I've seen many questions where the person asking for help, uses insults as part of their question. As examples, look at these:

  1. How can I get your (bad word here) software to do what I (bad word here) want?
  2. You are all (list of bad words here) if you think I'll keep using your (bad word here) software if I can't get this to work!

Is this a good way to get people to help me? For instance, if I threaten to leave Ubuntu if I don't get help immediately; will that make the community realize how important my question is and make them rush to my resque? Or if I insult the software or community, does it make helpers feel that they can save face by providing extra good help extra quickly?

I am asking because so many users choose this tactic.

  • Touché, I can't figure out if this belongs here or meta.
    – jrg
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 10:54
  • 1
    Thought it might be good to have something to link to. :) Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 10:58
  • 4
    Moving this over because it's more about what we do here, not Ubuntu.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 11:01
  • meta.askubuntu.com/questions/2332/… Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 11:08
  • 2
    I think it is better block to bad words before posting as bad quality question
    – Tachyons
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 11:28
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    @tachyons No, we can't do that for reasons I can't fit into a comment, but the gist is "no, because then that's censorship as opposed to editing" - I know of several questions that were profanity filled that have been edited and are now good questions. Also, the list would never be complete, so it's not really worth trying.
    – jrg
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 11:49
  • 1
    It's not exactly the same thing, but here's some nice advice on (not) getting steamed up when making a complaint.
    – poolie
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 5:59
  • @poolie Your #&!&d link is broken! How do you (&^@*#$$ expect me to !*&#^@-ing read your !*#&$-ing link when the *(@$$ is (@*$!-ed up! </joking>
    – belacqua
    Commented May 2, 2012 at 16:32
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    @belacqua you forgot the opening <joking> tag
    – nanofarad
    Commented Jun 4, 2012 at 12:11
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    Ubuntu Meta? I thought this was Programmers and it was another Java fiend hating on PHP...
    – Krista K
    Commented Jun 17, 2012 at 21:39
  • Possible duplicate - meta.askubuntu.com/questions/3823/…, meta.askubuntu.com/questions/2332/…
    – jrg
    Commented Oct 16, 2012 at 13:58

8 Answers 8


takes off moderator hat

As a free software developer, if you come to me swearing like a pirate, insulting something I've put hours into and lots of thought, then I will help you, but I will remember you and your name. And that's not a good thing.

puts on moderator hat

As a community moderator here on Ask Ubuntu, if someone does that, I will edit/or delete it and ask them to try again and

  • Not Insult anyone if possible.

  • Do remember to treat the developers/those who help you politely, since many of them if not 99.9% do it for free with no pay . (that number might be slightly off, but probably not by much)

  • 2
    99.9% :s Is there any paid users?
    – Tachyons
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 11:22
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    There are some Canonical employees who are active here, so I'm (perhaps unfairly) counting then as the other 0.1%.
    – jrg
    Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 11:45
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    I think most, probably all, of the Canonical employees answering questions on AskUbuntu are doing it to help people out, not because they're specifically paid or directed to work on it. Anyhow, none of them are getting paid by the people asking the abusive question (this isn't commercial support), and asking abusive questions is a bad idea even when you are paying.
    – poolie
    Commented Mar 16, 2012 at 5:57
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    @poolie U1 team, and true and truer.
    – jrg
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 10:20
  • @ObsessiveFOSS: Fine. Pirate then. OK? ;)
    – jrg
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 1:31

Most helpers on this site are volunteers. They are not paid to do customer service. They do so because they're proud of the software and community they're contributing to. This means that if you insult the software, you are also insulting them. This makes it very much more likely that your question will be downvoted and closed rather than people stepping forward to volunteer to help you.

Threatening to leave Ubuntu if you don't get immediate help will usually result in a polite "goodbye" rather than quick help. The volunteers do not loose anything if you choose some other operating system. In fact, many helpers would feel that if rude users went somewhere else, it would be a good thing.

