There's so much going on in comments to the various answers on this Q that it's easier for me to put all my reactions in one answer.
It seems to me this meta-question and its responses conflate three related issues:
- Do we allow general questions?
- Should What are the key points for a beginning genealogist to consider? have been closed?
- How to welcome newcomers while helping them to understand the Genealogy.SE way of doing things?
General and Specific Questions
General questions will be bread-and-butter here — genealogy is full of them, and the answers to them are likely to have relevance to a wide audience. Many of them will be asked repeatedly by newcomers, so for these common questions, we need excellent canonical questions with excellent answers to point those newcomers to when they ask them (as already highlighted by jmort253 here).
Specific or highly detailed questions will also be bread-and-butter here — there's an unlimited supply of these. The answers to these are probably going to be of less-obviously wide interest, although the best answers should illustrate general principles or methods that increase their relevance.
The underlying issue isn't whether a question is general or not, but whether it's a 'good fit' for us. Both types are going to get asked and should be welcome, and they should be assessed by the same key criteria, which they're both capable of meeting.
- Is it a "practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face"
Different people decide that they're stuck at different points in an activity, but I would hope that they would put some effort into identifying their problem and solving it themselves before turning to us ("done their homework").
How much effort we expect has been debated elsewhere e.g. should they come here if Google would have given them their answer? I'm not keen on the phrase "well-researched" because that means different things at different levels of experience, but "doing some basic investigation" seems to me not to be an onerous minimum expectation. (The bar gets raised for more experienced souls!)
- Is the scope reasonable for a single question?
The 'book' test is often quoted for this:
If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.
I take this to mean that, if the whole book is needed to answer the question, the scope of the question is too broad, not that questions cannot be asked about topics on which books have or could be written. (Otherwise, we might as well all pack up and go home now).
However, if a summary of some portion of a book answers the question, then I'd probably judge that it was reasonably scoped.
It's also a good indication that the question is too broad if you run out of space and/or time to answer it.
(I'm skipping the criteria around subjectivity as we're talking about that elsewhere).
Should this specific question have been closed?
As originally asked, it was very broad and suggested that we were the first port of call. However, it was an inevitable question that we would face, and (as demonstrated) was capable of being answered well and somewhat concisely.
I wish it had been improved before it was answered (which is what closure is intended to give time to do), especially as it's so obvious that it will get repeated. Teasing out exactly what aspects the OP was struggling with (or anticipated struggling with) could have resulted in a number of much more tightly-focused "getting-started" questions that would be much more widely useful in the long run. All of which could have been done in such a way that the OP was delighted we were focussing on his exact needs instead of feeling criticised.
People only start building their tree once; they hit the ongoing challenges one at a time, and could get more detailed help on each challenge in the answers to separate questions. I don't say we can't still handle the detailed questions individually as they arise, just as long as they don't get closed as a duplicate of this now-canonical one.
How do we welcome newcomers?
We're dealing with two sorts of newcomers -- newcomers to genealogy, and newcomers to SE.
As genealogists and family historians, we're (mostly) used to dealing with the first sort of newcomer, and are happy to do so. We know to give them information and encouragement in bite-sized chunks, understanding what they already know first and what they're capable of absorbing next; that way they're likely to get hooked on this absorbing activity of ours. Our instincts are to be gentle and tolerant and helpful, if the newcomer shows themselves willing to learn, and those are instincts we ought to preserve.
We're less-experienced at dealing with the second. Many of us are newcomers to the SE way of doing things; some of us may not be wholly convinced that all the 'rules' that have been developed over time are justified; some of us may think that we're a special case and should do things differently. I'm anticipating lots of discussions on these topics in the weeks and months ahead.
However, I hope we all agree that we want this site to develop into a source of high-quality answers for genealogy/family history questions. We do not want it to turn into the swamp that is Yahoo's Genealogy Answers (no, not linking; you don't want to go there), which is what would happen if we don't maintain a quality standard for questions. So we can't give newcomers to SE a licence to ask poor questions, but must help them meet our basic standards by being gentle and tolerant and helpful and adding: firm. (I've seen it referred to elsewhere as 'being protective of our site').
Which means we may have to do more work ourselves -- not just answering where we are able, but also asking the OP to clarify, tighten up, word better, provide more info about what they've already done, plus editing the question where necessary. And explaining why. None of which is the same thing as telling them their question is bad, or the same as 'flaming' them.
But... Nobody likes having pointed out to them that they could have done something better. Some people will take it personally, no matter how it's done, and we can't know in advance which users will react badly. Honestly, I don't know how we can avoid upsetting some people, although I'd hate to lose any user who is trying to engage constructively with us. The alternative is leaving low-quality questions alone, which helps nobody and does the site active damage. The best we can aim for is to ask for or make changes in a polite and predictable manner, backed up by explanation. If the OP is still unhappy, and refuses to work with us, they may be more comfortable somewhere where content isn't jointly-owned and subject to community appraisal. Or they may become comfortable here, if they look around and discover it isn't only happening to them.
One important (but apparently not easy) thing we should be doing is moving any debate between ourselves about the site 'rules' or 'policy' to meta asap; they're one of the most confusing and unwelcoming aspects of the site for newcomers when they happen in the comments to an OP, IMO. Use the comments to focus on clarifying and/or improving the question.