Does helping in linux forums really help?

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Does helping in linux forums really help?

Postby MeanDean » 2007-11-01 01:03

Does anyone get tired of the hand holding that is required on linux/technology type forums? Does it seem like it just causes more and more hand holding?

Giving a shove in the right direction should be all that is required IMO - people should be able to take the hint and figure things out. Linux is diverse and ever-changing and IMO a user needs to be able to figure things out themselves or else they will never manage to fully "use" linux, they will constantly be trying to figure out what changed this week and pissin and moaning that nothing like this should ever occur if linux is to ever be popular. But linux is popular, too damn popular it appears - since many new users think linux has to be this perfect thing that 'just works' no matter what shitty video card you have or some $3 modem...etc..

People complain that there is no documentation. Then when the vast and thorough documentation is pointed out they claim it is either too focused and doesnt cover their situation or that it is too general to be comprehended. Heck, there probably is less documentation being provided nowadays - why bother - nobody seems to be able to use it to figure things out. They simply expect documentation to cover their exact situation and do every bit of thinking for them and forsee every hiccup and possibility while being perfectly concise and less that ten steps. Is REAL documentation actually more helpful than forums - since people have to put in some effort and reap the rewards. By documentation, I don't mean '5 steps to play all media formats' but 'old-school' documentation that fully covered a subject and you learned about the subject and applied it to your situation.

Yes I realize that nothing says I have to help someone on a linux forum and I do not think I am going to anymore. (yet again)

I realize I rambled/ranted a bit but it relates to my question - does helping in forums really help?

I consider this an appropriate thread for the debian forums - it is technology/linux related and actually relates to debian as well.

What you'll think?
Last edited by MeanDean on 2007-11-01 01:08, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby ka3 » 2007-11-01 01:07

What you say is true. Unfortunately.

I honestly don't know why I am on these forums. I've been thinking about it, to be honest. I don't know. More then anything, it's to ask questions of my own, TBH.

Good question.
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Postby rickh » 2007-11-01 01:24

It would be a lot more helpful if we could yell at the dummies.

I got a lot of help from forums when I first started, but I can honestly say, I don't think that I ever needed a follow-up question once my forum query had been answered. Once I had some kind of clue about what I was dealing with, the rest of the answers were easy to find by myself.

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Re: Does helping in linux forums really help?

Postby CocoAUS » 2007-11-01 01:28

MeanDean wrote:I consider this an appropriate thread for the debian forums - it is technology/linux related and actually relates to debian as well.


What a shame that members have to be so afraid about whether their topic is acceptable...in OFFTOPIC. :\

But that's getting offtopic...

I think an awful lot of people come on expecting simple answers and expecting things to just work right, yeah, but I don't think that negates the usefulness of helping in forums entirely. In fact, when I run into a problem, the most helpful Scroogle results are usually those posted in forums.

Documentation tends to suck complete ass. There's one extreme that doesn't help the user at all (search for an answer about openSuSE and it seems you can only find point-and-click answers with no real meat to them), and there's another that is far, far too indepth for what most people need. For instance, if I want to know what modmap does, I don't want to have to read through 3 separate 6000 word man pages about various tools just to get the answer I'm looking for. I think man pages for more complicated programs generally fail.

Other times documentation isn't worded or organized well. I have trouble following explanations sometimes, no matter how "thorough" the documentation is, and no matter how familiar I am with the subject, simply because the documentation is poorly done.

Look at Ubuntu's documentation. It doesn't encourage learning, just mindless copy-paste commands. I like copy-paste because of ease of use, but when there's no information to help explain what's going on, it doesn't do anyone any good.

On a somewhat related note, I was banned from ubuntuforums for suggesting that they put a "Google It" button at the top of the forums, since every question over there is a repeat and no one bothers searching.
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Postby jml » 2007-11-01 02:03

Actually, I don't get tired of "hand holding" but I do get tired of answering the same questions over and over again. It seems that some people don't take the time to search the forum before posting a question. I really have no problem trying to answer a question if the poster says that they tried to search and found nothing helpful. There have been times when I have tried to search and have come up empty handed. Finally, the other reason I don't mnd trying to answer questions is the fact that this and other forums have helped me a lot when I was starting out with Linux. Its primarily because of the help I recieved from this forum's members that allowed me to get Debian installed and running on my two work laptops. So I see it as a bit of giving back to the community that helped me. (ok group hug.......just kidding :wink: )


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Postby Bro.Tiag » 2007-11-01 02:25

I do believe that helping in linux forums does help. I do also get a wee bit tired of some of the hand holding, but I really do not see to much of that here. I do read documentation, use forum search engines and google, but I also ask questions in forums. No man is an island, besides what else would I do at the office when I should be working.

