Miscellaneous ephemera…

A Taxonomy of Help Vampires


If you have spent any time at all amongst online (or, for that matter, off-line) communities, you will be familiar with the help vampire. If, by some combination of fortune and ignorance, you haven’t come across this term before, read Amy Hoy’s original—and definitive— post on this scourge, now.

Amy has some excellent tips on identifying help vampires, however, since she originally shed some sunlight on this odious species, they have become even more cunning and have adapted; to the point where there are now several varieties that you should be wary of if you are determined to prevent your online community from becoming overrun with them.

The Infant The easiest to spot because, due to their nascent form, they have not developed sophisticated anti-detection strategies as yet. Also, encouragingly, these are the most likely to respond to the corrective measures Amy outlines in her post.

The infant has probably learned their dependant ways in some other online community with a higher tolerance for their spoonfeeding needs. Corrective measures, vigorously and repeatedly applied can turn them around; but even small amounts of reinforcement of this behaviour can quickly see them morph into one of the more sinister types…


The Leech This reprehensible lifeform just sucks and sucks and sucks until there is nothing left. Some of their forum threads may even appear reasonable, but looking at their profile in totality tells a shocking story. All of their posts are in their own threads, they are not interested in helping anyone else with a problem. They will move remorselessly from issue to issue, expecting the community to provide answers for them at a hemorrhagic rate.

They won’t have made any edits to the Wiki, no matter how trivial. They won’t maintain any packages or donate any time or money to your community. But they will be there night after night, posting their problems and waiting for the hapless to expend their time and energy on them. Like all parasites, they will adapt over time so remain vigilant.


The Fanger The out-and-out help vampire, unabashed and unashamed of their needs. Their sense of entitlement will be telegraphed by needy and demanding thread titles, often featuring exhortations like “HELP” and “URGENT” and almost always embellished with a liberal—and, at times of “real crises,” exclusive—use of all caps and exclamation marks.

The Fanger will also occasionally table (sadly, almost inevitably empty) threats about leaving your community and going off to use some other software; as if the dependency relationship is somehow reversed and it is you, the community, that will suffer if they leave.

The other classic trait of the hardcore vampire is that, like their fictional avatars, they see nothing when a mirror is held up to them. You can call their behaviour as much as you like, it will have no effect. Your only solution here is technology: the hell ban.

The Arch Linux community has grown considerably since it emerged ten years ago this month. Over the last couple of years, the forums in particular have seen a lot of new users signing up to participate. This is unquestionably a good thing™

However, Arch is clearly labelled as being for competent users (and here competent can equally mean accomplished – or prepared to invest in themselves and the community to become competent) and that means not enabling these sorts of vampiric behaviours, in whatever form they manifest.


Photography is all Creative Commons licensed on Flickr by, in order of appearance: