Disclaimer: Personal Opinion Below

StackOverflow has been noted to not be very welcoming to new users. This is followed by meta discussions on the main meta. I think that we also should reconsider our attitude as well.

As an exemplar post, this question has two down-votes and one close vote. There are no comments whatsoever, neither explaining the down-vote nor the close vote. The user is not new, and yes, one could expect them to read the (honestly, quite difficult to find) How To Ask page, but in my opinion, this is neither a bad question nor a personal question.

There is a vessel located on the left middle side of my forehead which keeps pumping for few times noticeably every few minutes, my question is: What is the vessel that is located in this side? and what might be the causes of its pumping?

This is very easily reworded into "What are vessels flowing on the left-mid side of the forehead that can be felt pulsating" and the answer would be a simple map of main arteries of the head. OP can check for themselves where they felt the pulse, or you can speculate and talk about the larger, more exposed arteries (safe to assume it's a large deep artery or one of the superficial ones).

It takes me 5 minutes at most, and the post is (IMHO) on-topic and answered. It is totally fine if you don't have the time to google a map, or can't answer the question. Instead of down voting or close voting, a minor tweak to the question would be sufficient. OR - at least comment why you took the actions, there even is a battery of sample comments to copy and paste.

Here is another example: White color on clothes after sweating?. The question has currently three close votes and - before my edit - read:

I recently I have a weird thing happening to me. After I’ve sweat a little bit, my (dark) clothes turn a little white-ish.

Again, even as it stood, I can't see why someone would VTC that as asking for personal medical advice, but I have edited it to make it more clear. The question attracted a decent answer:

Sweat contains a high concentration of salt. Just as the salt from antiperspirants can stain dark clothing, excessive sweating can leave a ring of white salt on dark clothes. Often you'll notice dark colored shirts with white rings around the collar after profuse sweating. Usually this salt will wash out during a normal wash cycle, but you may wish to soak the material is cold water to dissolve the salt if the stains are tough to remove.

This answer has been down-voted to -3, I think, and LangLangC posted a comment stating that the answer needs to be backed up with reference. That might have been a bit pedantic, but it's still according to our rules. However, the fact that sweat contains salt is so basic that I wouldn't downvote an answer without the reference like that, a simple comment is sufficient. Or you can do the answerer a favour, like LangLangC did subsequently, and just include an extract from Wikipedia for them.

Bottom Line

These are just two examples from today that would have pissed me off so much as a new user that I probably wouldn't have revisited this site again. As we are all trying to revive this site and get more activity and better questions, I'm not sure this is the right way to go.

A bit more personal: My first post ever on this site was a speculation about why a person might feel thirsty (1k users), which is obviously off-topic and the answer was pretty bad as well. Being relatively new to the SE model, I haven't had a clue where to look for scope and so on. I immediately received a downvote but also 3! comments explaining why I shouldn't answer questions like these and where my answer was lacking.

  • Not a "new user", but one of the reasons I walked away from this site were demands from citations for things that fall in the "It Is Known" category.
    – Fomite
    Jul 17, 2018 at 6:55

2 Answers 2


Yup. I also noticed a pattern. A pattern that might need improvement. At least it can be improved, I think.

We suffer from quite some issues here. Generally:
to varying degrees from "not enough": regular users, high-rep users, moderators/community moderation, questions in general, good questions in particular, answers, (multiple) good answers to questions, new users that stay or at least come back.

From that list the antonyms and opposites should be inferable.

We identified two problems at once in the past as awful questions that linger on. That identification I think was correct. Our solution was to be much more aggressive with closevotes and downvotes. We even rationalised this as "if they are posting these kind of bad questions, then these aren't even the users we want or need here." While the solution is still a valid one and the results of it are certainly a good sign – of progress in the community and for the site – the rationalisation and our behavioural results seem to go a little too far at times.

That is indeed a dilemma. "Queue emptying" should not scale back one inch, for example. Reviews need to at least keep that level of activity and productivity. We have to keep the baby in the bath tub until it's clean, then separate it from the water in a less damaging way than commonly phrased in this metaphor.

What we do not need is immediate upvotes/downvotes, both observable for questions especially (and for me these vote-patterns are somehow quite hard to follow in their logic, both but differently), of low-quality content.

We should continue to show a certain level of actual aggression. Towards the quality of the post–––Not the writer! And this should come with double emphasis for new users. If they are genuinely interested and not rogue players, like spammers or pushers and the like.

I suggest a certain leniency towards new users posting new content. More welcoming attitude, explanations, nudging into the [edit] to get right understanding and feel for how this site and good questions and answers should work. The feel for "downvote is the first feedback" is certainly expletive deleted.

There are certain problems associated with that. The ideal approach for problematic content from good-willed newbies should look like

  • Review for Late Answer, First Post, contents:
  • welcome message
  • invitation to tour and help
  • explanation of problems
  • invitation to [edit]
  • (very ideally: possibly edit easy to fix posts by reviewer or other regular user; but)
  • ___ if the user shows compliance in visiting tour (earning the informed badge, only one visible to us, makes it likely s/he read also some more help…) or (and especially if) and tries to improve the post with a timely edit (personal guess: 24 hours should be reasonable) then the helping edit should becoming more likely. If no informed-badge is earned, no edit attempted then a closevote might follow. Most of these conditionals listed above make it very unlikely in my eyes that we will get help from them to improve a problematic post.
  • closevotes might be commented on early, but this is less important since the [on hold] message already has a comment.
  • downvotes should come with an explanatory comment, especially for posts from newbies, and only immediately for realy, really, really, bad content

Once reviewed a post might drown out of sight of the reviewer. We do not have a an easy to-do list of "watch-that/does it improve" posts. At least not that I know of. This is a list of judgement calls. Opinions on individual posts will differ. Delaying downvotes for newbies is in direct contradiction to our streamlined usage of the site and SE policy of "vote early"/"vote often".

