# Can we please be more friendly to new users?

I've been monitoring closed questions for a few days now. I noticed a very common pattern emerging:

• The question is closed ("on hold")
• It was closed by a single diamond mod
• The mod closed it within 10-15 minutes of it being asked
• The user (OP) had one rep only
• The question is a poor fit to the site

Now, in all these cases, the only clue the poor mod left to this new user, who may not understand how SE sites work, is a generic statement under 'The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

While this is sticking to the technical and intentional design of the site, it's not helping. If the question texts themselves are an indicator of how poorly these users understand the site, they won't "get" why the question is closed.

What's worse is that many of these questions could be recast, salvaged, or even answered -- but all we're left with is, um, the close reasons. It's not intuitive, and I really don't think many of these users will edit their question or even come back.

Can we please be more friendly with new users who don't "get it?"

I suggest some small changes to our collective behaviour.

• Say hi, hello, hey there, or something that indicates you're human, and friendly.
• Indicate via a comment, if it's not bleedingly obvious from the reason of closure, why the question is poor
• Give some concrete suggestions for how the user can improve their question -- for example, narrowing down a code-block; specifying where their problem is, etc.

I think this is a good step toward helping new users of the site become long-term users and quality contributors.

• Sounds like a massive investment in time when they should be reading the FAQ. – Almo Aug 8 '14 at 0:46
• @Almo I couldn't easily find the FAQ even now. I had to dig for it. If it was more prominently located, maybe. – ashes999 Aug 8 '14 at 1:21
• The close reasons include links to it. New users have a giant banner pointing it out, as well. – Josh Aug 8 '14 at 1:29
• Related discussion from a while back: meta.gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/542/… (honestly I thought we'd had more than one of these, but I can't find the others). – Josh Aug 8 '14 at 1:38
• Perhaps showing new users where the FAQ is before allowing them to ask a question, and then prompting them to read it again when they go to post their first question, would help – OMGtechy Aug 11 '14 at 16:01
• There are some large banners that try to do that, but that specific feature has already been discussed (here). – Josh Aug 11 '14 at 16:06
• It would probably help if the "Tour" section of the Help menu included the letters "FAQ" so new users can make that connection – David Starkey Aug 11 '14 at 16:30
• The help used to be called the FAQ actually; it got changed a while back. See here for discussion and rationale. You're probably right, though. – Josh Aug 11 '14 at 16:51
• "Read the FAQ" is a poor solution, how many of you ever read the instruction booklet before you start a new game? I know I don't because I expect a decent tutorial. Perhaps a better option would be that the first few questions have a checklist of Dos and Don'ts at the bottom before the submit button with items like "Is my question X..." If they check all the Dos and none of the Don'ts it will enable the submit button. – CuddleBunny Aug 11 '14 at 20:55
• Reading isn't the problem so much as comprehension. Features like what you describe likely just provide a speed bump; a user who does not care to think about the rules will still just tick all the boxes until they can get to the submit button. This is just like those EULA screens that require you to scroll through the whole thing, as if that will actually make somebody who doesn't care to read it actually chane their mind (it usually doesn't). – Josh Aug 11 '14 at 21:55
• Further, a user that does not respect a community enough to read its rules before engaging has no right, in my opinion, to expect any special / extra treatment outside of the ordinary: a polite but succinct suggestion that they familiarize themselves with these rules before continuing. – Josh Aug 11 '14 at 21:58
• Here's what Jeff Atwood has to say about this. – Anko Aug 13 '14 at 11:52
• @Almo Why does this first comment get voted up? I know massive is a relative term but i type "Hi, and a very short reason your question does not fit here" in a matter of seconds. It is not like a single person have to do this on every bad question. – Madmenyo Aug 15 '14 at 6:57
• This question has a close vote. irony – jhocking Aug 17 '14 at 3:12
• The close votes appear to both be duplication-related, which is strictly-speaking correct but I think it's relevant to have this as a unique question due to the time-context-sensitive nature. – Josh Aug 18 '14 at 21:12

I'm one of those "existing users who don't use the site well" that Josh mentioned.

