From a recent stream of comments ( here):

Anyone who attempts dual booting without reading en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power-on_self-test , en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BIOS , en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_boot_record , en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GUID_Partition_Table , en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UEFI is doomed to confusion, failure and frustration. – waltinator 8 mins ago

@waltinator - I have seen you post this comment more then once and referring to wikipedia is IMO really inappropriate. I have sucessfully installed Ubuntu, Fedora, ARCH, and gentoo all without reading those wikipedia pages – bodhi.zazen 6 mins ago


@bodhi.zazen Should I just scream "RTFM" and let them dangle? Should I rewrite the Wikipedia articles and figure out how to explain them? These Wikipedia articles have clearly written explanations that a responsible administrator about to alter the disk should read. Why is Wikipedia "really inappropriate"? – waltinator 53 secs ago edit

I was hoping to see "Here's a better way to phrase it", but what I seem to be getting is "Good/Bad waltinator Cookie/No Cookie".

What I want to tell them (with minimal offense) is:

I've been computing to 50 years, and understand both the concepts you are juggling, and the mistake you're making. If fact, I may have made the same mistake myself (one makes many mistakes in 50 years). Reading the Wikipedia articles (and understanding them) will help you figure out your problem. I'd rather tell the O.P. how to educate themselves and solve their own problem than simply say "do this, do that (especially when dealing with disk partitions). The Wikipedia articles explain things better that I'm willing to, and cost me no effort.

I've rewritten my advice to:

I suggest you read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power-on_self-test , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BIOS , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_boot_record , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GUID_Partition_Table , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UEFI . One will have the Answer. Read the others to understand that one.

  • @bodhi.zazen I moved this question to meta.ubuntu.com as meta.askubuntu.com/questions/17123/…
    – waltinator
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 5:04
  • On a side note, I would never trust wikipedia for up to date tech info. That's just not the place I'd search.
    – don.joey
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 8:13
  • 2
    @donjoey: Is this superstition? Which Wikipedia articles contain out-of-date tech info? Did you fix them? What's a better source?
    – waltinator
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 14:29
  • No not superstition, I search askubuntu, the top google sites, and the ubuntu docs. Wikipedia for me is an encyclopedia, not a tech manual. But hey, interesting to see how it can also serve your purposes.
    – don.joey
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 7:56
  • @don.joey Wikipedia is a phenomenal source of references. The content of wikipedia may be dubious, but a well sourced article is a good start to technical research. (wikipedia is often a -- sometimes the -- top google site)
    – djeikyb
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 1:46
  • 1
    The point of Ask Ubuntu is to be the reference source for up-to-date, well curated information. Not to merely redirect people to other sources of information. As a side note, your attitude in those comments is unkind (or dare I say pretty impolite). Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 20:18

6 Answers 6


In short

I think you are.

It is always easy to say: "If you read this or that, you could have avoided this problem", but that goes for pretty much all of the 268,781 (at this very moment) questions on AU.

The problem is, people ask here mostly because they don't know the way to the right sources, and why should we blame them? We've all been there, and moreover, such a comment serves no goal.

Just point out the right way and explain, or link to the right dupe if that is the case.

  • +1 for "268,781 (at this very moment)" cliff-hanger that leaves me tuned into this channel for the paradigm shift. Sometimes for the deadly simple answers I put in a subtle hint "when I googled the problem I found this solution....". Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 23:41

IMHO, providing information is helpful. Demeaning those who choose to not accept your advice is not helpful.

The definitive statement in this thread came from waltinator:

These Wikipedia articles have clearly written explanations that a responsible administrator about to alter the disk [or otherwise potentially destroy the system] should read.

The operative words being

"responsible administrator"

which, in most cases, does NOT describe those posting questions in this forum.

I started working on computer systems over 50 years ago. I've since held systems engineering roles for scores of systems and operating systems and thousands of application software products. Not to mention bridges, switches, routers and various other network infrastructure devices.

While I value documentation it is totally unreasonable to expect someone to pour over various manuals, FAQs, wiki pages and so on just to find the answer to a question that some smart forum member could answer off the top of their head. "Be nice" should also be tempered with "be helpful".

I've personally been slammed on here for not formatting a response in a manner that was inconsistent with the protocols on this site. This did not make me feel very welcome. Imagine how a noobie with zero *NIX experience might feel when they ask a question and are told to "RTFM".

I'm just a passer-by here. It's your site. Run it however you like. But if folks here are truly concerned about whether or not they are perceived as being "unkind" they might want to take my observations into consideration.