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Postby Dargor » 2007-11-01 03:09

The thing i don't like most about helping/using the forum is that useful threads get lost. A search titles only feature would help, but i don't know how much.

Documentation could be written in wiki's but then you cant really ask questions. It would be good if [url]wiki.debian.org[/url] and this forum were somehow tied together.

I still like the forum though.
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Postby EMD » 2007-11-01 03:19

If you don't want to hold hands with a newbie, then don't. You're under no obligation. Other people (like me) feel good about themselves when they help someone else out.

Forums are great when they provide live help. For example, see my recent thread where I couldn't start X.

And they're also great because they leave a record that people can search to find solutions to similar problems. In fact, we solved the problem because Telemachus pointed me to other forums where people encountered the same error message.

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Postby mooreted » 2007-11-01 03:28

I like to answer questions in forums because it keeps my knowledge sharp. Sometimes I haven't done something for awhile and I forgot how I did it.

Today, someone asked me how to change the default OS in the Grub boot menu. I had to look it up since I haven't configured Grub for ages.

I pass by the questions that are obviously lazy questions. When you can find the answer in two seconds online, you don't need to ask.
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Postby CocoAUS » 2007-11-01 03:32

edoviak wrote:If you don't want to hold hands with a newbie, then don't.

And they're also great because they leave a record that people can search to find solutions to similar problems. In fact, we solved the problem because Telemachus pointed me to other forums where people encountered the same error message.


Couldn't agree more. Most answers aren't in documentation, they're in web forums. And if you don't want to help, you simply don't have to. I haven't answered any real questions in these forums for a while, but I still lurk around to see what people are asking sometimes, to see if I learn anything new.

I have a feeling Dean is actually more concerned about newb-mindedness than he is about helping on forums. The problem is that everyone can't know about everything. I know squat about cars, and I hope I never have to learn. Some people probably feel the same way about their computers.
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Postby ghostdawg » 2007-11-01 06:07

Some of the same questions over & over makes it irritating. I don't mind helping if I can, but as Dean mention, you have to be able to solve alot of the issues yourself. Once you get a push in the rite direction then start searching forums and googling to find answers.

www.google.com/linux is a good place to search!
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Postby MeanDean » 2007-11-01 06:43

Couldn't agree more. Most answers aren't in documentation, they're in web forums. And if you don't want to help, you simply don't have to. I haven't answered any real questions in these forums for a while, but I still lurk around to see what people are asking sometimes, to see if I learn anything new.

I have a feeling Dean is actually more concerned about newb-mindedness than he is about helping on forums. The problem is that everyone can't know about everything. I know squat about cars, and I hope I never have to learn. Some people probably feel the same way about their computers.


forum == 2+2 is 4
documentation == learning how to do addition

If people came to the forum to learn addition then it would be great, if people came to the forum to seek clarification about documentation it would be great - but they just want the 'answer'

newb-mindedness seems to == go to forums to get quick answer

Well, you PAY to remain ignorant about your car dont you?

If you don't want to hold hands with a newbie, then don't. You're under no obligation. Other people (like me) feel good about themselves when they help someone else out.

Forums are great when they provide live help. For example, see my recent thread where I couldn't start X.

And they're also great because they leave a record that people can search to find solutions to similar problems. In fact, we solved the problem because Telemachus pointed me to other forums where people encountered the same error message.

So should I feel good when I teach my child how to tie their shoes or when I 'help' them by doing it for them every day?

Yep, instead of actually expecting people to understand disk space and to know a little more than 'squat' we simply tell them to run to the forums and post like mad so others can google for them. Yea, they leave a record of things to try regardless if you have any understanding of what you are doing or not.

Documentation could be written in wiki's but then you cant really ask questions

I think that good documentation would probably answer any questions that someone may have, that and a little brain power.