I mostly don't vote any more, though I have the rep to do so. I almost never go through the review queue, though I have the rep to do so. I almost never see a question I feel interested in answering any more, despite having been making games professionally for the past 15 years (and as an amateur for a lot of years before that).

One big reason that I don't do these things is that I don't actually visit the site much any more. Maybe two or three times per week, down from four or five times per day, a few years ago.

My impression is that all of a sudden, about a year and a half ago, the questions being submitted to the site changed. They stopped being general and conceptual and broadly-applicable, and instead became ultra-specific to providing help to individuals (with the vast majority of these individuals being absolute novices). They stopped being "explain this concept to me", and instead became "write some code for me for free." Or to put it differently; the questions stopped being interesting resources for learning, and started being a do-it-for-me service.

Deep down, I feel like spending time on crafting answers to the majority of questions on this site doesn't add value to the Internet any more, the way that it used to; it's just helping individual users one at a time, by giving them my time in exchange for nothing at all; often not even gratitude.

So I kind of feel like maybe I'm not in the site's target market any more. It feels like we've become some sort of free get-help-quick service for novices. And I'm sure there are people who are interested in participating in that sort of a site; just not me. And that's why I'm not interacting with the site much any more. And haven't been, for more than a year.

Bringing it back to the actual "Should we be more friendly to..." question: If I'm still supposed to be one of the target users of the site, then I'd argue that the very last thing we want to do is expend our moderators' limited energy trying to coddle and retain new users who are cluttering up the front page with yet more "How do I write an 'if' statement" questions.

• @TrevorPowell you may be misinterpreting my extreme frustration with the "aggressive" of passive-aggressive. I actually did upvote your answer, which I believe is solid. My opinion is always that users with lots of rep should know what's good for the site and work toward it, but that's often not the case. Unfortunately, you're right, and that realization makes me also less inclined to contribute. This trend of unfriendliness is across the SE network, which makes it even more frustrating for some of us. My apologies if I offended you. – ashes999 Aug 12 '14 at 13:23
• The question stated on the bottom is awful, the guy didn't even seem to have tried to implement the gameplay behavior he was seeking. – Gustavo Maciel Aug 12 '14 at 14:20
• @GustavoMaciel I agree. It was always a bad question. I honestly thought my edit would make that more obvious, but for some reason there haven't been any close votes (until the one I just added). A lot of the poor questions revolve around "how do I do {some non-complex procedure} in my game?" And the answer is "you code it to do that. Go code it." – Seth Battin Aug 13 '14 at 4:15
• I too frequent this site less, and I do recognize more 'bad' questions. However that also means that something about this website is less clear to the new users. We could do something about that if we put our minds together. Of course not wanting to put energy in that 100% fine! But having the active users passive-aggressively disregard new questions and new users is not going to solve this problem. (And it doesn't even really free the home page of clutter). – Roy T. Aug 14 '14 at 20:09
• Do you have admin tools to compare GD with other SE sites, on terms of closed questions count, zero votes, etc? Maybe theres something to learn from that comparison. – Kromster says support Monica Aug 15 '14 at 3:33
• @RoyT. I completely agree -- the fault is definitely on current users (including me!) for not making it more clear what sorts of knowledge this site is supposed to be focused on. The original strategy for doing that, I think, was that if you closed all the bad questions, the people would figure out the correct sort of question automatically, since only The Right Sort of questions would remain on the front page. But subjectively, that approach seems to have stopped working a year or so back. The front page is full of bad questions (even if closed), and so people feel free to post more. – Trevor Powell Aug 15 '14 at 5:58
• My feeling is that "Make the front page represent the sorts of questions we want" is still the correct strategy. Our problem is that our "put the bad questions on hold" approach isn't accomplishing that any more -- there are just far too many of them, even with the moderators probably overusing their powers to close questions faster than we can do as a community. Maybe it's time for us as a community to start thinking about other ways to bring our top quality questions back to the front page, so new users have a chance to understand what the site is really supposed to be about. – Trevor Powell Aug 15 '14 at 6:03
• @TrevorPowell I think those are very good points. I'll make a new meta question for that! – Roy T. Aug 15 '14 at 6:31
• +1 @TrevorPowell exactly my thoughts, but slightly off topic I would think. This about how that closing is percieved by the new user not giving the right impression on our homepage. – War Aug 15 '14 at 10:44
• So are there any activities of limiting the programming questions on GD, maybe by migrating them to SO? Is this even possible or desired to limit the scope of GD? Where should one draw the line? – Trilarion Sep 4 '14 at 12:48
• @Trilarion We already migrate general programming questions to SO. – Trevor Powell Sep 4 '14 at 13:10
• @TrevorPowell Good to hear. It's of course up to the makers of GD.se which questions they want but currently in the last 20 questions I would say that about 15 deal with libgdc, unity, java or c# which in a way is also all about programming. I'm fine with it in a way but I'm worried that too many others might leave here because of not enough interesting questions. – Trilarion Sep 4 '14 at 13:15
• I didn't realise this was a problem on GD.SE, too. It's a huge problem on SO, roughly within the same timeline. Many many high-rep users have the exact same reaction as you. Interesting. – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 7 '14 at 0:05

