This question was prompted by this one.

At first glance I agreed that this looked like a horrible question with a lack of detail, then I recalled the initial slideshow when a new user installs Ubuntu and the phrase about askubuntu.com being a place with "thousands of volunteers who are eager to help". I did a quick search on the limited information provided and discovered it was a bug. Then I dug a bit deeper and found what looked like the root cause. I was then able to provide what I think is a viable solution.

So are we getting in the habit of being a bit too harsh on the n00bs? We were all there once, even if it was decades ago.

  • I'm not eager to help and I upvoted this question just to be nice but the question itself is a dupe im sure, I had this issue way back on multipe OS and I asked about it on unix.se or here but I'm pretty sure you can find many exact dupes for the question you mentioned and perhaps I answered similar ones. Not active these days so I don't remember exactly but I can flag it as a dupe if I search enough for dupes
    – Lynob
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 21:44
  • 3
    90% of the questions I see these days are either dupes or low quality, not eager to help simply because it's boring
    – Lynob
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 21:46
  • @Lynob based on the voting patterns it would seem you aren't alone.
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 21:48
  • 3
    I think the higher rep users and a few of the lower rep users are eager to help but it is not thousands of course. I think you coming along and fixing the issue shows that some are eager to help :) Not enough to answer all the questions of course but we get more all the time. With new user I comment and ask them for more info and if they give it to me, I try to help them. If they never do, I vote to close the bad question
    – Mark Kirby
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 23:41
  • 4
    Next time, leave a Comment to close voters: Problem understood and answering! (Also: voted to reopen).
    – Fabby
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 23:15
  • @Fabby I would have thought the existence of an answer indicated that, but your suggestion clearly has merit. Thank you.
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 3:06
  • Being harsh on noobs sounds bad, but being harsh on people too lazy to learn enough about the process before asking a question, and who happen to be noobs seems fair to me.
    – user12753
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 9:44
  • @Alex I could use a test for determining the lazy from the simply incapable or incompetent.
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 14:39
  • @ElderGeek If this site is for professionals, then we can surely agree that we are excluding people who are incapable or incompetent, so all that remains are the lazy!
    – user12753
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 15:31
  • 2
    @Alex Everyone who actually manages to start installing Ubuntu gets the slideshow encouraging them to come here for help. With all due respect, your assessment is flawed.
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 15:33

7 Answers 7



We can be far too harsh on those who lack the background and ability to ask a good question. We should expend the effort required to provide this help to those in need as we wouldn't be here if we weren't "Eager to help"


Yes and no.

It depends on the case.

I agree that many people here (and I can't exclude myself) are rather clicking the downvote/close/delete button and moving on instead of attempting a long comment discussion to pull all the required information out of OP's nose, especially if they are not masters at the relevant topic and already have an idea what could be the problem.

This is not as nice as we could be in a perfect world, of course, but please bear in mind that (although some of us have amazing stats which might make one believe this) we are no machines. We're all just humans that can't sit in front of their computer all day to offer free online support. We have basic needs like sleeping and eating, and most of us have a job and must go to work. Some guys here might even have hobbies ( ;D ). In other words, our time is limited and we want to use it efficiently.

So it is not that useful to invest too much time into improving a bad question to a level which makes it answerable, if there isn't at least a subtle sign that the OP is willing to contribute and provide requested information as well as follow the advice we give them.

From my point of view, if the OP does not show at least a basic effort to...

  1. try researching on the internet first (Google, DuckDuckGo, whatever)
  2. check the site's rules and standards (at least taking the tour would be nice) and act accordingly
  3. formulate a understandable question (no need for correct Oxford English, just understandable please)
  4. provide obviously relevant information
  5. describe what they already tried to solve the problem

... it's likely to get a tough troubleshooting session, involving much conversation, asking the same things over and over again, until the problem can be solved. In that time, one might have been able to answer three other questions or do something else useful.

Oh, and regarding point 5: I am allergic to phrases like

I already searched the web and tried all possible solutions.

No, of course you have not. Otherwise you pretty surely would have found one that also works in your case. So either you didn't search at all and just want to make us believe you showed some effort, you only did a superficial research (like skimming through the top five results of one query), or - which is very unlikely - you indeed have a problem nobody else has faced yet or was able to solve it. But in that last case, we're unlikely to be able to help you either. Therefore all attempts and steps should be listed in detail, at least after that gets requested in comments.

To conclude, I would like to say again that in some cases, we should really try to invest some more time ad effort into helping new users that show the will to communicate with us as well as they can and to cooperate in order to fix the problem. If the question style gives one the impression that the opposite is likely to happen though, I can totally understand to drop that question and move on. There are buttons to downvote, close or delete bad posts for a reason.

