Behaviour in technical forums

The purpose of the LinuxChix project is to provide a friendly, woman-oriented environment to discuss Linux. The technical forums exist primarily as a place for female geeks to ask technical questions and get answers from other female geeks. Many women posting to this list aren't just looking for answers to their technical questions, they're also looking for a peer group and a sense of community with other technical women.

While our technical forums welcome helpful and considerate people of any gender, it's easy for our forums to become overwhelmed by male voices. As long as Linux geeks are mostly male, mailing lists about Linux will be mostly male, so members of the list should expect to see a lot of male voices. But then, how do we fulfill the original purpose of the technical forums? We don't want to kick out all the men, who are productive and helpful members of the list. One way to keep the list female-oriented is for the men in the technical forums to self-moderate themselves to some degree.

How do you self-moderate? When you see a question, stop and think for a minute before answering. Wait a few hours and give other people a chance to answer first. It's unlikely that the poster needs an answer within a few minutes. Consider responding privately, or not at all. If you've been answering questions a lot lately, take a break and let other people answer. Examine your motives: Could it be that you race to answer questions mostly because you want to look smart, and only partly because you want to help people?

When you do answer a question, include how you discovered the answer. Did you read a man page? A web page? A book? Did you do a web search? Did the programmer in the cubicle next to you tell you the answer? Suggest ways to find out more about the topic under question, independently of the mailing list. If you were once embarrassed by not knowing the answer to this question, tell your story. It helps to remind people that even the gurus were once clueless newbies.

Finally, every time you think about posting, remember that if every question on the list is answered in 5 minutes or less by a guru, that discourages every single other person on the list from even attempting to answer a question. By the time other people have finished reading the email, the guru has already sent a detailed, jargon-filled answer. We want to encourage people to participate, not discourage them.

The reason the LinuxChix lists are so popular, the technical forums in particular, is that they do have a lot of women subscribed and as a result, have a different "feel" to them then normal Linux lists. We all like this and want to keep it that way. If the list appears to be too male-dominated, the women who make the forums what they are will stop participating and start leaving. Help us keep our technical forums a friendly and helpful place!