We've recently acquired a new user who is clearly quite young.

This user is asking quite a few low quality questions and is attracting a lot of down votes and votes to close.

I am torn as to how to approach this.

On the one hand, I understand that part of growing and learning in complex fields, is learning how to ask good questions, how to conduct your own research etc. I think I understand the motivation of this young person and it is likely that this is their first experience of Stack Exchange and how it's different to any place else. At 14/15/16, I wouldn't have had a clue how to behave around here.

On the other hand, I hang out here because of the quality and factual, pithy, Q&A. I do of course understand that SE will clear out the closed questions but, there remain questions about how this user perceives the community because of the rapid down votes, how the community increasingly responds ("oh no, not another poor question") and so on.

It's a dichotomy to me, and I don't have any smart answers. The only thought that springs to mind is let the community do what it does and the stack to cleanse itself but this seems trite.

My motivation is in trying to establish if making allowances for age should be part of our DNA.

Should we (I) just let the system do it's thing?

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    $\begingroup$ 14 yrs old, and I do feel I am asking a lot of questions, one pops in my head, and I ask it without really researching it. $\endgroup$ – anonymous Oct 5 '16 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ @anonymous And that's cool, but....If you focus on learning what a good question is and how to ask it, I assure you that your standing on this site, your own education and learning and the rest of your life will all benefit. Age 0-10. Learn by imitation; 10-15. Learn by repetition; 17 onwards. Learn how to learn. $\endgroup$ – Simon Oct 5 '16 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ @anonymous Trust me, we are all happy to see you having an interest in aviation! :) The main thing we want to do is make sure you are able to get the most out of this site so you can learn everything you want to learn. We were all young once, we remember what it's like to be new (I'm still new at a lot of things...trust me, I empathize). We can help you out some (and answer some simple questions in expansive detail) if you can jump on chat with us: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/12036/the-hangar $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Oct 6 '16 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ @anonymous: We are all trying to find a way to work, asking questions is good, don't stop! There is no pressure on you. How to ask them will come naturally, you're are already chatting to understand how to speed this up... cannot be better. I hope you will also be the one who answer other questions in a few months. You're welcome here! $\endgroup$ – mins Oct 6 '16 at 12:24
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know why but the chat isn't working at the moment, but I will try again later (the chat just doesn't load) and if it works I'll chat. $\endgroup$ – anonymous Oct 6 '16 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ is my newest question OK aviation.stackexchange.com/q/32157/16812 $\endgroup$ – anonymous Oct 7 '16 at 10:07
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    $\begingroup$ @anonymous Please remember that, every time you ask a question, you're effectively saying "Could you please spend ten or fifteen minutes working for me?" Before you ask somebody to do that for you, you should first check whether you actually need them to do anything at all. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Oct 7 '16 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ Has anybody noticed how great the user has developed since? I like that. If he keeps the pace, he can catch up with Peter Kämpf in only ~22 years. (As opposed to the 55 yrs I would need.) $\endgroup$ – PerlDuck Feb 12 '17 at 11:59

With the exception of the network-wide policy on age which is a result of US law I'm generally not in favor of "making allowances" – questions and answers are either "good" (meeting our standards) or "not good" (failing to meet our standards). They should be upvoted, downvoted, closed, or deleted accordingly.
Vote your conscience in this regard - you will not wind up electing an octopus to the presidency.

We can fix some problems through editing or inviting the user into chat for extended discussions (which are often a more effective way of exploring their curiosity than a bunch of hastily-written questions on the main site).

Users with chronically poor questions/answers may get a polite note from a moderator pointing them to the site's help pages (which we can discuss expanding) and examples of good questions as guidance, but ultimately there is a certain expectation of effort and quality on the site, and if someone isn't meeting that I'm not going to be horribly upset if they storm off in a huff because they perceive those expectations as "mean" or "rude".

This approach serves the greatest number of users: It helps those asking questions (if they're willing to do a little work themselves to make sure they ask good questions), and it ensures that the content on the main site is of a high enough quality to attract more advanced users and experts to answer the more detailed questions we get.

In this particular case the user in question has asked a good number of questions (26 to date), and the 8 most recent ones have been poorly received (negative vote totals), and at least one is face-palmingly first-Google-result lazy (IMHO we should not be used as a substitute for Google: An answer should be more than "It's this. They say so here." - It should include explanation and additional relevant information).

This may or may not represent a troubling trend: If the user continues to ask poorly-received questions it will likely trip the automatic "Multiple closed questions" flag at which point moderators may step in and explain why the questions are being closed and encourage more legwork before asking.

