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Along a similar vein to this question. I have noticed a lot of questions closed for n00bs on this site (they have low reputation). Now maybe because StackOverflow is bigger I don't see this as much. But it worries me because I wonder if we come across as rude and we shut out individuals that may otherwise have become helpful members. Could we rather gently instruct/shape their question BEFORE we just close it? I would like to see this more. There are times where I think an individual made a valid question, it may just show ambiguity in the question, or lack of thought, or even lack of research. I unfortunately don't have enough reputation to try to vote to re-open a closed question.

I remember being at that point out of college where I didn't know how to search for answers or find them and I did need some "hand holding" to get me along. I have come a long way since then, and I think we should do something for the "less informed" rather than just slapping their hands by closing their question. That seems to me like saying "I don't want to deal with it" rather than "I'll teach you how to better ask questions" or even "I'll give you an answer (or even THE answer), but give you additional thoughts to lead you to how to think".

Thoughts on this? Especially from our moderators?

  • Can you post some examples? Most of the time if it's a new user I'll add a note before I close a question about how it could be improved and reopened. – JNK Sep 14 '12 at 12:59
  • Sure. I'll have to dig up a few and link to them for you. – Chris Aldrich Sep 14 '12 at 13:00
  • Personally I think we could close MORE as long as we make it clear to the posters that closing here is potentially a temporary state, as opposed to a final thing like on many other sites. – JNK Sep 14 '12 at 13:04
  • I am still not sure that closing is always the best case for a n00b. If I had several questions closed, I would probably give up on the stackexchange system if it were me and I were a n00b. – Chris Aldrich Sep 14 '12 at 13:25
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    Saying "RTFM" doesn't go a long way to building a good user base. That is part of the reason I really liked StackOverflow. I saw less occurrences of this happening. – Chris Aldrich Sep 14 '12 at 13:26
  • I have thoughts on this but am walking into a meeting. – jcolebrand Sep 14 '12 at 14:01
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    JackDouglas and jcolebrand have good points. I guess..could we just ask the user to be more specific before we close it? – Chris Aldrich Sep 17 '12 at 17:03
  • I am sure I have seen new users get blasted and their questions closed, and I commented on it recently. I looked for the comment but couldn't find it, perhaps bc the user deleted the question. That's no good – Eric Higgins Sep 18 '12 at 21:20
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If the question is a good fit for SE and not for DBA, we tend to migrate it to the right SE. If the question is marginal we often encourage users to give more details.

When a question has been posted and the user stuck around for exactly one day (the mod logs tell us these things) then we have no reason to expect that those questions are anything but broken windows (for questions older than six months).

Usually the people actively looking to get an answer are going to ask good questions and they're going to participate and want to make the site better. And we're not adverse to assisting the users, but as JackD said, we're in the business of having a highly-focused site here, and we don't have the volume of SO, which isn't a bad thing, it just means we have more examples of things getting closed.

But, and here's the kicker, we're all on this site together. If you see a mod closing something that just needed some TLC, tell us. Make it public. We won't get upset, I assure you. We like to have discussions, and to make the community better, and having many active mods means that we're able to step in and out, you can address another one of us if you think the first one is doing wrong. There won't be hard feelings, if you're aiming to make the site a better place, I assure you.

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There are two issues here as I see it:

  1. Keeping the site focus
  2. Encouraging new questioners

My instinct is to be 'nice' to people, especially new users, and this is important–however keeping the site focus is much more important for the following reasons:

  1. It our 'distinctive', the thing that brings people here rather than SO for example
  2. It is very hard to get it back if it is lost
  3. The really important userbase we want to grow is the one that produces great answers - these are the pearls. We do them no favours by allowing poor questions to proliferate on the site, or by closing questions after they have gone to the trouble of answering them.

In my view therefore, the best policy is to immediately close poor questions–and ideally this would be community-led with lots of high-rep users exercising their vote-to-close powers rather than a small number of mods playing whack-a-mole (I think this is working pretty well, but as we get users able to vote it should get even better).

Just because we concentrate on the most important aspect doesn't mean we shouldn't care about being polite and welcoming–although new users don't like their beloved questions being closed they love being engaged in conversation. Ideally most close-votes would be accompanied by a polite comment suggesting how to improve the question.

  • I think the site would benefit if it was easier to migrate to SO. I'm a regular on here. Yes, my rep isn't so high, but that's more because I focus on the Oracle questions. I can flag for moderator attention, but they're not always about within the first 30 mins to an hour that a new user is going to hang around for. There isn't a "flag this so it'll go into the SO queue so their mods can look at it and pull over if appropriate" button. Just my thoughts.... – Philᵀᴹ Sep 19 '12 at 1:19
  • I'll have to respectfully disagree with "much more important". This site (nor any site) will ever be the authoritative source for the content at hand. This site (as opposed to a reference, blog, article - fixed, static copy) has a community element. If the community is a bunch of jerks to new users, you don't grow the community, and it's questionable as to why to have a community element at all. – Eric Higgins Sep 25 '12 at 19:34
  • continued... Questions that are equivalent to a weak Google search "uhhh... what'a a good database for me to use?" should be closed as useless. Yet I've seen questions closed where a user clearly hasn't found their "writer's voice", or is having trouble identifying the true problem... which is why they came in the 1st place. People running blogs are often more polite in requesting clarifications than what I've seen here at times. I won't say community is MORE important, but I'll differ on it's relative relevance as stated here. – Eric Higgins Sep 25 '12 at 19:37
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    @Eric you make good points. To be clear, I am not (I think) underestimating the importance of the community, only suggesting that new users asking under-par questions are rarely great future community members - new users posting under-par answers on the other hand are more likely to be that and worth spending more of our limited resources on. Having said that, if you see questions wrongly closed I'd encourage you to comment, vote to reopen and/or edit the Q into better shape - all those things can be very encouraging to the new user and IMO more than make up for the hasty closure. – Jack Douglas Sep 25 '12 at 21:43

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