Don’t apologize for being a newbie

Published on and tagged with communication  learning

On mailing lists or in private mails I sometimes read statements like “I am sorry, but I am a newbie” or “Sorry for this newbie question”. And I always wonder why do those people apologize for not being proficient?

It is ok to be new and inexperienced with a framework/programming language/whatever. Everyone of us is from time to time in such a “newbie phase”. And this means you will ask “stupid” questions (of course after you have done your “homework”, i.e. searching on the internet, reading the documentation). It’s part of the learning process. And it’s nothing you have to apologize for.

4 comments baked

  • eddie

    Great point Daniel!

    Everyone one of us goes through this phase, and someone smarter than me once said;

    “In order to be old and wise, one must first be young and stupid”

    Maybe stupid isn’t the best word, but the point is that no one starts as a proficient master of any language.

    The community should be supportive of new users and encourage questions ( so long as the question is insightful, and not a generic “program my app for me” type question, or one documented thoroughly in the manual” )

    So a newbies first line shouldn’t be ” I’m sorry but..” but rather something like; ” I read section X of document Y, but I still have questions about Z”

  • Cameron

    I think there are enough snarky people in any community that make n00bs feel dumb and embarrassed for not understanding something. I’ve experienced enough IRC sessions to see both genuine help (thank goodness!) but also more discussion on how the noob should be doing A, B, or C instead of actually answering his/her answer.

  • David Thalmann

    I don’t know how or where I’ve got this, but when I was young(er) I’ve used to say “sorry but [fill-in-my-opinion]” and some day someone finally told me: “you don’t have to be sorry about your opinion / about your question”

    And that is the most important thing you have to learn in your live – not just programming.
    I know Daniel, it was probably not your intention to rise such a philosophical question. (- rly sorry about that :-) ).

  • cakebaker

    @all: Thanks for your comments!

    @eddie: Great quote, thanks for sharing!

    @Cameron: Yes, I also have seen both. But sometimes it is not that easy to decide whether you should give someone just the fish (the answer) or teach this person how to fish…

    @David: Yes, you are right, this can be applied in a more general way. Though it wasn’t my intention to rise a philosophical question, I like it if it takes such a turn :)

© daniel hofstetter. Licensed under a Creative Commons License