Every day thousands of people join the great cosmic force known as the Internet. And many of these people like to go around with big red neon signs screaming NEWBIE!!" (Blinking signs, at that.) The sad part is that they don't know they are wearing these glaring pointers. Very few people are willing to help these poor souls.
If you are new to the Net, here are a few tips to toss off that neon sign.
First of all, don't go around announcing that you are a newbie. This will be apparent without your drawing attention to the fact. Many people will post to a newsgroup, or a maillist or so, saying, "Hi, I'm a newbie, and..." That doesn't help your cause. Most people will ignore newbies. A handful will tell you to go away, or other nasty responses. A very few will actually help you. Letting the denizens of cyberspace know you're inept and clueless does not help, especially in a game of Diplomacy.
Second, watch and learn! Many beginners go off, see the wide world of the Net, and make many common mistakes. If you keep your eyes open you can watch others make these mistakes, suffer for them, then avoid their fate. Spamming, crossposting, misposting, and asking "What is going on?" are usually bad practices. Watch what others do and don't do, and then you can proceed with confidence.
Never be afraid to properly ask a good question. If you are in doubt about something, feel free to ask a question. Hopping into IRC and immediately broadcasting to everyone "What's going on?" is a good way to not make friends. (Watch and learn. And don't tell them you're a newbie." In IRC, the topic soon becomes quite clear. Newsgroups usually have a FAQ form. And Web pages point you to more information. Nevertheless, there come times when some of us must ask questions. The best way to do this is to query someone privately, and make your questions specific. If you show that you've done a bit of your own research, but seem to have become stuck, people are more likely to help you. If you pop into a newsgroup and ask "I'm a student and I'm doing a research paper on dogs. I was wondering if I could get information on dogs," then people aren't going to help you. This sort of question says to them that you are too lazy to go find the information yourself, and you want them to do all the work for you. Now, how helpful are they going to be?
Finally, don't think that you have to distinguish yourself on the net. It's not High School. You don't have to prove yourself or else you end up sitting with the Dweebs during lunch. Take it easy, and go with the flow. Don't think you have to impress people. Chances are, you won't be able to anyway. If you sit back and watch what happens, you'll be able to pick up the gist of the cow without sticking your foot in your mouth.
So toss off that Screaming Newbie sign and realize the joy of being an established Netgeek.
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