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This isn't a new issue as far as I have noticed from seeing the older posts regarding this:

Shouldn't we be a bit more welcoming to new askers/ posters?

We should have a Welcome post to link to when greeting new members!

Even a rant was made about this by an angry new user:

Can we please be friendlier at least in the beginning?

I personally feel we need to welcome new users to Chemistry SE, and have this community grow. I have been here for only 2 months and I'm already only seeing a few well known members are helping the community stay in shape and to continue functioning to answer questions. In my opinion: @airhuff, @Berry Holmes, @M.A.R, @Buttonwood, @paracetamol, @ron, @NotEvans, @Klaus Warzecha, @Zhe, @pentavalentcarbon, @Nilay Ghosh, @permeakra, @Melanie Shebel, @ringo and the Mods of course are the users I can think of who keep our site working smoothly.

However, we need to make this community grow. We need to welcome new users to contribute to the site as well. Unfortunately, we always tend to downvote and close new users question. This is expected, since new users do not know the rules yet (they may be in desperate need to get a question answered). However, there are a few golden words in the very Help Center we redirect the newbies to:

Don't expect new users to know all the rules — they don't. And be patient while they learn.

It's quite wrong on our part (myself included) to judge new users and close their questions because they haven't read the FAQ or the tour. But we need to encourage new users to keep participating.

Here's a nice analogy that I have decided to abide by:

What do you see when you look at this?:

enter image description here

Does it look like a few ugly yellow rocks? Now take a look at this:

enter image description here

The second picture looks like a real treat. The first picture symbolizes new users who are in their crude state, who need to be "processed" to become the gold bars, symbolizing experienced users. Considering the fact that we have been kind of "shooing away" new users, isn't it a stupid thing to do, throwing away a gold nugget?

We must accept the fact that new users are "new" and need our help getting to know how the site works. While links to the tour and help center are great, a person in desperate need wouldn't exactly go forward and read all the posts before asking a question here. We need to check out their questions and point out why such questions shouldn't be asked. I'm not saying we shouldn't flag them, we should definitely flag them, but we should also make it clear to them that posts put on hold has the incentive of improving the question, and not to get rid of it.

Often, new users have certain "issues" with being downvoted. I used to be a new user for a while, and trust me, downvotes to a question makes me feel embarrassed, humiliated, and inferior. I consider myself a reasonable person, so the above effects may be amplified in other new users' cases. Think about it, if you posted a question and get lots of downvoted (considering how downvotes are interpreted by newbies) would you consider even giving this site a second chance? Such users may hop off to Yahoo! Answers or post blogs about how StackExchange sucks. That's why I would suggest to refrain as much as possible to downvote new user posts. If there's anything wrong with their post, try your very best to help the user, by editing their post, or by guiding them gently on how to improve their post, making it clear that their posts will be downvoted if they do not abide by the rules. We should not damage their self-morale and lose hope in this site.


How do we welcome new users then?

I'm glad you asked! Or atleast, I'm glad I asked this to myself.

It's very much possible to encourage new users to stay on the site and to learn how to write quality questions and answers. A couple of ways are:

Reviewing First-Posts: In my opinion, most of the reviews to the First-Posts queue are done incorrectly. I myself used to "lazily" review the queues, marking them as No Action Needed. Realization dawned upon me and I realized how sorry I am for regarding those reviews so hastily. Now, I have come to the conclusion, the No Action Needed should NOT be used under any circumstances. Is it the fact that no action is needed to welcome a new user? I decided to drop a welcoming comment. I have begun to use a predefined template for a while, but do note that we should also keep the poster in consideration. The new user may seem pleased, but a generic message might tick them off. Do consider reading their posts, and offer constructive help. Compliment them if their posts are good, this would encourage them to keep participating and also lets them know what kind of behavior is expected from users. Here's a sample review of mine:

enter image description here

Follow their consecutive posts: Keep monitoring the new users for post improvement. Don't consider this a waste of your time, remember, almost every new user is a gold bar in disguise. While we need this site to grow, we can also establish ourselves a more friendlier QA site if this is followed. We need to guide them on where they seem to deviate from the question and/or answer policies. We should focus on improving them, just as we purify and process crude gold nuggets. Do we throw away nuggets because they're too "dirty" or because we're too lazy to clean them? New users are a similar case, expect a less obvious one.

