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It seems that Stack Exchange in general is unfriendly to first time users. Most first time users come to this site with a quick question and do not read the FAQ (Who Does?)

It basically cannot be used by someone who need to quickly have a question answered. Only those that spend more time asking a question than actually figuring it out themselves will gain reputation and succeed on a Stack exchange site.

How can we fix this?

Do the moderators and the people with such huge amounts of Reputation need to back down a little and turn a blind eye to some of the first questions instead of turning them off with a harsh warning?

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It basically cannot be used by someone who need to quickly have a question answered.

I do not think that is the intended audience; some of the sites (not ours) are actually explicit about being for professionals.

Of course that would be silly here, but I still think we need to uphold a certain minimum standard that people coming from normal discussion style forums may not be used to. Speaking of which, we are not the only option for Pi users -- the Foundation has an official forum, and most of the programming questions here are in python, which looking for python information on the internet is like looking for a tree in the woods.

I'm not trying to justify being disrespectful or casting disdain on anyone. I'm pretty curt sometimes, and I remind myself of people who did the same thing to me 10-15 years ago when I started using technical forums. I've been on that side of things and I know what it is to be, essentially, paranoid, seeing elliptical nastiness in what is really just innocent communication.

In my opinion there is a reason for this, and the reason is that the people who answer most of the questions put in a lot of work doing it, and I think some people who are new to the sphere do not appreciate what they are doing.

What does it matter that my question is "unclear" or "too broad", etc?

Someone asked me about that yesterday, and in a comment I observed that everyone on that top five list could be construed as rude sometimes. However, it is important to take into account this is usually in the context of making helpful remarks. No one wants to hear their code is bad or they misunderstand basic things. Even less, that they need to make more of an effort if they want to be taken seriously. It is hard to point these things out without seeming mean. I sometimes am apologetic by prepending, e.g., "I'm not trying to insult you, but...". But that does not always make it better and it becomes tedious.

The S.E. network is a serious place, and that is probably why it has been so successful. Respect is a two way street, and people who assume everyone is here to help them their way are sometimes in for a rude awakening ;)

Only those that spend more time asking a question than actually figuring it out themselves will gain reputation.

This is a prime example of what I am talking about.

I don't ask questions here or on any of the other S.E. sites I use very often. This is not because I have nothing to learn. I learn from previous posts multiple times a day.

Most of the time when I do sit down to write a question -- probably 80%+ -- it never ends up being posted. This is because in composing it, gathering all the relevant information and putting it together in a clear and concise way for other people, I find my mistake, usually despite the fact I have already spent several hours working on the problem.

In effect, I see asking other people to spent time helping me as a last resort. Not the first one because I think it will be easier for me that way.

I do not see that effort being made by some people, and whether it is intentional or not, I consider it disrespectful. Some people come here asking questions it is clear they made little or no effort to find an answer to with a search engine. Asking other people to take their time to provide an answer you could have found with a search engine is rude.

Do the moderators and the people with such huge amounts of Reputation need to back down a little and turn a blind eye to some of the first questions instead of turning them off with a harsh warning?

I promise that we already do. In a way it is unfair, because it means there is an element of arbitrariness to who's question is closed, and who's isn't, etc. I think that's a consequence of crowd sourcing, i.e., the only way to make things totally fair would be if S.E. paid a group of qualified people to ensure it. Which would probably mean users would have to pay a fee to cover the expense; note that Stack Overflow was started explicitly as an experimental alternative to paid expert sites.

I've been a moderator here for three or four years. I take it seriously. I don't put in quite as much time as I used to; at one point, including answering questions, it averaged at least several hours a day, everyday. For years, I read almost every question that got asked. Based on that experience, one of the things I'd point out -- in fact, it was a big concern for us when trying to "graduate" the site from beta status -- is that a great many questions here receive no active attention, negative or positive. When I tell someone they are better off asking their question somewhere else, it is not because I am trying to be prim and proper about topicality, it is because I mean they are better off asking the question somewhere else.

