I was initially going to post this as an answer to Why do certain commenters take a rude tone with new users?, but I think there's a bigger problem here that requires more discussion.
Let's ignore the fact that the answer to that question was out-of-scope for a moment. That's the root cause of what was ultimately a justified action, but it's not the answer to what OP said, and after spending a small but significant amount of time reviewing, I'm noticing some patterns over and over again that jibe with their complaint.
The general pattern: SU has a problem with newbie biting.
This pattern includes, in my experience:
- Curt, unhelpful, unkind comments left by reviewers in general
- Long-time high-rep users being unfriendly/unkind enough to warrant having their comments flagged off
- Questions being closed without so much as a perfunctory or even Pro-forma "here's what you did wrong" commentary
- Widespread misuse of two specific closure votes:
- "Needs details or clarity" when the question is detailed enough on its own to be answered, and sometimes, already was answered and accepted
- "Needs focus" when only one question is was asked, and the user is speculating about possible solutions in the question (or in some cases, just giving further info!)
- Pile-on downvoting in meta
- General stinginess with upvoting on main (even when the questions "show research effort, are useful, and clear," as the tooltip on the button says.)
- VTCs for things where downvotes are more appropriate
Two things this post is not:
First, this is not a callout post. I have two or three specific people in mind with some of the issues I mentioned above, but the thrust of this post is the site's general atmosphere rather than the conduct of those people. If you think I'm talking about you, I probably am, but I don't want to litigate that here and turn what is supposed to be gentle ask to consider the guy on the other side of the keyboard into a public drama fire. I am not asking you to account for your actions, I am not slagging you off. I am asking you to reflect, nothing more.
Second, this post is not an attempt to relitigate specific review votes in specific circumstances. Everyone has their reasons for voting the way they do, and I sincerely do not think anyone who's been here long enough to obtain tens of thousands of points is some mustachioed cartoon villain or BOFH expy who's out to make people miserable on purpose.
What this post is, is me imploring reviewers to consider their actions before taking them, not just on the quality of the site, but also on the people you will impact by those actions. And I don't just mean by your votes; I mean how you communicate their consequences. I would gently ask that you consider the following:
Many users don't know what they don't know
If you have a high rep here, that indicates you are highly knowledgeable in a few technical aspects. Lots of the questioners coming in don't have that same knowledge and don't even know how to ask the "right" question yet because they're missing some vital piece of terminology or understanding of the subject matter.
Nothing about SU indicates that it's for experts only. That is because it isn't. The audience and average user not being experts mean that they will come along with objectively stupid questions that any familiarity with the subject matter would answer. But we don't, and shouldn't, require that familiarity in the first place. People do come here at the ends of their ropes, meaning they don't know where else to go. Often in that many words - and yet we nuke their questions with the "clarity" reason because they "didn't show research effort".
With all due respect, what research effort would you have them expend? Their post already indicated they don't know where to go!
Is it more useful, to SU, to them, and to the people who may encounter the question in the future, to comment asking for clarity and edit once that clarity is received, or immediately write off the question as unsalvageable and silently VTC it? If that clarity never comes, meaning the question is non-useful, by all means, you should VTC it, with the full knowledge that ROV is a black hole (more often than not, no amount of editing will get a question out of there, especially for the more subjective close reasons. Anything that's marked [closed] can be considered the site's trash bin.)
I want you to think about whether the "clarity" is actually lacking. I find that it's obvious, more often than not, what is being asked. If it's not blindingly obvious, but it's there, that's an explicitly stated purpose of the edit button. If it's an XY question, why not ask if their goal is X?
Closing a question is a hostile action regardless of intention
...in that, it will be received as such. Every criticism of the Stack* network you find online includes the willingness of reviewers to take adverse action on otherwise reasonable, useful questions at the drop of a hat.
That pisses people off. There's no way it can't piss people off. They were not attacked, but they don't know it yet. Not unless they have spent enough time on the site to get their head around some of the more unintuitive aspects, because:
The rep requirements have pathological downsides that are guaranteed to result in users doing things they're not supposed to do
...and resulting in annoyance for all parties concerned.
Let's consider the case of a random Google user who encountered a useful answer here. They find a well-written question, a solution that completely solves their problem. What will their first instinct be? Thank the person who made it! "I'm gonna go create an account and give this guy kudos. This was awesome!"
And so we have JaneNewbie.. 1 point, no badges.
So what do they do? First, they try to upvote the answer, question, or both. Blocked. Angry red popup box. She doesn't get that ability until 15.
Jane thinks, "Okay, votes must be serious here. Maybe I can just say 'thanks' in a comment"? Blocked. She can't comment until 50 (and she shouldn't use comments for that anyway, but she doesn't know that yet).
The only avenue left to her is the answer box, which she uses because she doesn't know better yet. It looks like any other input box and fulfills the immediate goal of letting her communicate.
If she comes back later, she sees that her well-intentioned attempt to thank someone who helped her with some great content has wound up with an unappreciative flag on the account and possibly some restrictions depending on how many -1s they got piled on.
