I'm more than a little confused as well, and hope that it was just a glitch.
But as a comment on pre-novice usability, I didn't find this place unusable as a pre-novice. If you look at my account creation date, it was back in 2005, but I think my first post was within the past year and a half (everything was fine til then-- but I needed a bit of salt finally), so I was a pre-novice until very recently. While I've certainly noticed some friction among various users, I still find it very useful and relatively civil compared to a lot of other places on the interwebs.
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