So in revving up to be a peer mentor to a class of incoming students, who will be introduced to the variety of online tools we use for communication and networking in my MLIS program, I keep thinking of what I’m doing as “helping the newbs.” I think this to myself of course, and use more professional language, such as “new students” or “incoming students” amongst my peers.
But because we’re talking about things like online gaming (immersive environments), social networking, and blogging, that vernacular keeps creeping into my head.
One of the things I like about my program is that students come from a wide range of backgrounds. So it is likely that some of them would understand this term “Newb” completely, some would have a vague recognition, and some would want to do a little more research (we are future librarians, after all) with something like this Forbes article on “Gamer Speak for Newbs”
I did a little research myself, while I was writing this. I often run across the term “Newb” (or NOOB or nub or n3wb or nublet) used in a somewhat scornful context, such as to deride someone who’s posted something particularly silly on a message board or when my X-Box playing husband shouts “n00bs!” because some blundering gamer has gotten him killed. But the various spellings of the word seem to be shaded with subtle distinctions.
If you’re like me, and I know you are, you enjoy looking through Urban Dictionary on occasion, although sometimes you may look through it and the panic sets in that you are getting old and you have no idea what the kids are even saying these days.
Urban Dictionary, at the time of this writing, has more than 219 definitions for the word noob. The most popular one, with more than thirteen thousand votes, is an extensive treatise with nine distinct sections, including information on habits, religion and how to make sure you’re not one. But perhaps the most pertinent part of this discourse is the following section:
II. Defining ‘Noob’
Contrary to the belief of many, a noob/n00b and a [newbie]/[newb] are not the same thing. [Newbs] are those who are new to some task* and are very beginner at it, possibly a little overconfident about it, but they are willing to learn and fix their errors to move out of that stage. [n00bs], on the other hand, know little and have no will to learn any more. They expect people to do the work for them and then expect to get praised about it, and make up a unique species of their own. It is the latter we will study in this guide so that the reader is prepared to encounter them in the wild if needed.
I find it interesting that the term encompasses a judgment about people’s attitudes toward their own ignorance. Being new at something, or being a learner, or just being ignorant has its own social code. When we are students, we are expected to be ignorant, at least about certain things. One of the things I like about school is that it can be a safe space to express that – to ask questions and not feel like you’re the only one who’s out of the loop. I love learning, but often find it difficult to admit my own ignorance.
203 was helpful to me in that it gave everyone the same introduction to the social code of online learning. It didn’t just introduce us to the tools, it also introduced related etiquette. It gave everyone the chance to enter the program with the same basic understanding of how things work, and put everyone on the same page.
The thing that bothers me about the Urban Dictionary’s definition, is that there is nothing wrong with being new at something. We are all newbs really, because the sum of what we don’t know always outweighs the sum of what we know. There is so much to learn in the universe!
Bonus Resource: An oldie but goodie: the BBC talks about text speak and translates famous works. My favorite? w8ing 4 go .