Debian and Ubuntu users have the "Elitism" attitude or Being Technical is no excuse for being rude!

So I keep hearing complaints that FreeBSD users have a rudeness about them that some call “Elitism”.

Well, this is true, I have commented on forum posts when I have seen such. However, it is not the case that this is something that is strictly limited to FreeBSD users.

They past few days I was helping a user install Ubuntu on VMWare Server. Since I was the only one really helping the user he started making him comments directly to me.

Next thing I know, I was getting railed on by an Debian / Ubuntu guy.

First, he called me out directly and told me to “pay attention”:

Jared: Please, pay attention, that it should be special reason to use VMWare Workstation, because it’s not free.

What? I shouldn’t help this guy because his software is not free? This is obsurd.

Now, since the customer was asking how to do this with VMWare, I was quite puzzled, so I sent him an email explaining that containing this exact text:

When the person who started the discussions says that they are using VMWare you help them with their issue, you don’t rag on them for the version they are using.

You maybe should take a moment an re-read the post.

Yes, I was a little rude back. I could have responded better. This is a learning experience for next time.

Then he came back at me with a this:


Actually you’re right. That’s why you also should re-read the initial posts and see that TS was talking about VMWare *server*. Also, as I understood, you are working in company that ignore risks of using illegal SW if you don’t care about it’s cost. Please, do not spread this approach to others.

So now he attacks my company and says I work for a company that ignores the risks of illegal software. Which is actually quite funny and ironic. I work for LANDesk and one of our main features is Software Licensing Monitoring, a feature that tracks your software usage vs. license count and makes sure that companies are not overusing licenses or stealing software.

Anyway, whether you are a FreeBSD user or a Debian user or technical in any way it doesn’t matter; Being technical is no excuse for being rude.

Speak nicer in forums and mailing lists. Stop flaming other people. Especially newbies. Don’t forget we were all newbies once.

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  1. Bryan says:

    Not to condone the attitude he gave you initially, but occasionally rudeness is appropriate.

    I am willingly to help a user whole heartedly, provided they do their own research first. I happen to frequent the IRC channel for my preferred linux distro rather frequently and will certainly tell another user to RTFM or STFW provided I know that a particular topic is covered in the wiki or on the first page of google (or bing / yahoo / ask). From my point of view, I gain nothing by reiterating the information that the user should have found on their own before coming to me. By asking some rather redundant question, the user proves that they did no work and expected another member of the community to do that work for you (or that the user is are ignorant of the expectations of the community to which they belong - which is equally dismissive on their part).

    In my opinion, Ubuntu and like minded distros take too light a hand with new users most of the time. They set no expectations of them, which causes a disjointed community due to the separation in knowledge between the helpers and the helpees. Join #archlinux or #crux and you'll see my point. Even those asking for help on some issues can then turn around and possibly help the next person to ask a question.

    Again - I'm not saying that 'attitude' is appropriate. The person who called you out was stepping over 'the line' in my opinion. However, new users should be able to help themselves to some extent. Having been a user of OSs and pieces of software with elitist communities, the mantra 'We help those that help themselves' holds true 90% of the time.

    • rhyous says:


      Good point. I agree that people need to educate themselves. And some people never learn. If they know they should search and know how to search and play dumb so someone else does the work, that is equally rude and lazy on the poster/asker's part.

      Sometimes you can tell where they at. In forums it is easy to see how many posts someone has. If they are up to at least twenty posts or more and ask a question where if they just did an internet search or a forum search with the words in their question they will find the top five responses from Google, Yahoo, Bing, or the forum gives them an answer. It makes you want to say rtm or if you want to be funny instead of mean send them a link to "Let me Google that for you" such as If you haven't seen the "Let me Google that for you" web page, just click the link, and you get the 2 or 3 step tutorial to doing a Google search. In this situation, I like to take an approach that is almost the same as saying RTM, but has a better delivery. I just say, "I think that is explained really well in the handbook, but let us know if you have a question after you read it:". It is like a pie. Most people like pie, but the delivery makes all the difference (on a plate vs. in the face).

      However, often someone makes their first post on a forum and gets flamed and told to RTFM. That is a potential user probably lost. If someone doesn't have the time or the patience to help a newbie, then they shouldn't post at all and keep the flaming to themselves.

      Or as in my case, I got flamed while I was trying to do the helping not the asking and was completely caught off guard. I don't even know how to categorize that.

      • Bryan says:

        I have to agree with you that attitude makes all of the difference. There is a good explanation on this whole phenomenon here:

        That article actually goes into a LOT more detail than I could hope to ever do here, but it opens an interesting argument. It states that many hackers, coders, and generally elitist computer users suffer from social disorders that affect their processing of social interaction and can cause them to react differently than most people would expect them too. I'm not saying this is true in your case, but that this could account for a lot of the socially awkward / unacceptable responses that people receive on forums or IRC. (Some of it might just be an engineering mindset that cares more about solving problems and cutting through bullshit than making someone feel 'warm and fuzzy')

        On a side note - I really should try out FreeBSD. I'm currently an Archlinux / Crux user and most of what I like about these two distros is what they steal from the *BSDs (Ports-like package management, BSD Style init system, minimal approach to installed system etc)

      • Med Berdai says:

        I totally agree with you, and your answer wasn't rude at all.

  2. Pete says:

    Good post! Open source would be way bigger than it was if some people were less interested in looking clever and more interested in helping newbies! Even when people do get the help they're looking for, dismissive and disparaging comments tend to put them off.

    I don't think you were rude at all, much cooler than I'd have been!

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