I refer to this question: How can I acquire practical outdoor skills?

It is not a clear question; the guy is a beginner. Can we help him clarify his question and maybe point him in the right direction? Can we draw on our own experience to use imagination to figure out what he does not yet know he knows/wants/doesn't know? Can we (we as a country, not just we as a site) afford to turn away 20-year olds who are interested in the outdoors and presumably the environment? He has the right attitude and shows willingness to learn:

Sorry guys for my bad question. I am a complete noob who has no idea about any of this stuff


2 Answers 2


My answer to you is absolutely yes, we must do everything in our power to help beginners; and no, we can't afford to turn them away! As you said, this specific OP really wants to learn, as many people do.

In general I think we do a good job here. People like you and many others are so kind, and definitely go out of their way to help beginners. On the other hand, some people are trigger-happy and comments which are snarky or even an attempt to be funny, pop up very fast. It's easy to get frustrated, but we need to be very careful before hitting send on a comment! With new users, it's even more important. (We have lots of comment strings all over the site that no-one should have to read, especially new people, but that's a subject for a different post!)

You've been working really hard with that OP, which I really appreciate. I'm hoping being on-hold will bring some attention and others will come along and help him get it off-hold. Even if not, you put a helpful answer on it, and the OP has experienced your kindness.

(I also saw you do a huge edit for someone who isn't new, but needed help wording a question in order to keep it easier to understand. That was awesome!)

Since your point is specifically about new users, I want to share my own initiation to the world of SE. My apologies to all for taking up so much space. Feel free to fall asleep!

First experience:
I love instructions, so I spent a long time wandering around the Help Center before doing anything, but still my first experience was a disaster!

My first post was an answer, on a different site, obviously. It was a site like ours, not a scientific one, so I answered with a few paragraphs about my own experience, and gave some advice. I got the standard impersonal message-in-a-box saying I needed to add reference links. That was no problem but I didn't know how. I went to the Help Center and learned how to post a link. I found three good references but, as a newbie with no upvotes, I didn't have enough rep to post them all, so it didn't work. I finally got two links in. Next came another message-in-a-box saying I needed to quote from those links. I didn't know how to do that either. Back to the Help Center I went and learned how to do quotes, but by then my answer was gone. No one had left a message or offered to help. It didn't even go through the closure process, it was just deleted. Obviously the mods knew what they were doing, but I see a lot of answers like that which at least go through the process. I felt like I had done something awful (sensitive, who me?) and never went back to that site.

Second experience:
I was ready to give up on SE but found Gardening and Landscaping and really wanted to participate, so I posted a question. I got asked very nicely in a comment to add some more information. I put the information in as an answer instead of an edit. The next comment I got was from @J.Musser (sorry to call you out J, but must give credit where it's due) explaining what happened. He put the answer text into the question, got rid of the answer, and left me a note saying it happens to a lot of people and I shouldn't feel bad! (I had also posted once as an unregistered user, then registered and posted again. J. caught that too and helped merge the accounts!)

Before I even had enough rep he invited me into the chat room, became my mentor, and taught me literally everything I know about SE. As I said, I love instructions, but ours are really difficult, so I just kept going back to J. with more things I couldn't figure out. Then people like @Niall C, a moderator, started helping me in the chat room, as well as other people. With each privilege earned, I annoyed them with questions about how to properly use it. They never gave up on me or even once made me feel bad. I'm not a big or important contributor, that's just the way they do things.

The difference between the two experiences is exactly what you're saying. We must follow the example of my second experience.

I must add that many of us do, hence my participation here. Otherwise I'd have been long gone. Even though I wasn't new to SE, I was new here not too long ago. I've been treated so kindly, even when I've tried to expand the scope; been contentious; or generally annoyed people who've been around here since the beginning. Every time I feel scared to stay, someone says or does something nice for me, especially you, and I feel like my meager contributions mean something. Nobody owes me that, but it makes all the difference. I feel fortunate and blessed to be here.

I hope nobody sees this as a criticism. I'm not saying we don't help, just agreeing with you how important it is. These meta discussions can help us step up our game, which is always worth it.

Today's newbies are tomorrow's helpers. We owe it to them to work with them as hard as we can.


Extracurricular to helping new users, I agree, but you should not have a [beginner] tag to describe the contents of this site.

See Tag naming conventions

Tags are supposed to describe what the question is about, and using tags to describe other aspects of the question (like who is asking the question and *why) are explicitly discouraged.

See The Death of Meta Tags.

  • 1
    the beginner tag is for being new to hiking or sailing or whatever. You can be new to SE and not be a beginner; you can be a longtime seasoned SE user and be a beginner at one sport but an instructor in another. I'm not a beginner at canoe camping but I sure would be at rock-climbing. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 20:36
  • 1
    @KateGregory Informing readers that the author is a beginner is not the purpose tags. If that information is relevant, the author should describe their experience in the body of the post. Tags like [hard], [easy], [expert], [urgent], [homework], [subjective], [help-needed] and [ms-beasleys-class] (← yes, we've had stuff like that) often fulfill the labeling reqirement, but they fail to describe the subject of the post at all. Meta tags also get out of hand as users invent new axes along which to label their stuff, so meta commentary is not a use case for which tags were designed. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 20:53
  • Robert Cartaino, I was wondering about that tag, although I could see what @Kate Gregory meant once I looked at the questions. Thanks for clarifying that it's not really appropriate, and was specifically named in the post you linked to. Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 21:36

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