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I read a great article (I don't remember the URI) where it talk about those evil users that are in any forums or Q&A site.

Sometimes we see a new user that need help but at a very low level.

We can help them so they can learn from us. It is a tiny game between we helping them and they helping us. Because they force to us to make more clear and put our skills at proof.

But they are users that really do not want to learn. They are just there saying "Help! Please Help!" and they do never learn to stop saying "Help!"


A great example for this is this user (see the name). This user (and this makes angry) makes me forget about all the rules, concepts, and the spirit of this community asking question like this. The important is not the question, it is the troubleshooting of this, I tried to help him, but him didn't help me to help him!


If you have a suggestion, another philosophy, or anything to say about problems like this, please create a new answer here :)

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    Let's see. I think you are talking about the "help vampires". Here's the spotters' guide. – jokerdino Apr 27 '13 at 16:51
  • That question is a mess, no one's going to read through all those comments, a good place to start is putting the information we know in the question instead of buried in the comments. – Jorge Castro Apr 27 '13 at 17:53
  • @JorgeCastro But they are no information in those comments. I tell there to the OP to try something but he tried nothing. So no useful information to extract. Also, thanks for edit the title. Now (3 hours later) I can see that this was too heavy :-) – Lucio Apr 27 '13 at 19:56
  • @jokerdino You're right. That is the guide. Thanks! – Lucio Apr 27 '13 at 19:59
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    There's information there, I just added it to the question, the trick is to convince them to put the information in the question, not start a discussion in the comments; when new users do that they treat it like a forum and the next person isn't as able to help them as effectively if the information is buried there. – Jorge Castro Apr 27 '13 at 21:16
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You are perfectly right, it is the new unexperienced users that are a real challenge here. They come for help, because they feel we are the right place or - even better for us - they were told we are.

Yes, we are and we want to be the right place to search for help when there are issues with Ubuntu. But we have our limits as defined in our FAQ, and we do not have a magic wand to foresee and solve all issues users might possibly experience with their system. Also we can not possibly help users who do not provide information we asked for.

It is my believe that we do need much patience with users new to the Linux world. They often need explanation of very basic terminology before we are able to help them. They will not understand answers to the dupe question we had sent them to. It may even be that they do not even understand what information it is we asked for. Only after we started to help them we may find out that we really need to be that basic. It may become very frustrating at times.

But after we succeeded solving their issue we may be granted with another avid Ubuntu user who wants to give back what they received. This alone is worth the effort. But obviously it is prone to fail quite often. But with every failed case we may have learned a bit for the next issue.

In the case you mentioned the issue clearly came from them asking another question closely related to their primary issue (i.e. data recovery after an accidentally overwrting of their partitions during Ubuntu installation) without giving us this necessary information or a link to their previous question. If I had more time I might have come more often back to the original question thus avoiding them asking a sequel question but I was only able to have a look every hour.

The follow up question should be close as too localized, or as a dupe to their first question.

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    When I was a new user, I was pretty clueless. With a little help and curiosity, I got to here. I think the point to take from this is - never lose the cool and hope for the best returns for your investment in terms of time. – jokerdino Apr 27 '13 at 19:36
  • @Takkat Thanks for your answer. It is important your opinion because you are the user who have created an amazing answer, easy to read, but the OP still is asking for more than that! More Help!, help, and Help.. – Lucio Apr 27 '13 at 20:03
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One thing (among others :-)) I learned on #ubuntu: You should be able to recognize when it is time for you to "take a break".

So when you get exasperated in a support case, slow down, don't react immediately, let others step in.

On AskUbuntu it might be worthwile to encourage the OP to edit his question with the information provided in his comments.

Another statement comes to my mind reading the Title of your question: "Don't assume ill will when simple inability to learn (here, now, from us,...) can explain the behaviour as well."

  • I'm agree, take a time is good. See my comment above.. – Lucio Apr 27 '13 at 19:57
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I've been participating in online help forums for 20 years on-and-off. There are indeed the "vampires" that come and go, and the easy ones to spot are the ones that post one-or-two-sentence questions with no supporting information. The expectation is that we, the community, will be able to divine all the details. And we know how well that works.

