For a new user, the freedom that Ubuntu affords is really liberating. However, the user soon finds himself or herself running into different kinds of problems – which is but natural for any new user. It is here that he or she comes to Ask Ubuntu. When he or she does that, this is what I have found that Ask Ubuntu lacks in solving his or her problems:

  1. There is a whole bunch of experts talking in the jargon that he or she can't understand.
  2. The problems that are solved are the ones that the user would have stumbled upon anyhow.
  3. The problems that are really pressing are closed as 'off-topic'.
  4. So if the user is smart enough, he or she becomes addicted to earning reps and badges on Ask Ubuntu and starts speaking the same jargon that newer users don't understand, but the questions related to bugs that were posted by him or her, still remain in his or her computer.
  5. Or if the user isn't smart enough, he or she soon gets fed up of all the technical jargon and reverts to Microsoft Windows.

If my observations are correct, please tell me exactly where Ask Ubuntu is helpful if not indispensable.

Edit: Really, while putting this question, I thought that as a member of Ask Ubuntu community, I was making the community aware of the experience of an outsider. I had hoped to get replies which would result in more outsiders being attracted to Ask Ubuntu and becoming part of it. I wasn't ready for all the attacks and reading between the lines that my question was subjected to. I believe that if Open Source is better than commercial software, the users of Open Source should be given more respect and better deal than users of commercial software and I really wish that some day this dream becomes a reality. But this will not be achieved by all these downvotes or curt replies. I am really thankful to John S Gruber for keeping my hope alive for the ultimate success of Open Source software.

  • What is the actual question or problem? Maybe it can be made more clear to focus the discussion? I am not sure if I understand how your title match your question. Oh, and about reverting to another OS.
    – N.N.
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 6:33
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    Let me try and give a straight-forward answer. My point is that if I buy a system which run Windows without any bug and runs Ubuntu with a bug and then if I ask a question in Ask Ubuntu, and if the question is closed as off-topic, I have 2 options. Keep waiting for the bug to get resolved until eternity or install Windows on my system? So as a Ubuntu enthusiast who was all eager to give up Windows for the sake of Ubuntu, Ask Ubuntu didn't solve my problem. I asked that matter-of-factly and not as a threat. Anyway, my question has been answered in the best possible manner by John S Gruber.
    – Mujahid
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 6:55
  • My answer to your comment ended up as an answer. Would you like to post some examples of questions for your second point, i.e. "The problems that are really pressing are closed as 'off-topic'" or is it mostly based on your closed question which does not seem to manifest a trend.
    – N.N.
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 9:16
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    There are indeed quite a few questions closed as off-topic. I did not base my point simply on my own question. But yes, your answer and the answer by John S Gruber clarify everything. Ask Ubuntu is not about providing solutions to everone who asks a question, it is about juxtaposing the questions and their possible answers in a manner that later users with similar problems can browse them and find a solution to their own problem. I am satisfied with this answer.
    – Mujahid
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 9:45

4 Answers 4


I've not used the site for very long. I got involved to answer a question someone posted on a social network, rather than coming to have a question answered. As a result I don't know how expectations are set in that avenue with regard to AskUbuntu and the other StackExchange sites.

Ideally, as I understand it, the idea is that questions representing the concerns of current and future Ubuntu users are paired with good. ranked answers one time, and then the experts, as you call them, move on to other questions. If there's a concentration on technical questions or newbie questions I don't know that yet. It's not always clear, as I think you said, to determine what's a misunderstanding or lack of a fact, and what represents someone running into a bug.

I'd like to say, in defense of the folks trying to answer questions here, that it can be very difficult to determine at what technical level of the person on the other side of the question. I've had people ask pretty detailed questions, but then they ask me to give them diagnostic procedures step by step--and I try to do that. If you talk over someone's head they get frustrated, if you talk down to them they get angry. That's human nature. It's much easier to manage this in person where you can see the other person's face and mannerisms. (It still can be hard to get tech. people to slow down, believe me).

