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It's no secret. Some of the "experts" on Christianity.StackExchange.com are steeped in Scripture. Some could answer nearly every moral question with Biblical references.

I think this is great!

However... Sometimes very lengthy answers seem to be a bit off-putting. I'd venture to say that the average visitor would rather not sift through paragraphs upon paragraphs, lengthy dissertations, etc.

Bottom Line: Visitors are interested in well-reasoned arguments with sufficient, but not necessarily exhaustive detail.

For right or wrong, many Christian ministers have the same failing. Since they are able to preach about the Bible, they choose to do so; and when they choose to do so, they often become separated from the germane practical lesson that they are trying to get across to the congregation.

My Question: Since at some level, Christianity.Stackexchange.com is about getting people interested in Christianity and not simply discussing pedantic Biblical details for their own sake, should we encourage voters to upvote answers that frame things in a concise manner, rather than in overwhelmingly exhaustive detail?

I suppose at its core, my main objection is the upvoting of answers that could fill a scholastic blue book, but yield little to no practical response to the question.

EDIT:

  1. El'endia Starman nailed it:

    ...It seems to me that Jim's objection is more that some answers are really long and yet don't add all that much. That is, some answers are too wordy. I think we need to encourage complete and (relatively-)succinct answers.

  2. I'm not encouraging brevity for brevity's sake.

EDIT 2:

  • Here's a great example of what I'm talking about.
    • Like a lot of priests, the OP meant well.
    • But I can see people falling asleep in the pews. ;)
  • 4
    As a reader (and voter) I find that the best answers tend to be longer. That's because almost all of our questions are subjective. But if it makes you feel better, shorter answers have a distinct advantage in voting since there's a good chance I will power through, get to the end, and make my informed judgement. – Jon Ericson Sep 24 '12 at 17:05
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    TL;DR :) ....... – Wikis Sep 25 '12 at 13:53
-3

Yes, I think most of the answers are too long. For me to read them:

  • the question needs to be interesting to me (either I want to know the answer or want to know if I can add to what is already stated),
  • the answer needs to be well formatted (bullets, sub-titles) so that I can skim it for the key message,
  • as short as possible (but no shorter) and
  • of course Biblically accurate.

My goal is to adhere to this in my answers.

  • 1
    I agree with each of your bullet points here, but disagree with the premise observation you lead off with. I think if we checked the whole corpus of answers, many more answers would be at fault for being too short than too long. Of the long answers, some of them are very good, and only a subset of them are necessarily long. – Caleb Nov 8 '12 at 13:59
  • @Caleb: sure, perhaps it's just that my attention span is ... – Wikis Nov 8 '12 at 14:41
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Yes. We have an issue with answer length.

Most of the time answers are not long enough. There is a reason that one of hte major factors in Stack Exchange's quality filter is post length. We want answers that go above and beyond what is asked for in the question and are detailed.

Stack Exchange is supposed to be a place for experts to ask and answer questions. Being such we want our answerers to give sufficient and sometimes even more than sufficient detail and background information to formulate complete answers.

On a rare occasion a complete answer can be concise, but most of the time a complete answer should be several paragraphs. Here a complete answer should be several paragraphs of original writing and a source or two (either scripture quotation or a relevant commentary or other book/site etc).

We should not be encouraging single or even two paragraph answers with no sources or citations. A good answer here has a good amount of user generated content, a quote or two from a relevant source, and answers the question completely. If someone can do this in a couple of paragraphs, that's great, but most of us are going to need a page or so to get it all out.

If we want to be overly concerned about the average reader than a summary paragraph of the argument should be the first paragraph of the answer. That can provide a quick immediate answer with the rest of the post providing detail. However, this concise paragraph is usually not sufficient for a properly supported answer.

  • 6
    While I agree, it seems to me that Jim's objection is more that some answers are really long and yet don't add all that much. That is, some answers are too wordy. I think we need to encourage complete and (relatively-)succinct answers. – El'endia Starman Sep 24 '12 at 2:20
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    @El'endiaStarman: Answers that ramble on and never actually answer the question is a different problem and not one that we can fix by encouraging brevity for brevity's sake. In general our low quality contributions are the short ones, not the long ones. Also the people that respond to prompting to fix issues are usually the ones that invested something to post in the first place. – Caleb Sep 24 '12 at 7:14
  • @El'endiaStarman: Yep. You nailed it. – Jim G. Sep 24 '12 at 16:50
  • Why not make it practice to write your long post but single paragraph summary at the top? – fredsbend Feb 19 '13 at 22:01
7

Abstract

When someone's answer starts like this, I somehow have an increase in desire to continue reading.


but when someones answer is like this. and it just kind of goes on and wanders for two or three sentences and then stops without coming to any definite end and is even a little insulting. I get a tad annoyed, I've even quite nearly downvoted an answer on those principles.

I StackExchange on the princple that when I ask a stupid question, I'll get a stupid answer. But, if I think I've asked a non-stupid question and I get a stupid answer, I feel like the answerer is saying my question is in fact, stupid.

Now, I think the best answers are the long ones. But, if you're talking about the kind of hubbub your Moral Relativism question garnered, well, I think that's about the worst example I've seen of answers I just would never be able to read. What do you think we should do with that question?

...

In any event, use of the triple-dash to break up text will go a long way to keeping reader sanity, there should be three dashes per point that is attempted to be made by the answerer.

  • 1
    Hey now, Ron is special. ;) – El'endia Starman Sep 24 '12 at 7:52
  • The above is how I fight my excessive wordiness. – Jon Ericson Sep 24 '12 at 17:01
  • @jon not to expose all your tricks, but do you write those first or do you just summarize when you're done? – Peter Turner Sep 24 '12 at 17:25
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    @Peter Turner: Yes! Sometimes I have an outline for a post in my head and put the headings in first. Other times, I find myself 4 or 5 paragraphs in and realize a section break of some sort would help. Abstracts and/or conclusions are often added when I'm done with my argument and realize that someone will probably comment "tl;dr". (One of these days, I should write the opposite of what I put in the body to see if anyone is reading. ;) – Jon Ericson Sep 24 '12 at 17:36
  • @JonEricson I am laughing. You should give it a go and see what happens. – fredsbend Apr 3 '13 at 21:22
5

As a concession to your question's requested doctrinal framework, I'll keep this short and sweet.

You've built your case on a false premise:

Since at some level, Christianity.Stackexchange.com is about getting people interested in Christianity [...]

That's not what we're here for. If it happens, it's incidental to a completely different focus on being a place where you can get expert answers. I would go so far as to say we're not interested in catering to people who are only looking for cliff notes.

2

I'm sorry you thought my answer to this question was too long.


I will say, while I liked your brief answer (and +1'd it), I thought you were a bit too brief on the subject. Scripture has lots of evidence for the position you take - and I thought using Jesus' own explanations (in three places - Luke 11, 17, and 23) added the detail that experts in Christianiy would appreciate.

Not everything needs to be a bumper sticker.

  • 1
    FWIW: ~98% of your answers are excellent. This question is not directed at you. – Jim G. Sep 24 '12 at 17:16
  • I think the length of that answer is good, but it's about the longest I'd like to see. Depending on the question often it should be considerably shorter. – curiousdannii May 19 '14 at 12:31

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