As an aside, if I need an answer fast, I will do a Google search as well as posting a question in an appropriate forum. But I am generally not inclined to invest and potentially waste many hours reading things that may or may not help solve my problem. I've been a Ubuntu user for quite some time, having migrated over from Red Hat. Since I am committed to Ubuntu I do read a lot of documentation on this site. However, many if not most of the first time posters here are NOT committed to Ubuntu and their first experience with Linux may well be the way that they are treated when posting here. I'm sure everyone here wants to make that experience a positive one.

  • 5
    Hey, it's your site too. And I agree with what you say here. We help end users, who have every right to be clueless.
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 6:55
  • 1
    Superb answer. And yes, this is your site too. Just a little quirk (yup, I know I am being pedantic...): this is not a forum, it's a Q&A site. ;) Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 20:21

I see nothing wrong with pointing out useful resources about the topic in question as a comment. In my opinion this is useful (at least more useful than silently passing by) and I also do that every now and then when I don't have time to figure out a whole answer or just know a rough direction and not enough detail.

However, the way you worded it, I can understand that some people feel slightly offended. A bit. Maybe. Okay, there are more important things in this world to be offended about, but anyway.

Let me recommend a different wording that sounds nicer and doesn't make the OP feel you're implying that they are stupid or incompetent. What about one of these?

  • Have you already read [link]? I think these resources could help you understand the problem.
  • I don't have time to answer in detail right now, but you will probably be able to figure out a solution by reading [link]. You can leave me a comment if things are still unclear to you after that and tell me what exactly you didn't understand.
  • This is a pretty wide and complex topic and I think you should have at least a basic understanding of the general concepts in order to be able to understand both your problem and the answers and suggestions you might get. I'd therefore like to recommend you read [link] first, please.

Those were just a few phrases I think one could use to suggest somebody read a specific resource about their problem. You don't have to copy one and learn it by heart, ready to recite it below any question, but rather be inspired to find a similar and appropriate wording yourself the next time.

  • Those would make for some amazing canned comments, though. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 20:22

Personally I've never read "dual-booting in Wikipedia" but I have read many threads here and in Ubuntu Forums on the subject. So for OP to claim an ultimate holly-than-thou source on the subject is, well, subjective.

We can't get into a competition on the best source of a given problem. Our job is to only point out sources.

As Thomas says there is a "Be Nice" rule and I think we all should appreciate it because we want people to be nice to us too. No one knows everything about everything so even though. Some might have expertise in lets say hardware like RAM, CPU, SSD, etc. but be weak in developing GUI's in BASH. Therefore everyone has the opportunity to point the finger or have a finger pointed at them.

Like Fabby says if you find a particular question annoying it is best to bite your tongue, close it and move on to something else you are more appreciative of.


To quote Einstein:

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.

People come here, ask questions, we duplicate (most of) them, find an interesting question every now and then and answer it but most of the time we find dreck and the more time you spend on the site, the more dreck you find as you get smarter whereas the next n00b will still be a n00b just as you were a n00b once upon a time... :-)

As most users don't ask smart questions let alone write the perfect question, you should just hit the back button and move to the next question when (not if) you see a dumb question. ;-)

That way, you'll be much happier, the users will be much happier, the mods will be much happier and Thomas will stay as grumpy as ever...

  • +1 for A) balance the negative 1 which I can't fathom why and because B) the Thomas grumpy pseudo-redacted phrase was funny. Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 23:46
  • @WinEunuuchs2Unix It was much funnier before Kaz's edit: see the revision history... /shrug...
    – Fabby
    Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 23:49
  • I fail to see the battle over which is more politically correct "n00b" or "newbie". Then again maybe it makes the wars I've started to study since 2000 make sense... Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 23:55


You're telling the truth and the truth cannot be pedantic. It doesn't help to correct or improve the very same illiteracy you're implicitly complaining about (and I feel your pain) though but at least it provides the reality check so many people need.

  • Excuse my pedantry, but the word is rooted in the ideas of instruction and teaching. Truth and pedantry overlap by definition.
    – djeikyb
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 1:41
  • @djeikyb The dictionary definition points to: * 1. ostentatious in one's learning* and 2. overly concerned with minute details or formalisms, especially in teaching. IMO, neither is applicable here.
    – user692175
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 5:31
  • Pedantry may be foolish, but a pedant without truth is a fool, not a pedant.
    – djeikyb
    Commented Aug 2, 2017 at 22:26

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