IRC philosophies

Well, this started as a response to a comment, but I kept writing, and writing, and … decided it should be an article.

Someone named Joey made some remarks about the difference in philosophy between #php and #apache. His remarks have a certain degree of truth in them, and are, I expect, the exact thing that I’m reacting against, because he describes exactly the attitude that tends to fill IRC channels, but is, in *many* cases, translated into a self-important newbie-hating pomposity that makes beginners feel stupid and timid about asking their questions. That’s counter-productive, and makes free/open source software seem like a pack of elitist blow-hards. Which, to an extent … nevermind.

First, the cliche “the pot calling the kettle black”, not the other way around. But that’s probably not particularly important.

We never, ever, send people to #php for issues involving vhosts, permissions, authentication, or mod_rewrite. Ever. The fact that people come to #php first with those questions merely says that they are PHP users, not that we sent them there.

I would also question the notion that everything is necessarily clearly either a PHP question or Apache question. As you may have noticed, there’s a bit of overlap. You have noticed that, right? It’s one of the reasons that I find the animosity rather amusing. It’s also amusing that this rather tongue-in-cheek article prompted a slashdotting, of all things. As someone on a local mailing list noted, I’ve successfully trolled the entire open source community.

Anyways, folks are sent to #php when there are PHP-related questions that we can’t answer. Presumably, that’s a pretty clear indication that sending them back is just going to waste their time. If we didn’t know before we sent, we won’t know after they come back. It’s just an indication that we thought, probably, since the question was in the general vicinity of PHP, that someone there might have had experience with it.

Asking beginners to make some kind of clear distinction between where Apache leaves off and PHP starts is unreasonable. The self-important pedantry that inhabits most IRC channels is pathetic, not really something to boast about. Where there are clear areas of overlap, it’s reasonable to help folks out, rather than yelling RTFM.

So, no, this is not a case of the pot calling the kettle black at all. It is, as my initial posting was, a request for two communities to do a better job of cooperating. Could you possibly get off of your need to assign blame, and consider ways that we can cooperate?

Oh, and, for the record, _in my opinion_, IRC channels that insist on being topical, to the exclusion of interesting *related* conversation and socialization, are BORING, and do nothing to foster community. And, yes, I completely agree that this is a difference in philosophy, but it seems one that most IRC beginners appreciate enormously. The number of times we get “You guys aren’t jerks like folks on most IRC channels” completely makes up for the higher background noise.

Most of my pots are silver, and my kettle is white, with pictures of apples and apple pies on it. Pots and kettles don’t enter into this, really. You’re right, it’s a difference in philosophies. Our philosophy tends to be (or at least mine) that I have arrived where I am today because of the kindness of strangers who helped me solve problems when I was a clueless noobie, and that it’s a nice thing to return the favor to other strangers. When folks come in and ask questions, I try to answer them if I can. If someone asks something that I can answer, but is “off topic”, the standard IRC thing to do, apparently, is to flame them and move them along. I find that to be rude and unprofessional. Yes, absolutely, showing people where to find answers is a good thing. But what we hear (and what I’ve observed while lurking) is that #php treats people discourteously, and treats them like stupid children, rather than like fellow professionals.

I’m certainly not disagreeing with you, Joey, that we have different philosophies. I’m asking that you embue your philosophy with a little respect, and a recognition that “ignorant” and “stupid” are completely different concepts, and that most of the people asking these questions are experts in areas of which you are totally ignorant. Please, don’t take that as a personal accusation. But my experience on #php has been that asking a question resulted in being called an idiot and told to go elsewhere. I’m not an idiot, I’m reasonably sure, and I presume that most of the people called that on IRC are likewise not.