I appreciate why S.O. is strict in its requirements of questions. But I think it's promoting an ever-growing culture of intolerance. Today, I came across a record number of comments to a question simply saying "whathaveyoutried.com". How would that make you feel if you were a 12 year old trying to get to grips with the complexities of the world wide web today? Put off, that's what. But it's understandable, it was infectious - I realised I was being particularly obtuse myself after seeing those. I think anyone with a conscience reading this will automatically curb that tendency with their approach, but I just wonder how we can make this site an equally valuable resource for all levels of programmers?*

Edit: *While making it more fit for purpose

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    It's not for all levels of programmers. It's for enthusiasts and professionals. I wish people would take a harder line on what the FAQ says. – Mike B Mar 5 '13 at 16:55
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    I agree the rudeness level in some comment threads is beyond the pale. That is a problem that needs to be fixed badly. At the same time, we do have a minimum requirement here regarding the quality of questions. – Pekka Mar 5 '13 at 16:56
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    Maybe, just maybe, the FAQ should be altered just a bit then. It's not a holy grail. Even if it's not altered, I agree with @Pekka. That's the main problem, simply rude. – CL22 Mar 5 '13 at 16:56
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    Related: Is there a less GTFO version of whathaveyoutried.com? – user159834 Mar 5 '13 at 16:56
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    As per the ToS, users need to be at least 13 years old. So, a 12 year old shouldn't be asking questions on Stack Overflow. – user164207 Mar 5 '13 at 16:56
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    Alter the FAQ with what goal - to allow even lower level questions than we get today? No thanks. – Pekka Mar 5 '13 at 16:56
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    I don't believe the age of a new user matters much here... People will be offended/put off by snarky comments no matter what their age. The other side of the coin is that if you are not (emotionally) mature enough to deal with online snark then that user probably shouldn't be online in the first place (at least not with out parental supervision). – Lix Mar 5 '13 at 16:56
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    @jod - not yet (how is that relevant?) – Lix Mar 5 '13 at 16:58
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    I'm frankly more than a little tired of seeing "what have you tried?" all the time, but really, if you don't follow the FAQ and don't show any effort in your questions, people will come down on you, regardless of your age. – LittleBobbyTables - Au Revoir Mar 5 '13 at 16:59
  • Yes I agree. Questions can be poor. But constructive criticism should be possible, even if the whole question is removed from public view. Poor questions shouldn't result in the disrespectful snipes. – CL22 Mar 5 '13 at 17:00
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    Related post - Could we please be a bit nicer to new users? – Lix Mar 5 '13 at 17:01
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    @jodes Part of the problem is that a very small percentage of the users asking the questions that these comments are posted to are willing to actually accept constructive criticism and improve at all. Some do, and I agree that it's inappropriate to be rude anyway, but I can at least understand that rudeness because the desirable behavior so rarely actually pays off. – Servy Mar 5 '13 at 17:05
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    @LittleBobbyTables: it gets tiring having to ask for code and prior work...so instead they get a driveby downvote and a hope that somebody else will take up the often times lost cause of pushing them in the right direction. The problem with the website folks get pointed to is it is a giant wall of text...ain'tnobodygottimeforthat.jpg – user7116 Mar 5 '13 at 17:29
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    @sixlettervariables - oh, I agree... it's just tiring all around. – LittleBobbyTables - Au Revoir Mar 5 '13 at 17:36
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    It's promoting an ever-growing culture of intolerance echoes I have detected a distinct decline in the level of civility. which was written in September 2008 so I wonder is it really growing or has always been there. – Some Helpful Commenter Mar 5 '13 at 19:16

It's fairly popular belief that a bare whathaveyoutried.com link as a comment is a bit offputting (rude even), and I think the people that post them know it, along with many other varieties of "What have you tried?" and "RTFM" style comments. A lot of them are even from young inexperienced programmers.

SO thrives because of it's dedicated members and brilliant programmers, and quality questions and answers. It's OK to be a newbee but you have to be able to be able to reach a bare minimum effort of question quality, and that minimum might be more than you've been used to. If we didn't enforce quality so strictly, the "senior" members would be driven away.

In any case, try to approach even the snarkiest, rudest of comments in a constructive manner and you'll pretty much always get a great response. We are here to help, but you have to do your part.