Now, in all these cases, the only clue the poor mod left to this new user, who may not understand how SE sites work, is a generic statement under 'The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

The precise reason the close-reason templates exist is to avoid having to invest time in repeating information that is in the help center. I, for one, am happy to provide clarifying comments when it seems necessary, but if all I'm going to do is restate the automatic close reason text, I don't see any reason to waste my time.

Anybody who wants to leave a comment further clarifying why they, as a more advanced SE user, perceive the question to be closed is welcome to do so. Or to vote to disagree with a close reason. Or to edit the question to make it better.

Quite honestly, getting new users to be "long-term users and quality contributors" is relatively low on my list of priorities for the site. It's probably dead last. What I'd like to fix first is the existing users who don't use the site well (users who don't vote or flag, but can; users who answer bad questions anyway; users who don't edit questions well or at all; users who don't answer any questions because they are afraid of being down-voted). Fixing that will remove an entire class of problems associated with unilateral close votes because we won't need so damn many of them.

• Thanks for making it absolutely, unequivocally clear that your position -- which, as a mod of the site, is the site position -- is to be unfriendly to new users. – ashes999 Aug 11 '14 at 15:39
• I'm sorry you interpret it that way, but my position is not "to be unfriendly," it is "to maximize the efficiency of my moderation time," by leveraging the automation/time-saving features provided to me so I can address more questions in the time I allot for moderating this site. – Josh Aug 11 '14 at 15:44
• It is quite unfortunate that your time savings translates very directly into warding off new users. Perhaps others (including other mods) will have a different position than yours. – ashes999 Aug 11 '14 at 16:08
• I agree with @ashes999 here, it may not be the intention but its often the impression given. I also agree that mods have a large workload and its tough keeping such a large community on track so their time is short. That said, if time is so tight why not have more mods so the ones we have are less rushed? – War Aug 11 '14 at 16:43
• You can start another meta topic if you think we need additional moderators. I don't, though; it's not that there isn't enough coverage of the site overall, it's about being able to cover more ground from an individual's perspective, while they are on the site. – Josh Aug 11 '14 at 16:48
• @Ashes999 An individual mods position is not "the site's position" the sites position comes from the continued policy building that takes place on this meta site. – Jesse Dorsey Aug 11 '14 at 17:27
• @ashes999 if you disagree with the current moderators, why not vote for other ones during the next elections, or even nominate yourself? – congusbongus Aug 12 '14 at 1:05
• Elections don't generally replace moderators unless a moderator resigns, for what it's worth. Plus -- again -- somebody doesn't have to be a moderator to do the things ashes999 is suggesting. – Josh Aug 12 '14 at 1:12
• @JoshPetrie why is it important that high rep users / mods are able to do a lot in a short period of time? The only reason I can see for this is a blatant rush to gain more rep. My thinking is that if something needs a response time should be taken to provide one or no response given at all. Not that your time isn't important its just ... there's a lot of features built in deliberately to prevent "knee jerk response" so why should that also not apply to mods? – War Aug 12 '14 at 16:10
• I think it's important for me to do more in a given period of time because this site needs a lot of hand-holding from a moderation perspective. This is not a "rush to gain reputation;" none of the actions under discussion here award reputation. It's not a "knee jerk response" to write a redundant comment after closing a question, it's inefficient. I'm not going to comment after I close a question unless it is warranted. The site gives users that ability so it can be used. – Josh Aug 12 '14 at 16:18
