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I've seen several cases of new SO users getting their 1st question closed, and it really irritates me. In all cases, closing the question was totally justified (unclear, too general, etc.). I often feel that this shuns away new users and gives them a negative idea about SO, and that they feel it's a place for "experts" (whatever that means). There is at least one example of a user complaining here, on meta, that several of his questions were closed for such reasons.

In my experience, SO is a wonderfully greeting community provided that you start asking proper questions (e.g. per the FAQ on how to ask questions). In many cases, new SO users have never asked questions online, or are used to communities that deal poorly with "bad" questions, or target such audiences.

I found a another question addressing this topic as proposing a new closing reason: "OP needs to learn how to ask questions".

My habit

When I see a poor question from a user with low reputation, I usually check that user's profile to see if it's their first or second question. If so, I refrain from down voting the question and/or voting to close. Instead, I usually explicitly tell the user that their question is poorly worded if they don't reword their question, it will probably get closed by other users.

Real problem

I think the real problem here is not so much the new users. There will always users who don't know how to ask for help.

The real problem is the typical reaction of experienced SO users: silently down vote and/or close. In busy times, the question may get closed in under a minute. We need to find a better way to address these questions by targeting people who down vote/close the question too quickly.


I keep a set of links to answer some common problems:

  1. Poor questions: "Check out guidelines on how to ask a good question."
  2. Partial code listings with too much missing code: "Please provide a short, self-contained, complete example, so that we can reproduce the problem."
  3. New users: "Make sure you find out how to accept an answer."

I'd like to get some similar link as "Please don't close new users's questions just quite yet." that reminds people that new users should be encouraged to edit their question and reformulate it to get a good answer.


Can you provide a good external link that explains to experienced SO that we need to encourage the user to reformulate the question instead of just closing it silently. Or, alternatively, can you provide a short and sweet text right here that I can link to?


Looking a bit harder, I've also found a related question that suggests editing a newbie's question to help them understand how to ask for help. This is one possible question to link to. Any other ideas?

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How do I make this a community wiki? Seems I don't have enough rep. – André Caron Jul 20 '11 at 15:27
@Daniel: yeah, I just checked that out. I guess 101 rep is still "too new a user" to allow turning it into a community wiki myself. – André Caron Jul 20 '11 at 15:30
possible duplicate of Why are questions closed immediately? – Cody Gray Jul 20 '11 at 15:34
@Daniel, @‍André: Only moderators can make questions community wiki. Other users can't, not even on creation. – Hendrik Vogt Jul 20 '11 at 15:34
By the way, I think you're missing the fact that closing is exactly this feature. It's designed to indicate to new and experienced users alike that they need to clean up or reformulate their question in order to get a good answer. – Cody Gray Jul 20 '11 at 15:35
@Cody: It's just not a very warm welcome (which might be on purpose). – Hendrik Vogt Jul 20 '11 at 15:37
Right. Stack Overflow is a big city now, and we can't afford to coddle users. We don't need to welcome users who aren't interested in or willing to follow the rules. It's not that hard to figure out, and we get plenty of content without them. This discussion has been hashed out like 9,000 times already on Meta. As entertaining as it is for me to vote to close questions that complain about voting to close, I think I'm already growing bored with it. – Cody Gray Jul 20 '11 at 15:38
Hey, two days in a row I get to whip out this old question. – Pops Jul 20 '11 at 15:41
@Cody: I disprove of "we don't need to welcome users who are interested in, or willing to follow the rules". It is not that hard to figure it out. The same way "hot to answer a question" is really not that hard to figure out yourself. However, some users have not been trained to answer good questions. They need a bit of encouragement, rather then being silently turned away. SO is all about helping people. I believe such people need help just as much as we do. – André Caron Jul 20 '11 at 15:43
@Cody: IMO, closing a newbie's question is just like answering RTFM on a forum. – André Caron Jul 20 '11 at 15:44
@Cody: make it an answer. That's a good place to start. If this question can be reformulated as a grouping of all aspects of this discussion, that's fine with me too. I just want a place to link to when new users' questions are closed really quickly. – André Caron Jul 20 '11 at 15:47
I had (what I thought was) a very good idea for how to handle new users who suck, but the community didn't seem to think I did – Won't Jul 20 '11 at 16:32
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Cody is absolutely right that this just keeps getting asked, and the answer (should be) the same:

If a new user asks a bad question, it should be closed.

Doing otherwise just perpetuates the problem.

There are not enough high-rep or experienced users to coddle every new person who shows up on the site to ask a single poorly-considered question.

There are an abundance of resources available with information about how to ask questions appropriately, how to find out if a question has already been asked, what questions are considered on-topic, etc. If a new person either chooses not to read these, or chooses to ignore them, it's not a problem with the site. It's a problem with the user.

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I'm not against closing the question. I just want a suggestion of a standard message to leave when I edit, down vote or close the question (i.e. "Please read X and then ask another question."). – André Caron Jul 20 '11 at 17:18
I think it may be good to take badp's suggestion from another thread, and add hyperlinks to the This question was closed... message at the bottom that lead to the FAQ or other resources. – JNK Jul 20 '11 at 17:24
Hey! Finally found one I can upvote. :-p The only thing I would add to this answer is a reiteration that closing is not the end. Closing is the way we inform a user that their question is problematic as it currently stands. They can edit that question to bring it into compliance with our standards/guidelines (which, as you point out, are quite easily accessible or obtainable for those who care), and then they get the question re-opened. This does happen, which confirms that the problem lies not with the system but with the user. – Cody Gray Jul 21 '11 at 4:16
@Cody: I'm rather disappointed as this doesn't really answer my question. I'll end up writing a blog post or something and I'll link to that. – André Caron Jul 21 '11 at 12:13
The problem with the logic here is that people who vote to close are rarely ever thoughtful enough to provide feedback. – Brandon Moore Nov 20 '11 at 1:30
@BrandonMoore - No offense but I will take your feedback with a grain of salt since you are so new to the site. Often the close vote IS the feedback. If there is an off-topic question, do you need comments that say "This is off topic" in addition to the "CLOSED AS OFF-TOPIC" message? – JNK Nov 20 '11 at 3:05

This is a great idea to accumulate resources. Maybe once the resources are available, there could be a mechanisms to automatically provide a few of them as suggestions to new users? I know there's a FAQ, but if new users were automatically delivered a message box asking them to do a few succinct things (up-vote answers they like, post a good example, mark the question as answered when it's answered), newbie questions would be much better and experienced people wouldn't mind answering them. Bold for not marking when answered, because there's nothing more annoying than answering a newbie question and then having it sit unfinished once it's finished.

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