Now she's annoyed. If incredibly persistent or annoyed, she might wind up on meta and ask what I call the "y u do dis" special. The tone of this post will be upset. They will say unkind things. They will accuse the reviewers of being thoughtless jerks, or worse. Said question will be invariably bombarded with downvotes (likely with some rude comments added that barely qualify as nice enough not to be flag-bait) and closed as a duplicate because this pattern is hardly new.
JaneNewbie closes her tab, leaving SU, likely never to return, soured on the whole experience. If asked, she will refer to SU as an unfriendly bunch of elitists who got unreasonably mad at her when all he wanted to do was thank a guy who helped her out.
Jane is annoyed because this entire process was a waste of her time.
The reviewers and longtime members are annoyed because another clueless newb didn't read the tour and didn't get it.
This entire pattern is harmful. It could also be short-circuited in a few ways.
- Some of the basic expectations could be made more apparent upfront. Not in a "this is how the site works" way like the tour does, but in a "don't make this handful of common mistakes" way before the newbie takes their first action.
- The upvote requirement could be lowered to 1. Failing that:
- The person who reviews Jane's bogus answer still needs to flag it for not being an answer, but they could add a gentle comment (one comment, these shouldn't be piled on by five different people) about why they're doing what they're doing. Failing that:
- When the user winds up in meta, they could not be bombarded with downvotes (anyone who uses a site with a karma system can tell you that being downvoted is unpleasant, regardless of the site's justification for those votes). Failing that:
- They could be explained to, patiently, how the site works.
Any of these steps taken alone could very potentially turn 1 point JaneNewbie into 10K point Jane months to years down the line. Or, at the very least, they won't go on to turn other users off the site because their very first interaction with it was filled with unfriendliness.
You'll note that at no point here did I talk about Jane's behavior. First off, Jane is a newbie. She's ranting on meta because she feels attacked and doesn't know any better yet. You, on the other hand, replying to her post, probably do know better. What's your excuse?
If you've been in tech long enough to back up your rep, you already know the golden rule: Users don't read docs. Users will take context clues, they can be guided, but most of them will never touch the tour. The tour is tl;dr. JaneNewbie will do stupid things out of ignorance, and expecting her (or most users) to understand how the site works in whole before using it is simply not realistic. People with experience in technology and psychology that outmatches that of every person that will read this post combined have been trying to do so for years.
SU is not going to be the final bastion that finally gets users to RTFM. We can either rage against it or we can accept that users will do stupid things out of ignorance and dealt with it in the most effective way possible for all involved.
Nothing about what I've asked here requires compromising SU's quality
I'm certainly not asking you to flag crap less or vote in ways contrary to the guidelines. The guidelines are reliable, and their precise application has led to this and the rest of the SE network being a fantastic resource.
But it does require effort. It takes more effort to be friendly and helpful than it does to be unfriendly and unhelpful.
It also takes more time, but SU isn't that busy compared to some of the other sites on the network. Most of the queues are either at zero or in the single digits more often than not. I don't think that there is some time pressure that requires you to blast through your 20 reviews/queue/day in a big hurry, and I think you agree.
The common refrain on meta here and on other Stack* metas is that people don't want to waste their time, not with clueless noobs, not with "help vampires," not with whatever.
To that end, my final ask:
Why are you here?
If you're not a paid employee of SE, and you've got tons of rep... why are you here? Why did you spend hours researching and crafting answers to questions, reviewing and editing questions and answers and so forth?
It's probably because you wanted to help people. At the end of the day, you are providing a service.
All of these things I just got done complaining about? They represent failures to help people. Is it genuinely going to take you that much more time to write a thoughtful comment when someone screws up rather than smacking that "close" button and moving on to the next review out of your 20? Is it really worth forever turning off someone because you were afraid you were going to spend effort being nice to someone who might not reciprocate?
This is all words on a screen at the end of the day. The time expenditure on being nice is minimal, and it pays dividends.
I want to help people more. That's why I'm writing this.
I hope you do too.
Concrete takeaways (tl;dr)
"Well, that was all very touchy-feely and nice, but what are you asking?"
- Vote up more, in general. Votes on main SU are for usefulness, not exceptionality. There are a lot of good questions and answers out there that don't deserve the 0 scores they have, and comparatively few crap questions and answers that have an unjustifiably high score.
- Consider whether your VTC shouldn't be a downvote instead.
- Remember that a VTC effectively means "I think this is such crap that it should go away." It is "delete" with extra steps.
- Consider whether something that already has one downvote needs four more.
- Explain your work when you VTC things. Any first VTC without a comment is probably unhelpful in most cases. You are going to tick people off, necessarily. Nobody likes being told they screwed up... but you can and should soften the blow.
- That goes double if you're a moderator and your "votes" are binding. The automatic header that comes up when you close something lacks critical context. It often fails to explain "why". Write a comment.
- Consider whether an auto-message is the most appropriate way to inform someone they screwed up. Auto-messages are factual, but they are officious, not friendly.
- If a newbie disagrees with you on some aspect of site policy, consider that it's out of ignorance first and not out of malice or because they don't like you.
tl;dr for the tl;dr:
For the love of $deity, be more friendly to the users. It won't hurt you at all, and it won't break the site in the least.