Nevertheless, a good answer should help anyone, so your point still stands and I'm sorry you have had that experience with AskUbuntu.

Besides the jargon issue, it's difficult for a user to know what an expert needs to know to solve a problem, and it's difficult for the remote answerer to really understand what the questioner is seeing. Distance is an enemy of effective problem solving.

I do think that people do try to sneak bug reports into AskUbuntu because it takes quite a long time for most bugs posted to Launchpad to be fixed and they get frustrated. All we have to offer are, maybe, some ideas on how to circumvent the problem. (I hesitate to say "we" because I'm so new here). It takes a long time to get bugs fixed on any system, by the way, open or proprietary and many never are.

You closed your question with the "bottom line". What value is AskUbuntu? The value I have been finding, primarily on the StackOverflow sister site, has been having good questions and answers returned, answers I could use right away. That, more than helping individual users asking questions, is what I think the site is about. Getting to these question/answer pairs often helps the individual question posters, but certainly not always, and that's not actually the promise of the site.

But that leaves the most basic question "Something came up, I don't know what to do, I don't know if it is a bug or a normal occurence or something I did wrong, how can I get help?"

My answers:

Look here for answers from those who have had the problem before. Use general search engines as well, Google often provides me with answers from AskUbuntu and other sites I find useful. If nothing turns up, I hope you will continue to try to ask questions.

ubuntuforums.org is another forum to find help. Their approach is different than the approach here and therefore you may sometimes find them more effective in assisting you.

Ask on the irc channels in the #ubuntu family. The trouble is you may hear jargon there, too. It also takes patience to match up your question with the occasion that someone is listening with knowledge and a little time.

Use launchpad if you think you have a bug. If it is a question instead they will convert it to a Launchpad question or refer you here or to the irc channels. No big deal if they do.

Don't be afraid that someone will say your bug isn't one or your question isn't one. On askUbuntu you can edit your question and have it reopened, or reword it to show you are looking for information and try again.

Most important, get to know the people in your area in the Ubuntu Loco, the local Ubuntu users group. There may also be groups of people who are Unix users but not Ubuntu users, who can help nevertheless. People you get to know and who can see your face, or at least hear your voice, are more likely to give you an answer tailored to you. Frankly they may be more thoughtful, too.

You mention people looking to get badges and reputation points, and not being helpful. Excessive speed in answering question can exacerbate the already tough problem of communicating without jargon. Nevertheless I see that stackexchange does try to stop people from getting too caught up in a race for points. If you get an answer that has too much jargon, please vote it down. That's a way for you to exert feedback on the individual and the community.

It's tempting to compare the Ubuntu alternatives to those of Microsoft or someone else, but I think I'll pass on that. As a newbie I'll just wait for your response, if you decide to post one, and to be corrected by the many more experienced hands about AskUbuntu.

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    This is the most prefessional reply to my question. Thank you very much. I now feel part of the Ask Ubuntu community once again.
    – Mujahid
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 5:35

"There is a whole bunch of experts talking in the jargon that he or she can't understand?"

Can you please provide examples?

"The problems that are solved are the ones that the user would have stumbled upon anyhow."

How can you "stumble" upon a problem unless you have that problem? And if you have that problem, isn't it a good thing that we have an answer for it?

"The problems that are really pressing are closed as 'off-topic'."

I'm afraid that Ask Ubuntu is not a bug tracker. Any bug reports disguised as questions and posted to Ask Ubuntu will be closed. Specific questions about using software or solving issues with hardware are welcome. (See the FAQ for more details.)

"So if the user is smart enough, he or she becomes addicted to earning reps and badges on Ask Ubuntu and starts speaking the same jargon that newer users don't understand, but the questions related to bugs that were posted by him or her, still remain in his or her computer."

Again, bug reports are off-topic.

"Or if the user isn't smart enough, he or she soon gets fed up of all the technical jargon and reverts to Microsoft Windows."

