Quote Chris Charles:
1. Newbies are the potential future.
Agreed... and we're definitely not trying to discourage them -- quite the reverse, in fact.
2. Newbies are often nervous about looking foolish, dumb or ill-informed and can be reluctant to post questions in a more ‘high powered’ environment.
You first point is valid -- but rather than offering the rather patronising kindergarten 'newbies forum' we believe it is far better to make the forums as a whole more welcoming and more embracing, and to remove any notion of it being a hostile 'high-powered' environment. And I think we achieve exactly that each and every day here.
3. Typically, newbies won’t understand a fraction of the answers in the mainstream forums, or even the questions.
Possibly, but that will encourage them to learn -- and to ask if they don't understand. We would much rather that they participate in all the forums we have to offer where they will benefit from a broad range of help and guidance from a broad range of other forum users. There are plenty of examples of forum threads where the level of the answers has been tailored very well to the knowledge and requirements of the poster.
Initially, it’s an obvious place to lurk and read answers to questions at the level that they themselves would like to ask, or may soon be asking.
It might be an obvious place, but it would inherently exlude them from benefiting from the wide
range of discussions at all technical and ability levels that exist on the other forums -- and since most of our more experienced contributors didn't frequent the old newbies forum it would also exclude the potentially very valuable contibutions that would and do appear from them in the main forums.
2. An environment where it is not just permissible, but actually expected, that questions may be naive, poorly worded, regularly asked before
We don't have any problems with naive or popular questions appearing in any of the forums, or with questions from those for whom English isn't a first language. And anyone who reacts negatively to such posts will be appropriately reprimanded. As I stated earlier, our aim is to be as all-embacing and supportive as possible. Genuine questions will always get genuine and helpful answers, regardless of the knowledge and experience of the orignal poster -- everyone knows we all had to start somewhere!
...where posters can comfortably ask such questions without some patronising jerk putting them down or posting pathetic things like “Google is your friend” or “Use the search Engine”.
To be fair, we know our search engine isn't very good and responses like this were just as likely to appear in a dedicated newbies forum as anywhere else. However, minimising the number of active forums makes it easier for the mod team to spot and deal with inappropriate responses, and the greater traffic of experienced and supportive forum users will outweigh any such negative responses with more constructive ones anyway... which is exactly what we're seeing.
It's also the case that posting in the main forums focuses the mind and so newbies do tend to put in a little more effort and try a little harder to find solution to simple questions before asking in public. Our old dedicated newbie forum was full of lazy, trivial questions -- and sometimes being geninely supportive does mean telling someone to do some simple reasearch on their own first!
3. A place where other newbies have a chance to support each other and discuss things in their own ‘entry level’ fashion.
Which they can do perfectly well within any relevant thread in any forum...
4. A place where members with intermediate levels of experience and knowledge can begin to share and assist whilst they still remember what it was like to know bugger all.
I think we all remember that feeling... In my experience, the people who know the most are usually the first to offer constructive help and advice. The patronising and negative comments are usually from those who are barely out of newbie territority themselves and have moer interest in 'bigging themselves up'.
Learning from people who are just a bit further up the track than you are, and who are not yet experts, has proven to be a very powerful way to learn in many fields.
I disagree entirely -- it's usually the best way to learn the wrong things, because such 'mentors' often still don't understand the big picture and lack the experience to qualify what they think they know.
There are always going to be people who are irritated by seeing the same questions being asked by new posters.
Yes there are... but that's what moderation is for.
Giving the newbies their own place means that you don’t have to visit if helping newcomers isn’t your thing.
Equally, no one has to contribute to every thread in any of the forums we offer. Most Newbie threads are indeed titled as NEWBIE: -- which serves exactly the right purpose.
As I hope you can see, Chris, that we really do understand all your points and observations. This is something we discussed at considerable length when we started thinking about re-organising the forum structure, and all these arguments were raised then too. But after much thought, discussion and pondering we decided that not having a newbie forum and of encouraging better integration within the forums as a whole was the better solution, and more reflective of the values that SOS holds important.
And so far it seems to be working very nicely.
Technical Editor, Sound On Sound