When people come to this site, they seek help, and I acknowledge that. Now however, it is time to question how much they need to know before they come asking for help. I was scrolling through earlier when I found this. Now normally yes you get 1-2 decently bad questions, but this is just horrid.

Now yes, I do understand it was a mistake, and that the user didn't mean to sound idiotic, but for the love of god, what the hell is upgarde? This raises another question about spelling and language, but that's for another day.

We also see questions like this, where the user blatantly admits that they have basically no experience with Ubuntu and that tutorials they have seen are too complicated for them. Now alright, for something big like hardware, I understand, but I think there needs to be a line of common knowledge that people have before they come asking these questions.

Going back to earlier, maybe the user mis-read a tutorial and did not know the proper command. But if you run a google search for sudo apt-get upgarde, google will automatically suggest sudo apt-get upgrade. It seems that as people become more and more lazy, we have to cope with their questions and work around their knowledge, when to be perfectly frank, the only way anyone can learn is by making mistakes and solving them the right way, not the "get out way."

I do realize that it is good sometimes to dull down an answer for a newbie (ex. NVIDIA drivers), but what if we (the answer-ers) and them (the askers) met half way? Post your thoughts on this below, I'm interested to hear more opinions.

  • 17
    I find it slightly ironic this question was asked in one giant blob of text with no paragraph or line breaks.
    – Seth
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 17:54
  • 6
    @DavidCole-GrammarPolice Seeing this comment, from the Grammar Police no less, makes me wish I could downvote comments.
    – Mark Kirby
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 9:31
  • 3
    @DavidCole-GrammarPolice There is making a small grammatical error like a missing comer or capitol letter and then there is writing a whole block of text with out any paragraphs. I am only taking the mick, I get your comment was just a joke but if you call your self "The grammar police" get used to getting your grammar criticized when it is bad.
    – Mark Kirby
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 16:24
  • 1
    I am, believe me! You don't know how many times when typing quickly I have been called out. It's all good. @MarkKirby
    – David
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 16:26
  • 2
    We all do it, your name just makes you an easy target :p @DavidCole-GrammarPolice
    – Mark Kirby
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 16:29
  • 1
    The question, even in it's original form, is not that bad. It's off topic, but it's not hurting anything really. Be lenient. Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 13:20
  • Another problem with that question is that it's going to lead many legitimate Googlers searching for "Why is apt-get upgrade not working" to a completely useless dead end, especially since the title of the question is spelled correctly. Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 19:46

4 Answers 4


The true criterion

To be honest, I rarely have the feeling that a user's level (of knowledge) is too low. I can't remember a single occasion actually.

It is the intention with what people post their question(s) that possibly turns it into an annoying experience. If people accept your (our) offer to guide them through, and intend to learn, level zero is good enough for me.

If people cherish their ignorance however, you can be pretty sure they intend to keep on being "served", without any effort from their side. Then I think we should draw a line.

About your example:
Note that for many reasons, people can be unaware of mis-spellings of a command, or mis-spellings in general. Reasons you might not know. It definitely does not mean someone is "dumb", let alone not good enough to post here.

  • I wouldn't say @David was implying such people are "dumb", more like such people show no effort in trying things before asking questions here.
    – edwinksl
    Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 1:16
  • 2
    @edwinksl Now yes, I do understand it was a mistake, and that the user didn't mean to sound idiotic isn't exactly referring to being lazy... Commented Jun 4, 2016 at 1:23

"What have you tried" has been misused previously

I think what you are discussing in your Q is the "what have you tried" philosophy. Which I agree with, mostly. The problem is that such a statement has been widely over-used in the past:

Along with the good, comes some bad -- as usual in life.

These comments are bad when

  • Posting "what have you tried" multiple times per question is severely obnoxious
  • Posting "what have you tried" when the user has clearly shown that they have tried to solve it on their own

It is becoming increasingly common to see "what have you tried?" comments in these scenarios.

This even led to the blockage of the domain whathaveyoutried.com from SO:

Links to the article were actually banned by StackOverflow at various points due to the sheer frequency of use

My opinion

I agree with the "what have you tried" philosophy when it comes to users that show no will to learn at all, but especially for programming tasks.

Conversely, we need to remember that this is a website about Ubuntu. This includes using Ubuntu. Not everyone is a developer here and there is no need to become like StackOverflow.

"Simple" newbies should feel welcome, therefore sharp WHYT comments should be avoided. This does not mean that we should get the quality of the content decrease by much:

  • Let's still ask for clarification when a question is unclear or poorly written
  • Let's still refrain from accepting the "hey solve my problem" attitude and let's prefer questions in the "how do I fix ...?" format
  • Let's vote for closing duplicate questions

I think the reputation and voting are a fair solution to your concern. Either a person adapts and learns or they leave frustrated and not post more. There are so many factors that are masked from view when posting in a forum, really only the question remains with some hints of experience, maturity, and possibly drive of the author.

I am new to this forum and new to IT in general, so my naivety likely reeks to an industry professional or long time super user, yet my family thinks I am an IT god because I know how to open a terminal, usually. (See my only question at the time of this posting, and calmly note I didn't provide a link because I'm on my phone typing this while killing time before an appointment.)

My experience and expertise in using the internet to find an answer is far above average, though sometimes I must look like an ignorant rage case because I mispelled something and have been up a few hours past bed time chasing a phantom of my imagination.

I'm sure an academic could project a social construct over a scenario suggesting low-skilled based questions will attract a low-skilled response while a higher-skilled question will attract answers by higher skilled responders, and maybe argue that there is some sort of plateau based on skill of poster, that results in a favorable response. In other words, if a person left a below par question alone, maybe the asker would be forced to learn on their own until they can achieve a skill above the plateau discussed.


I do believe we have a lot of questioners that do not take the time to do a simple search of their problem.

Too many time I have just searched the original question and posted back a link to the answer, it took me less than a minute to find the answer, something the questioner could have done themselves.

But in the end, I have to think of the end game, and my end game is to get as many people moved to Linux as possible and to do this we will have to answer questions that the questioner could have found answers to on their own if they had just tried.

I have worked in the Windows world for most of my career, and even to this day, questioners of that platform ask questions that they could have answered themselves with a little research (keeps paying the bills), what this means is that Linux is making in-roads into the general population, and with that comes the pain of supporting the general population.

What I wish most about this site is that comments could be created like answers, too many times I have really good questions that could use better formatting, code snippets I want them to try, web links I want them to look at, or longer comments gleaning better info. In the end, if my comment actually is the answer, it would be great to be able to change it from comment to answer with a single click.

I am just glad that the days of being spurned by Linux "gurus" for asking "dumb" questions are gone, keep up the good work.

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