Although I'm honestly not sure if this is am improvement on the older, shorter "code of conduct," if we're going to go the verbose route and expand it, I think there's a glaring omission which is danced around and alluded to, but not actually addressed: New Users.
On the bigger and more mature/older communities, the semi-recent changes to increase visibility in Google has brought in a large volume of new users, and a highly correlated influx of absolute crap masquerading as posts from new users. And, to be fair, we can't blame it all on Google, as a decline in quality (whether real or perceived) and an increase in snippiness have been recurring themes on the meta sites of Server Fault, Stack Overflow and Super User for years.
Experts, the people who give good answers, are the core of any Q&A site. Anyone can ask a good question, but not anyone can give it a good answer - it even says so on the Stack Overflow blog. Without people to give good answers, the community will die, or become another Yahoo! Answers clone. And, as amusing as it is to read many of those train wrecks, that's not what Stack Exchange is supposed to be about. It's supposed to be about high quality questions and answers, which is not a possibility if the experts aren't retained to answer questions.
Frankly, this whole revision to the code of conduct comes off as an admonishment of the existing community (at least to me), and barely recognizes the frustrations that many of us feel that generally cause the community to be less than pink-and-fluffy. That's not right, and it's not beneficial to Stack Exchange as a whole either. When volunteers feel under-appreciated/ignored/disrespected, they stop volunteering. For a network that relies on volunteers to create its content, that's a big deal.
In order to set expectations (or at least have something to point to) and to throw the long-time contributors a bone, there really should be a section in there for new users. At Stack Exchange, there are expectations of new users and questions, and that really ought to be in the code of conduct. I believe that not laying out the fact that there are expectations on new users and posts contributes to the whining and moaning and general butt-hurt expressed by some new members when their garbage gets downvoted and closed.
Off the top of my head, I would suggest something like:
Respect the community. Stack Exchange cultivates communities of experts to provide high-quality answers to your questions. Please be respectful and considerate of their time and expertise, which they donate for free. You can do this by using the site search feature to look for an existing answer, checking the help center for information about community standards and expectations, and looking around a little to make sure you're in the right place before making a contribution.
I think that belittles new users, implies that they're not experts, and that they have a lot to do before they can join that community of experts. None of this is necessarily the case (although there are many users for whom that is true, of course). I agree with your point, I just think it can be said without implying that just because I'm new here, I am in some way inferior to the long-timers.
Generally, new askers aren't experts, and many new answerers aren't either. Perhaps something like "We're glad you want to join the community" might help? That adds an implicit expectation that new participants should at least be aiming for expertise themselves, and gladly includes any who may already have it.
I'm a little thrown by the idea that asking everyone to avoid being rude, belittling, cynical or a jerk is admonishing existing communities - that is not the intent at all. Are some regulars occasionally rough on new people? Yup. But this is even more important for new people, who need to learn how to behave out of the gate. And listing a bunch of the specific things askers should do doesn't really fit that well into the "Be Nice" policy, but we did explicitly add the point that askers should think about how to help answerers help them, be patient, and rememeber they're volunteers here.
@Jaydles it definitely gives the perception of being directed at the existing members, and it creates the implication that we're not doing a good enough job of certain things. (If the existing folks were nice and patient, they wouldn't need to be told to be nice and patient.). As to the bit about new users, thinking about how to best get help is not enough. Posting crap is harmful and wastes the time of everyone who has to read or deal with it, but a lot of new users don't get this. It needs to be said (politely) that low quality and off-topic contributions are prohibited.
@Jaydles Is this being shown to new users upon signup? If not... don't you think that kinda defeats the purpose of this? No new user would ever discover it unless we put it in front of their face -- and even then, they probably won't read it.
@hichris123, once it's finalized, we are planning to look at ways to get it in front of a lot more new users. (We're already working on getting more of them to "tour", which both helps them with the basics, and emphasizes how to ask a better-quality question)
+1 I do think its important to remind people that respect is a two-way street. It's pretty clear from the state of some of the posts we all see at times that not every 'newbie' respects the time and effort of the people they expect to help them. I've got no problem with whatever variation of 'don't be rude' is decided upon but there's a limit to how much respect I have for people who don't respect us.
As a new-ish user myself, I feel this "Be Nice" guide is talking to me also, not only the elites. It sets expectations for engaging and contributing, whether I am a beginner who wants to fit in or an elder who may appreciate the reminder.
If the offered text said anything at all about new users then Paul might have a point, but since it doesn't, he doesn't.
Imho this does not add anything significantly new that is not already expressed in point 2. of the proposed CoC. You want to embrace new users, not scare them away.
@Paul I agree with you - upon reflection, I don't much like the wording either. Someone else would probably be better equipped to write up those sentiments in a friendly/nice, non-patronizing fashion, as I don't think I'm well-equipped to do that.
@JimBalter, the answer clearly is around "New users", as the first paragraph says. And although the offered text doesn't use that term, it clearly indicates that I, the reader, am not (yet?) part of the "community of experts" and this dichotomy is what I was commenting on. The text about looking around before contributing is pretty clearly aimed at newcomers, too.
OMG, some people are experts and some are not ... the horror! And the text doesn't make any such division; experts should respect experts too.