We will make more mistakes. But for us and the new users, when bad content arrives, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, to improve this site.

Additional thoughts welcome!

  • Please edit, especially to improve the "ideal process"; or provide an answer that disagrees, or offers a different perspective. Jun 8, 2018 at 15:42

I read the StackOverflow Blog article a while ago when I noticed it somewhere in the right hand panel. I can't remember where and it has gone now.

I have been at the receiving end of the "elitist feel" in some groups, and although I have felt there is less of one here and in others, I have noticed the same patterns here that @Narusan and @LangLangC have pointed out. I also believe I have been folllowing to the best of my ability, @LangLangC's suggestions even before they were put up.

One big issue I have is as pointed out in Yet again, we have personal advice questions answered where I am not perplexed about a newcomer asking a personal advice question as that can happen when they are not necessarily aware of the problem. What I do have issue with is when we get a question such as What methods are there for individuals to help them remember if they have taken their medicine? I put a comment on the question stating the fact that it was a personal question (see edit 1 in the timeline), after which it was edited to make it less personal. That's fine. I have no problem with that and I have actually voted to re-open now.

What I do have a problem with is when you have a member who has been here a while, and should know that personal advice should not be given, has actually given advice. When you have a question with details such as

As I take some pills in the morning and it became a part of my morning routine, sometimes I do this almost automatically and later I am not really sure whether I took them or not.

This is a potentially serious problem which needs an answer tailored to their specific needs. Someone answered by suggesting getting a pill box, to which I commented on, asking what they would suggest if they have problems remembering to go to the pill box in the first place. The comment and others have been deleted since with another comment about being nice. I was being nice. I just pointed this out as my wife has that problem herself at times. You can get a pill box but if you are not yet in the habit of going to it at a certain time, or don't heed alarms as you are in the middle of something, you can forget to go to it. This sort of problem can lead to further problems and when people are relying on acurate advice from us, where does that lead to?

This is just one example and issues such as these need sorting out, and aside to this, I totally agree that some need to be a bit thoughtful towards those who are new to Health.SE, and especially those new to StackExchange as a whole. There are other sites which are less strict and we need to bear that in mind.

With regard to problem posts lingering, this is a problem with a few sites, not just Health.SE and the only way this can be sorted is to ramp up the review queue visits by everyone. There can be a good few hours before a question gets closed here, yet there are other sites where questions can be put on hold or closed within a couple of minutes, as I pointed out in my answer to Please don't answer questions that are off-topic

The problem with having bad questions answered is that relatively new users who have little idea on how this site works may provide answers when they shouldn't because the question is unclear and an answer could muddy the waters or it is asking for advice on a medical concern and a low rep member may (just to be helpful) inadvertently provide advice when it is not wise to.

How we deal with this is difficult to some extent. We need more activity within the site [...]

I will get off my soap-box now and just say that because in the past I have been at the receiving end of what the StackOverflow Blog is talking about, I am in total agreement that we need to be mindful of the "be nice policy". Let's not have elitism here. It hasn't been exactly elitism here yet, but there have been questionable actions by some as pointed out (e.g. downvoting when not necessary - especially excessive downvoting) and it needs to be kerbed a little.

As a suggestion, I only downvote when a question or answer is particularly bad and hasn't been edited after comment to edit for improvement. (I give it a few hours to give a chance to see the comment and edit). If the comment is only a matter of opinion, I leave no vote (Not upvote or downvote) and leave the voting to the rest of the SE community

  • As I take some pills in the morning and it became a part of my morning routine, sometimes I do this almost automatically and later I am not really sure whether I took them or not. I actually asked Martin to post that as a question (he asked me the same thing in chat), and his issue is not forgetting to take pills at all but rather remembering which pills he has taken when (in order to not take them twice). The Pill Box is a standard item you can get in pharmacies (at least where I live) and is pretty much recommended. I didn't perceive the question as "how to remind me to take pills" but
    – Narusan
    Jun 22, 2018 at 15:51
  • [cont'd] "what is a method to keep track of pills I need to take and have taken", which seemed on topic. I guess that the viewpoints were deviating a lot, and I can see how it is opinion-based. But please - but the blame on me. I had an issue with downvotes on faustus' post, because they seemed unreasonable on a answer that has been at least researched. They are fairly new users and at least leave a comment regarding why it is bad to answer questions like these and so on. // The situation escalated a bit between Carey and Faustus, but the comments are now deleted.
    – Narusan
    Jun 22, 2018 at 15:54
  • 1
    As part of the be nice policy we need to follow, I hope that nobody apportions blame with anything on anyone and as a point of note I did not downvote faustus' answer. I just commented on the question what I thought and maybe it was faustus' question I commented about remembering to go to the pillbox. That is all I did and that is how it should be in my view. I only downvote when the answer is particularly bad and hasn't been edited after comment to edit for improvement. Jun 22, 2018 at 16:00
  • 1
    I'm sorry if I came off as insulting or attacking, my downvote-attack wasn't even directed at you or anyone in particular.
    – Narusan
    Jun 22, 2018 at 16:11
  • No offense taken @Narusan :-) Jun 22, 2018 at 16:11
  • "give it a few hours" is the hardest part to get right here: how many and how to keep an eye on that yourself? The community of active users is too small to rely on "all the other eyes" right now and a "few hours" might be unrealistic assumption on established usage patterns that might not fit to new users at all. But I agree that some (24) hrs (my aim) should be given to leniency. And I repeat myself, but whether the user got online here again and earned that recommended informed badge as well! Jun 26, 2018 at 20:53

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