• I get where ashes999 is coming from . This is a troubling statement from a mod to be honest. The knowledge of our experienced users is getting old and stale (as will always happen) and we need new users with new knowledge and new questions continuously. Even users with bad first questions can become valuable members if given a little guidance. I know my first question was shit. (In all honesty who reads the FAQ when first time posting on a website, especially when you want a quick answer to a question you think others can easily find the answer to). – Roy T. Aug 14 '14 at 20:05
• I'm not really worried about (or intending to comment on) the domain knowledge of our existing userbase; I'm worried about that existing userbase engaging with the site well. I think that is where effort needs to be focused. Attracting new users to turn them into eventual old users if we cannot get old users (who have the sufficient reputation) to engage in the site does not strike me as a good plan. – Josh Aug 14 '14 at 20:10
• I don't mean our current users are stupid, I just mean that people don't stay active on this site forever, so without a continuous influx of quality people this site will eventually stop being useful. – Roy T. Aug 15 '14 at 6:44
• @JoshPetrie did you just say "getting new users is a bad plan", its also worth noting that any user will only engage the site if it has something to offer, I think Roy has a point here. New users with or without rep are just as important as old ones to keep the site moving forward. – War Aug 15 '14 at 10:41
• No Wardy, I have never said that. You seem to be laboring under the delusion that the moderators run the site, because you (and others) consistently seem to assume that my position/priority/actions are necessarily those of the site itself. That's exactly the opposite of reality. New users will come to the site regardless of what any of us do. They come to the site all the time, we very clearly do not have a problem getting new users signed up... – Josh Aug 15 '14 at 14:56

Let's count the number of ways we show new users how to ask a good question.

First, when the user hits the homepage of this website.

Second, when he clicks "ask question".

Third, after their question is placed on hold. (Not closed. The difference is important.)

If a new user can't be bothered to take a measly few seconds and read any of these things, how can he possibly be selfish and inconsiderate enough to expect others to spend even more of their equally precious time to help him?

If someone asks a bad question and it gets closed, then just leaves the site instead of trying to ask a better question, then it's not because he's unaware of the rules. It's not because the rules haven't been explained to him "nicely" enough. He just doesn't care about the rules.

Personally, I don't want that kind of user here.

But here's the clincher. When I see a question where my comment could be more helpful than the close reason, I do leave a comment. I've seen other people do it too. It might be a link to a tutorial, or a piece of terminology to google, or advice on how to improve the question.

Want to know how many times the OP has either responded to the comments or edited the question? So far, I've seen it three times, and two of those three just said "lol no the question is fine" (paraphrased). Out of all the questions I've seen get closed, that few have an OP who is willing to even put a tiny amount of effort in.

Equally bad, however, are the experienced users I see who keep saying, "The site sucks, so I stopped being involved." No, the site sucks because experienced users like you are no longer involved! How dare you refuse to put forward any effort in fixing the problems, then complain that they're not being fixed!

If you want the site to become better, then make it better. Jump into the unanswered questions list and start flagging, editing, and answering things.

• re your last two paragraphs. What's the incentive? – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 7 '14 at 0:28
• @LightnessRacesinOrbit What do you mean? Is seeing the site get better at helping people not a sufficient incentive? (Also, imaginary internet points!) – Anko Dec 4 '14 at 16:35

I'm with Josh on this one being a low priority, especially with so many unanswered questions hanging around right now that need clearing up. However, we could maybe create a new feature regarding what comments to leave by adding in customisable templates.

