18

From my private beta invitation:

If you ask high quality, expert-level questions, you'll build a site that attracts the experts and pros who will make it really successful. But if you ask beginner questions, survey questions, or social-conversation questions, experts and pros will not be interested.

This actually got me even more excited about this site than just having the site available. I thought "finally, somewhere I can go beyond the entry-level questions of 'how old is the world' or 'are you saved by faith or by works' or 'is homosexuality a sin?'."

But most of what I've seen so far really is the beginner questions. The few questions I've see that do deal with issues approaching expert level either fail to receive answers, or receive only beginner-level answers and fail to wrestle with the question at an expert level.

So, what are we doing wrong? Does the scope need to be adjusted or do we need to otherwise moderate more aggressively? I've seen this happen over at SeasonedAdvice, where entire topics that could attract largely beginner-level questions have been avoided, in order to keep the site attracting solid users and generating interesting content.

  • 4
    What you are saying is true. I've suffered the same disappointment. – deps_stats Sep 3 '11 at 23:21
  • Perhaps what we need to do is create a list of good questions that have been asked and analyze why they're good. – user23 Sep 8 '11 at 4:19
10

I agree that there is a problem. I believe there needs to be more aggressive moderation/self-policing by vote-to-close of questions that are too basic and can be answered by general reference (which is a specific listed close-reason, for those who aren't familiar with SE). There's very little value to be added by variously coherent definitions of basic terms from Wikipedia. Most of the creationist questions currently are like that, for example, as are all the denomination-definition questions.

  • There is not a "general reference" close reason on this site. Only a few select SE sites have that. – Caleb Sep 1 '11 at 9:18
  • Not yet, but there should be, and the idea is spreading across the SEs pretty well. And this is a clear example as to why... – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Sep 1 '11 at 14:28
  • Why don't we handle those "general reference" questions as community wiki? – deps_stats Sep 3 '11 at 23:22
  • CW is generally deprecated across the SEs - it was misused for too long, now it is a very special exception case. Note it requires mod intervention now. – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Sep 4 '11 at 3:43
8

A few weeks into the beta, I've noticed most questions here are what I flippantly referred to in chat as "Sunday school fodder", but I don't think that really covers what I find so unappealing about the level of questions being asked.

Which got me thinking about the other betas that didn't do so well, and I remembered the blog post about Artificial Intelligence.SE. In it, it talked about how it wasn't a very interesting site because nobody was asking expert-level questions: it was filled with people who were merely curious about the subject, and as such, they were asking questions that would make real experts' eyes roll. It also offered this piece of advice:

Establish a site’s expertise early. New users, anxious to jump start their communities, inevitably start asking uninspired questions that have all been asked 100 times before on every phpBB forum. You’ve seen them: “What is your favorite…”, “What is the best…”, “What is the definition of…” Unfortunately, these idle questions can fill the front page in the opening days, and left unchecked will permanently color the tone of the site. Your front page is your billboard, it defines your target audience.

When I look at the current front page of Christianity.SE, I don't see an advertisement for "Expert questions and answers! Right this way!" Instead, I see questions like these:

I half expect to see someone ask "Can God create a rock that even He can't lift?"

Taking into account also the other questions about people lumping all Christians together, Christianity.SE doesn't seem to be all that inviting to experts.

Instead, it seems to be inviting to people who have a curiosity in Christianity but don't really know any of the basic details about it (like that denominations aren't superficial and what sin is) and to people who are looking for a good place to get into an argument with Christians. So I called the questions here "Sunday school fodder" because I think they're stuff that would almost certainly be handled in Catechism class or Sunday school.

For Christianity.SE to succeed, I don't think our main purpose should be to be the place atheists go to test their arguments out or people curious about Christianity stumble through vague questions about what a Christian they know said one time:

  • We need to be closing questions that don't clearly define the parameters of the question: if you're asking about "some Christians" or "a Christian I know" or "Christians", you're in the wrong place.
  • We need to be better at identifying questions that are asked in bad faith: questions where someone is testing out their argument to disprove X about Christianity push legitimately useful questions out of the way.
  • We need to be insisting answers back their claims up with verifiable sources: if you're making an interpretation, someone else more reputable needs to share that interpretation and you need to cite them.

The end goal should be rigor: both questions and answers need to show some amount of research and thoughtfulness. Otherwise, I think we might as well just point everyone to Yahoo! Answers.

6

The best solution is for those that actually care to aggressively vote. Down voting doesn't lose you any points and you get:

  • Maximum 30 all-purpose votes per day per user (up or down)

  • Maximum 10 additional question-only votes per day per user

People respond to voting, if they see poor quality questions are being actively down voted the poor questions will disappear from the front page and the low quality askers will stop asking.

The problem is getting enough people who care to vote to do it.

If you really want to make a difference to what gets noticed and what gets disregarded; aim to make yourself in the top 5 of this list: https://christianity.stackexchange.com/users?tab=voters&filter=all

Within 10 days you could have cast 400 votes. There are 561 questions. Make your voice heard, not just by talking about it, but by doing something.

4

While I am sympathetic with the answers here. downvoting doesn't accomplish much. There are alrealy a number of people who are taking the opportunity to ask the 'standard' evangelical questions, and give the standard evangelical answers - in some cases both for the same question. The best way to get some high quality questions on the site is to ask them, and provide high quality answers.

-2

There can never be a Christianity site for "experts" as different experts align with different doctrines, so it would just be a forum for apologetics wherein the lucky person who asked the question will get to choose the "right" answer.

This is Christianity.SE, not Theology.SE or Hermeneutics.SE. I'm fine with it being an outreach for new believers or non-believers as the quality would exceed that of Yahoo! Answers by far. If all you experts are "too good" for the lay man, then you must rethink what you are called to do, and suggest a new Stack Exchange site.

The only problem that needs to be dealt with are trolls or offensive questions.

EDIT: Well whattya know: Biblical Hermeneutics is on Area15.

I do agree that -very- basic questions that can be easily found on Google/Wikipedia must be moderated so people are not karma-whoring.

  • Bring on the downvotes, by the way, which I knew were coming. But at least comment. – felideon Sep 6 '11 at 15:47
  • 3
    1. this is meta, downvotes without reason are common and just fine. But since you asked, I downvoted because this site may not be theology or hermeneutics, but both of those topics will be covered, so will christian life and living. what we can do is be experts in our own beliefs and express them intelligently. There won't be expert consensus (there isn't in many other fields too), but we can give "expert level" answers on the topics we have. – wax eagle Sep 6 '11 at 15:55
  • Thanks for the comment. I see what you mean and I do kind of agree but if we shun the non-believers/new-believers from asking questions that aren't deemed 'expert' enough, whose interests do we have in mind, our own or Jesus'? – felideon Sep 6 '11 at 16:10
  • 1
    This site is intended to be informational, we have had several non-beleivers contribute good questions. This isn't a place for "seekers" and its not a place for "missions" this is a secular place for questions and answers. If you can find a way to minister here then great. "expert" is a funny word, you can ask a simple question and get an expert answer, and in fact there is a good way to ask simple questions, Are Some Questions too Simple you should refer to the flow chart to determine if you question is too simple. – wax eagle Sep 6 '11 at 16:27
  • It's not so much that this is a place for ministry, as much as it is not to be a blocking stone for people. Thanks for the link on how to define "too simple". – felideon Sep 6 '11 at 16:37

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