Actually, I don't get tired of "hand holding" but I do get tired of answering the same questions over and over again. It seems that some people don't take the time to search the forum before posting a question

The thing is, I dont think there is a question that hasnt been asked/answered a thousand times over... Yes, something about the question may be slightly different but I think people could manage to figure out how to adapt the answer into their own solution. But far too many answers on forums are 2+2=4 instead of a lesson in addition and aren't really 'meaty' but rather just 'something else to try'.

So I see it as a bit of giving back to the community that helped me.
I feel like that also....but then I realize that the community that helped me REALLY helped me by explaining shit and expecting me to put in some effort. The debian installation manual is a perfect example - I cursed it, hated it, loathed it, but by god when I got done I had a good understanding and I could tie my shoes and nobody needed to do it for me.


It would be a lot more helpful if we could yell at the dummies.

I got a lot of help from forums when I first started, but I can honestly say, I don't think that I ever needed a follow-up question once my forum query had been answered. Once I had some kind of clue about what I was dealing with, the rest of the answers were easy to find by myself.

Pet peeve: People who think a suggestion is an invitation to start a chat session.

Agree completely. I think forums are coddling dummies, even catering to them and if nobody is ever allowed to tell them to 'stop being dumb' then they will continue right on because they probably are not even aware they are being dumb.

Yep, I remember mailing lists more probably but some forums as well and to me a real answer was a clue/hint/suggestion about what it MAY be and what I should be reading up on or looking into - not someone running to wipe my ass for me. I dont ever remember ANYONE asking for a 'step by step' or 'as easy as possible' or 'the exact commands I enter' or similar. I think somewhere along the past few years something got all out of whack and I am afraid it is popularity that has caused it. If someone doesnt want to know 'squat' about linux they should probably go back to that other os where you are expected to not know squat.

Yea, is a forum a chat room? Seriously. I realize I am guilty as well sometimes but a little banter is one thing - constant chatter is another.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
How much mis-information is in forums too? spread over and over, used over and over by those without a clue - duplicating the same misinformation.

I liked it better when people would post their config files and what THEY did to get their hardware to work on a web page somewhere and you searched thru those and learned many things you wasnt even looking for and hopefully found out what you was looking for as well. Reading a REAL how-to that explained irqs, IO address, serial port names, flow control, and AT commands just to get your modem working. Getting done with it and having a REAL understanding of what all is involved and having true knowledge of a subject rather than just a answer.

I think linux is becoming more and more like windows - dumbed down. There is not as much 'learning' involved anymore - and thats a bad thing, not a good thing.

Is having auto-xorg any different than what windows provides? Will anyone have any knowledge of how to tweak xorg in a few years - will we even be able to do so?

Where is linux headed?


(rambling again) :lol:
Last edited by MeanDean on 2007-11-01 06:57, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby garrincha » 2007-11-01 06:50

The search features in this forum is basically useless unless you could be very specific with search functions and this still threw out a long list of trends. This will actually be confusing to newbies trying to find Debian specific solution to their problems, therefore validating Rickh's maxim of Debian being a non-newbie friendly distro.
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Postby EMD » 2007-11-01 16:24

This post is in reply to a post on another thread:

MeanDean wrote:Lets not confuse 'help' with 'do it for me' okay because that is exactly what forums have become 'do it for me, in as few steps as possible, something that I do not put any effort into or learn about, and that will solve all my problems immediately'

You're right.

MeanDean wrote:None of that helps anything. Documentation that covers mounting/unmounting is helpful. A forum with a 'do it for me' answer of mount -t vfat /dev/fd0 /mnt/floppy doesnt actually help anyone and they will never use what little bit of knowledge is in that answer to figure out how to mount other things. Whereas a simple explanation would provide the knowledge how to mount anything.

True, but you can also learn by imitation. When I was new to GNU/Linux, I copied and pasted the commands listed in various forum posts, but I also read the man pages to find out what those commands were doing.

Unfortunately, some people mindlessly copy-paste and that is a problem because someone can torch his/her system if he doesn't know what he is doing. "I issued the mkfs.vfat -F 16 -n usb /dev/sda1 command just like you told me to and now Windows won't start. What happened?"

An idiot is going to torch his system sooner or later. Posting commands that he can copy and paste with step-by-step instructions usually ensures that he torches his system later rather than sooner ... and he might just learn from those instructions.

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Postby txHarleyMan » 2007-11-01 16:34

Forums are a good thing. Anyone can add 2 to 2 in their head, but multiply 5124 by 127. You need a calculator. Help at a certain point is a good thing.
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