As the user who posted both the Mathematicians being elitist? meta question, and the quoted comment, so I feel obliged to chime in.
First, thank you. I am encouraged that some members of the community take this seriously. @SEJPM's post is wonderful and covers many of the big ways that new users are made to feel unwelcome. I will add to SEJPM's post by covering "try to be constructive". With a background in educational psychology, I know that giving good constructive feedback is not always easy - it takes thought and practice!
As SEJPM points out, people who post here often put considerable effort into their posts. New users probably spend time and effort per post than experienced users because they are likely unfamiliar the subject matter, the format of StackExchange, or both. That shouldn't make their question any less real or worthy of an answer.
(Context: I have 1k rep on
crypto, and 17k on
security.) When I see a question with an obviously weak grasp of the subject matter, I remind myself that for one person to be bold enough to ask it, there must be 1,000 people who would benefit from reading the answer. You know the question is meaningful to the OP, but sometimes it takes work from us to help them get the answer they want, and better yet, writing an answer worthy of ranking highly on Google so others like them can get the answer too!
The golden rule of being constructive: always build positively on what they've said rather than reducing the value of their post. In my experience on SE, this comes in two forms:
1) If you can, Answer the question they meant to ask.
Often they have seen something they don't understand, but don't know enough to google it properly. In this case, there is probably a general misconception in the general public and I try to provide a wiki-style answer addressing this.
I very often use the following patterns when answering "low quality" questions:
Your question doesn't make sense because of X, Y, Z, but I will give a more general answer on the topic that I hope that gets you on the right track.
I believe the question you are trying to ask is "blah blah", so here we go!
On crypto, an analog of this is:
Concise and mathematically-elegant answer for the initiated.
--- Horizontal Rule ---
More verbose explanation of the underlying concepts for the masses.
9/10 times I receive positive feedback from the OP. And in fact, some of my top answers (~100 upvotes) have this pattern because by answering the underlying, more general question, it was enlightening to a wide range of people and went viral on the Hot Network Questions.
2) Ask some clarifying questions, and edit / rephrase their question to in light of their responses.
The OP is posting because they genuinely want an answer. They may not have the knowledge or vocabulary to express the idea properly, but you do! Asking for more information or a link to the source can allow you to understand the context of their question and edit that information back into the question. Improving the quality of a question not only helps the OP and the answerers, but also improves the question's googlability to make it more accessible to users months from now who are looking for the same answer!