Newbs, N00bs and Elitists: Neologisms for learners and teachers in open online communities

The openness of online communities is one of the things that make them so exciting. Anyone, anywhere, can create an account and start participating. The more I think about some of the research I did on RPGmakerVX.net the more I think that the neologisms for dispositions of a few different kinds of users on the site capture some important parts of defining teachers and learners in open interest driven web communities. In this post I will briefly describe how the terms Newbs, N00b and Elitist Bastards expressed in the ground rules of the RPGmakerVX community serve to define the roles for learners and teachers in this space.

As a frame of reference, RPGmakerVX.net is an online discussion board where those interested in creating SNES looking role-playing games congregate to discuss, develop, and share their projects. Elsewhere I’ve written about how this operates as a community of learners. When I first visited the site though, I was struck by the discussion boards simple guidelines.

Eletist Bastardly Behavior Will Not Be Tolerated

The following appears at the top of the Board Rules page. For our purposes, the first prime directive and its first bullet point are particularly relevant.

This prime directive classifies three kinds of users. First and foremost, the elitist bastard, the kind of person who is not tolerated on the boards. The elitist bastard refuses to understand the difference between two different kinds of new members to the site, the newb and and n00b. Before parsing through all of this in a bit more depth it is worth following the link for newb and n00b from the rules to see how the terms are used here. Following the link leads to this comic from CTL+ALT+DELETE

Glossary: Newb/Noob

The following is the comic linked to from the RPGmakerVX.net discussion boards. (Actually it looks like the link is broken now but this is what it linked to a few months back.) This 2006 web comic walks through the distinctions between these two terms for gamers who are new to a particular game.

The newb is inexperienced, but is wants to learn and when given guidance is happy to take it and act on it. In contrast, the n00b, while similarly clueless is unwilling to submit to respect the elders, the gamers who know how to play the game, or in this case the game makers who have developed expertise. The comic explains what , “newbs should be cared for and nurtured so that they may grow into valuable skilled players” while “N00bs deserve our wrath” and our apparent pity as they are likely to have problems in finding or making any meaningful relationships.

Newbs Respect the Authority/Wisdom of the Open Knowledge Community, N00bs are Unwilling to Learn the Ground Rules for Being a Novice

These neologisms are widespread. Turning to the OED of Internet slang, the Urban Dictionary. We find that a newb is “A term used to describe a inexperienced gamer/person/etc. Unlike a noob, a newb is someone who actually wants to get better.” Aside from just being part of the rules of the community, when I asked participants in my study of the RPG Maker VX community what the difference between a N00b and a newb most of the participants could parse the difference between the two terms.

The Elitist Bastard Fails to Nurture the Novice

The elitist bastard is one who fails to recognize the difference between new learners. There is almost no barrier to entry to RPGmakerVX.net. All you need to do is sign up for an account to join and start posting. This means that new community members are going to need to be vetted and filtered after they have already come in the virtual door and started talking. Some of the new users are newbs, that is individuals who are want to learn to make games and are willing to show deference to the elders of this online community. Some of those users are n00bs, who are unwilling to do things like read the FAQ, read stickied posts on how to ask questions and post about their projects, and when told follow the rules will simply become disgruntled and argumentative. In short, experienced members of the community need to know who to nurture and who to moderate, call out, and judge for not respecting the rules of the community.

Necessary Neologisms for Learning on the Open Web?

I’m curious to hear from those who talk about learning webs, about massively open online courses, or for that matter any bread of open online education projects about this. It strikes me that the story of RPGmakervx.net is very similar to my experience with any number of online communities. Things like open source communities, fan fiction communities, photo sharing communities on sites like Flickr, the guild of Wikipedians, each seem to have this kind of operational structure. Are these necessary neologisms for learning on the open web, or are newbs, n00bs, and elitist bastards just 1337 way of talking about things we already have names for?

2 Replies to “Newbs, N00bs and Elitists: Neologisms for learners and teachers in open online communities”

  1. Trevor,
    One of the things I have noticed with ds106 is that the dynamic of boards or space is a bit different. There are still newbs and noobs, but the fact that everyone has there own space actually might play into the downplaying of the noobs. Fact is the cost of engagement is a lot of work, so there is that first and foremost. But also the fact that they do the work on their own blog space and then it syndicates into the main site makes the potential for boarding bastardly elitism less and less. I have had student complain about the course and the assignments in posts and I responded in kind, complaining how they are annoying and need to get with the program. What’s more, if their stuff sucks, no one really comments on it and it disappears into the ether. And that is the ultimate way of sorting the wheat from the chaff, and I think th distributed nature of an open, online course makes those blowups a bit more distributed, which diffuses them right away. In that way, the aggregated/syndicated model is perfect for MOOC crowd control 😉 Until they #occupy the aggregation space.

    1. That makes a lot of sense. It’s interesting to think about how much of this stuff is involves a mixture of technical systems affording particular social interactions. In this case, the difference between threaded discussion boards and everybody having their own space ends up translating into different kinds of relationships based on how content gets surfaced. At the same time, I am also curious about the kinds of cultural differences that come from people signing on for open education projects and people signing on to some game forum because they are interested in it and without necessarly knowing it ending up participating in a kind of open education system. So the difference between the MOOC crowd and things like game forums, fanfic forums, open source software forums, etc. In any event, I find it fascinating to think about what parts of these things are primarily about culture and expectations and which of them are really about how specific technical functionality affords particular kinds of roles and identities.

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