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.
A Newbie forum might seem patronising to an expert, but it doesn't to most newbies - it seems reassuring. That may be why so many people have requested its return on this thread. There's nothing stopping people posting in both environments - I certainly did when i first arrived.
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
It didn't exclude them (us) before, it simply provided a welcome 'nursery slope' to take their first steps.
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.
It didn't seem that way to me. There weren't any walls round the newbie section. When I posted there I got help from some very experienced members, some intermediate level posters and some other newbies. The fact that some 'gurus' didn't post there didn't mean that none did. In fact I found it extremely useful to switch around between the different levels of forums and compare answers on similar topics by other posters.
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!
That's exactly what I mean - "full of lazy, trivial questions". To you that's a pain and a waste of space, and understandable so. But to many real newbies it's not. You are applying a cut-off point based on your own perceptions (which I'm sure that I would also do in your position.. ) but some of those stumbling 'lazy' posters will still buy your advertisers' products and may still develop into valuable members/subscribers. I can be as elitist as the next man, but I've found that in the long run it's more beneficial to patiently groom and educate the apparently lazy and cloddish than to tick them off or shoo them away, even unintentionally. You can't see the lurkers who vanish and the nervous newbs who you miss because they don't manage to ''focus the minds" enough to get started, but they do exist.
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.
That's true too, but I believe that it's a risk worth running. 'Expert's can rarely concede that anybody below them might be better at explaining things, but nevertheless it can be true. There's even a research term for it "Coping Model" - which refers to the style of mentor that many people, in real life, actually learn best from. It's typically somebody who is only moderately higher up the mountain than the student, somebody who talks the same language, still thinks in similar ways, and often who has relatively recently learned the answer to the question. It's the mate who shows you a few chords on guitar as opposed to a Segovia masterclass.
There's also the point that experts don't agree anyway, and some of the bitterest disagreements are between rival experts. You can get wrong information from experts too. But even more likely is that you can get advice that is actually 100% correct, and that the student claims to understand but actually doesn't, and therefore goes away with erroneous ideas. There's no single perfect answer, and a spread of opportunities is always good. I know that you'll say that a spread is available in the regular forums - and it is - but the Newbie forum gave it in a very useful way. Sometimes the consumer perspective can only truly be judged by asking the consumers themselves.
As I hope you can see, Chris, that we really do understand all your points and observations.
I do appreciate your reading and responding Hugh, but your degree of understanding mostly seems to be employed to tell me at length that I'm wrong. I believe that they are valid points, and that all the others who asked for the return of the Newbie forum might have good reasons too.
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.
That's the bottom line though. It's your show and you can run it how you like. That's the great thing about being in control. If you want to keep the discussions above a certain level the that's fair enough. You are doing a great job, and I regularly recommend SOS on other forums.
However, I'm still happy to politely put a pitch in for the people below that line because there are vast armies of them. They may seem (and indeed be) ignorant and lazy, and they may ask trivial questions, but at some level they do want to learn and, from a business perspective they're worth catering for. I know that you say that the new arrangement does that, but it's a bit like somebody saying that they've bulldozed the local McDonalds and built a better restaurant with classier and more nourishing food, and that it will undoubtedly be better for them. It might be true, but the punters probably won't use that logic (attractive though it might be to me personally...) - and many will just find a McDonalds somewhere else. What appeals to customers is not always about quality, it's about their feeling comfortable.
I think a Newbie forum was a useful addition to your range and that ditching it probably lost more than was gained. But that's just my $9.99 worth (2c worth doesn't buy what it used too... )