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The question in question is this question.

And my question is simple: Should we remove lines like "I'm a newbie so please help me" or "I'm new to this, so excuse this dumb question"? It adds nothing of value to the question in my opinion, and it does not set people free from the rules. It's a mere sidenote which shouldn't matter.

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This phrase and similar ones may at least temporarily discourage single-line, non-answers from appearing. While it may/may not be desirable to ultimately remove them from the questions, I don't think it should be explicitly discouraged. –  M. Tibbits Jul 6 '11 at 17:37

4 Answers 4

up vote 31 down vote accepted

Saying "I'm new at this" doesn't add value to the question, but it does add context for answers. Assuming that the question is fine either way, knowing that someone is very new can change the way I present an answer. For example:

Ok, I'm really new to Foobar programming. I'm trying to do with salmon: blah blah blah fishcakes but I'm getting an error that says carp unavailable, why is that?

vs.

I've been working on a large Foobar project and I'm getting a carp unavailable error from a statement with salmon: blah blah blah fishcakes. I'm probably missing something obvious here, but I'm not sure what.

In the former case, I'd explain that fishcakes actually means a pureed mixture of all fish that are in scope, so they need to explicitly hide the carp if all they want is salmon cakes. For the latter, I'd ask "did you mean something like with salmon, hiding carp: ..." to remind them of what they've overlooked, rather than explain something they already know.

On the other hand, if the question is bad and should be closed, it doesn't matter whether the user is a newbie.

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I don't see any reason not to include both the explanation of the behavior and the recommended solution. –  Kevin Vermeer Jul 6 '11 at 15:58
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@Kevin Vermeer: For something as short as the pseudo-example I gave here, sure. When the question is about something more tricky or subtle, it can be harder to give both in a single answer of sensible length. I realize I'm hardly one to talk, but they're generally supposed to be answers, not twenty-page tutorials... –  McCannot Jul 6 '11 at 16:02
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My point was that both parts are needed for a complete answer. A potential solution should be offered to new users, and the old hats need the explanation so they don't do it again the next day. –  Kevin Vermeer Jul 6 '11 at 16:08
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@Kevin Vermeer: Alas, an ideal 100% complete Answer For Posterity isn't always the best answer to help the questioner with their problem, or practical to write out in full. I do agree in general, though. –  McCannot Jul 6 '11 at 16:14
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In cases where such statements do provide useful context for answerers, I think the best thing to do is to shorten them to the minimum and move them to the end of the question. That way they are still there, but don't clutter the preview on the question page. –  Josh Caswell Jul 6 '11 at 18:34

I am a newbie (without "please help me") is just a way of saying "I am not aware of subtleties here, and advanced stuff will probably not going to help unless you care to explain the details".

So, it is an "awareness warning", like many, many others used by posters to help the answers to focus in a certain level of knowledge and abstraction.

Just search google and 238K results will show that explicitly telling what you are aware of is useful.

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I have edited out such statements. It doesn't give any new information. Someone's experience level will, by-and-large, be reflected in their question anyway (I'm sure there are some exceptions to this, but consider those the minority). In reality, the nature of their question will dictate the kind of help given.

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If that was the only thing wrong with the post I'd probably leave it, but if there's other things to fix (and there usually is) then I take out that sort of stuff too (or at least trim it, I've seen plenty of multi-line groveling).

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