IRC


N00bs are OK Too

Here’s a little commentary over at CakeBaker on people apologizing for being a newbie.

On mailing lists or in private mails I sometimes read statements like “I am sorry, but I am a newbie” or “Sorry for this newbie question”. And I always wonder why do those people apologize for not being proficient?

I think the apologies come from the fact that most communities has their fair share of snarky members. Case in point: I was on IRC the other day to ask a question about a new language/framework I’m learning… it was a REALLY easy answer for the experienced developer, but for whatever reason I wasn’t sure if I fully understood the concept. Among the types of responses I received, most were fairly typical:

  • A couple genuinely helpful answers
  • The “What do you mean you don’t get it? How can you NOT understand?” type response.
  • That I should stop what I’m doing now, close the book I’m trying to learn from, and read through another book on a different subject. In this case it would be like (not the actual case) being told to stop reading the Agile Development with Rails book in favor of reading Programming Ruby 1.9.
  • The non-response – nobody responds to your request for help. Mind you, I do a lot of extra work to make the barrier to helping me as small as possible.

After my experiences, I’m not surprised that people apologize for being noobs. It’s embarrassing to be made to look like a fool in public, especially when you have to ask for help because you can’t get it on your own. Now of course, I have less sympathy for people who don’t read the documentation and at least try, but if you’ve done that and it’s still a cloudy mess in your brain, ask away.