I'd like to take a few steps back from this issue and ask people to look at the bigger picture.
I know that our community is not bursting at the seams yet, and I want it to grow as much as anybody here - the other moderators and I have already invested tons of our personal time doing everything we can to make the site succeed.
But there's still a balance we have to maintain. If you're not already familiar with the term "Eternal September", please take a moment to read about it. If new users start to stream in faster than we're able to teach them how to properly use the site/system, then we are doomed to become Yahoo Answer Fail.
So in both the site's design and the moderation of said site, there has to be a certain element of tough love. It's like a permissive-but-not-quite-open-borders immigration policy: We want you here, no matter who you are, but only if you take the time to learn our customs and become a functioning member of society.
Or, to put it another way, we're a meritocracy, or at least we try our best to be.
Being part of a big, global community means that people will disagree with you sometimes. They may even be total jerks. Although all of us here today all try to be as polite as possible and want other people to be as polite as possible, eventually all users start to pick up occasional anonymous downvotes, or unexplained close votes. If somebody panics and throws a hissy fit when they get a downvote or close vote that is explained, then they are not going to survive here long. It's just the nature of the internet. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Allow me to outline the basic SE philosophy as I currently understand it:
- If you use the site well, you earn reputation.
- If you earn reputation, you get to use the more "dangerous" features of the site.
- If you're unwilling or unable to learn how to use the site properly, you shouldn't be earning any reputation.
Some people just don't have much to contribute. It's a fact. It's been proven on SO, SF, SU, and just about every other SE. Some people can't handle any criticism and engage in comment flame wars and revenge downvoting. Some people refuse to put any effort into their questions even after several downvotes, warnings and a week-long suspension. Some (many!) users "hit and run", treating the community as their personal servant, asking one question or half a dozen and not bothering to thank or even upvote/accept any of the people who helped, then disappearing for months until the next round of questions. Some users even come to these sites just to troll, rant, or generally cause trouble.
I'm talking about help vampires, and the internet is full of them. And when we cross the line from professional courtesy into ingratiating sycophantism, we are no longer helping the people who need help; we are simply lowering the bar for those that don't care.
Sure, you say, but we don't have any "help vampires." I say that is precisely because we moderate the way we do. If we start trying to be politically correct and smarmy everywhere, we'll lose this.
Again, I am not advocating rudeness or ignorance of usability problems. I tentatively agree that it would be nice, when a question is closed, to offer a link to a meta help page. That way, those users who actually care can read it and learn from their mistake. We should do everything we can to help those seeking help.
But what I absolutely don't want is for us to start acting like every single clueless and impatient help vampire we lose is an unmitigated disaster. We do not need to be coddling newbies and telling them "Oh, hey, your question was kinda sorta closed, but don't worry, it's OK, that doesn't mean what you think it means, honest, we still love you, please don't go, here we'll even help you get it reopened!"
So yes, maybe the wording might confuse a few newbs. No, I don't want to see it changed into something softer. As much as we want to retain our user base, we also need to send a clear message: "Hey, this site isn't a free-for-all, go read the FAQ and follow our rules if you want to participate here."