This question already has an answer here:

We've been discussing the issue of how to treat new users for a long time now, without much results so far (see [1]). The discussion gets lost in arguments between whether harshness is necessary for maintaining quality or not.

But I can put my finger on one problem regarding treatment of newcomers that has nothing to do with keeping high quality and that can be fixed. That's the overuse of witty, demeaning comments.

I'll give you a few examples:

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

We do engineering here, not physics phantasy. No technology will ever tell you exactly where something is, so this whole question is pointless and needs to be closed. [Original here]

So, how would someone reuse a rabbit? Oh, wait, I don't wanna know. Forget I said anything...

I don't want to confuse the poor little Arduino user with too much information...

We don't care. This a Arduino user-level question, not about electronics or low level programming.

Huh? What? Try asking in English.

Yes. ------------- [Original here and here]

When you stick the card into the slot, it cuts a tiny wire, which holds a mass on a pulley. The mass drops down, and hits a teeter-totter which projects a steel ball into the air. That steel ball lands in a receptacle, where it bridges two contacts. These provide current for a filament which lights a candle which burns through a cotton string. By this time, though, the card has also closed a little-known, inconspicuous switch, doing which activated a relay which closed a bigger switch which provided power to the hotel room. [Original here].

I'm also to blame because one of the comments above is mine. And the last one was directed at me when I was a new user.

The thing is that sometimes those comments are flagged, but moderators dismiss the flag as not helpful, arguing that a little humor is healthy or something to that extent (happened in my case). I agree, in a healthy environment humor is good, but that's not the case when one have problems treating new users like we do. The negative effect to the offended person far outweighs any humor benefits these comments may have to the offender and his or her audience.

To correct this problem I propose the following:

  1. We encourage users to flag ALL witty, demeaning comments directed at new users.
  2. We demand our moderators to take action to correct the problem by deleting the post and letting the offender know that he or she should not mistreat newcomers.

I think we should not be lenient towards this behavior, as we are not tolerant with low quality posts. If we do this right, I think this would be a great start at fixing our problematic behavior towards newcomers.

What do you think?


marked as duplicate by Olin Lathrop, Daniel Grillo, Nick Alexeev Dec 30 '14 at 20:31

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good point Ricardo +1. We only get one chance to make a first impression. I think we are driving away the thoughtful and sensitive (probably young) new users who could later develop into valuable members of our community. \$\endgroup\$ – Logic Knight Dec 28 '14 at 13:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd suggest this is not only applied to <500 users, but to everyone. And if people don't agree with that, to <500 users and me. For the rest, +1. \$\endgroup\$ – Keelan Dec 28 '14 at 16:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree, @Camil. I'm taking the 500 rep out of the proposal. There's really no excuse to deride anyone for anything. \$\endgroup\$ – Ricardo Dec 28 '14 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nick - I don't want to single the authors out. \$\endgroup\$ – Ricardo Dec 28 '14 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NickAlexeev Honestly I don't think the exact context matters. All you do by insisting that people be unmasked is that you make this debate personal. \$\endgroup\$ – W5VO Dec 29 '14 at 3:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @W5VO Some people don't think that exact context matters, while others may think otherwise. If one doesn't find the exact context important, then he will save himself some time by not following the links. On the other hand, if one thinks that context may be important, he might follow the links. It's about giving reader an option, rather than blind filtered biased hearsay. I don't want to make this debate personal. In fact, I don't want to have this debate at all. But if it has to happen, I want it to be concrete and objective. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Dec 29 '14 at 3:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Give it a rest already. Yet another pointless post followed by lots of pointless discussion about dealing with bad questions is, well, pointless. This has been discussed many times here before. \$\endgroup\$ – Olin Lathrop Dec 29 '14 at 15:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nick: You know, you're right, context does matter. While I can't really think of any context where "Huh? What? Try asking in English." would be a good way to phrase a comment, it's certainly especially rude when directed at a non-native English speaker who's clearly trying their best to ask a question in English (no matter how unclear or misplaced said question might be). \$\endgroup\$ – Ilmari Karonen Dec 29 '14 at 19:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's nothing demeaning about it; it's merely humorous. Since you have chosen to keep your real identity hidden, the comment doesn't reflect on you personally at all, unless you choose to let it. Or you could choose to accept it as a lesson in dealing with the wide range of people you will meet in your life and simply move on. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed Dec 29 '14 at 20:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dave - I was formerly known as Ricardo, but changed my login to user29792 to anonymize my posts as I was considering having my account deleted. I changed my mind and now the system won't let me change it back for a month. But that's fine. But even if I choose anonymity, which I do as I only share my first name here, I pride myself in the little contribution I provided to the site to a point that it is a bit of what I am now. So what hurts that profile identity hurts me. \$\endgroup\$ – Ricardo Dec 29 '14 at 20:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dave - But this post isn't about me, I merely included the comment that was addressed to me to emphasize that I've been on a newcomer's shoes. I posted this question because, after reviewing a lot of posts here, I feel part of this site, this community, and I feel embarrassed every time someone posts a demeaning comment towards a newbie. In any case, I understand better the whole site dynamics now and I pretty satisfied with this outcome of my post, so enough with the touchy-filly thing and will move on. \$\endgroup\$ – Ricardo Dec 29 '14 at 20:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I understand that. But you have to understand that this site is not just about the newbies; ALL of the members, including the long-term users, are important to making it what it is. The high-rep "experts" hang around because they find it entertaining/rewarding/interesting/whatever. We can't afford to fiddle with that dynamic (by imposing draconian rules of behavior toward any particular sub-group) without risking losing their valuable participation. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Tweed Dec 29 '14 at 22:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Dave - yes, I understand all that. I think this thread has been very helpful to me, especially for some key aspects of Roger's answer. It somehow makes it easier for me to cope with the issue if I understand where it comes from. I've certainly felt impatience and frustration at some poor posts, so I know how the experts must feel. Sorry I stirred things up a bit too much. \$\endgroup\$ – Ricardo Dec 29 '14 at 22:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd post this as an answer if this weren't closed as a dup (which it actually isn't IMO). The mods will hate this, but here goes. Snarky comments are a sign of immaturity. If you think a comment is out of line, post a comment that says so. Calling out bad behavior will stop bad behavior. (that said, the one time I flagged a comment on my own post as snarky, it was "unhelpful") \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Dec 31 '14 at 14:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ That said, there's a difference between being mean and trying to introduce a bit of humor. There should be a realistic filter for "mean". People do need a bit of a thick skin to participate in most things on the internet. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Seidman Dec 31 '14 at 14:19