Why would a user revert to Windows? There are a proportionately equal number of Windows users speaking "jargon" as well (I assume you refer to support technicians or programmers).

  • 1. Regarding bunch of experts talking in the jargon he or she can't understand, I am not talking about any specific experts or questions, I am talking about the predicament of a user who has migrated from Windows to Ubuntu because of Ubuntu being Open Source.
    – Mujahid
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 3:54
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    2. Stumble upon means stumbling upon the solutions not problems. Obviously stumbling upon solutions to the problems the user had beforehand.
    – Mujahid
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 3:56
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    3. How is a new user to know if the problem he or she faces is a bug or a just a "problem"? If it is not a bug and the user is smart enough, surely he or she can find the solution even without Ask Ubuntu. And if it's a bug, he would receive a rebuke from Ask Ubuntu as if he has just committed a grave offence.
    – Mujahid
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 4:00
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    4. He would revert to Windows because for the system that he just bought from the market, Windows would present far less bugs than Ubuntu.
    – Mujahid
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 4:03
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    @Mujahid Closing a question as a bug is not a rebuke. It doesn't mean anything bad about the person who posted the question. If you're not sure if something is a question or a bug report, post it and see what happens (or, even better, if you can do so without getting too technically into the problem, ask first here on meta). If it gets closed as a bug report, you know that if you want to continue pursuing it, you need to report it as a bug. Posting a question that gets closed because it should be a bug report is not an offense of any kind and the closure is not a rebuke or insult. Commented May 26, 2012 at 4:50
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    @EliahKagan, thanks for your reply, but earning minus reps does feel like a punishment. Please note that I did earn a -2 on my bug question which was only undone after I complained about it.
    – Mujahid
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 5:06
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    @Mujahid The closure and the downvotes are separate. People might downvote your question if they think you should have known it wasn't a good fit for the site or if they thought it was poorly presented. Downvotes are in no way administrative. (People might have undownvoted, or others might have upvoted your question, balancing it out.) If you choose to keep using AskUbuntu, downvotes will usually be more than compensated for by upvotes (which add more than downvotes take away). Commented May 26, 2012 at 5:09
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    Also please remember that it's OK if you don't find AskUbuntu works well for you, as there are other excellent official Ubuntu help sites (the forums and Launchpad Answers) and other resources (the mailing lists and IRC channels). Commented May 26, 2012 at 5:10

You might have too high expectations on this site. After all it is based on volunteers. There is professional support if that is what you are after.

Ask Ubuntu is note for solving any problem but only problems that are within the scope of the site and are formulated so that they are possible to understand.

Saying that you might abandon Ubuntu is not relevant to questions so it is not strange to interpret it as a threat. For future questions you might benefit from avoiding such expression and also from avoiding explicit demands. The following is from the closed question you seem to refer to:

Please either provide an update for it or let me know how I can get its bluetooth working.

Here you seem to demand a solution. As mentioned, this site is run by volunteers and it is not their responsibility to help you. They do it because they find it rewarding. So demanding solutions might irritate presumable helpers and make avoid your question. Think how you would feel yourself if you spend your free time helping people and they start making demands or saying that they might abandon Ubuntu.

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer. Yes, I now understand the whole situation, and will surely avoid making the demands like the one you have quoted. That is exactly why I have asked this question - to get things clarified. Because for someone who installs Ubuntu, finds a problem, searches for its solution on the Web, and runs into Ask Ubuntu, this is not very obvious. His natural instinct would be to somehow get rid of his problem through Ask Ubuntu without giving a thought to conditions of this forum. I only wanted to present the end-user side of the story.
    – Mujahid
    Commented May 26, 2012 at 9:27

I agree with Mujahid.