In other words, neither threats nor insults are likely to result in higher quality assistance. It is a bad strategy and should be avoided.


language, no. Threats to leave, well... you might think it conveys how important the feature is to you enjoying the software, but it sets up the opposite message (yes if ultimately if you can not resolve certain things you will leave) but if you say that people will say "ok, leave then, the community will be better without you" and that sets up a harmful effect to the community as well. So users state why a certain usability issue is important you (i.e. how the software is used daily), and consider that there might not be a magic fix all solution. Also don't respond to "I'll leave" threats, someone might drop one in haste or frustration, Edit out the threat and get down to what the real problem is.

  • 1
    I think sometimes newcomers say they will stop using Ubuntu if we don't help the, because they think it will motivate people to help, to avert losing a user. I can't speak directly for others, but more Ubuntu users is not my goal when I offer people help. More users with their needs met and more users with their freedom respected are (two of) my goals. I think Ubuntu furthers that for many users, but I don't think it does for all, and I don't respond to people who want to stop using Ubuntu by telling them they should stay. Newcomers who realize this probably won't threaten to leave. Commented May 26, 2012 at 20:40
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    I agree, @EliahKagan thats why I think ignoring those threats is best, if there is a real question there they can calm down enough to where we can help, if not... they can leave, but I think saying "fine just leave already" to a user directly has just as much harm on the user saying that.
    – Mateo
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 22:31

Some people get frustrated and start swearing like a pirate. I know the feeling because I've been there several times before. I don't think this is particularly malicious but in terms of cleaning up things here, we usually edit them out.

On the other hand (and what you're really alluding to) people who make ultimatums and threats can choke on them for all I care. That behaviour is not and will not be tolerated anywhere in the Ubuntu community.

If I see a post that is anti-social, it goes. If it's really bad, the user goes too. We aim to maintain a friendly environment for asking and answering questions so people who can't play nice are not welcome here.

  • 6
    See epic edit #2 for an example. Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 12:47
  • 4
    If they actually swore like a pirate, that would be fine. :)
    – poolie
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 21:15

People who bad mouth the software they are using are making it plain they accept no role in causing their problem. First question I ask someone with trouble, what is the last thing you did before you noticed the problem. Understanding how they got there is helpful in identifying a problems cause even if it's not a cockpit problem. If they're nasty and playing the blame game they're not ready to cooperate in resolution. I won't subject myself to their abuse and bad attitude.


Flag it as not welcome in our communitiy.

Insulting will annoy serious people and distract the more professional and the more adult ones.

Moderators shouldn't do the work of clean up, but close the questions.

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy,
have some taste (woo woo)
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste,
mmm yeah (woo woo, woo woo)

M. Jagger/K. Richards, Sympathy for the Devil

  • 3
    Or, you can always edit! Editing is good! :)
    – jrg
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 10:21
  • 3
    I edit to help the beginners and people with less English experience than me, but I'm surely not wasting my time for <redacted> *****</redacted> or <redacted> ******** ***</redacted> Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 11:06

I believe Ubuntu is awesome and that the community is awesome. Also hats off to every programmer here for their work. I learned a few languages in windows and trying here,so I know the fun and frustrations a programmer might go through. Personally I think everyone should follow the golden rule-do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I know if I put some software together, chances are there will be someone that has an issue with it because this is a big world with lots of people. So if the person cussing me doesn't realize or isn't mature enough to be patient to let me further assist, I guess I really wouldn't care if he/she used it or not. There is a thing called respect, same thing that person cussing would want in return. In Microsoft OS I noticed when I actually found an application that I liked In windows if I used it, it wouldn't work long anyway and there was no way to fix it. At least I can say here if you re using something and something happens you have a community that cares. But if you tarnish your name by cussing at the people that will actually help you, lol, it might not turn out in your best interest and at same time it just makes yourself look bad.


Perhaps surprisingly, I have observed it can be effective, if done correctly: less like pure insulting and rudeness and more like trolling. After all, if you have some technical issue that nobody really wants to get their hands dirty on, if you insult their manhood (or whatever), it can bring you attention where someone wants to show how smart he is (and how stupid you are) -- and the way he can show you his smartness is by providing actual useful info; it works in real life, so why would it be different here?

  • 8
    It's often been said that the fastest way to get an answer on IRC or Usenet is to post an incorrect answer and wait for the smart-asses to correct you. Commented May 26, 2012 at 12:10

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