Just to address the main question:

How can tolerance of new / young programmers be improved?

It's not new / young programmers that are the issue. It's lazy people. People that don't listen, don't read, don't try, don't look around SO and see what kind of questions are OK to ask and what kind of quality they are expected to be.

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    Like look at this: stackoverflow.com/questions/15217262 Multiple comments asking the OP to post some code, not only ignored but dismissed. People are trying to help, but you have to help yourself (or help us help you). – user159834 Mar 5 '13 at 17:09
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    Ok, I have to admit I wasn't thinking of questions as poor as those brought up here to nullify my point. I've seen a sad amount of questions which actually turned out to be perfectly fine once the person received a single constructive comment actually pointing out the problem. – CL22 Mar 5 '13 at 17:13
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    Sad but true: a lot of SO users are a bit offputting, but it's all business, and they want you to be a better programmer. You benefit the most if you can manage to not take it personally. – user159834 Mar 5 '13 at 17:18
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    Just because somebody doesn't say please or thank you or uses sugary language does not mean they have anything against you. Some of us are Type A automatons that have absolutely no feelings and have no desire to mince words to obscure a point. It does not mean we don't like you. Try not to read into things which seem curt. – user7116 Mar 5 '13 at 17:23

Welcome to The Internets. Put on your big boy or girl britches, because this network isn't a day care or a magical suburb of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. Whether you are 8, 18, or 80 this site has expectations of you1.

Should we have a different expectation for newer or younger programmers? Absolutely not.

High expectations help the entire network out.

But, like any community of people, you'll find some expectations are lower and some expectations are higher. Consistency is only achieved through our rough approximation of a Monte Carlo method using millions of monkeys on typewriters we call The User Community. Our corner of The Internets is an inexact and imperfect communication device.

Sometimes you'll find solutions which aren't ideal. Some folks post links they think are helpful, when others find them hurtful. The important part, for the network, is that we communicate as effectively as possible in order to achieve the best solution.

You'll find The Internets are easier to use when you understand that everybody has their own take on the best way to communicate. You may not agree with a lot of it, so use some flags to communicate to the network you've found content that runs contrary to our goals.

Ultimately, good content will rise to the top and bad content will sink to the bottom. The quality of comments tends to flow the same way.

1. plural form.

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    8 seems a bit young to be breaking the ToS. – Bernie Mar 5 '13 at 18:34

I don't think it's a problem at all, in fact, It is common enough to see new programmers getting up-voted for asking easy to answer questions.

for example, This Question has 5 upvotes, and it has up-votes because it's easy to answer. People immediately know what he's asking for, and they are able to provide the answer despite him being quite clearly a novice programmer.

However, there are other novice programmers who ask bad questions.

  • they post mounds of code and tell you it doesn't work.
  • they post code but don't tell you what the requirement is
  • instead of asking a specific question, they ask you how to complete a project

These are the kinds of questions that we don't like, and they get down-voted and closed fast. The fact that bad programmers are more likely to ask bad questions does not mean we don't like novice programmers. we just dislike bad questions.

Also, What have you tried is a terrible comment which contributes absolutely nothing, and I'm happy to see the tide turn against it as of late.

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Most questions from newbie programmers fall into two categories:

  1. This is my code, it is not working, why? Close it as too localized
  2. How to do this specific task? Close as not a real question

In both cases, the question can very well be handled using Stack Overflow's regular tools, and there is never a good reason to add a redundant or rude comment.

If you really feel like commenting, the only real useful comment is to send the user to the FAQ, or if it is an obvious RTFM case, link to a proper resource without using the F word.

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  • How to do this specific task? I'd say it can be NARQ (simple, can easily be found in manual or no effort shown), NC (the task description is vague and require a lot of commenting) or duplicate (already asked here, or possibly have resource somewhere else on the Internet). But it is still possible that such question is good, if the poster put in effort and cannot get it to work, and no duplicate can be found. – nhahtdh Mar 5 '13 at 17:18
  • @nhahtdh You are right, I was actually targeting obvious questions that are usually answerable with one function. Typical cases include How do I sort an array?, How do I make pretty URLs. Or overly vague, broad questions: How can I make my own CMS, I need to develop a site like youtube – Tchoupi Mar 5 '13 at 17:24

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