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I have created a query here:

http://data.stackexchange.com/biology/query/328147/welcoming-index

which compares the ratio of down-votes to up-votes received by new users (joined within the past 30 days) compared to all users.

It appears that in the past month new users have receive more 2.5x the number of down-votes (evil index of 2.6) compared to other users (for the same number of up-votes).

Are we being too strict on new users potentially scaring them away with down-votes, or are such down-votes to new users necessary to maintain quality?

My personal opinion is that while quality is important, there are better ways of encouraging it than downvoting the newbies.

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There is an inherent bias in your query. Of course some new users are going to get down votes. Some get many downvotes (does your query differentiate that?) while others will get only one.

You're comparing questions asked by new users, which are sometimes very poor (or even trollish), and as such, they receive multiple down votes (one I down voted last night - along with others who down voted - is gone already today.)

Seasoned users know what fits on this site, and as such, will not ask as many inappropriate questions.

I don't think down votes are given superfluously, and I don't think they are excessive here. They are part of the SE model, which many people find intrinsically unfriendly. They are an integral part of teaching all users what is considered appropriate and of poor quality on every site.

To answer your question, if you base "friendliness of a site" on down votes on new users, then no, Biology is not too harsh on new users. You need to look at the whole picture. Were helpful comments left? Are edits done to new users' questions to try to salvage them where possible? Are migrations (better sites) suggested? This counts as much - if not more - towards the friendliness of the site.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1. But let me add that, if you migrate a new user's question, IIRC I read somewhere that this decreases the chances that the asker will ever be back to see the answer. $\endgroup$ – tealhill supports Monica Apr 21 '17 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @tealhill - That would not surprise me at all. :( $\endgroup$ – anongoodnurse Apr 21 '17 at 23:26
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Honestly, I find Bio-SE very welcoming to new users if they put some effort into their questions, even if the resulting question has problems or is based on misconceptions. You often see comments that try to guide honest attempts and sometime longer comment-answers that target misconceptions or show how the question could be narrowed down and improved. I think downvotes are entirely appropriate to really lazy question, but I'm still hesitant to downvote questions by new users. I prefer comments and close votes, as long as the question is not extremely poor or borderline trolling.

Overall, the amount of downvotes at BioSE is relatively small and definitly not excessive. Personally, I think we as a community could downvote more. I also agree with @anongoodnuse that you are comparing apples and oranges in your query, and it is really not saying much. Calling a higher propotion of downvotes to new compared to all (or older) users "Evil index" is also way off base.

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