To the newcomers:

I am thrilled that you have come to this site. I am excited that you want to spend time contributing to this site, and even more so that you want to learn more about Christianity. The users like you make the content on this site and they are what make it fun.

However, you may be tempted to jump into the deep end of site policy and moderator actions before you actually know how to swim. I certainly did when I first started on the site and made a terrible a-- of myself. I hope that you can avoid that embarrassment and take my advice here in this post.

Before you go any further on this site and even in this post please read these meta posts:

There are about four stages of frustration on this site that I hope you can avoid completely.

  1. You think you have made a really good post, but the community does not and you cannot understand why.

  2. You see questions that are good, but they get put on hold and closed and you do not necessarily agree with the reasons.

  3. You are butting heads with the mods and they never admit they are wrong or listen to your suggestions for site policy.

  4. You think the mods and everyone else who tries to help you is a jerk and think they are making the site worse.

These four steps are a progression that I have noticed in new users that eventually leads to the user never coming back or deleting their account. Some users have skipped one or two of them and others have hit every single one before being suspended or never coming back.

My hope is that you avoid all of these completely and become a regular, happy, and productive user of the site.

Stage One

Your chief complaint will likely come from the frustration of making a bang up answer or question that is good (and we agree), but it gets downvotes and little to no upvotes. The posts also likely receive criticism from mods and high rep users, but you are having trouble understanding what the issues actually are.

That's okay. Almost all of us made posts like that when we started out. And occasionally still do. Just take the bumps, try your best to see what the issues are, then try again. Don't worry too much about the actual post in question unless it is really important to you. Let it be what it is, then wait for another question to answer or make another question that interests you.

Here are some meta posts that might help you if you are in this stage:

Stage Two

Your next complaint will likely be that questions are good (and, again, we agree), but they get put "on hold". If you currently do not understand the reason, for now, just trust the mods and the community members that are listed with the reason. I know it is frustrating, but believe me, as someone who has been there too, you will be much happier using the site if you just take the lumps, trust that the mods and users are trying to help you, and then try again with what you learned.

Here are some meta posts that might help you if you are in this stage:

Stage Three

Your next most likely complaint is probably that the mods do not admit that they are wrong. Well, that's because they are probably right. All our mods have been around for years. They know what they are doing, and I have seen all of them spend pages and pages in chat and comments trying to help users just like you with exactly the same issues that you have. Remember that nothing is new under the sun and your concerns about this site are very likely no exception.

Here are some meta posts that might help you if you are in this stage:

Stage Four

Finally, if you have not taken the above suggestions, you probably think that the mods are jerks and everyone else who is trying to help you is too. You have probably even accused them of not acting like a Christian should, or at least thought it. They are the reason the site is not fun for you and if they would just listen to you the site would be better. You couldn't be further from the truth. These guys keep this site moving, alive and well oiled. For those of us who have been around long enough to see them in action many times, we give them the utmost respect.

But let's just say this is where you are right now. That is fine. Unfortunately, what has led you to this stage has probably made you extremely defensive and combative and maybe even rude. We are still patient and hope that you can come through (maybe you have noticed that mods have not suspended you yet, but rather are still spending a lot of time on you).

You are probably a well intentioned person and have only acted according to what you think is right. We do not blame you for that. But now, more than ever before, you need to seriously and deeply evaluate what you are thinking about this site and the people you have interacted with on it. They are well intentioned too. Their primary concern is the quality of this site. Their next concern is the user that contributes to that quality.

That is you! You are the user they care about because you make the site what it is. If you do not understand their reasoning for what is "quality" and what is not, then just trust them for now and heed their advice. If you feel like they do not listen to what you are saying it is because they have already heard it before and thought about it long before you were even a username on this site. You will understand soon enough. They are the master black belts and you are the new arrival and have barely dirtied your snow white belt. In time you will wear a black belt too, but for now, listen to your masters (mods and high rep users who are trying to help you) and heed their instructions.

