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Could we please be a bit nicer to the noobs?

Should we go a bit easy on new users to SOFU?

Regularly I've come across an answer posted by someone with only 1 rep, and it looks like it's still their first day on SFOU, but the answer they posted is poor, incorrect, doesn't answer the question, is badly phrased, or duplicates another answer already posted.

Usually I would give them a -1 and I always make sure to leave a comment (trying to be constructive) about the - vote.

Thing is, if that happened to me on my first day and I got a bunch of -ve votes, I would probably not bother coming back and contributing more, cursing something about uppity bitches.

What do others do when they come across a new user who maybe doesn't quite understand?

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    People will downvote and heckle, in my experience. If you can stay away from being a new user, I would. It's certainly not as if everyone was new once! – Andy Mikula Aug 20 '09 at 22:03
  • I think this duplicates: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9953/… – EBGreen Aug 20 '09 at 22:03
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    Gees, 525 votes for that question. I did a bunch of searching before asking my question but it didn't show up. I guess I didn't search for "noob"... – Mark Henderson Aug 20 '09 at 22:05
  • If they are at -1 votes then down votes have no effect on them. So what is the problem? – GEOCHET Aug 20 '09 at 22:06
  • They might not have - rep, but they see their question with -1, -2 etc. A newbie is most likely going to go back and check their question every hour or so to see how people have reacted to it. At least, I used to. – Mark Henderson Aug 20 '09 at 22:07
  • @Farseeker: Well, in my experience, not many new users do check their post, but if they do, and they lost no rep (usually down votes /gain/ them rep actually), then they are not likely to take it as hard as you think. – GEOCHET Aug 20 '09 at 22:09
  • @EBGreen Look out! – Troggy Aug 20 '09 at 22:11
  • Huh? What did I do now? – EBGreen Aug 20 '09 at 22:15
  • @EBGreen I am guessing you didn't see the bad apple question/discussion. – Troggy Aug 20 '09 at 22:15
  • I saw it. Stopped paying attention when it got just plain silly. – EBGreen Aug 20 '09 at 22:18
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    @EBGreen: Isn't the definition of 'just plain silly' anytime TheTXI posts in a thread? Because this one is already infected. – GEOCHET Aug 20 '09 at 22:21
  • Still not sure why this is open. How is it not a dupe? – EBGreen Aug 20 '09 at 22:31
  • @EBGreen: People are too shy to close things lately. – GEOCHET Aug 20 '09 at 22:33
  • I think people are having far too much fun trolling and being controversial to close. I'm seeing this regularly on MSO. – Mark Henderson Aug 20 '09 at 22:48
  • Or, I guess, seeing as how it's my question and it is a dupe (although the first question is going to be impossible for anyone to find given the choice of words it used, and it's almost 12 months old, and some of us havent been on MSO for 12 months) I guess I could just delete it... – Mark Henderson Aug 20 '09 at 22:49

It is not about being easy or hard, it is about being respectful. Even from reading some of the answers above, it doesn't seem that respect is something that comes to mind for everyone.

Any hypersensitive people who are upset by a few down votes on their badly written post probably are not the kinds of people we want on this site anyway.

Maybe better stated would be to state nothing at all...

We are not all the same breed and to act like those who are not the same as you must be flawed and don't belong is simply wrong, arrogant, and hypocritical.

  • I can't help but think this was originally intended to be a comment on another answer... But anyway, what do you do when you encounter a poorly-asked question by a new user? Do you down-vote? Comment? Do nothing? – Shog9 Aug 20 '09 at 22:43
  • Careful buddy, there are a lot of people here (mso) who's opinion is that if you don't know the culture of SO, then you shouldn't be here at all. – devinb Aug 20 '09 at 22:45
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    "if you don't know the culture of SO, then you shouldn't be here at all" - if anyone honestly thinks that, then perhaps they're the ones with the problem... – Mark Henderson Aug 20 '09 at 22:46
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    It doesn't help that they've chased away all the polite people, and most of the people who would stand up for them. We have the loudest, pushiest people claiming that they accurately represent all the people. – devinb Aug 20 '09 at 22:48
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    @devinb exactly! I answered the OP's question by identifying a respect problem and then went the extra step to provide an example. The down votes I've received today only encourage me to keep pointing these issues out. – RSolberg Aug 20 '09 at 22:50
  • It's nice to have an ally again. – devinb Aug 20 '09 at 22:51
  • I like this answer the best because it seems to nail it all on the head. I like respect. I like being treated with respect. I like people who treat others with respect. Not saying that anyone here (well, maybe one troll exception) has been disrespectful, but I feel this answer genuinely encompasses the kind of discussion I was trying to illicit. – Mark Henderson Aug 20 '09 at 22:53
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    We are not all the same breed and to act like those who are not the same as you must be flawed and don't belong is simply wrong, arrogant, and hypocritical. This should be on the SO about page. Unfortunately many users left here seem to believe the opposite. – user154174 Dec 20 '10 at 16:22

There are going to be lots of instances where we should probably practice more restraint in dealing with new users, but one also has to sit there and believe in a little tough love. We give every avenue possible to hold a user's hands with a FAQ that is fleshed out beyond belief, and a super active and knowledge-filled support site (meta).

I don't mind being nice to new users, but I am not going to say that your voting patterns should change just because they are new. If they are going to get offended by downvotes on a poor question, then there isn't much you can do about that. I do not advocate the usage of pity up votes just to help out some new person's self esteem.

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    "hold a user's hands with a FAQ"... I think we just have to accept that nobody reads anything. – user154174 Dec 20 '10 at 16:24

I don't think we should go too easy on new users.

