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    This doesn’t feel elitist. The elitists are often trying to hold other people back to prop up themselves, individually or as a group. They often try to hide knowledge or make people jump through hoops to get it. The security/hacking community was huge on that back when I got into it. Still is in some ways. One of biggest signs of elitism is when there’s more authoritative pronouncements of “You’re wrong or inferior” than solid attempts to convey correct information or guide them toward resources that can teach them. The goal isn’t knowledge or improving others so much as status, money, and influence.

    You don’t appear to be doing that, @arp242. You’re just interacting with experts in one way in one place while helping newcomers develop expertise in another place. If anything, you’re trying to get more out of your expert interactions. You also seem to have a specific amount of time and energy you’ve set aside for helping newcomers that you don’t want to exceed. You’re just balancing your individual needs and those of other experts against those of newcomers. It just sounds pragmatic if anything.

    I’ll throw in my strategy. My submissions and comments are often aimed at experts here who specialize in building those kinds of things. I do make some comments more accessible by using less jargon. On many topics, that would cause experts to tune out or get irritated due to wasted words. Instead, I just make sure my jargon are terms non-experts can easily run through DuckDuckGo to get information. Easy-to-research words and phrases. I also submit introductory and survey papers on each of the topics so they can do the same thing in Lobsters search.

    For common topics, I also keep at least one entry bookmarked so I can in seconds throw a resource at a newcomer for them to pursue on their own. I know experts here see those newcomer submissions and links. They might collect them. Then, the experts can also save time in other places by sharing them with other newcomers. Having been slowed by elitism, I’ve tried this combo for past few years to try to help newcomers and experts alike with less wasted energy and without the unnecessary hurdles that I faced. I’ve gotten mostly positive feedback by both groups.

    Related note: I also stopped calling them newbies or noobs a long time ago. It seemed clear that some words were just meant to cut people down to support elitism. I’m trying to align our terms with what’s common outside of tech. Like “newcomer,” etc.

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      I would not have used the term “elitist” for this. To me, as a native English speaker from the United States, that carries a pejorative connotation that really does not fit here. It’s perfectly natural and appropriate to make certain assumptions about a listener/reader’s background knowledge when you are communicating. No communication would ever be effective without that, in fact. This post is just contemplating where to set that line in different environments.

      For my own efforts, I like to (attempt to) explain the assumptions I’m making, and prefer to have a link or two in my pocket to hand out kindly in case someone asks a question that would derail a more fruitful discussion when the larger group has already picked up the background information.

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        I chose “elitist” as it’s something I’ve seen thrown around on various occasions whenever it’s mentioned that this is perhaps not the best place for beginners. I agree it’s pejorative and perhaps I could have used a better term (although I’m not sure what off-hand), but hopefully the content of the article makes the intent clear.

        CC: @nickpsecurity as your reply also mentions the semantics/meaning of “elitism”.

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        elitism is not the same as being condescending, treating people as idiots, or otherwise acting like an asshole. It’s simply about accepting that sometimes experts want to talk to experts, and not beginners.

        There’s an overlap, of course. Ensuring that a social group can effectively execute its purpose by excluding those who aren’t qualified or who have a conflicting purpose is gatekeeping (and this is the best possible argument in favor of gatekeeping). And, if gatekeeping isn’t performed (or isn’t performed effectively) on entry then it needs to be done on a continuous basis – either through centralized moderation (i.e., having a handful of enforcers who identify people who aren’t an appropriate fit for the community and kicking them out) or through pervasive bottom-up moderation. Pervasive bottom-up moderation generally looks like individuals publicly or privately criticizing each other for breach of norms. If there’s disagreement about the norms being enforced, people who are out of step with the rest of the community but still engage in enforcement look like assholes.

        (This is distinct from the relatively small number of people in any community who actually are assholes, & who may use strict norms as an excuse to take out their own issues on strangers. Communities with strict norms attract such people, the same way that politics attracts narcissists and the child care industry attracts pedophiles. Communities have a responsibility to keep these people in line too, and to avoid enabling them in ways that hurt the community, but communities with strict norms need to exist & can’t be blamed for the existence of assholes. Basically, norm enforcement itself needs its norms to be strictly enforced, because in the absence of this meta-level enforcement you end up with a tangle of sloppy and misinformed call-outs and meta-call-outs.)

