A couple of things:
I think the more important the individual is in the community the more that public discussion
over merits is important. For example, I have had various people tell me exactly what I did
that was stupid in public (both by men and by women). Most of the time I listen, learn, and
appreciate the honesty. This is especially true for communities where I have some sort of
However, for newcommers, I tend to go out of my way to provide guidance without being harsh.
Usually comments like "this would be better asked on a different list" are followed by "here is
a quick overview." I tend to do the same when directing people to the documentation (some
people *have* looked in the documentation and don't know how to get answers from that-- and
yes, sometimes it happens to me).
Finally, there is such a thing as criticism overload. I have watched it happen to lots of
people (men and women). Especially when you work with refavtoring *horrible* codebases, it
happens. Look for it in yourself and watch for it in others.