If I see they've treated SO like a discussion forum or newsgroup, and if I have patience left over, I'll add a nice comment welcoming them to SO and suggesting they read the FAQ, and showing them what I wanted them to see if they were to read the FAQ, and then welcoming them again.

I then have to go rinse the sweetness out of my mouth

But if a new user answers a question incorrectly, I see no reason not to treat them like anyone else.

On the other hand, I have a tendency to treat "old hands" a bit more harshly. Although I've been informed that saying "you should have known better" is condescending, when it's true, I'll call them on it.

  • "I then have to go rinse the sweetness out of my mouth" The fact that you have such difficulty being polite must be interesting to those around you. – devinb Aug 20 '09 at 22:33
  • @devinb: It would kill me. – GEOCHET Aug 20 '09 at 22:38
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    @Rich, I assume that those around you in real life have become inured to your behaviour – devinb Aug 20 '09 at 22:43
  • +1 - Welcoming comments that point out the FAQ and highlight the correct behavior and/or flagging for a moderator to do the same is much appreciated. – Bill the Lizard Aug 20 '09 at 23:01
  • If anyone downvoted this because of my "sweetness" remark, I'd like them to consider the possibility that I actually feel that way. I'd like them further to consider what it means to downvote the emotions of another person. – John Saunders Aug 20 '09 at 23:28
  • @Bill: I'm glad you appreciate it. I appreciate honey as well, but too much of it makes me wish for plain, cold water. – John Saunders Aug 20 '09 at 23:29
  • I interpreted the OQ in the sense of users new to a topic (not necessarily to SO/SE) asking new questions. But I agree with this point of view. If we are any lenient when they dare to answer a question, they will never be but new to the topic. They have to research, test their answers, and be sure they are right. – Mario Rossi Aug 18 '13 at 6:40

I'm a bit puzzled by these questions.

There seems to be this underlying assumption that most if not all new users are "new" to this in every sense of the word, that they've never before asked a question, used The Internet, read anything longer than a text message / Twitter post, or interacted with another human being.

Now, I'm sure there are people like this, but do we really need to structure our entire culture around coddling them at the expense of all else?

You don't have to look far to find users who are actually quite young (less than 20 years since their date of birth), comparatively unskilled (only recently started programming, still very unfamiliar with many key concepts), and yet who still manage to ask effective questions and even participate in short, not overly-friendly comment exchanges without becoming shocked or disheartened by it all. If you really want to go out of your way to encourage someone, pick one of these budding programmers... Your effort might actually do some good!

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    How is a culture of mutual respect and dignity at the expense of ANYONE? I agree, it damages the a culture of elitism, and it is not as fun for those who enjoy mocking others. But politeness and respect should be something that we STRIVE for. We shouldn't be mercilessly mocking those who ask for it. – devinb Aug 20 '09 at 22:35
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    @devinb: we're talking about voting. If down-voting a bad post is contrary to your ideals of respect and dignity, then you should probably be campaigning for the abolition of this half of the voting system entirely! – Shog9 Aug 20 '09 at 22:37
  • @devinb: How is a culture of politeness achieving anything anyway? – GEOCHET Aug 20 '09 at 22:39
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    If we're talking STRICTLY about voting, then you're absolutely right. But there's also a tendency to denigrate the newbies, (that recent question by someone who doesn't answer newbie questions because they never upvote, for example). And that's what I'm again. Voting should be done (as Rich B said) based on content, not who asked. AND, you could just edit the question to make it better if you have time. – devinb Aug 20 '09 at 22:45
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    @devinb: Respect for those who do not deserve respect, or dignity towards those who do not deserve dignity, makes me wonder about people who go too far towards PC. I say treat people commensurately with their actions. – John Saunders Aug 20 '09 at 23:33
  • We're talking about two separate things. If someone is rude to me, it is still rude if I start swearing at them. Provoked or not, I am being impolite. If you want to raise the discourse, if you want to create a welcoming environment, you should attempt to be polite to everyone. That way, new people don't become convinced that abuse is correct stance, they become convinced that abusive behaviours are abberant and unacceptable. That is the opposite of the stance that has been taken on MSO. Here it is believed that abuse should be the default, and if you're cool, then we're "only joking". – devinb Aug 21 '09 at 11:55
  • I, for one, am dead serious about my jokes. There's nothing "only" about 'em. It's all too easy to make snap judgments about the attitudes and motivations of others based only on hastily-written text, and also too much fun. But when the fun's over, i still gotta live with the knowledge that... i very probably judged wrong. So maybe being serious about whimsy isn't "cool" or "hip" with all the flower children and the smooth operators 'round here, but that's ok - at the end of the day, i can look at myself in the mirror and say with complete honesty: "wow... i really need to shave." – Shog9 Aug 22 '09 at 23:24

You should really not even be looking at the user before voting. Whether they are new or old, high rep, low rep, whatever. You should vote the way you feel about their post.

Down voting should not be looked at as 'mean' to users. Any hypersensitive people who are upset by a few down votes on their badly written post probably are not the kinds of people we want on this site anyway.

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    It's not that they get 'upset' about their down votes, but to me it sounds similar to the same reason you're not going to fire someone on their first day at a new job for breaking protocol that they haven't memorised to heart, even if they have read the long induction manual... – Mark Henderson Aug 20 '09 at 22:11
  • @Farseeker: Right, but using that analogy, we don't ban people from the site for doing something dumb the first time either. But you might reprimand a new employee for walking into the wrong bathroom on the first day. – GEOCHET Aug 20 '09 at 22:13
  • @Rich B: and you would know about this, how? – John Saunders Aug 20 '09 at 22:26
  • @John: Hey, you have to check out the prizes to be won every time you enter a company man. – GEOCHET Aug 20 '09 at 22:28

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