This isn't a new issue as far as I have noticed from seeing the older posts regarding this:
Even a rant was made about this by an angry new user:
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?:
Does it look like a few ugly yellow rocks? Now take a look at this:
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:
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.
That's about it. Feel free to downvote if necessary. Leave a few comments if you have certain issues.