There was an interesting suggestion in the referenced article about "vampires" and that is having a section devoted to the new user - in this case, those new to Ubuntu and/or any flavor of Linux. The trick is to have it obvious that section is where they should post to have them learn about their system and how to perform basic tasks beyond simple usage.

A section dedicated to the new user also segregates their posts from the main body, and allows those of us with the knowledge and patience to deal with that level of questions as our temperament allows at any given point. Moderators and supporters of the section could even develop boilerplate responses to say "read this section of the documentation to find your answer." (One of the beauties of Ubuntu is the supporting documentation, after all!!)

Whether such a section is created is up to the Powers That Be, and if it has been discussed ad-naseum before, I get that. Still, as the popularity of Ubuntu increases and the user base expands, those old discussions need to be brought up again in order to ensure that the community remains inclusive rather than exclusive.

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    Not having a "beginner's section" is the best part of this site! New users already get a tutorial screen before asking the questions, and just because someone is a new user doesn't mean they should be treated differently than anyone else. – Jorge Castro Apr 28 '13 at 14:40
  • @JorgeCastro I get your point about not wanting to differentiate the new user from the rest of the body. If not having a section for the new users is the consensus of the admins, great. But those who execute admin-level decisions should always be re-evaluating policies and structures to ensure that relevancy is maintained. As for the tutorial page, I'd be interested in seeing stats on how long the page view time is. I'd be willing to bet that it's very short - shorter than needed to read and digest the contents. – douggro Apr 28 '13 at 16:28
  • There's been a ton of discussion on this on the master meta over the years: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/… – Jorge Castro Apr 28 '13 at 18:22
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    As to whether or not people read the document or not then there's not much we can do about that, if the question isn't any good we just downvote it. But there are plenty of new users who do seem to understand the site the just fine. – Jorge Castro Apr 28 '13 at 18:23
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The how to spot vampires guide is a nice read (thanks @jokerdino). Interestingly, though, many of the things she proposes against vampires are not possible in our format or should be used more intensively.

For instance,

Creating resources: A FAQ—with real Frequently Asked Questions, not ones which just sound likely. And with clearly phrased, actionable (urgh) information for each question.

This is a bit problematic. On the one hand AU wants to provide canonical answers, on the other hand these answers are mostly navigated via searches and tags. We could invest a lot more in wiki pages based on good answers and refer to the wikis in the comments without answering the question. This will a) force the vampire to read, b) create an even nicer stack of canonical [pun not intended] information.

Another example:

Enforce autonomy. No matter how beneficent you’re feeling, never directly answer a common question. This is the lazy way out, and you only enable the Help Vampires instead of truly helping them. Let the URL to your help resources be your only answer, but tell the vamp you are happy to help if he explores those avenues of self-help and still cannot find an answer.

This is obviously against our policy as we not only want the link, but also the essence of the link's content... In other words, vampires are just really part of SE (by the way there are a lot more vampires on SE and SE is not the only Q-A system that has this problem).

Conclusion:

  1. If you think a question is too easy, just don't answer it! Let low reputation users get easy rep on easy questions. This is crucial. High rep users should focus on difficult questions and not easy ones. The best people on the hardest tasks.
  2. If a question is answered in the documentation, just don't answer it! Refer to the wikis intensively in comments. Let the wikis rule for easy questions. Learn vampires how to read.
  • Your answer is useful, and I'm agree with some points. But where is your first conclusion related with the question? – Lucio Apr 29 '13 at 19:29
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    @Lucio. Good observation. The link is indirect: vampires now sometimes get top quality answers from some of our best users. This encourages their poor behavior and lack of autonomy. If we let lower rep users answers these questions, the vampires will most likely have to do a bit more effort and they will not consume our best users' energy. Does that make sense? – don.joey Apr 29 '13 at 20:11
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    Yes, I know what you mean. But those users doesn't always create easy questions, the user who I pointed created a question that was not easy, so that is not a constant. – Lucio Apr 29 '13 at 22:40
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If some people are tired to help, its ok, nothing is to force, easy, Why would I complain in the community? Be practical, better get to work to do nothing. This people as a developer must rest so good and let the community pond and dont grows up. Dont worry be happy dont help to the vampires.

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