The short version/tl;dr
We're a diverse pool of contributors, and I think it comes down to personal judgement.
The long version
Ah, I think that I might be the example (or at least an example) of this one on this question.
Yep, that one was:
- a poorly posed question
- from an unregistered user who was unlikely to fix any issues
- and who was unlikely to participate in the community again
I'd normally just vote to close (and I may not even leave a comment if the user is unregistered), but I chose to answer this one because the error message (well, part of it) was included in the title and it was an easy fix that took me all of one minute to type up.
Even though the question itself is pretty poor, I think that a good answer can make the overall post have some value to the community at large.
I didn't put a lot of effort into that answer, but I made sure to mention the syntax error (the usage of
==), what that symbol means (equality comparison), what to use instead (just
=), what that symbol means (assignment operator), and a bad vs good comparison. That information could really help someone out if they're not educated/experienced in programming.
The way I think of this
Is that we're a global community with a relatively loose set of rules. StackExchange itself (as far as I'm aware) doesn't really have much in the way of tools to manage community members outside of deleting user accounts outright (which is limited to mods, and even they may need action from a community manager).
With a large enough community, there will be differences in how the community rules are interpreted and how questions/answers are judged
Getting people to actually follow advice (or links to help pages) we may give about their questions or answers also seems to "miss" more often than it "hits" (at least in my, admittedly likely biased, recollection).
Let's look at another community rule, duplicate questions
Ok, so I don't think this one is actually written down somewhere, but my understanding of the general culture of stackexchange sites is that duplicates are somewhere between mildly and highly discouraged.
I'm reasonably confident that if you were to look hard enough, many of the questions asked here have probably been asked and answered before. Yet, we don't usually see a ton of recent questions marked as duplicates.
Like with answering poor questions, this comes down to a judgement call. It's one thing if the question title is something like "Help me write a unit test for X", which I normally suspect is really a "write my test for me" question, but I'll still give it a read to see if it has a reason to remain open.
For other questions, what I'll mark as a duplicate depends on:
- If I can remember a similar question being asked before
- The age of the possible duplicate question (and its answers)
Tech moves fast, so it's possible that the duplicate question isn't relevant any more. I also personally like to avoid making people wade through more than one or two links to get a decent answer and explanation.
My point is
I agree with Adrian's comment.
There's a balance between personal judgement, sticking to guidelines, and driving people away.
I think that StackExchange as a whole has a reputation for being elitist and unwelcoming towards newcomers. I like to think that we here on SFSE are better at that than many other SE sites; but then again the average person thinks they're smarter than average and a better driver than average, so who knows?
I don't agree with every decision that someone else makes here. Without intending to single anyone out, there have been more than a few times where some of the old hands have answered questions that I don't think should be answered (too much of a "do my work for me" question for my taste), and I highly disagree with some of the suggested edits queue items that have been approved.
I also don't really feel a need to try to bring them around to my point of view most of the time. Again, we really do have very few tools to make people change their behavior (meta here is about it, and usually only the more active/invested contributors show up here). I think we also get most of the most egregious instances.
In the end, I think that decentralized moderation is something that you'll develop a sense for as you continue to participate.