Users in this stage are why the following meta posts were made:

  • 7
    This is amazing! Can I award a bounty on it? Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 1:58
  • 7
    Typing fifteen characters to say: like
    – pterandon
    Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 1:59
  • @PaulA.Clayton Thank you. I have corrected it. The site always needs willing proofers. If you are willing to make spelling and grammar corrections you can just go ahead and do them. You don't have to ask.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 18:44
  • On Meta one cannot make suggested edits (even on the main site, suggested edits need to be six characters or more--yes, one can cheat). I do not have even half the reputation required to make non-reviewed edits. Edits also bump posts in activity lists (like the main page) which makes them less attractive when clarity would not be noticeably improved.
    – user3331
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 19:18
  • @paul I see. Well carry on then.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 19:21
  • 1
    This "question" should be required reading of all newcomers. In vBulletin software, admins can make a thread "must-read". Is that available on SE software? Commented Jul 20, 2013 at 18:42
  • @Adrian I think the faq tag is similar. Caleb has since added it.
    – user3961
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 21:04

4 Answers 4


New users: Do NOT use the old, highly-rated questions from highly-rated users or mods as a template for your own.

Even if they seem very interesting, politely worded, drew expert Q&A answers, and generated no rancor. The standards for a good question have changed so as to make many (hundreds?) of them fitting for "Reasons to Close". There is a very good reason for neither deleting the "newly bad" questions nor realizing the new guidelines are overly harsh and don't really address the issues that caused prior rancor.

  • 2
    The same applies to answers.
    – Ryan Frame
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 13:58
  • 2
    Yes, if it is older than 6 months you should not use it as a template.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 15:32
  • You may however, use all my (non-closed) questions as a template. Not to boast of anything except that which is boastable, but being a survivor of Software Engineering I knew what we were in for.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 16:38
  • @fredsbend as user #4 (technically #1) I kind of take issue with that statement, I've seen the quality of questions stay very consistent over the year and a half or so of the site being live. The only time things were really bad was when the materialist fanboys poured in to celebrate our graduation from private beta.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 17:02
  • @PeterTurner I agree that a good portion of the stuff older than 6 months is is good and on topic, however, it seems to me that nearly all the open questions in the last 6 months are as well. Therefore, why take the risk in giving a poor question as a template?
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 18:41
  • @PeterTurner: I don't think anyone is saying old questions aren't as good; but some questions (such as this) would probably be closed today as too broad or opinion-based, but seem to have been popular in the past. The fact that it has been upvoted does not necessarily mean it makes a good template; new users won't know that, and (theoretically) more recent questions will fit the site's current scope/guidelines.
    – Ryan Frame
    Commented Jul 11, 2013 at 19:13
  • Do we not apply Historical Locks here? Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 0:08

I've noticed that most users who are received very negatively or in a mixed manner by the community leave as quickly as they came, although some don't:

50 Users Who May Need Some Feedback for Improvement

Most users will find that they are positively received by the community, despite some hiccups inherent to the learning curve:

Overall Community Impression of a User

  • 3
    lol you posted this at the same time the data explorer went off line to move to NYC, I'll check it out when it comes back online
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 16:52
  • haha nice - whoops!
    – Dan
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 16:57
  • 1
    IMO, how well a user is received is almost exclusively about his attitude and his ability to improve. If He has a crummy attitude he looses credibility very quickly. If he continually posts crummy content and cannot seem to improve based on the suggestions he looses credibility with every post.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 18:23
  • It looks like my queries were not saved. I hope that is temporary. That was a lot of work.
    – Dan
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 19:16
  • After the migration, that is.
    – Dan
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 19:18
  • 1
    @Dan something was borked with the backups and was only just found out. The devs are on it and hopefully correcting the issue.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 0:22
  • still not there - oh well
    – Dan
    Commented Jul 18, 2013 at 18:22
  • 1
    It's back!!! The SE team restored them for me!
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 17:39
  • Thank you for this Dan. I don't particularly agree with the way the terms positive and such are being described here, but this is useful information to see. If you could put in a column that shows suspensions and date of suspensions then that would be cool. Also, if you could have a column for flagged chat questions. Some users are "mixed" on the site but quite "negative" in chat. Flags might help show that.
    – user3961
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 21:43
  • Out of curiosity, why the use of floating point and casts and not multiplying the other side of the inequality by 10 or 3? Is overflow an actual concern or is this just defensive programming (i.e., good habits)? (I am not a programmer and tend to be overly concerned with computational efficiency [and I know just enough to be dangerous--integer multiply is cheaper than casts to float, multiply, and cast to integer].)
    – user3331
    Commented Aug 8, 2013 at 23:31
  • @fredsbend I may just have to play with that.
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 5:18
  • @PaulA.Clayton because I'm paranoid.
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 9, 2013 at 5:18

