This question already has an answer here:
- Could we please be a bit nicer to new users? 50 answers
Please see my answer below. I am deeply sorry for having strayed so far from the principles of Stack Exchange. I have edited the post to remove the "wait before voting" text.
I've asked a follow-up to this question: Please assume good faith whenever reasonable when dealing with post-banned users
I like the idea of keeping low-quality posts on Stack Overflow and other Stack Exchange sites to a minimum. However, it seems we demand too much effort from users, especially new users, and don't give much hand-holding when they make a poorly written post. Here at Stack Exchange, low-quality posts are seen to simply waste the time of contributors. Can we treat new users better when their posts need improvement?
As an experienced Wikipedia editor with more than six years of experience, I am keenly familiar with the process of warning editors when they make nonconstructive edits, usually starting with simple messages intended to be gentle to newbies (example). Users usually aren't blocked until they've received several warnings, and blocks are intended to prevent disruption rather than punish users. From the Wikipedia policy on civility:
... do not assume any more intentional wrongdoing than the evidence clearly supports, and given equally plausible interpretations of the evidence, choose the most positive one.
What I see on Stack Exchange is completely different. Stack Exchange tends to be very intolerant of users who do not show effort when they post. An ambiguous, nonconstructive, off-topic, unclear, overly localized, or duplicate question gets closed very quickly, and the feedback users get can be very harsh. This Meta question (and especially this comment) clearly demonstrates this issue. Users with a desire to contribute in good faith but don't fully understand what is expected of their posts end up crying "miséricorde" when they get post-banned, and yet they often get no mercy from the community. The reference question and answer for post bans is written with a harsh tone and a bad faith assumption. This bad faith assumption becomes obvious when you consider that a shortened URL is used in the post ban message. It's this kind of bad faith assumption that drives people away from Stack Exchange, and we should be assuming good faith whenever it is reasonable to do so. Even where good faith cannot be reasonably assumed because of a long record of low-quality posts, we should not be assuming bad faith, because they generally aren't willfully trying to harm Stack Exchange.
Instead of assuming bad faith and treating new users harshly when they make low-quality posts, we should communicate problems to users in a friendly manner and actively reach out and assist them when they make low-quality posts, such as by making friendly comments asking for more details. The amount of effort we expect to see in posts can be disconcerting for new users, and using downvotes and close votes as a first resort for low-quality posts really hurts users desperate for answers to their questions. While it is important to weed out low-quality content, we need to clearly and politely explain the problem and give users a reasonable opportunity to address the problem, without making disrespectful or condescending remarks. (An obvious exception is spam and other clearly bad-faith posts.)
I understand that this can be very difficult to do as many of you are busy programmers who don't have the time to hold hands with newcomers. But the harsh treatment to well-intentioned newcomers who aren't aware of our quality standards is simply unacceptable to me as many users with questions that need urgent answers or are otherwise important are being turned away. I have honestly had enough with newbies getting beaten down when they simply needed to learn the ropes. It's about time we made Stack Exchange friendlier.
What do you think about this issue, and what other ways are there to address it?