Have you ever noticed that people's progress in using, supporting, 
writing bug reports for, and sometimes even developing for, writing 
documentation for, or translating for open source software is paralleled 
by their progress from top-posting to bottom posting to interlinear 
posting, to intelligent elision with interlinear posting?  I see it on 
the gimp, and on other lists all the time.

Beginners don't know what top posting is.  They don't understand that 
there's no business to bitch too about open source software.  They don't 
understand how few people keep open software going.  They're completely 
ignorant about our culture.  They don't know how happy people will be if 
they write intelligent bugs, or offer to make documentation better.  
They don't understand that the people providing support for them are 
potentially them.

I guess the point is that it's easy to be annoyed by an ignorant 
beginner, (definitely speaking from experience), and they make 
themselves even more annoying by top posting when responding to 
messages, not knowing that it looks like they are deliberately making it 
harder to follow the conversation.  If we kindly educate them instead of 
attacking them, (and when appropriate, privately, instead of 
embarrassing them publicly on the list), we might over time convert some 
of them to useful human beings. 

I really like the way Sven invites people to contribute.  For people not 
used to open source it's startling, and sometimes his invitation to be 
part of the solution is mistaken for an unwillingness to help.  They've 
got this strange sense of learned helplessness.  Even though few of 
those invited will ever contribute, some do, and some of those who don't 
contribute right away, have been started thinking about it by Sven and 
eventually will contribute.  On the lilypond list, it's Graham the 
curmudgeon that keeps inviting people.  It works.

If instead we attack them, we make of ourselves boors, and drive away 
people that might have been of great help eventually.  Some of those 
driven away are lurkers not even involved in the communication.  I know 
that some have more patience than others, but if you can't stand 
beginners acting like beginners, it's only necessary to ignore them.  
One of my favorite proverbs is, "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, 
is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of 
understanding", or the more modern proverb "Better to be thought a fool 
than to open your mouth and remove all doubt";)

People that are going to insist on being idiots go away pretty quickly 
if ignored.  I know people that have been around for years already know 
all this, but there might be one or two on this list who need a gentle 

Best regards,


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