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A teenager told me that he would like to start learning how to program. After giving him some advice, I told him that the first thing I would do, would be to become part of good online programmer communities. Naturally I pointed him to StackOverflow for when he had programming related questions, and I gave him some advice on how to ask questions.

Well, he asked his first question and it was promptly closed. Being a teenager he decided, the hell with this, and is now struggling away on his own.

I looked around a bit, and found that quite a few newcomers only ask one question, then it gets closed or the guy gets some flack, and then they never ask questions again.

Also, questions in certain areas are more prone to this than others, for example, Unity3D (like the question above) has quite a large following of newcomers. You can see be the mean reputation (at the time of writing this question), that most guys are asking their first or second question.. This is becau [2]: http://blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/07/kicking-off-the-summer-of-love/ se Unity3D makes is possible for non-programmers (like graphic designers) to try their hand at programming.

In summary, can't we make it a bit more difficult to close or down-vote questions if the person is asking his first question? These guys should be given a bit of slack.

UPDATE:

From the comments and down-votes I got by asking this question, it's quite clear that I pee'd off a lot of people.

Gents, I just asked: "Can we make it easier on new guys?"

Then, I continued to give some explanation towards my thinking. Apologies, if it came across negatively - that was not my intent. It was intended to be a positive contribution to Stack Overflow. We're on the same side here.

Here are some of the ideas I had:

  • If it's the first timer question, to give an extra reputation point or once-off badge for experienced users to improve the question
  • To just put a subtle flag next to the question that reminds us it's a first question of someone
  • A reminder when answering to welcome the new guy
  • Add a "Tough first day" badge for new guy's who's first question gets closed

These may be silly, but hey, it's just a thought - no harm intended.

The obvious answer to my question is "no". I'm cool with that.

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Closing and down voting questions have absolutely nothing to do with Summer of Love, maintaining Stack Overflow's standards is not rude. –  Yannis Aug 3 '12 at 1:34
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Love is a two-way street. They need to respect the community they come into as well –  random Aug 3 '12 at 1:40
    
I did not make a direct comparison between Summer of Love and Stack Overflows standard, and I never even used the word rude. Also, the guy did not 'disrespect' anything. I was just trying to ask a constructive question because I thought we could be a bit nicer to first-timers. From the down-votes I'm getting, I already have my answer, thanks. –  JacobusR Aug 3 '12 at 2:00
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@JacobusR Rudeness and how to deal with it is the epicenter of Summer of Love, whether you used the word or not is irrelevant, since you quoted the campaign. Stack Overflow's standards come in the discussion, since you reference closures and down votes (our way of maintaining our standards), that have absolutely nothing to do with Summer of Love, which is all about snark comments. –  Yannis Aug 3 '12 at 2:26
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People just plain tend to only ask one question on sites like this. They want one bit of information and they leave after they get it (or fail to get it). It's how things go. You can't necessarily tie it to closure rate quite so easily. –  Ben Brocka Aug 3 '12 at 2:46
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Seems like you either didn't give very good question-asker advice to your friend, or -- like most teenagers -- he ignored your advice and asked what he wanted to anyway. Also, the closing of this question was handled quite well. Your friend was given very helpful, constructive advice in the comments. Please explain to him the nature of Stack Overflow, and that we welcome him back when he has a little more experience. :) –  jmort253 Aug 3 '12 at 2:47
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Frankly that is a totally classic Not a Real Question; way too broad to possibly be answered. A simple reading of the FAQ or a 5 minute intro to the site from any slightly experienced SO user could have told him better. –  Ben Brocka Aug 3 '12 at 2:50
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3 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

You may very well have done your friend a disservice by sending him our way so soon.

There is a sense in which Stack Overflow assumes that the users know the difference between a specific programming question with well defined answers and a general shout for broadly stated help.

I would go so far as to suggest that until someone can sit down and write a "Hello, world!" type program in some language without help it may not be a good idea to show them Stack Overflow. Even then they would be well advised to read for a bit to see what we consider the kind of question which the site accepts.

All that said, you friends question was closed but it was done fairly politely (which is what the Summer of Love is about), and he got some useful feedback in the comments.

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In this case, I don't think it's a good idea to give this individual slack. Stack Overflow is a learned taste -- meaning they'd already have to know about Stack Overflow to ask a question here. Google is not. I googled his question, and there were a whole page of answers before I even saw a Stack Overflow link:

Unity question on Google

Stack Overflow is not meant to be everything to everyone who wants to program. It's meant to be a place that is a repository of specific knowledge for specific problems. We're not here to replace Google or website tutorials, we're here to make specific programming knowledge easy to find.

I wish him well on his journey, and I hope that after he's read some of the documentation and tutorials available through a google search, he'll come to Stack Overflow when he has a specific answerable problem.

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Ironic that answers.unity3d.com is really an SE clone. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Aug 3 '12 at 3:34
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@BoltClock'saUnicorn That's a coincidence, not irony. It would be ironic if the site was managed by Stack Exchange Inc. –  George Stocker Aug 3 '12 at 12:04
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I myself was down voted on my first couple of questions. But the SO community has explained it clearly in FAQ. These rules has played a major role in building this great community(in my view). Dont worry about new comers, A programming loving guy (a.k.a geek), will definitely come back to SO. The best community out there for programmers.

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