Re: Distro Poll, what do you use?
- From: Beej Jorgensen <beej@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 15 May 2007 20:24:46 +0000 (UTC)
Dan C <youmustbejoking@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
Well, I've contributed on Usenet for quite a long time. If that's
considered laudable, then there you have it.
I would consider it so, for the times you were being helpful. Your
posted examples count. I was pleasantly surprised by your perfectly
reasonable answer to the swap question, though it was terse.
But even if I award you three points for helpful instances, and
negative-one points for unloading on newbies and trolls, you're still in
I will admit to having a low tolerance for stupidity, and for laziness.
When I see fools asking "how do I do this", and their question could be
answered with a 1-minute Google search (or even a moment of rational
thought), then I often will tell them so. Yes. In my opinion, that
can actually be more helpful than just answering the dumb question.
The old "teach a man to fish..." theory.
I personally like the teach-to-fish theory. I think you and I differ in
our methods (and our tolerance.) The thing is, if you pick any topic
that people have called me an expert in, I can still remember being an
idiot at it at one time or another. In fact, most people who are
learning something new look pretty stupid at it.
Example: I might say to you, given two points in 3-space, A and B, and a
3D vector V, find the projection of V onto the line AB. Anyone with a
little experience will quickly whip out the answer off the top of their
head. But if you don't know anything about it, we'll have to have a
mind-numbingly protracted discussion about dot products and basic vector
math. At first, there will be no discernible difference between you and
someone who had been failing for years to understand the subject.
Generally speaking, having a low tolerance for stupidity is not a
favorable trait in a teacher, because every single day they're in front
of a class full of people who don't know what they're talking about.
For me, there were people who made learning easy, and there were people
who did not. Both types of people did the analog of pointing me to
Google, but only one was decidedly effective.
Some dangers in coming on so aggressively are that the person might be
disinclined to believe anything you have to say, and that they'll react
defensively instead of just going out and doing what you're suggesting.
They might just wait around for someone else to answer instead of
heeding your advice (because they're spiting you), and someone else will
eventually answer. And then the lesson about teaching to fish is
For instance, here's what I consider to be a good response (both these
This has been well-discussed on Usenet, and you'll likely get more
complete answers by googling for it: http://good.demo.url/ Any time I
have a question about anything, I hit google first--it's the fastest
Use google, you lazy idiot. Just what I'd expect from a Windoze user.
In the former case, you're saying, "Here's a better way for you to get
better answers", which is appealing to the questioner. In the latter
case, you end up with someone who will argue with you. If your goal is
to get them to try Google first, you're far better off being friendly
I will also admit to having developed a shorter fuse in recent times,
and my posts probably reflect that. Perhaps that will change (for the
better) in the near future.
I think, and please forgive my being forward here, that you might be
happier for doing that. Obviously, I cannot possibly know your
Most people don't "tire of the game" when they're doing something that
they believe they are right about. I mean, in all fairness, would you
say that my approach is nearly always correct (in regards to calling
out trolls and idiots for what they are)?
I have nothing but gut feeling for these general numbers, but in terms
of accuracy, I'd say:
troll ID: 10% accurate
noob ID: 80% accurate
As for idiots and fools, I don't think there's a good way to
differentiate them from smart people who just aren't savvy in that
But let's just assume for the moment that you're 100% accurate on all
identifications. The question is, what is your goal? Because if it is
"to help people with Linux", I think there are better approaches than
just accurately identifying newbies and trolls. Telling people to
bugger off will not drive off a troll, but it will drive off newbies.
And I personally consider that to be harmful. (This is where I come
I had an MSDOS machine, and I'm still bitter on some level that MS made
me suffer with some rehashed CP/M clone when my processor would support
a Unix-class OS--why did they give up Xenix? I didn't know what I was
missing until I tried Ultrix, and that was that. (I didn't even buy
another computer for years after my 386sx kicked it. I just used the
DEC and HP machines I had at my disposal.)
We used to lament that MS was just busy producing superiorly-marketed
crap (the usual complaints), and they were untouchable. One of my
coworkers, older and wiser, told me the big guys always get challenged
eventually. Yeah, right, who's going to do it, I demanded; IBM (IBM!!)
was getting its OS/2 ass handed to it. He nodded sagely, and said, they
*always* get challenged.
Years passed, and then:
Imagine my thrill as we were watching Linux come to life out of thin air
and do a submarine approach on Redmond! In 1998, I clipped Linux
articles from magazines and the paper and hung them outside my cube at
HP and put up with incessant teasing about being "that crazy Linux guy".
"Just give up," one my my coworkers said, "Microsoft is unstoppable." I
refused and threatened to turn my back on my MS in computer science
become a geologist if that ever happened. A simple game I wrote was
included in Debian; I was stoked.
My friend quit his Windows job to work at VA Linux for $24,000 per year.
I should have joined him. A few months later he wrote me of the
impending revolution, "It's happening! It's actually happening!"
WE were the ones who made it happen. All of us.</history> Linux is
nothing but a cool OS without the users. With the users, it's a FORCE.
It's in my interests to have a huge base of skilled Linux users, and
that means constant newbie recruitment. Telling them they aren't smart
enough for Linux or they should go back to Windows directly contradicts
my goals. I want them to think, "At last, I'm somewhere that makes
sense," even if that involves a complete rehashing of everything they've
learned so far.
I generally only say something when the poster's words and
"credentials" are drastically out of whack.
I'm glad you put "credentials" in quotes there, because I don't think
there's really much you can gather in the way of credentials by way of
headers. Any conclusions drawn upon them run a high risk of being
fallacious. For example, the best software engineers I know all have at
least one Windows machine, but to question their skills or
Linux-dedication because of it would be foolhardy. Or you might assume
that I was a newbie for posting to AOLS from Google Groups, without
being able to correctly determine that my Usenet history predates
DejaNews, and that I'd been running Slackware since 1994.
But you won't drive off veterans like me; you'll just be wrong about us.
Nor will you drive off trolls by telling them to do so. Newbies will be
the only ones chased away.
So you should ask yourself, what are your goals here, and are they being
met by your current actions? If the answer is "yes", then I will simply
leave it at that (after all, I don't know your goals.) But consider
that there might be a better way to get what you want.
Anyway, that's enough of that,
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