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.