Also remember that a welcoming message to a new user, a sign that you have helped them, can bring a sense of warmth and unconditional happiness in you, as well as the asker.


A few other ideas:

I have a few other ideas as well:

Creating a New User welcoming blog: We could redirect the new users towards a designed a welcoming blog. The blog should be highly friendly, welcoming, and also address certain newbie issues, like getting disappointed at downvotes and flags. This is infact an idea here.

Send an automatic comment: Possibly a Community♦ mediated post that automatically sends a welcoming comment.


Can we fix every new user?

Nope. We definitely cannot. But is that an excuse to stop attempting to? If you're mining for gold, you'll encounter countless useless rubble and a few imposters (like pyrite a.k.a Fool's Gold). But that shouldn't stop you from finding the gold. Likewise, just because the Internet is full of mindless idiots and trolls doesn't mean we shouldn't welcome a lone friendly internet guy.


Afterword:

That's about it. Feel free to downvote if necessary. Leave a few comments if you have certain issues.

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    $\begingroup$ I also suggest that people try to use a softer tone when new users don't know how to use the site. I admit it's sometimes tempting to respond with "Did you even bother to check the internet?" or the like, but that's pretty bad in terms of being welcoming. $\endgroup$ – Zhe Jun 6 '17 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Zhe true, but it is also extremely annoying to read question that could be easily answered with a quick google search. $\endgroup$ – Fl.pf. Jun 7 '17 at 7:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Fl.pf. but we shouldn't dish it out on users who are new here. They must be guided, we should let them know the community frowns upon such questions. Moreover, we should do what we do best, give answers. $\endgroup$ – Pritt Balagopal Jun 7 '17 at 7:26
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"We need more members"

Personally, I'm not sure this is necessarily true. What we need is good quality questions and good quality answers to accompany them.

StackExchange generally has quite a high attrition rate— people come here looking for an answer to a specific question they have, no matter how ‘nice’ or ‘friendly’ we are towards them, there is simply no reason for them to keep coming back (whether they get an answer or not is generally not too important).

There is, of course, the perennial issue of the ‘homework’ question. This has been discussed at length, and as many people have pointed out, we’ve never really reached a sensible consensus about this. The ‘can we be friendlier’ post linked to was written by a particularly… aggressive… user, and ultimately that had nothing to do with the community being ‘nasty’ but rather @SixyTrees just not wishing to engage himself with the stackexchange model of moderation.

That doesn’t mean to say we can’t be nice, I (and many others) often comment on bad homework posts inviting the user to [edit] their posts with clarification, it just often goes on deaf ears, and so the inevitability is that the question gets down voted and closed (though I still maintain that people who post these crappy questions are unlikely to ever fully engage and get involved with chem.se anyway…)

"We need more engagement”

What we actually need, IMHO, is more engagement of the active users we have (i.e. the people who actually keep visiting the site, voting, commenting, not to mention the housekeeping done by countless people in the background to keep things running smoothly).

The moderators here have done a lot to help this, through initiatives like the Bounty Dance, which offers bounties on good questions that need more attention (i.e. it uses the reputation of high-rep users to encourage others to answer questions). I also hope that synthesis golf might play a role in this also.

Through active engagement, we’ll end up with a site full of high quality Q&A, which is the best advertisement we could possibly have. If people visit, see good content and good discussion, they’re more likely to hang around than if they see a page full of [closed: homework], through this, we get new users who are genuinly interested in chemistry, not just temporary involvement to get the answer they need.



