Primarily it's important to be polite. This includes all of the following:
- Don't be rude
- Don't call them stupid or anything similar
- Avoid saying "this question sucks"
- Don't assume they (a new user) should have "known better"
- Explain why it is off-topic
- Suggest changes, or do them yourself, if possible
- Provide a link to a relevant FAQ or meta discussion
Personally, I try to do all of these when possible. Sometimes this is difficult because we haven't even had a FAQ until today (sort of), and our meta traffic is rather low so there may not be a relevant topic.
I think we could use a lot more discussion on meta regarding how to ask questions here so that we can provide a helpful link without having to type a small essay every time we close a question. I'm considering seeding meta with some topics on this.
Readers: Please comment on what you think would be more helpful:
- A single CW discussion covering in-depth what types of questions are good/bad/on/off-topic
- A series of individual discussions covering specific question "types" - these could be tagged with
[asking-questions] or something similar.
I'd like to have a way to provide links to virtually every potential type question that gets asked. The single discussion is convenient, but might be too wall-of-text overwhelming. The second option would be more targetted, but is more maintenance. We could still provide the user with the tag link as a way to "read more" bout other questions.
I have a few things to say regarding how a user reacts to having their post closed. Getting frustrated and/or confused when your first question is closed is completely understandable. Closing admittedly does tend to have a negative connotation, and can feel like a personal attack. However, if comments are left, and the tone is polite there really is no reason to get bent out of shape. How a user handles their frustration is not under our control, and outside of being polite and helpful, we have very little influence on it as well.
There are several users who have had their initial questions closed that simply took it in stride. Take mfg for example. His initial question was closed, but he has gone on to become a productive member of the community, and hasn't asked another "what is your favorite ..." question since.
Then there are users who get completely bent out of shape when their question is closed. They react strongly, and lash out at the closer(s), or the community as a whole. This type of reaction is just not helpful. It is anti-social, inflammatory, and detrimental to the community. Of course we should remain polite and helpful when addressing these types of reactions, and a normal, social, rational person should end up feeling in one of two ways:
- They understand why the post was closed, and see why it was off-topic, and completely agree.
- They disagree that it should have been off-topic, but "agree to disagree". They adhere to the rules of the community.
An anti-social, irrational user will do one of two things:
- Raise hell (flame, troll, etc.), and continue to raise hell lashing out at everything in sight.
Should we worry about these users? Absolutely not. These users would have reacted the same way no matter how polite and helpful we are in closing. There is a line between being polite and obsequious. I don't cross it. They simply aren't welcome here. If someone cannot handle polite, constructive criticism like an adult, go away. We don't have a shortage of users here. We don't have a shortage of good, quality questions being asked and answered. I'm confident that this site will continue to grow, and continue to attract additional polite, social users.