Likewise questions which show poor research effort, etc. I think new users believe there is a queue of knowledgeable people lined up to jump at the chance to answer their question and earn some rep. This may be true for some of the busier tags on Stack Overflow, but it is certainly not true here. When I close a question because it is unclear, etc., it is again not because I am trying to be prim and proper. It is because based on experience I know the question is unlikely to receive positive attention as is. Keep in mind that no answer is better than a wrong/misleading/misinformed answer, and I consider myself someone in a position to tell the difference here most of the time. I am not the only one, of course.

I understand that what all this amounts to is sometimes I may seem like a mean person who is just out to sadistically hassle newbies. I hope this can be taken as an attempt to explain my side of the story, such that better understanding can lead to a happier relationship. Remember, I was a newbie once too. I get that -- but the inverse is not true, which is why there is so much room for misunderstanding between us. The reality is that genuinely mean-spirited people usually do not volunteer their time to help others, so it would make more sense to presume the best rather than the worst of us.

  • I really like your explanation but for me a Raspberry Pi is not commonly used by professionals but usually hobbyist's. Do you think we get a lot of badly asked questions because of that? – RPImaniac May 23 '18 at 14:30
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    Definitely. Also, people who are a bit more experienced, particularly those who are already S.E. users, probably realize that their question will be better off on Stack Overflow or Unix & Linux or Electrical Engineering, hence we get fewer potentially well asked questions. I actually see us as a place for people to learn how S.E. works. I am sure there are people who started out asking questions here and then moved on to SO/U&L/EE. Anyone who thinks we are unfriendly will, I think, find S.O. and E.E. much more so. This is the shallow end! – goldilocks May 23 '18 at 14:54
  • Yes i know what mean. Most people who use this sight have interests in a lot of other things in electronics and computers. – RPImaniac May 23 '18 at 15:30
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    +1 for "I see asking other people to spent time helping me as a last resort. Not the first one" – Fabian May 25 '18 at 12:25
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It takes effort to ask a good question. When you ask a question here, you ask someone to invest time, for free, to solve your problem. That also means that a question should be well written and well researched.

To me, personally, this means that while I have started to write dozens of questions, I have only posted one on this site. In the course of writing the other questions, I have found weak points in my knowledge, that I have thought merited further research to clarify the question - and that research have led me to the answer.

To me, this is the true strength of Stack Exchange: not that it can answer questions quickly, but that beginning to ask questions forces you into a scientific method: "If you can't find an answer for your question, it might be because your question is not detailed enough."

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    "In the course of writing the other questions, I have found weak points in my knowledge, that I have thought merited further research to clarify the question - and that research have led me to the answer..." -> Glad to know other people have this experience. It is interesting the extent to which I make assumptions when problem solving until I get to the point where I have to explain myself to someone else. – goldilocks May 25 '18 at 12:35
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Many of the users who can't be bothered to take the basic tour and figure out how the site work, frankly, post garbage that isn't really worth answering. A lot of the hostility you see are for people who are too lazy to do the absolute basics, like run a google search, for themselves.

These questions are often ridiculously simple and have typically been answered before. Sometimes this is simply a matter of not knowing what you don't know. StackExchange as a whole, and especially the RPi site, seem reasonably accommodating for users who have put in a modicum of effort.

Maybe we should have a warmer welcome for the former group, but honestly, I think people get tired of having to rehash the same bit over and over again. Personally, I have very little tolerance for people who won't make a basic effort to learn or figure things out on their own. Unfortunately, we seem to get a high percentage of the former user on this particular site.

Only those that spend more time asking a question than actually figuring it out themselves will gain reputation. And succeed on a Stack exchange site.

I'm not entirely certain what you meant here. Plenty of people get answers to questions. Again, they just need to show that they put some basic effort into it.

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Having just joined I can speak to my own experience. I am actually shocked at the blunt dismissal and viciousness I've seen throughout StackExchange. Experts demand perfectly coifed questions and have zero respect for "dumb questions". Although such brutal Darwinian "produce or die" interactions might be understood in StackOverflow where professional reputations are harshly at stake, I find the carryover to the Raspberry Pi forum disturbing.