As a complete aside, I decided to do some digging around the data for questions and answers (I actually feel like things have slowed around here recently). I ran the following query:

-- Total Questions and Answers per Month for the last 12
-- Total number of questions and answers for the last 12 months (in 30 day chunks)

set nocount on 

create table #ranges (Id int identity, [start] datetime, [finish] datetime)

insert #ranges
select top 100 null, null
from sysobjects

declare @oldestPost dateTime

select @oldestPost = CreationDate from Posts 
where Id = (select max(p2.Id) from Posts p2)

-- look at 30 day chunks, so stats remain fairly accurate 
-- (month will depend on days per month)

update #ranges 
  set 
   [start] = DateAdd(d, (0 - Id) * 30, @oldestPost),
   [finish] = DateAdd(d, (1 - Id) * 30, @oldestPost)



select start, (select count(*) from Posts where ParentId is null 
   and CreationDate between [start] and [finish] ) as [Total Questions],
    (select count(*) from Posts where ParentId is not null 
   and CreationDate between [start] and [finish] ) as [Total Answers]
from #ranges

From the graph, you can see that the number of questions and answers has been steadily increasing since the inception of chem.SE, We're doing it, we're getting bigger!

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Agreed. One note: many of us are actively engaged in curating the site through extensive voting and reviewing (I am one of them), which is not a visible activity compared to commenting and so on. $\endgroup$ – Todd Minehardt Jun 6 '17 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddMinehardt, also agreed! Theres a lot going on in the background that sadly people don't get credit for. $\endgroup$ – NotEvans. Jun 6 '17 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ Regarding the last paragraph, I'd just add that posts with score $\lt -4$ (or $\le -4$, can't remember) get hidden from the front page. All the more reason to downvote stuff that you think shouldn't belong on SE... (or maybe even polish it...) $\endgroup$ – orthocresol Jun 7 '17 at 0:22
  • $\begingroup$ @NotEvans I believe you haven't quite read my post. I clearly explained why new users are important. While this site is good and all, don't we want it to become bigger and better? $\endgroup$ – Pritt Balagopal Jun 7 '17 at 3:00
  • $\begingroup$ @ToddMinehardt I mentioned in my post about reviewing first posts and voting as well. $\endgroup$ – Pritt Balagopal Jun 7 '17 at 3:11
  • $\begingroup$ @NotEvans you might as well keep reviewing the first posts in the background, but does the new user know that? They only respond to welcoming comments in their post. That's the incentive that keeps them here. $\endgroup$ – Pritt Balagopal Jun 7 '17 at 3:14
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    $\begingroup$ @PrittBalagopal.. My point was quality not quantity. More good Q&A here would be appreciated, more lazy high school homework, not so much $\endgroup$ – NotEvans. Jun 7 '17 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ @NotEvans I notice your edit. May I ask why tge total number of questions and answers seems to rather "fluctuate", rather that steadily rise? $\endgroup$ – Pritt Balagopal Jun 9 '17 at 5:24
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    $\begingroup$ @PrittBalagopal. Seasonal fluctuations, I suspect we get a lot of extra traffic during the US/UK exam periods, then over the summer and christmas breaks a slight dip. It's the overall trend thats important! $\endgroup$ – NotEvans. Jun 11 '17 at 15:45
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I must say I have to agree with your comments on downvoting. Posting a single question and receiving 7 downvotes in half an hour is bad, and the issue is that I want to improve. People are free to criticise my posts and such, feel free to leave a downvote, I always want feedback, however I feel a lot of users are too quick to downvote, but not to actually leave feedback on how to improve.

It's all well and good downvoting a post, but you're not stopping them making another poor-quality post, if anything you're increasing their likelihood of making more poor posts as they try different things to try and prevent downvotes. I feel that definitely helping users through commenting on their questions will help users improve far more than just downvoting their posts.

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