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We've had a few questions recently by new users which were well-formed questions that just weren't good matches for our main site. That's understandable, since the askers are often not familiar with how our site works, and we have some rules as to what sorts of questions are allowed that might be stricter from different sites. For instance, we don't allow recommendation questions and our policy on questions asking for lists is fairly complicated.

Recently, people have been downvoting these questions. An example* is https://anime.stackexchange.com/questions/2645/im-looking-for-a-list-of-humorous-anime-similar-to-oruchuban-ebichu. This is a well-written question which is interesting, but doesn't meet our site criteria. So it should be closed. But downvoting in this case will only drive away a new user who could probably productively contribute to our community. It's currently at -4, though I'm contemplating upvoting it just because I don't agree this question should be at -4.

A downvote essentially conveys the message "you should have asked a better question," but the only way the user could know that question was bad is if they had read some obscure meta thread with only about 100 views. Practically speaking, a meta post with 100 views has only been seen by at most 21% of our current registered users. Expecting new users to read every meta thread just to ask one question is ridiculous, especially since many of them don't even know we have a meta site.

When the asker makes these sorts of honest mistakes, you should leave a comment explaining (nicely) why the question isn't a good match for our site (referencing the relevant meta posts), and direct them to chat where such questions are welcome. If there is already such a comment, upvote it. If you can vote to close, then do so.

But if the only way the user could know that the question wasn't allowed is to be an active user here (and they aren't) then don't downvote it. New users will see this as an attack on themselves and will be unlikely to return, and we aren't anywhere near the size that we can afford to be turning away interested new users.

There are cases when a new user's question is completely out of order. These are things like spam, "What's your favorite X?" questions, and questions which violate the Stack Exchange Terms of Service (e.g. posting pornographic images). In these cases it's acceptable to downvote, though you should still probably explain why in the latter two cases. But if the user has just misunderstood our site's particular policies, downvoting them is only more likely to convince them that they are being attacked, which will just make things worse.

tl;dr: Don't downvote new users who make understandable mistakes, but do point them to our policies so that they won't make the same mistakes again.

*: Yes, I'm aware that the OP in this case has been on our site since private beta, but he clearly isn't an avid user. For all intents and purposes he's basically a new user.

  • hear hear. Any chance to get the rest of SE to do that? lol – YetAnotherRandomUser Jan 30 '16 at 23:37
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I agree. Be gracious, be professional. Don't drive away users. Be patient towards them, explain their mistakes, refer them to the FAQ and /about page if necessary.

If you aren't sure, flag it for moderator attention and we'll handle it.

In general, don't be trigger happy with downvotes, prefer comments and communication.

Downvotes are reserved for posts which aren't helpful, badly formatted or aren't clear.

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    Don't bash the newbies. AYE. – Mindwin Feb 24 '14 at 15:42
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I thought about it some more, and I realise that it could be a culture we subconsciously carried over from StackOverflow. SO is categorized under Technology, while this SE site comes under recreation. For that reason, Anime.SE should not be all serious business like SO, and should be much more informal.

A question like How do I write a C program to add 2 and 3? would get heavily downvoted on SO, as it should be, but I think How old is Kakashi before timeskip? isn't quite equally bad, relatively speaking. People follow anime and manga for fun and entertainment, and not to pass some university test (not that I know of anyway).

In any case, prefer resolving any issues by posting comments and working with the OP. Not only does that create a positive atmosphere for new users, but also introduces the site policies to them in a non-confrontational way.

  • +1 for less of a stuck *** than SO. – Mindwin Feb 24 '14 at 15:42
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I'm actually the poster of the question under discussion here. While I may not post much on this particular network, I have been using the stack exchange networks for quite a while now and I do regularly browse these pages. The problem is, the anime network really doesn't work like the others do. The purpose of these networks is supposed to be to disseminate information on specific areas of interest of which this one is supposed to be about ANIME- Shock Horror. I'd like to assume that most people who frequent this forum or QnA or whatever you want to call it-enjoy anime. So, when a unique question comes in that facilitates knowledge of another aspect of anime it would be gladly welcomed. This doesn't seem to be the case and I feel that it is undermining what is potentially a good site.

My question mentioned above perhaps could have been written a little better, I wanted to know of anime that were of a similar genre to ebichu, but I used the word humor instead. My bad. Humor is subjective, genre isn't. Regardless, it was a question that I would have liked answered and it met the rules stipulated on this page.

This is a new network and it will have it's teething problems, but if it is to meet the high criteria set by the stackexchange network it really needs to have a clear purpose with rules that enforce the purpose of the site and users that know when to enforce them. Over-regulation will help no one.

  • I think another separate look at this question is warranted. I suspect there is a way to make it into one that is allowable. That should probably go in its own meta post, as that isn't what this discussion is about. As you say, we're having some trouble applying the rules universally and consistently, and they probably should be changed and/or simplified. I'll bring up the issue at the next chat event, but you're free to make a meta post about it sooner. – Logan M Feb 24 '13 at 23:43
  • I opened a meta post to discuss this question, and see if/how it could be reopened. Please feel free to join the discussion. – Masked Man Feb 25 '13 at 5:15

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