Raspberry Pi for me embodies the joy of learning technology that can touch our daily lives. That learning should be fun. We are not protecting PhD theses and reputations here. We are teaching new enthusiasts how to solve problems with a RaspberryPi. I enjoy that. One of my most most memorable answers was inviting the OP to use a multimeter for diagnosis. This gave the OP a new tool and perspective for solving problems. I answered the unasked question and was thanked for it. Bliss.

I've recently been given the "privilege" to downvote. Here in this forum, that makes me sad. Why should I want to punish others and beat their contributions over the head? Downvotes are like mosquitoes--they suck.

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    Downvotes are not a punishment or a personal attack. They are actually one of the available tools to evaluate and maintain quality. As an example, there are answers that are objectively wrong on a technical level, thus "not useful". Downvoting such answers signals potential readers (that might lack the knowledge to judge themselves) that this is an answer not to trust. I however fail to put together the anecdote of your own helpful answer and this issue. I don't think that being welcoming and helpful (and teaching and fun...) needs to exclude downvotes where appropriate. – Ghanima Jun 4 '18 at 21:46
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    My first experience of the downvote was without any comment. In fact the poor OP upvoted my answer to make amends and later accepted my answer. To me the downvote felt a bit dysfunctional as it helped neither me nor the OP who got along just fine. – OyaMist Jun 4 '18 at 22:51
  • Well, I have come to accept that there is a certain amount of anonymous drive-by downvoting. If within limits I dare say to not worry and move on. – Ghanima Jun 4 '18 at 23:17
  • Lol. I like that "anonymouse drive-by downvoting". I actually think that a simple fix is feasible. Each forum could simply attach a reputation cost to submitting a downvote. Right now it literally is like a drive-by shooting. My first inclination was to stop interacting with the forum at all. But then I realized that I'm not here for the downvoter. Hence "downvotes are like mosquitoes" – OyaMist Jun 4 '18 at 23:22
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    Well there is, it costs -1 of the reputation of the downvoter. – Ghanima Jun 4 '18 at 23:24
  • And -2 for the victim. This allows long-time contributors to exercise disproportionate influence. – OyaMist Jun 4 '18 at 23:25
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    It is also fair to say that long-time contributors likely contributed disproportionately in their time ;) – Ghanima Jun 4 '18 at 23:42
  • The downvoting cost for long-time contributors is negligible. This gives them the dubious power to create echo chambers and freely dis-incent new voices. It is reminiscent of the ugliness of fraternity hazing ("I suffered, so shal you"). I would certainly downvote a dangerous answer (e.g., 'shake the nitro') and be willing to sacrifice 5% of my reputation to submit that downvote. I would also comment first and appeal to reason. – OyaMist Jun 4 '18 at 23:51
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    Again, I am not advocating to downvote without giving a comment as to what is wrong with a question or an answer (and with close to 4000 comments I hope I am doing my share). I however maintain that downvotes are a useful tool on the one hand and that people need to cope with the occasional anonymous drive-by downvote on the other. I think and hope that a helpful answer or useful comment by the more positive users (say you) are more significant to a warm and welcoming atmosphere than finding a way to reduce the small amount of downvotes. – Ghanima Jun 5 '18 at 0:49
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    Agreed. I can only inspire by example if the community is addicted to downvotes. My hope is that we all become more welcoming and inspire others to enjoy learning. – OyaMist Jun 5 '18 at 18:54
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There are several good answers to other parts of this question, but I wanted to focus on this part:

It basically cannot be used by someone who need to quickly have a question answered. Only those that spend more time asking a question than actually figuring it out themselves will gain reputation and succeed on a Stack exchange site.

I don't ask a ton of questions across the SE universe, but I do find that a significant fraction of the questions that I thought I was going to ask, I actually answer myself by trying to write the question in good form. That's a further benefit of the system as it is, not something that should be viewed as a negative.

I think there are some limited circumstances where the standards turn away people who legitimately try but maybe just don't know the right search term to get started. Even those, however, typically get some limited amount of "pass" (as you said) so long as they demonstrate some effort to search and explain their problem.

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protected by Jacobm001 May 23 '18 at 5:11

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