fredsbend, it looks like you put a lot of effort into that content and it comes across as genuine, thanks for that.

What I might venture to add -- with a significant measure of deference to the community, bearing in mind that I've yet to make substantial contributions to the site -- is the following:

  1. At least until the second coming, there will always remain theological dissension on the nature of the human heart, whether people are "basically good" or otherwise, Total Depravity vs. Semi-Pelagianism, etc., etc.;

  2. For a variety of reasons, life tend to run much more smoothly when we practice patience and forgiveness, and hesitate to attribute malicious intent;

  3. However, it is also important to bear in mind that there are some people who, for whatever reason, happen to be at a place in life where they just want to inflict damage, and aren't interested in listening to anyone. Many of us have likely, at some point, watched an online community -- from old WWIV BBS's to modern internet message boards -- get torn apart by a relatively small, but vocal group of immature users with a severe empathy deficiency.

I wouldn't presume to offer any prescriptions about any course of action to implement, and I may well have inadvertently and unknowingly stepped on some toes myself. And maybe the community here has some ability to reform wayward users that I know nothing about.

Still, it seems worth pointing out that there may be a certain line that denotes a requisite level of intellectual maturity.

Here's hoping that any users that may find themselves on the wrong side of that line are able to reform their approach sooner rather than later, and make a positive contribution. Thanks.

  • Typo: "life tend to run much more smoothly" --> "life tends to run much more smoothly" (i.e., tends not tend)
    – user3331
    Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 3:28
  • You're doing just fine. Keep up the good work. Though you do have a propensity for answering off-topic questions, albeit in an on-topic and upvote worthy fashion.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 6:33
  • 1
    I think not only "professionalism" but Christian charity require presumption you yourself are at fault, and misunderstood other guy. Protecting yourself against people who want to inflict damage will turn the clueless and frustrated into the same. Violence begets violence, so to speak.
    – pterandon
    Commented Jul 6, 2013 at 18:24

The very fact that this post had to be made and is still being hyperlinked to demonstrates that there is still a problem with the way this site is conducted, and everyone who downvotes or deletes this answer is a part of the problem.

Rather than helping new users to construct productive posts, you shut it all down and require them to adhere to a very strict, unnatural, unintuitive set of standards that defeat the very purpose of having a site like this. Anything that you wish to be successful must be simple and intuitive from the start. What this site does is comparable to:

  • writing up a 15 page report of rules, expectations, and wants and handing it to someone after your first date
  • requiring someone to read the entire game manual and walkthrough before playing a video game
  • requiring someone to read the entire Bible before going to church
  • requiring a person to be perfect before they receive the Holy Spirit

Don't close posts that don't adhere to a strict set of rules; revise them so that their question will be answered and they can learn more naturally how to make proper posts.

Don't treat newcomers like they're automatically wrong and they have to join your cult to use this site; consider that maybe they are actually right about some things, even though you've made do for "years".

Don't tell people on a Christianity website that the goal is not to learn, study, or discover the Truth. That's stupid. That's like telling an employee that the goal of them working there is not to make money or feed their family. Of course that's the goal! Some have said, "we don't study the Truth, we study the Christian study of the Truth". Why would anybody want to study the Christian study of the Truth and not care to know what the Truth itself is? Better yet, why do you think new users are asking Truth questions? We're all here to learn what the Truth is, no matter how you skew it.