In my experience, the sort of thing you're highlighting is almost universal. I see it on this site (at which I'm a relative newcomer), also on StackOverflow (where I'm normally found), several other SE sites I've lurked on, also the Arduino forum (and the SE Arduino beta site), and ... and ... and ...

It's common to find long-standing, high-rep users giving two types of response: either very helpful and informative or reflecting impatience, humour (however misplaced) or frustration. Often there's no middle ground. I could name a handful of users on SO that almost exactly match these same patterns of behaviour as I've seen in another handful of users here on EE.SE.

Personally, it doesn't bother me unless I feel it's unnecessarily offensive, in which case I'll sometimes flag an answer or a comment before moving on.

So it's not something that I think anyone can "fix" and almost certainly not worth any significant effort to try. It's part of human nature. Ask any experienced person enough stupid questions and eventually you'll get a metaphorical slap.

If you hang around forums enough, you'll be used to it and it will not feel as disrespectful as it would to a complete newcomer. Language differences can mask apparent "stupidity" so it's wise to think twice before being overtly unhelpful, but really I do believe that most people have been around the online world long enough to grow thick skins - probably more so for younger users.

So, I don't condone rudeness, but I don't expect it to stop. I also don't think it's a big problem. Leave things to level themselves out or it will get too personal.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I can live with that. Thanks for the well balanced response. \$\endgroup\$ – Ricardo Dec 29 '14 at 19:42

Questions that attract those types of comments are mostly beyond repair. I remember seeing your first two examples, and those questions didn't stand a chance at being salvaged. I think this is a dumb idea, and I would not waste my time reading flagging comments. Furthermore, there are about five people who insist we have a problem with the treatment of newcomers, and another five that insist the opposite. If the majority of the user base doesn't have an opinion, why bother doing anything about a perceived "problem?" Leave the issue to those ten or so users and their quarterly Meta posts.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think a low quality question is a reason to treat anyone in a demeaning way. That's just bullying. But I do often think twice before getting into this discussion. This time obviously I didn't. Depending on how this pans out, I'll probably shut up about it. But it's kinda sad to see very intelligent, grown up man treating "students" like that. Even more so in such a great site that is EE.SE. \$\endgroup\$ – Ricardo Dec 28 '14 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're assuming they're students, which they may or may not be. This is a question and answer site, not a school. No one here is obligated to answer questions, like teachers are obligated to teach students. I hate to sound like Olin, but why should I powder the ass of someone who has no respect for my time? If we're not careful, we will be overrun with help vampires. I really see nothing demeaning about any of those comments anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Young Dec 28 '14 at 15:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MattYoung Saying that "We have to be mean to bad users or else we'll have help vampires" is a false dichotomy. The StackExchange engine gives us a lot of tools for dealing with bad questions and answers so that users don't have to be hostile to protect the community. There is a wide range of behavior between "powdering asses" and "shoving something up their asses" and that includes saying nothing and voting. \$\endgroup\$ – W5VO Dec 29 '14 at 3:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @W5VO I've already stated I don't see anything mean about those comments. Moreover, "There is a wide range of behavior between "powdering asses" and "shoving something up their asses" and that includes saying nothing and voting." brings us back full circle, to the quarterly Meta posts between the two camps. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Young Dec 29 '14 at 3:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MattYoung They're asshole comments. They're the type of comment that you wouldn't say to their face. They're the type of comment that you say for your benefit or as a joke for your friends. \$\endgroup\$ – W5VO Dec 29 '14 at 3:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @W5VO You're entitled to that opinion. I'm not interested in debating who's right. \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Young Dec 29 '14 at 3:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MattYoung You don't see "I don't want to confuse the poor little Arduino user with too much information..." as demeaning? I'm curious what would qualify, in that case. \$\endgroup\$ – Stephen Collings Dec 30 '14 at 16:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StephenCollings That one maybe, with context, but the rest? Come on... \$\endgroup\$ – Matt Young Dec 30 '14 at 16:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @StephenCollings It's impossible to address your question, because Ricardo wasn't diligent enough to show us which post that comment was made in. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Alexeev Dec 30 '14 at 20:33

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