

The Result
Boards with a friendly and polite atmosphere where no question is too stupid to deserve a polite answer, laziness is rewarded with spoon-fed answers, and trolls are given a warm welcome. And no more than half-a-dozen members able to answer questions beyond a very basic level. Such as how to download and burn an ISO. For the most part, the blind leading the blind.

It is not a coincidence or a statistical blip that most knowledgeable users have abandoned fora, to the detriment of the Linux community. What happens after the last of knowledgeable people leave? Thanks to derivatives like Ubuntu and Mint that actively try to attract Windows users with "a system that does everything Windows does, but is free of charge," and created the politeness at all cost forum atmosphere to facilitate that goal, the on-line Linux community has become a joke. It is no longer users helping each other overcome problems. It is now a community of clueless people discussing the best ways to use Wine and instructing each other on how to abuse sudo. All the while insulting those geeks who try to educate them about what free software is. Such utopian ideas have no place in the real world, where proprietary shitware is "necessary". Expecting people to learn how to configure a system, instead of just installing any and all proprietary shitware, is the old-fashioned geek attitude that holds Linux back.

The future of Linux is bleak. A small real Linux community hidden in mailing lists and a large on-line community of fora with inane babble and new-comers searching in vain for information.
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  1. Old Comment
    As a new member of Linuxquestions, I have seen enough questions of the type "I have this problem and am too lazy to google or even properly describe it, please spoon-feed me!". But it doesn' seem to me that this is tolerated; usually there are no answers at all or somebody explains that more information is needed, or that the answer is out there and where to look for it.

    In short, while people may be polite most of the time, they do tell clearly what needs to be told. So I don't quite share your opinion.
    Posted 12-16-2013 at 12:55 AM by berndbausch berndbausch is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Explaining that more information is needed is not the problem. The problem is when people are directed to the documentation and the response is, "I did not come here to waste my time reading documention. I came here to get an answer. Give it to me now." And yes, I have seen, and been involved in, threads where someone is asked to post information relevant to a problem, such as /etc/network/interfaces and the response is, "I do not care about that kind of thing. I just want an answer to my question." On most boards today, such people are expected to be handled with kid gloves. Telling them their problems cannot be resolved without the information asked for in a manner not as polite as can be, will usually earn a rebuke from the administrative staff. Even though the person asking the question to be told to f-off. This is why most knowledgeable people have abandoned Linux boards in disgust.
    Posted 12-16-2013 at 03:52 AM by Randicus Draco Albus Randicus Draco Albus is offline
  3. Old Comment
    I don't quite understand the connection you make between Linux specifically and the change in tone in the forum. Is the change in tone unique to Linux forums or is this happening to other IT forums too or is your concern limited to Linux forums. For example, would you say this is true of RailsForum or Technet or DevShed? Or is the "dumbing down" unique to Linux users' forums?
    Posted 12-16-2013 at 09:08 AM by vmccord vmccord is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Yes, I am referring to Linux boards. I do not participate on technical fora, so have no experience to form an opinion on.
    Posted 12-16-2013 at 10:53 PM by Randicus Draco Albus Randicus Draco Albus is offline
  5. Old Comment
    Cool blog Randicus Draco Albus. It's interesting to hear a view like this from another person.
    I know you participate regularly (or at least used to) over at one of the Debian forums, i think the atmosphere over there is the complete opposite to what you have described. Many of the members there are snarky, disrespectful and closed off to people whom need help. That is one of the reasons i don't participate there very often.
    I like the atmosphere of LQ, people can converse in what i consider reasonable lax. I have said things to other members here which were not polite, but the members whom i directed it at were in the wrong, and i think that because of this, my stance was tolerated. I try to maintain a sense of politeness and helpfulness most of the time though and i think most users deserve it.
    I do not see demanding users here very often, and when i do, they're usually told 'where to go' before i read their post. The users here aren't shy, they won't conform to a rude request from a lazy noob, but they will help most users whom are respectful but are not knowledgeable to know where to find an answer.
    The problem with many noobs entering the world of Gnu/Linux is not only the change of os, but many people simply are not intuitive enough to think of using a search engine to solve their problems.
    My mum constantly asks me for computer related help, and i'm still drilling it into her head that she needs to learn to search for her problem first. Some people take longer to learn things.
    Posted 12-21-2013 at 08:25 PM by Knightron Knightron is offline
  6. Old Comment
    I know you participate regularly (or at least used to) over at one of the Debian forums, i think the atmosphere over there is the complete opposite to what you have described.
    The problem with DFN is that there are almost no knowledgeable people left. The board is now dominated by: a few loud ignoramaces who bully new-comers, but are incapable of answering questions; and many idiots who insist that Debian will only work properly after being configured to work like Ubuntu. DUF was much better, but is now almost dead.
    Posted 12-22-2013 at 09:35 PM by Randicus Draco Albus Randicus Draco Albus is offline
  7. Old Comment
    @Knightron Oh well, moms always think they should get special dispensation.
    Posted 12-23-2013 at 09:17 AM by vmccord vmccord is offline
  8. Old Comment
    True. How does one say no to one's mother?
    Posted 12-23-2013 at 11:28 PM by Randicus Draco Albus Randicus Draco Albus is offline


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