  • 2
    Might I add in the Language gap as well. I have bumped into one before but the Language gap was so severe, I was having a hard time explaining myself to the OP which they were not understanding at all what I was trying to tell them.
    – Terrance
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 22:46
  • My vote was yes and no. Yes, we should delve into the question and look for hidden gems and yes, Elder Geek provided a viable solution in his answer. The no part was that the OP commented Sorry Guys, I have reinstalled making the problem more unreproducible. It didn't say anywhere that the OP wasn't using the default lightdm, so I allowed Elder Geek's observation about a bug with gdm to fall between the cracks.
    – karel
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 14:02
  • @karel to be fair, the question didn't specify which flavor of Ubuntu he was using and if it was gnomish. If that was the case as I surmised based on research of the information provided then askubuntu.com/questions/789314/… applies.
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Oct 21, 2016 at 16:55
  • +1 for the alergy ;-)
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Nov 9, 2016 at 16:10

Yes, especially me..

As a passionate Ubuntu/Linux user, I am always wanting to help another individual. Along the way, I learn things about Ubuntu/Linux and the community. That's why I'm on AskUbuntu. (Also when I need help too.) I am always willing to help.

  • 2
    +1 that is a hilarious answer!
    – don.joey
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 21:22
  • @don.joey But it wasn't meant as a joke. Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 1:30
  • "especially me...." just sounds funny, no offence intended
    – don.joey
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 10:34

Yes! Very Much!!

I believe we should always assume that a new user knows nothing at all.

I believe we shouldn't care about the prettiness of questions on AU than to give personal help to people through their questions. (then later we can burn their questions if we wanted).

I believe that any question of any type no matter how ugly can always "be modified to fit the rules" by requesting more information from the asker or by editing it.

I believe that "you don't have to do anything". Meaning; you saw a question you know the answer to but you don't want to answer it. Just don't. So what. Maybe you can give the asker some link in a comment and that's it.

This one might sound strange but I believe that asking a good question isn't easy!! It's like writing a homework essay and getting a full-mark. Normally a question should have problems and we fix them. (either request information or edit).

I believe that even using AU isn't as easy for some people as others. Some people don't find it very intuitive as others. Users should be given enough time to learn.

I believe that we rarely have the right to criticize a user for asking a question.


I can read a question where the t's weren't crossed and the i's weren't dotted and still figure it out. Some times I have a very good hunch and ask for clarification via comment.

But some I've noticed are very quick to invoke the guillotine.

Conversely I've gone through queue review tests and an answer posted by a star was a little to trite or confusing and I suggested via comment that a detailed example or sample code using OP's question would be helpful and I was crucified for "daring to post a comment" on a high level answer ("this was just a test and you failed. LOOK, LISTEN and LEARN!!!!").

Does this has anything to do with Oli's going off the deep end (as linked in AU general chat room last night) with someone wanting to delete their AU account over perceived persecution?

I'm not a dead saint who's history is unknown and therefore can be painted as perfect by the church, but as a living person I try to be helpful and understanding but like everyone else is subject to overwhelming stress at times and making bad snap decisions.

There is no undelete key for the internet shrugs

  • Oh the dreaded "LOOK, LISTEN and LEARN!!!!". I've received several of those over the last couple years. (Although the frequency has dropped quite a bit.) Don't let it (or anything else) stress you out. This question clearly has nothing to do with anything that happened last night around the water cooler {deep end nor shallow end ;-)} as it was asked Oct 20 at 20:02. Be that as it may, I'm not sure where this comes down in relation to the question.
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 12:15

I regard myself as NON-Technical...

FYI, am not newbie, long ago serious brain injuries damaged my memory, ever since frequently loose access to memory, so often forget things.

Example faces and names of family/friends/relatives, frequently my brain refuses my access to the linked information there !

Learning constantly is part of my life... if do not regularly do things, my memory disappears... to be re-learnt :-@

Am sure most who post are doing best they can at the time...

IMHO we all best help others who ask what we can answer, and encourage them to learn a little more...


No We are sick and tired of answering questions that don't meet the bare minimum requirements of research and self-repair attempts for those who can't seem to find any information that isn't on their facebook page. We wish they would at least read the how to ask page before having the temerity to interrupt our sessions at the water cooler. Or failing that at least take the tour and read the Code of Conduct.

  • I don't think that the Code of Conduct is important for Ask Ubuntu contributions. At the end of the day, it's just a "be nice" policy, which should just be natural.
    – Byte Commander Mod
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 20:59
  • @ByteCommander One would think so, wouldn't one?
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 21:03
  • Yeah. I just want to say stating "Be nice" (which I am sure the help center or tour page does anywhere) is more effective than linking a big document which actually does not really have more content relevant to Ask Ubuntu.
    – Byte Commander Mod
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 21:05
  • @ByteCommander it's a Community Wiki. Feel free to edit it if you think that "Be nice" is the only important part of the Code of Conduct. Personally, I think the topics of collaboration and consensus and consideration are also worthy of inclusion (to name a few)
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 21:36
  • It's just my opinion and I stated it. I wouldn't go as far as overriding yours with that here in this case.
    – Byte Commander Mod
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 21:37

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