My sense as a newcomer is that the mix of new and old is precisely what draws many to this site and is essential to its culture. I was awed the other day as I saw two people use the chatterbox to patiently talk someone through how to set up a complex hash. Also I think the experienced people may need the newbies even more than then newbies need the experienced people.
- It keeps people fresh - it is so-o-o easy to forget what it was like when one was first learning -both on a technical and emotional level. The mix allows more experienced people to remember what it was once like and some of us want that. It makes us better at our jobs and better people too.
- It attracts caring people with teaching skills - such people find the opportunity to share and learn essential. Sharing makes life worthwhile. Learning prevents burn-out and gives one something to share.
- It functions as a weed out - people who really dislike being "bothered" by newbie questions, simply aren't going to find participation attractive and are going to focus on other venues.
But I also think there are things to be done that would make the site more approachable for a newcomer. I've been programming for over 20 years and "speak" several different programming languages, but even for me it took a lot of courage to make that first post. And that despite some excellent and well thought out FAQs.
I think a discussion about what would help make it easier to bring beginners into the community could be very constructive. I'll start with a few suggestions. I'd be happy to help implement them, but at the moment that is little more than sentiment (I have 100's of XP to go before I can join any site group).
- A page named "Beginner's corner". This page would let someone who sees him or herself as a beginner post a question/reflection/etc with the promise that it would be placed on a "real" page by someone with more experience. When the node was approved it would continue to appear on the beginners page so that beginners could see questions posted by other people "like me" and on a normal page so that the beginner could see by example where an experienced person would post it.
- Preview mode for update. beginners are more likely to feel the need to review and review anything they write, be it first post or update to existing post.
- Ability to preview private messages and chatter box messages. It is very scary to post a message for the first or second time in your life and not be able to see how others might see it.