        When somebody genuinely wants to be accepted by a community, social enforcement through shaming is extremely effective (while centralized enforcement of norms can be less effective: there’s always a question of whether the opinions of a single moderator match those of the community as a whole, and a cultural clash between the mod team as a whole and the community as a whole can easily develop). Meanwhile, people who don’t identify with the community are more likely to engage intentionally in norm violations & are more likely to engage in really extreme violations, & centralized moderation will work better because it’s harder to sow discord in a smaller & more centralized set of points of authority.

        Trying to figure out how to make sure there’s a general understanding and agreement about norms is a serious problem (maybe the most serious problem) in community management. Outside of ephemeral pseudo-communities (like the group of people called up for jury duty, who must get along for a day or two but will probably never see each other again), shaming has a role in any version of this.

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          Years ago when a colleague and I ran an language-specific meetup, we picked a high-road/low-road approach. We tried to schedule two talks so that somebody who was totally new to the language, or somebody who wanted to Mr. Miyagi their fundamentals, would have a talk and then have a talk for anybody who was using the language in anger or trying to do something more complicated/advanced.

          For a healthy community you really do need to be able to cater to both skill levels, otherwise you end up with an endless parade of novices ignorant of the real world or a circlejerk of greybeards who can’t understand why their language is losing marketshare.

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            Good point, it’s kinda the same at every conference.

            Either the topic is basic or really sophisticated, I don’t see any middle ground. So you’d always get either total beginner questions or people being bored…

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            The title says “it’s fine to be elitist” but the article argues “it’s not compulsory to help everyone who asks all the time, and it’s reasonable to want to engage in conversations that will only be acceptable to experts sometimes”. These are much weaker, easier to defend, better arguments than what the title says.

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              Perhaps not applicable to meetup’s (unless the format permits) but whenever giving an internal demo/talk at work I include prerequisites beforehand that must be met to attend. Documents to have read, software to have setup etc as I don’t want to be wasting other peoples time by addressing one persons issues.

              Tangentially related, you might enjoy this book https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/354105.In_Defense_of_Elitism

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                Doing a presentation at a local meetup is volunteer teacher work, if you don’t want to do that, don’t present at meetups.

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                  So every Go presentation at Go meetups should start by explaining the basic syntax and concepts of Go? That doesn’t seem desirable to me.

                  There is nothing wrong with “teacher meetups” – I have attended many – but not every meetup needs to be one.

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                    No, but every presentation at a “go meetup” not an “advanced go meetup” need to assume some people are very early in the journey. No one forced you to do that presentation. That’s how meetups work.

                    “Explaining the basic syntax of Go” is a straw man argument.

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                      Why should all meetups work like that? There are always some expectations about who the meetup is for, and in this case the expectation was that people would know at least the basics for Go. I never said that I “advanced” – whatever that may even mean – just that I expect people to know the basics so that they don’t interrupt a talk several times with really basic questions about syntax or semantics, which is actually quite a rude and disruptive thing to do.

                      “Explaining the basic syntax of Go” is a straw man argument.

                      How is it a straw man if that is literally what I had to do?

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                        Also I wouldn’t even say that’s the case all the time. Back when we had a Clojure meetup here there were a lot of people identifying as beginners (me included) and apart from the occasional question regarding a piece of code shown (which was usually explained in a single sentence, or postponed by the presenter) we never had this happen, really feels a little unlucky.

                        When I remember back to the PHP meetups though (actually it was a weekly format by my company, predating the meetup boom) we often had people where I wondered if they had ever used the language. And those talks were often pretty high-level, so I can feel the pain a little, but I guess it didn’t happen that often or in such a blunt way.

                        I think you’re right though, if you keep it friendly there should be no problem to tell people you won’t answer this question or refer them to the manual. (Slight aside for languages with heavy sigil or pattern usage, so not Go, sometimes just telling them how the thing they don’t know is called is already helpful, and quick).

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                    I’m not sure if I follow how this relates to the content of this article?