Find Linux Community Toxic? Meet the Daddy

Arch Linux users are the ‘Linux users’ of the Linux community
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While Linux itself can be a viable alternative to mainstream operating systems like Windows and MacOS, the community has long been a deterrent for novice users looking to get into the ecosystem. However, in the dark corners of the Linux community, there is another, more toxic sub-community – that of the Arch Linux users. 

Arch Linux has gained notoriety for being one of the most difficult Linux distros to install, with many members of the community claiming that the distro is not for ‘newbies’. To its credit, Arch is marketed as a do-it-yourself distro, giving users access to the base layer of the Linux kernel to do with it as they please.

However, due to its difficulty to install, operate, and maintain, it seems that Arch Linux users have a chip on their shoulder. This sense of inflated superiority is most evident on the Arch Linux forums – an echo chamber of Arch ‘power users’ that creates a huge barrier for those unfortunate enough to want to try Arch.

BTW, I use Arch

Arch Linux first began as a project created by Judd Vinet, a software programmer. The distro is well known for implementing a rolling-release model, which allows for a one-time installation with continuous upgrades. A fresh installation of Arch includes only the minimal base system, leaving other features to be added by the users as needed. 

When installing Arch, which itself is a complex procedure, users have to navigate a command line interface to get the system up and running. It does not come with a GUI, leaving it to users to install one if they need it. This approach is replicated across all features, due to Arch favouring a user-centric approach over a user-friendly one. 

The do-it-yourself approach of Arch Linux, while powerful in its own right, has attracted the crème de la crème of toxic Linux users. From gatekeeping new users by asking them to read the Arch Wiki’s ‘excellent manuals’ (which are regularly out of date and difficult to use), to claiming that they know more about Linux than others, the Arch Linux community is more toxic than the average Linux troll.

The root of the problem

As mentioned earlier, a lot of work goes in to set up Arch Linux and customise it. This process leads to a lot of users learning about the nitty-gritty of the Linux kernel, giving some users a superiority complex over others who use install scripts and GUIs. Some users even have an opinion that this kind of gatekeeping is necessary, as seen by this user on the Y Combinator forums. “Arch doesn’t want things inclusive, it wants things done its way. There is nothing wrong with that, Gatekeeping is not a negative term, it’s how communities stay internally consistent. Gatekeeping is a community’s immune system, and communities that don’t do it get sick and die.”

This is a common thread across many Arch Linux user guides set up by the community. Moreover, a user on the Arch Linux forums branded new users “showing up asking to have their hand held” as ‘help vampires’ – a term used to denote people who feed off the help of “generous individuals”. The forum moderators response to anyone being toxic on the platform is simply to block them and move on. 

Due to the DIY approach of the OS, the Arch Linux community has garnered a reputation of sorts among Linux users themselves, to the point where they have a KnowYourMeme entry titled ‘BTW I use Arch’. This refers to the propensity of Arch users to inform others that they use this distro at any chance they get. This was memed by community members, with some examples below. 

According to long-standing members of the Linux community, this problem rears its head every time a new distro that requires a lot of configuration becomes famous. The process of setting their distro up leads to an elitist mindset against others who do not have the technical know-how or deep Linux knowledge to do so. This, in turn, manifests as toxic and unhelpful behaviour towards these new users. However, Reddit user, CartmansEvilTwin, on the Linux subreddit, had a different view on these projects, stating: “Arch and Gentoo are more like a project, it’s that car in your garage that constantly needs attention. Great if that’s what you’re into. But if you see an OS simply as a tool, you don’t use either of these. Arch attracts people who see maintenance and tweaking as a hobby.”

This approach is a healthy way of perceiving the Arch Linux ecosystem as a whole, as there are many helpful community members willing to guide new users to the appropriate Wiki page. Unfortunately, these helpful members are overshadowed by the legion of ‘I use Arch BTW’ trolls who have now become the face of the community. 

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Anirudh VK
I am an AI enthusiast and love keeping up with the latest events in the space. I love video games and pizza.

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