The recent initiative at Stack Overflow highlights that community's concern over their own conduct towards new users. They admit that their environment has developed (over time) a hostile and elitist attitude and they have stated that they wish to correct it.

They point to the fundamental requirement of Stack Exchange "Be Nice".

Recently, I have noticed a shift in attitude on BH, which may just be my own personal impression. But it may be real.

One particular I wish to comment on is the downvoting of new users without a welcome when they launch out to ask their first question. I really cannot see the point of this. I do not think it achieves anything at all.

Down-voting should not be viewed as some sort of punishment to be meted out to people who are on a learning curve. Or, at least, that is my own attitude.

  • 1
    I think this is in the spirit of the best received "new user" Q&As on BH.Meta. My personal policy would be to instruct/advise a new user first; DVs are reserved for persistent offenders who ought to know better -- in my personal practice, that is. ;)
    – Dɑvïd
    Apr 29, 2018 at 22:37
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    @Dɑvïd I think this post from your best received "new user" Q&As -- the second-most upvoted -- speaks volumes in regard to the entrenched nature of the problem here at BH.SE.
    – enegue
    May 1, 2018 at 11:08
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    @enegue Speaking of speaking volumes, I can't believe there's not one down vote on a post calling for more down votes. :)
    – Soldarnal
    May 2, 2018 at 17:28
  • @Soldarnal Well, I'm not going to DV. Dan is free to express his opinion whether I agree with him or not. Are you suggesting that people should DV posts that express a point of view they disagree with?
    – enegue
    May 2, 2018 at 21:55

4 Answers 4


On downvoting: if someone has spent obvious time and effort on a post but has misunderstood the purpose of this site, I normally wouldn't downvote them.

If however they've written a one sentence question, or something riddled with typos, or something that barely makes sense, it is still appropriate and helpful to downvote the question. Reality is that this is a serious academic oriented site, not somewhere for lazy barely defined questions, or for people who can't be bothered to use their browser's built in spell checker. A site that doesn't appear to care about quality of posts will turn off many potential users with the expertise we desire. Downvoting will also I believe help the SE vacuum cleaner bot to clean up (delete) the question quicker. That said, we don't need to pile on the downvotes, and unless it's actively offensive voting it below -3 would be excessive.

  • DVs interfere with the interest being shown in a post. For example, an answer with 3 UVs and 3 DVs looks the same as other answers that have attracted no interest at all. If some members of the community can't live without a DV to use, then change the way the scores are displayed. Using the example above, since a DV for an answer is worth -2, and a UV is worth 5, then the score for the answer should be 9, not 0 (as is currently the case).
    – enegue
    May 3, 2018 at 7:19
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    @enegue No, they do not interfere. The vote counter shows an aggregate count specifically because that's the way votes are supposed to work. And the vote count is not supposed to match reputation point system, they serve different purposes and are weighted differently.
    – Caleb
    May 9, 2018 at 11:44

I haven't been on this site for very long, but right from the start I noticed how swiftly some questions were put on hold, or worse, and that it was mainly new questioners who got this treatment. Some objections struck me as being pedantic. It was almost as if the objectors were trying to make themselves shine at the expense of making the inexperienced new-comers look like dullards. Well, that's how it appeared to me.

Granted there is a difference between questions asked that have ulterior motives (to promote a particular stance or group) and ones showing a simple desire to get more information on a point. Given that fact, the sincere asker should be encouraged and not slapped down for not conforming to the site's high standards. The person with ulterior motives, on the other hand, should be swiftly exposed for that, and this site should not permit questions that are actually being used as a platform to present a particular view/belief. Such questions are often convoluted and couched in learned language and seem to pass muster without criticism. That is disappointing.

As a consequence I have barely asked any questions at all. It is hardly worth the bother that results. But I have no hesitation down-voting questions that betray the ulterior motive I mention. My answer to your question is that new users should be shown every kindness and encouragement if their question shows sincerity. It is not academic competence that matters nearly as much as that.


Yes, these initiatives are absolutely worth considering

Some of the things said in Jay Hanlon's post are absolutely fair criticisms of BH.SE:

We trained users to tell other users what they're doing wrong, but we didn't provide new folks with the necessary guidance to do it right. We failed to give our regular users decent tools to review content and easily find what they're looking for. We sent mixed messages over the years about whether we're a site for "experts" or for anyone who codes."

It’s built on mechanics and norms that push people away if they don’t know the ins-and-outs. Too often, someone comes here to ask a question, only to be told that they did it wrong. They get snarky or condescending comments for ... [the way they ask]. They get an answer… but the answerer gets scolded for “encouraging ‘low-quality’ questions.” They get downvoted, but don’t know why, or called lazy for not speaking English fluently. Or sometimes, everything actually goes well, and they get an answer! So they thank the poster… only to be told that on Stack Overflow, “please” and “thank you” are considered noise. All these experiences add up to making Stack Overflow a very unwelcoming place for far too many.

I might argue that BH.SE does a better job telling other users what they're doing wrong than other sites with our "Welcome" message. But in my opinion, the "Welcome" message does a good job telling new users what not to do, but does a poor job telling users what to do. I think the biggest reason for this is probably the character limit however. But undoubtedly, this community suffers from these probelms. We have particularly had an issue being inclusive of Jewish Exegetes in the past.

So let's consider...

Unfortunately, Jay's post is short on plans (at this time) to combat these issues. And furthermore, what little is there doesn't really help this community. Breaking questions into:

  • “What did you want to happen?”
  • “What actually happened? (Include any error details)”
  • “Paste the shortest block of code that reproduces the problem. (We’ll format it!)”
  • “Describe what you’ve tried so far (including searches, etc.)”

Simply isn't going to help BH.SE or work for our format.

So, my question here is, we can consider these things, but how is SE going to change the format, the tour, the feedback system, moderatorship, etc. to make these desired goals part of the fundamental DNA of the site? As it stands now, they are just asking us to do this and make it part of our workflow when community moderating. I question whether that will be enough. I don't think anyone here intends to be a jerk now. So without some changes to the function of the site, I'm not sure anything can really change.


I've just read the Stack Overflow Initiative and I think it's excellent. One of the reasons I left the Yahoo Religion & Spirituality site (after being a top contributor for over 10 years) and came to Christianity Stack, was because of all the downvoting, the negative comments and outright hostility towards people with religious convictions and faith.

I have found it difficult to have questions accepted on Christianity Stack. It's only because some of the moderators left useful suggestions and links to helpful articles that I persisted. It's far more difficult to ask good questions than it is to give answers!

I'm still finding my way round and sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information that's available. For example, I'd never heard of Biblical Hermenutics Meta till a friend gave me the link to this question.

However, I'm not a moderator and I can see how this initiative might fail if it depends entirely on people volunteering to help. But it's a good starting point and, if there is a will, perhaps a way can be found. One thing everybody can do, though, is to be NICE to folks, especially those who are new.

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