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I've been browsing some questions this afternoon that have me a bit disappointed. It appears that they are acceptable questions per se, but they share the following characteristics:

  1. They are at least six months old
  2. The OP has selected a preferred answer.
  3. All or very nearly all of the answers (in many cases this includes the preferred answer) lack citations for Scriptural, doctrinal, and extraecclesiastical (ex. secular scientific) sources.
  4. Many answers are very brief and qualify their statements with "I believe", "It's possible that", etc.
  5. Many answers have received a significant number of up votes, despite their obvious non-expert source.
  6. Many answers, though they seem poorly supported or seem to be written by non-experts, are submitted by users with hundreds or thousands of reputation points.

These questions are spread over a broad range of topics. If someone is directed to one of these questions by a search engine, it seems to me that the high votes and green check along with a highly rated user give the appearance that the answer is correct, or at least acceptable according to the standards of this site- in this case the voting system works against the goals of the site.

Here's an answer to a question on SE meta about participation of (and I mean this not in the ecclesiastic sense) laymen on SE:

We recently had a highly emotional discussion on Programmers Meta, and although the consensus seems to be that the system works as intended, it's hard to ignore the fact that several new users feel alienated.

Bear in mind that the two sites in question are specifically not for beginners.

Let's read the site descriptions:

  • English: Q&A for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts

  • Programmers: Q&A for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development

If you want to walk into a college Calculus class, you need knowledge of Algebra, Pre-Algebra, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus. If you don't, you should be gently directed to other places where you can learn the necessary prerequisites first.

The problem is not that we need to figure out some way to stop the Calculus class to teach these users Algebra -- the problem is that these users are in the wrong place! It is totally correct to gently, civilly direct them somewhere else, somewhere more at their level.

Even on Stack Overflow, which never really had "professional" in its mandate, there is generally an expectation that someone posting a question will understand the rudimentary mechanics of, y'know, being a programmer. Otherwise they're committing the greatest sin of all -- they are wasting everyone's time.

Nobody expects every student to have what it takes to attend Harvard or Yale, right? Heck, we're more akin to the local community college, and even we have standards. You can't expect to show up on the campus of your local community college and go to class completely unprepared. Nobody is going to educate you K-12 just to teach you a college level topic; asking that of your peers is completely unreasonable.

Thus, if you want to come on our "campus" and learn with your fellow students, we expect users to be armed with the basics and fundamentals of the field. Users who fail to meet the absolute minimum standards of a practicing professional, whatever field that happens to be (think FizzBuzz for programmers), should be helpfully directed to other resources where they can learn these things before coming back.

If you don't enforce some basic standards for participants, you soon won't have the benefit of any experts at all. And God help everyone on your Q&A site then.

God help us, indeed.

How do we, as a community of committed Christians and experts in Christianity, deal with questions that appear to be successfully 'completed' but lack any expert answers?

Do answers that do not satisfy the criteria for good answers on this site face a risk of deletion even if they have some (or many) votes or are preferred by the asker?

Poor quality answers seem like a long-time and widespread problem here (I've only been active for a few weeks). What actions are we taking to enforce basic standards for answerers, encourage expert participation, and discourage answers from the incognizant?

  • 3
    In just a few words: Close votes, down votes, comments, and flags. You have three of those available to you now. Certainly use them. Now, if I find the time, I'll make up an answer on effective strategies for using these tools. – 3961 Jul 7 '14 at 18:22
  • I'm afraid to say this but If you can provide some example, it would be better I think. Though I might be one of those poor answer contributor. :) – Mawia Jul 9 '14 at 12:09
  • I do want to note two things about the quoted MSE answer. First off, it was about people contributing extremely low quality questions that had nothing to do with the purpose of the site. It wasn't about dealing with amateurs. Also, even the Jeff answer for that answer turned out to be wrong. The actual solution was to open up another Stack Exchange that dealt with English for Language Learners and to move ESL questions over there. I don't think that question has much to teach us about people leaving unsourced answers. – trlkly Aug 7 '14 at 9:39
  • @trlkly Lack of sources was one of many problems listed. Yes, the quote addresses questions. It also mentions knowledgeability of users and basic standards for participants. We should certainly be as careful about answers as questions. This meta question is meant to bring attention to questions for which the ordinary process (user voting) isn't producing good answers because answerers and voters are neglecting standards that are better implemented on some SE sites than others, or otherwise they don't have the requisite knowledge to participate according to those standards. – Andrew Aug 8 '14 at 19:26
  • But the main point of that post was to say that the users know too little about the topic, and thus are in the wrong place and need to be shown the door. That does not seem to be the problem here. The problem here is people having their low quality answers voted up and accepted. – trlkly Aug 9 '14 at 16:42
  • I'd second @trlkly's answer below - use comments, be tolerant. And, like many other SE sites have required, give it some time to grow. There are a lot of very knowledgable people here it seems ... so time should eventually build the needed momentum. – Infinitesimal Sep 10 '14 at 21:42
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Well, here's an idea that came to me while I was replying above. I don't like to see good questions left completely without answers, even if I can only give an opinion-based answer. In those cases, I will leave a comment. So perhaps the solution is to convert the accepted and upvoted answers into comments. I've had an answer converted to a comment before, so I know it's technically possible.

I could see some people saying to delete the bad answers entirely, but I think that might be too harsh. The answers were likely given to help, and it would have less potential for problems if they are left there, just without the rep. Either way, removing rep is going to cause some contention, so there's no need to make it worse.

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