  • $\begingroup$ I can't disagree with a thing you've said but.....what about "from small acorns, great oaks grow?" Personally, I'd love to help anonymous grow. I believe that positive role models of behaviours benefit us all - and in ways far wider than this little hobby. $\endgroup$ – Simon Oct 5 '16 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ @Simon Pine trees require a fire in order to grow :-) Seriously though, I'm all for nurturing people along, but there's a fine line between that and coddling them to the detriment of others (in our case, the site at large). At some point the baby bird needs to be pushed out of the nest - or politely reminded that they mentioned a website in their question that contains the answer they're purportedly searching for. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Oct 5 '16 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ Good point, well presented. $\endgroup$ – Simon Oct 5 '16 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ Soooo....basically the same thing as what I said only more cynical. "We shouldn't lower our standards, if people are below the standards, we should encourage them to rise to the challenge." I'm just being nicer about it ;). $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Oct 7 '16 at 18:44

We had another young user a while back who was doing something fairly similar (his user name escapes me for some reason.) I actually invited him to a chat and we went over, at great length, things that he could do to improve the quality of his questions. We had several of these sessions (if memory serves). It took a little bit of work, but after some time, the quality of questions started to rise.

In all honesty, I think it's the only thing that really can be done.

Why? Well....I do believe we should always be welcoming to newcomers and we should always give the benefit of the doubt to anyone who asks an "obvious" question (I said so on Anonymous's latest question). But, I also realize that, this being Stack Exchange, people are kind of trained to downvote poor questions without really putting a lot of thought into it. I don't agree with it, but it's a hard behavior to train out of the community. Sometimes you just have to accept a situation for what it is, you know?

So, in my experience, trying to pull them aside and help them one on one is the best way to get them up to speed. Getting them to a point where they fit in is (in some, non cultural/political cases) often the best approach simply because it's easier to change one person than to force change on a large (already very functional) community.

But that's just my two cents...

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    $\begingroup$ I think his name was Ethan? $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Oct 5 '16 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ I like this. Maybe we need a community "shared consciousness" of getting ab initio users to first solo ;) And yes, it was Ethan. $\endgroup$ – Simon Oct 5 '16 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ Yeessss, @Pondlife, that's who it was. I kind of miss him now, he hasn't been around in a while... $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Oct 5 '16 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon I think linking them to chat would be useful for some of this (so useful that I'm going to go ahead and do it.) $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Oct 5 '16 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ shortstheory was another young student interested in aviation. $\endgroup$ – Farhan Oct 6 '16 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ @Farhan I actually hadn't known that. I bet there are a lot more teens around here than we realize, honestly. It's not like we all have our age easily on display... Except Terry, who has a picture of himself as his user picture. $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Oct 6 '16 at 13:53

Helpful is better

As the grumpy old man who may be the catalyst for this, I admit to carrying over some of my SE "feel" from a couple of other sites where we have some trouble with poor questions (Christianity.SE) and a lot of meta discussion on trying to find the balance between getting new users to adapt to our norms and finding folks who just won't adapt.

In this case, I did not look at the profile. (Oops, the tool is provided for a reason! RTFM, Korvin!) That's a good thing to do.

I perhaps over reacted, and should consider using the mode I tried to use at RPG.SE: try and get new participants to take the tour and get a feel for how SE / Q&A sites are indeed different from forums and chat rooms, etc.

It's worth the effort to not, as I noted during one RPG.SE meta discussion, promote what can be seen as latent hostility perceived by new users on some SEs within the standard SE format. (The origin of SE is in the low social skills (stereotype) sub culture of computer programmers). Each community establishes its norms to get the right feel, and I think I overstepped my bounds as a fairly new participant on this SE. (Hmm, may need to re fly that check ride).

Mea Culpa.

  • $\begingroup$ My question (and it's target) was in no way aimed at specific users. Indeed, in frustration, I even DVed (and that's rare for me) and have since retracted, chastised myself, and opened this discussion. In the true community spirit, communitas culpa. $\endgroup$ – Simon Oct 5 '16 at 20:30
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I could have phrased it in a more inviting way and made similar comments to what you did in your comment, but instead chose "grump old man mode' which is nobody's fault but mine. (Hmm, that wasn't a bad Zepplin tune, I guess my penance is having to sing that on the way home ...) $\endgroup$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 5 '16 at 20:33
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think you're being a problem, honest to goodness. We have some diverse opinions on how this site ought to be run and that is a fantastic thing. Honestly the whole situation has spurred us all on to action, and that's, also, a fantastic thing. So don't worry about it one bit, just keep being a good community member (like you are) and move forward. $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Oct 5 '16 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ PS: I was going to invite Anonymous to our chat to see if we can give 'em some guidance. If you want to be involved (or you just want to go to chat because we're all cool people), here's the link: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/12036/the-hangar $\endgroup$ – Jay Carr Oct 5 '16 at 20:37

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