Lastly, it's a heck of a lot easier to answer questions in a particular manner than to force those questions to be asked in a particular manner. For instance, if someone were to ask, "Who is Jesus?" you wouldn't have to close their post. Everyone who had a different understanding of who Jesus is could respond and specify what denomination or beliefs or scripture they're adhering to in their own answer. Perhaps the asker was looking for a broad set of answers; why would you take issue with that? Let users of this site make use of it however they please, so long as it's appropriate.

I already know what your response to this will be: something like, "but that will resolve into a lot of arguing and trouble because of disagreements". Okay, then edit their question! Make it ask, "Who is Jesus, according to the Bible?" Alternatively, edit the answers! Make them say, "Denomination X says that ..." Perhaps a feature could be utilized where a question is placed on hold (made private) until the asker can revise it. But just because there are disagreements and arguments does not mean the question is bad or inappropriate!

Yes, I'm calling for Christianity SE to change its ways and traditions. I very much like the thought of having a vibrant, tolerant, yet open-minded community where anyone of any background can ask virtually any appropriate question regarding Christianity and get any appropriate answer in return, not just that which adheres to "acadamia"; where ideas, arguments, and responses can be voted according to their reliability, trustworthiness, sensibility, wisdom, and truth value, not whether or not they adhere to a strict set of rules; where anyone who thinks they have a valuable and noteworthy contribution to the pool of answers can give it without having it be hijacked or compromised; and where we can acknowledge that we're all here to learn about the Truth after all, regardless of what it is, where it comes from, how offensive it may be to our nature, or how difficult or complex it is to end up with.

  • Just in case someone responds by saying, "CSE is for studying doctrines, not the Truth", my answer is this: if I wanted to learn of different doctrines, I would go to websites where these doctrines are taught. I came here to get opinions, interpretations, and insight. If you want to answer with quotes and doctrines, you're certainly welcome to do so! But can we not also think for ourselves? Must our question or answer adhere to a particular established denomination? Give us users some breathing room to each do what we think is best.
    – Andrew
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 10:22
  • 2
    Meta posts are rarely deleted. I can't even think of an instance where one was deleted. So no, your opinion here on site policy will not be deleted.
    – user3961
    Commented Jul 30, 2016 at 15:11
  • 5
    This post addresses one of your concerns: Why is putting a question “on hold” preferred over simply correcting the question? You also mention, "Perhaps a feature could be utilized where a question is placed on hold (made private) until the asker can revise it." – this feature exists and is used. Closed posts can be reopened, and deleted posts can be undeleted, if they are edited to fit the guidelines. Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 17:16
  • 2
    I'll certainly admit that the preferences and hard-earned experience of the long-time users here does make it difficult for new users to change how this site works. We feel that this site fits a particular niche, serving those who have more academic questions about doctrine or history, while other sites, like normal discussion forums, or (even better) real-life churches and pastors, are better suited for dealing with "truth questions." It's certainly not that questions like "Who is Jesus" are bad questions – we just believe it is better to ask them elsewhere. Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 17:22
  • 5
    Wow. I'm not sure how to respond. My first thought is that you've misunderstood the purpose of this site. But then you stated the purpose of this site clearly and accurately, and then just said you disagree. I guess that just means you disagree. I'm not sure why anyone would therefore bother trying to convince you. You think this site doesn't meet your needs. You're welcome not to use this site then.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 21:40
  • 1
    Those are well-reasoned responses, which I appreciate. I suppose my intention is to propose to you then that this site could be so much more. Forgive me that I get easily frustrated with the traditions of men.
    – Andrew
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 5:48
  • 5
    @Andrew If you'd like to propose a specific change to the customs and rules of this site, I think we would all consider it seriously. It should be proposed in its own post though.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 3:52

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