The experts here do use jargon that presupposes knowledge that some users do not have. But, as an Instructional Designer, I come across this constantly. Whilst the experts may know how to solve these problems, being able to tell novices in clear, simple terms how to do it, is not, always, achieved. Moreover, the over-reaction to Mujahid's observation (which he is perfectly entitled to without being vilified by the supposed friendly Ask Ubuntu community) is a perfect example of what his original point was. The threads here which take apart his initial comments line-by-line, to try and obfuscate his point, are childish and pathetic. Talk about apophenia!

Windows is King in the retail sector like it or, not. Linux systems will NEVER be accepted in the mainstream when the place you go to for help merely mocks, attacks or, ridicules.

Deduct as many points, votes and smiley faces as you like but come down from your ivory towers and face reality. Ubuntu is good. It allows freedom. But, it is not user-friendly. The self-confessed experts should be.

Mark L. Potts

  • Some consolation at last. Thanks, Mark.
    – Mujahid
    Commented May 27, 2012 at 11:06
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    You can help fixing the jargon by submitting edits to posts. Also, he's not being attacked, it's just some people probably don't agree with his post, it happens. Commented May 27, 2012 at 15:09
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    Also, it would help if you could link to places where we "mock, attack, and ridicule" users. If you're going to make claims like this then at least link to some examples. Commented May 27, 2012 at 15:38
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    Actually I find that Askubuntu is one of the more tolerant linux related help forums around. If you can provide a big number of posts that "mock, attack or, ridicules" anyone I'll probably change my opinion, but so far I've seen many ridiculous questions like "My computer doesn't work!! What's wrong?" getting good patient answers and requests for more info. I guess there may be some questions just beyond salvation that get closed, but I also see windows related forums with the same problems. I don't know where you got the idea that all windows users are angels and all ubuntu users are evil.
    – devius
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 10:44
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    Oh wow, sorry, not attacking you, your points here are kinda non-sense to me and sad to read. You do understand that we are here trying to help users that have probably installed Ubuntu for the first time in their lives, don't you? (and we do it for free!) Everything a user reads most of the time as an answer will be jargon, the same way a Windows user would think about someone explaining him why he blew up his all system with some random crap software that messed up his PC. Its irrelevant if Linux will or won't be king of retail, ever, really, and has nothing to do with Ubuntu or this site. Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 8:56
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    We do not force anyone to use Ubuntu, neither to install it. We do not promise heaven and earth to a user trying to use Ubuntu. The thing is, if you are new to anything it will sound jargon, if a user does not understand what he is being told he is more than welcome to ask for a slower, more detailed, answer. An edit will come most of the times on the same day, everyone that reads that request can and probably will help voluntarily that user, even if they wont get any reputation or smiley faces. All of this for free and with friendliness. Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 8:59
  • Is all the site it self friendly and all the users friendly towards each other? No, not it is not, but moderators and long time users try to keep it that way, and it works. The proof is the long growing community that we see. We get each day hundreds of questions, not all of them are answered and not all of them really belong here, but we do out best. Around 83% of all posts on the site have an valid answer in them, out of 50K questions! Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 9:03
  • What do we do with questions that do not belong here? Not all of them do after all. Ask Ubuntu is not just one site, independent. We are part of a growing community and there are 100 ways of requesting help about your system, some question should not be here, others will help Ubuntu and the community more if they are converted to bug reports, in these 2 cases there is no choice but to redirect the user else where and hope that help is just around the corner. We all work to make things better and we are not alone. Users need to split where a Q&A site scope ends and understand that. Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 9:06
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    Now there is no issues with your opinion, and not trying to push you too hard to get involved, I ask you: where did you find rudeness and mockery in the site? Why did you not flag it so we can fix it? If you are just here to say "yes, yes its all true imo, but I can't give you facts or won't even try to help if I see anything wrong" all you done with your answer is more than wasted time. Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 9:12
  • I'm not a "self-confessed expert", merely a volunteer with 30+ years of experience. I'll leave you with a quote from a fellow technician from decades back. "It's not that Linux isn't user-friendly, it's just really particular about who it's friends are!" (this was delivered with the humour it deserved) ;-)
    – Elder Geek
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 0:54

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