I've been reflecting on this question since I've asked it two days ago. Please note that I am not infallible, I am young, and I am limited in my experience. But I also have a very recent experience of joining this site and the community. My goal here is not to shame anyone, not to place someone at fault, but merely to observe the issues we have at C.SE and give potential solutions. Your feedback is welcomed, and together I think we can build a better site for new members and our established community as a whole.
I've identified two key issues on the site as I've been here and seen not only my interactions with well established members but also with my observations of new members entering the site. Admittedly, I've been harsh with some new members. I've tried to lead people to see the tour for more info, but I can be harsh, and I'm trying to work on that.
Unfortunately, I do not have time to cite specific examples (vacation), but anyone who's been on this cite for more than an hour probably knows what I am talking about.
We are rude.
We are rude to new visitors, and we are rude to each other.
Why? I'm not sure. C.SE has a certain level of academic prestige. We are very strict in our rules, and people enforce them. Not just mods, but the laypeople. The painful truth of SE is that we are very elitist. We want perfection in questions. We want the highest quality. The filet mignon of questions.
To a certain extent, striving for high levels of quality that is not a bad thing. High quality is important, and we don't want to devolve into sites like Quora or Reddit, with nearly no rules on question quality or types of questions.
All that's to say, we have to have a limit on how much we care about quality. For new members, that limit has to be pretty low. As a member becomes more situated, that limit rises. I'll expound on this more later.
So that's problem one: overall high expectations that manifest with rudeness towards others.
My second problem is one from a psychological point of view that I've mentioned. Note that I am not a psychologist, this is merely armchair thinking.
Humans are obsessed with score. Video games and sports are a great example of how score manifests in our society and plays a key role in behavior.
We use score here on SE in order to do quality control. It definitely isn't a perfect system, but upvoting and downvoting as positives that other systems don't offer. But there is one problem, and it is very serious.
Downvotes are a mental boot out the door of our website. I myself was very lucky to have success in my early posts, such as my question on universalism, which was super popular and very helpful to me. But downvotes hurt, and I speak from experience here. Spending time on a question that you think is important and having it blasted into the ground is painful. Especially as GratefulDisciple said, most people come here searching for answers about their doubts on their denominations or Christian faith as a whole. Sometimes that works out and this site is helpful, such as my time here. But a lot of the times, it's not like that.
And the fact that we have not had a new consistent member for a while is telling of the problem we see. Downvoting these new users is hurting them.
Who can blame them? It is human nature to flee from criticism. We don't like it. That's not to say criticism is bad, but it is to say that we need to be careful where we direct our criticism.
I think there are some sub-problems that I could identify, but I think those two are the most important that I would like to address.
I see a couple of ideas. I think we want to have two things happen.
- A welcome of new members that we want to stay.
- Quality questions from new users that maintain our unique site rules and ideals.
Welcoming new members.
Upon welcome, I think we should have a popup that strongly encourages, if not requires, users to take the tour. Taking the tour gives them access to asking a question. Before they ask a question, I think they should be presented with a short article (in pop-up form) saying what kind of questions are acceptable on this site. Once they have read both of those, they might still ask a bad question, but it could serve to help some of the questions we receive.
Second, we strongly advise against downvoting new members. I don't know how we do this, maybe a message when you downvote a new user that says, "consider leaving a comment to help this user understand where they went wrong, or remove your downvote." Or maybe we don't allow downvoting for new users at all! I'm not sure. But I think the number one thing we can do is be kind. If you can get your message across without downvoting, do it. If you upvote, say why. Be welcoming. Treat someone like you would treat your best friend.
Let things slide. As I've mentioned, let's cut new users some slack. Let's allow (to a certain extent) questions that go against our rules. That's not to say we don't say anything, but let people make errors without downvoting or immediately closing.
I'd appreciate any other ideas you have. I really want to build this community past the few consistent members we have (me, Ken, Peter, HTR, GratefulDisciple, Geremia, ect.) more people is better. We want a big community. We want people getting their questions answered. That's what this site is about.
Blessings y'all, I can't wait to hear from you.