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The Culture of the Newb

It's a seemingly never-ending war, where both sides are so entrenched that diplomacy is useless.  Neither side will yield an inch.  The carnage on the battlefield is almost unbelievable, even if you are a participant in this war.

Shouts of "F-ing Newbies!" ring out from one side, with return calls of "You're just pining for stuff that's not there anymore!" acting like counter-battery fire, a cacophony of sound that drowns out everything else.

And then there are some of us who are sitting on the sidelines, sipping our cold beers, and saying "WTF is going on here, anyway?"

Ok, enough war metaphors, before I stick my typing fingers in my mouth and piss off the true heroes out there, those military members on the site.

Believe it or not, this war between newbs and old-timers is a never-ending one, and it's not unique to any one site.  I belong to many discussion forums and other internet outlets, and as I said in my comment to a  xd 7ravis blog post,  Usenet discussion groups before that, dating back to 1991.  In every group, there have been old-timers and newbies, and they always go together like oil and water.  You get some newbies (like me) who follow the suggestions I'm going to mention below, and you get some old-timers (also like me, and no, I'm not conceited or anything) who are mellow toward the newbie until the newbie proves that he's an idiot.  Old-timers are protective of the way things used to be.  Yes, they can be resistant to change, even when the change is good, but often the change isn't that good so it's only logical that all change will be opposed.  It would be helpful if more old-timers were a bit more laid-back about newbies coming in, until they prove themselves to be one way or the other.

That being said, too many newbies make it really hard on the rest of them.

I call it "The Culture of the Newb," mainly because it sounds hoity-toity and kinda academic-like.  Especially when I put on glasses.  Chicks dig the glasses.

Anyway, here are some guidelines to follow so you don't contribute to the Culture of the Newb.

1) Get the lay of the land.  Lurk!

I don't know if the term is in common use nowadays, but on newsgroups, there were people called "lurkers."  They read the groups, but they didn't post there.  There's nothing wrong with that, except that if everybody lurked, there would be nothing around which to lurk! However, if you're thinking of joining a community at all, it's best to lurk around for a bit and get a general idea of the culture of that group.  Is there a resident asshat that everybody despises?  Somebody who, if you take their side in an argument, you're likely to get piled upon? It's good to know that ahead of time, isn't it?  Even if said person is actually a pretty good guy and everybody else is acting like jerks, isn't it best to barge in with an informed opinion rather than jumping in with no knowledge whatsoever?

A GI example would be getting an idea of what kind of posts are generally frowned upon.  Sure, you may disagree with said frowning and decide you want to post it anyway, but at least this way you'll know what kind of reaction you're going to get.

Everybody's an individual, of course.  But it's still good to do your best to fit into a group's culture, or at least stake out your own place in it.

Another GI example is multiple threads about the same topic.  Some communities don't mind this; the GI community does.  Isn't it best to lurk for a bit, see that the GI community doesn't like it, and don't do it?  Sure, everybody makes newbie mistakes, but there would be a lot less of them if newbies would just gauge the culture of the site before posting.

2) When you do decide to start contributing, try not to be too controversial right off the bat.

There's nothing wrong with a good discussion and good debate, but it helps keep things from developing into a flamewar if the people you're debating with have an idea of what kind of person you are (or at least what kind of poster).  People are a lot more tolerant of other people when they are familiar with them.  So make yourself familiar to them before discussing whether or not God exists.  That way, hopefully they already like you enough to have a spirited debate but not despise you in the morning.  Or, if you're already despised for other reasons, at least you'll know where you stand.

3) Try to post about more than just your complaints about the site/people/whatever

Coming in like gangbusters saying that the way things are being run sucks is a good way to get everybody pissed off at you, even those who might be willing to give you a chance otherwise.  You don't like something about the site/group/whatever?  Try to implement change via your own actions, in small ways.  Do you think that a particular site is full of Twilight-loving teeny-boppers who have taken over and post irrelevant crap?  Do your own part by posting intelligent stuff.  Don't just complain about the teeny-boppers.  If you must "complain," than do it constructively.  Make suggestions without saying the current status sucks.  One of my first blogs here (or at least, near the beginning of my time here) was a post with suggestions about what the site needs.  It wasn't a rant.

A Ranting Newbie should be a monster in Magic: the Gathering.  It shouldn't be a creature on an Internet site.

4) Don't be dismissive of the old-timers

They were here before you, and there's probably a reason the site is like it is.  There are always going to be in-jokes that you don't get, or long-standing debates that have their own shorthand.  New people join a site all the time.  Heck, I was new less than 2 months ago.  I don't understand everything the old-timers say.  But whatever I don't get, I either ask or just let it wash over me.  Maybe I'll pick it up by context.  Or maybe not.  It doesn't matter.  The more time you spend on a site, the more you'll actually be involved in the development of new in-jokes and shorthand.  Or the more that you'll be able to understand why the members react the way they do to things.  Contribute interesting, helpful, or useful things and the old-timers will embrace you.

But there is a vast difference between a new member and a "Newb."  Newbs come crashing onto a site with no idea of how the site works, pissing off both the old-timers and the more recent members as well.  They have no idea of the culture of the group.

Would you move to France and insist that they immediately start doing things your way?  No.  You'd get a feel for the culture around you, and adapt the way you do things to those who were already there before you.  Maybe you'd introduce something new to them.  Or at the very least, you'll learn to do what you want to do within the community structure that was established long before you got there.

Or you could just be a boor and piss everybody off.

I guess that's always an option.

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