If you edit or review questions every day it might be useful to integrate your own choice of words on the type of close being performed. So if I am voting to flag a question and I pick "unclear what you're asking" and tend to always reply with something like this

"Hey, welcome to GD:SE, I'm not quite getting what you're asking for in this question, try to narrow down a single problem and explain it with these guidelines in mind [link]"

Maybe GD:SE could save this as my last response to this type of flag and place it in the comment field for me the next time I flag a post with this type. This would kill two birds with one stone by promoting appropriate and "newbie friendly" comments for flags by popping up the comments box and preserving personalised comments to make commenting similar things more efficient.

To avoid making unnecessary clicks or extra work for users to flag a post, those who don't want to bother and are happy with the comments provided by the automatic system could toggled this feature with a profile setting. This would then make it a useful feature for regular members who like to leave personalised comments but doesn't interrupt the current flow for those who are content with the way things work.

• The number of close reasons is fixed in the SE software, and this kind of feature would be extra dev for the core SE system. As such, I think it is unlikely to happen. – Almo Aug 11 '14 at 13:59
• Extra dev is not really a reason to overlook it though, if the feature being implemented helps maintain overall health on SE sites it may be more than worthy of it's dev time and cost. – Tom 'Blue' Piddock Aug 11 '14 at 14:05
• I'm not saying the suggestion is wrong, just that the SE developers are reticent to add features unless they show a huge benefit. I just not sure this shows a huge benefit. – Almo Aug 11 '14 at 14:15
• Yea, seems unlikely to happen as a formal part of the software. However, other SE sites have done this in an ad-hoc fashion by setting up a public gist on Github with additional pre-canned responses to various issues. It might be worth doing that here (you should start a separate meta topic on the issue if you want to). – Josh Aug 11 '14 at 15:58

I disagree with Josh and Blue on this one.

I see the same thing you see ashes999 all the time and it gives the impression that a mod's time is more important than the main reason for the site being here which is to help a community flourish and grow.

How can that happen if the people that run the community come across like all they care about is removing your annoying question from their todo list? (i'm sure this isn't the case and I have a lot of respect for the mods here)

Yes it may be costly and repetitive for mods but if they don't like being a mod then maybe step back a bit and let others pick up the workload, offloading your pain on a noobie that doesn't understand the community is not fair on that noobie.

I think there needs to be a bit more effort from some mods that appear to be annoyed by repetition and take it out on noobies to step up and welcome noobies to community with a more positive templated response in some way (although i don't know what the correct response is).

Also dev time, should not be the most important factor for a community by a long shot, if developers build something once then it helps people thousands of times over.

