It feels like some of the comments I've posted on trivial questions is part of the reason you've brought this up, even though I feel I've been fairly polite. I know I'm not the only one you're looking at, mainly because I haven't used terminology like "-1 because", but I do feel it's important to share why I left those comments.
We are not here to coddle new users
That doesn't give us an excuse to be mean, but don't expect me to hold their hand when they
cross the street ask their first question. I expect to be treated as an adult, and in return, I'll treat you as an adult. That means doing stuff adults do in their daily lives to answer their questions and solve their problems: experiment and research. If after you've experimented and researched, your question is still not answered, do it again. Only then do you get to waste my time ask me your question, presenting me with the results of your research and experiments. Learning this skill is also important for other aspects of your life, such as doing well in school, performing well at your job, and generally being a productive member of society.
Help me, help you
If these questions were asked on some forums, the user would be pointed at, laughed at, and flamed to a crisp. We aren't like that, obviously, which is why some of us will leave a "Good question" or a "Next time, could you please..." comment on a new user's post. However, that doesn't preclude a new user from showing us some respect (yes, I find trivial questions to be insulting). They can do this by following the How To Ask Questions The Smart Way guide. If you haven't read it before, stop now and go read it. I can wait.
Okay, you've finished reading it? Good. There's a few key points relevant to this discussion I want to bring up. Yes, it's primarily focused on hacker culture, but some of the concepts still apply here.
The first thing to understand is that hackers actually like hard problems and good, thought-provoking questions about them. If we didn't, we wouldn't be here. If you give us an interesting question to chew on we'll be grateful to you; good questions are a stimulus and a gift. Good questions help us develop our understanding, and often reveal problems we might not have noticed or thought about otherwise. Among hackers, “Good question!” is a strong and sincere compliment.
Despite this, hackers have a reputation for meeting simple questions with what looks like hostility or arrogance. It sometimes looks like we're reflexively rude to newbies and the ignorant. But this isn't really true.
What we are, unapologetically, is hostile to people who seem to be unwilling to think or to do their own homework before asking questions. People like that are time sinks — they take without giving back, and they waste time we could have spent on another question more interesting and another person more worthy of an answer. We call people like this “losers” (and for historical reasons we sometimes spell it “lusers”).
Now I'm not going to call a new user a loser, but I'm also not going to devote the 10 minutes it'd take to research and write up an answer to their question when it would take them 5 minutes to figure it out on their own, especially if I can't see them answering one of my questions in the future.
Before asking a technical question by e-mail, or in a newsgroup, or on a website chat board, do the following:
- Try to find an answer by searching the archives of the forum you plan to post to.
- Try to find an answer by searching the Web.
- Try to find an answer by reading the manual [or the wiki for the game].
- Try to find an answer by reading a FAQ.
- Try to find an answer by inspection or experimentation.
- Try to find an answer by asking a skilled friend.
If you're a programmer, try to find an answer by reading the source code.(Typically not applicable to Arqade)
When you ask your question, display the fact that you have done these things first; this will help establish that you're not being a lazy sponge and wasting people's time. Better yet, display what you have learned from doing these things. We like answering questions for people who have demonstrated they can learn from the answers.
This is really the meat and potatoes of this issue for me. To be brutally honest, the user needs to prove to me that they deserve my time to solve their problem. If they aren't willing to try and solve their problem themselves, then they're likely to be a drain on our collective time in the future. Which brings me to my last big point:
Not telling them they've done something wrong is sending the wrong message
If we don't tell them to do some research before posting, then we can probably expect future questions with a similar lack of research from them. That's how problem behaviour develops. We don't have to be mean, but we do have to make it clear that we don't appreciate people asking trivially easy questions. If they're asking here, it's time for them to take off the training wheels.
Now this all may seem brash and blunt, but I have no problem being brash and blunt on meta. I'm much more interested in preventing myself from being brash and blunt on the main site, and that often entails politely telling a user they've done something wrong the first time it happens, and hoping that they learn from the mistake and never do it again.