Lately, I'm encountering the following situation more and more often (at least three times this week):
- A relatively new user (rep of less than 150, sometimes rep of 1 [ = first post ever]) asks a question.
- The question has some problem with it, sometimes it is downright unsuitable for this site (too broad, opinion based, inviting a discussion etc.), but at other times it is something minor such as omitting some details needed for a specific answer, unclear language or even merely not using the style we are used to see on most of our higher quality questions.
- The question is voted to close because of said problem, sometimes without any comment, sometimes with a problematic comment - either a vague one ("I can't understand this") or one which won't mean much to a newcomer ("this seems highly opinion based").
- The question receives more VtCs and is closed, sometimes along with down-votes. Even at this stage, it is sometimes clear that the newcomer has no idea what did he do wrong.
While I appreciate the need for keeping the Q&A high-quality and on-topic, I am concerned that not only are we missing out potentially good questions which just require some editing to meet our standards, but we are also driving away newcomers - or at the very least are being very uncivil towards them(1).
I think this is problematic.
What can (and should) we do to improve the way newcomers are treated? Specifically:
- How can we help newcomers improve valid but low quality question?
- How can we help newcomers with non-valid question understand where did they go wrong?
- Can we do this in a way which won't seem like a sanction taken against a serious offender?
(I'm not linking examples at the moment as I wish to keep this discussion focused on the general issue - please comment if you feel such examples are necessary)
(1) keeping in mind that to an outsider, our VtCs and downvotes may be perceived as a sanction taken against a serious offender - equivalent to being muted or banned in a forum. And that for good intentioned new users, this "slap on the wrist" seems uncalled-for and unduly aggressive.