• Good points, also I agree on the dev time factor for improvements. Short term investments and testing leads to long term benefits. – Tom 'Blue' Piddock Aug 11 '14 at 15:31
• We do not "run the community." As I said, I would love to "step back and let others pick up the workload, but right now the state of the community here is such that it does not work. – Josh Aug 11 '14 at 15:52
• Further, moderators are human. I am sure we have all been annoyed, at one point or another, by bad or repetitive questions. But that is also something the boilerplate close-reasons exist to address. If we had to manually write out a close rationale for those questions I'm convinced you'd see more personal annoyance leaking into the system and creating a hostile environment. Having pre-determined text for the reasons helps keep personal bias out of the equation. – Josh Aug 11 '14 at 15:54
• I am also offended, for myself and other moderators, that you think so little of our time as to begrudge my saving it where it I can, especially since I want to save it so I can handle more of the site. It's not like we are compensated in any way for our work; we do this because we want the community to flourish and continue to exist. – Josh Aug 11 '14 at 15:56
• Apologies as I said I meant my comments in the greatest respect but being a user of low rep myself I have often been on the other end of moderator reactions. Where you may have seen something over and over to me being new I may not know that I can search to find the same question or that my question doesn't quite fit the bill ... maybe @Blue is on to something with the suggestion of being able to save "personal responses" to certain situations allowing the mod to be less "canned" and more "personal canned" but also sounding less authoritive and more "i want to help but ..." – War Aug 11 '14 at 16:13
• We can control the wording of (some) of our close messages; if your issue is really about the impersonal nature of those messages, start another meta topic proposing a change to one or more of them and try to drum up consensus on the change. – Josh Aug 11 '14 at 16:16
• I don't have an issue I'm simply responding / answering this question as I think it has a fair point. I too have seen the mods judge a question in a manner I didn't feel I agreed with and it's sometimes hard to understand and puts you off SO unless faced with some reasoning for the response (which is often missing). If anything my thought is that the mods are actually very good at their "job" maybe its just the canned default responses that need a friendlier tone and maybe some elaboration / links to more detail. – War Aug 11 '14 at 16:24
• Also @Wardy, being active on the site and in meta by suggesting these changes will help improve your rep and make you a more able member of the community. The more time and care you spend on the site, the more you can positively influence it. Make changes by being that positive newbie friendly commenter and help us make this site run better. I'm not a mod, just like you, but we can still influence the site as a whole and make it a whole lot easier for the mods by working with them in the process. – Tom 'Blue' Piddock Aug 11 '14 at 16:25
• "the main reason for the site being here [..] is to help a community flourish and grow." I can't overstate how strongly I disagree with this claim. The stack exchange sites are about building an archive of expert knowledge. A community naturally assembles around that, but the community is not the goal! – Trevor Powell Aug 12 '14 at 10:55
• There's no point in having a knowlegebase that noone uses ... a community is the core consumer of this knowledge so I stand by my comment ... also why have features like chat if a community is not at least part of the goal? That view of yours seems very narrow minded @TrevorPowell – War Aug 12 '14 at 12:11
• No I was saying you were taking a narrow minded point of view not calling you narrow minded, there's a difference, it wasn't about being rude just pointing out that I disagree with your view. hense why is said "that view of yours ..." and not "you are ..." – War Aug 12 '14 at 12:28
• Please keep it civil folks. – Josh Aug 12 '14 at 15:09

Just today, I had a question, searched google and this came up:

Deep Cloning C++ class that inherits CCNode in Cocos2dx

To me this question is perfectly valid, unless I misunderstood the site. It's specifically asking How to do something (which is deep copy) In some specific framework (which is cocos2d-x)

Of course you can interpret that question a general how to deep copy things in C++, but that's not what the OP was after at all. In fact that question has a very simply short answer:

For some types like actions, there is a method called clone available, but there is nothing built in to make a deep copy for rest of engine (nodes for example)

I'm not saying this kind of things happen a lot but there are other examples like this, that are either misinterpreted by high rep users or are valid questions asked badly. Maybe it's better if at least we let questions to be open at least a day before closing them. That means with out current number of questions being asked, let them reach the second page before closing them. All users (and not only mods) will have more time to both see and if applicable fix those questions if possible.

• Note that the question you're talking about was finally closed more than a year after it was asked, having received zero answers during that time. – Trevor Powell Aug 12 '14 at 10:57
• @TrevorPowell Well, it was my mistake and others who know cocos2d. I also check the main site for new questions rarely. But then again, it doesn't mean we can not-bad close questions if they are not answered. – Ali1S232 Aug 12 '14 at 11:04
• it doesn't mean we can not-bad close questions if they are not answered... my brain hurts. Can you rephrase that to use fewer negations? I'm having trouble parsing it to understand what you mean. – Trevor Powell Aug 12 '14 at 11:58
• it was actually a typo, meant to be: it doesn't mean we can close not-bad questions even if they are not answered – Ali1S232 Aug 12 '14 at 13:51
• That question should be closed. There's nothing there that a game developer would answer better, necessarily; it should be asked on Stack Overflow. Questions need to go to most-appropriate site on the network, much like how it doesn't matter here how many different ways and with how many different APIs you want to orient some object to face some target. It's all the same answer, we close them as duplicates of something canonical. – Josh Aug 12 '14 at 15:14