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A lot of the moderation choices for this site have been inherited from StackOverflow, but given the differences between programming and theology, much of the moderation has already been honed to make it more appropriate for the type of knowledge we are discussing. In general, the moderation and rules ought to be done in such a way to produce the best possible questions and answers and suppress the frivolous, contentious, eclectic, autobiographical, and opinionated questions and answers. The goal is to allow the good content to attract experts who create good content, who attract experts.

It seems then that if this is the goal (rather than being as similar as possible to StackOverflow), there might be something we could do to make overview questions more useful. As it stands now, only individual users can provide an answer to an overview question, but except for the most surface level questions, most true experts (pastors in the denomination, academics, etc) will only be experts within a specific perspective and their immediate outside sphere.

Ideally, an overview question would have an expert answer from each perspective, Catholic, Reformed, Eastern, Lutheran, etc. but because of the format, each individual expert answer would be closed. This suppresses quality content.

See How can we get better expert-level questions? Or, StackExchange vs Yahoo! Answers

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    Don't have time to flesh this out into an answer now, but any system like this will have to deal with how votes on such answers will deal with high-quality answers that represent the views of tiny, non-mainstream groups like JWs, Swedenborgians, Christian atheists, and the Westboro Baptist Church, and low-quality answers that represent the views of large mainstream groups. The history of this site suggests that it is highly likely that a bad Catholic answer will end up more highly voted than an excellent JW answer, simply because there are way more Catholics voting. – Nathaniel is protesting Apr 6 '17 at 15:02
  • This means that the voting system rewards non-experts on overview questions. This is the reddit effect, only on this site, rather than endorsing the community's orthodoxy concerning their particular tastes, it simply rewards people who are the best experts on the moderation policy, not those who produce the best answers. – Ben Mordecai Apr 6 '17 at 15:05
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    @Nathaniel, I proposed a while ago that we start a catechism to deal with the different perspectives. I don't know who thought allowing overview questions was a good idea or a compromise or anything but a pit of stink, but it wasn't me. – Peter Turner Apr 6 '17 at 15:06
  • The current system rewards "dude who listened to a podcast on the topic" higher than the moderator of the PCA general assembly, or a high level cardinal in the Catholic church. – Ben Mordecai Apr 6 '17 at 15:07
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    @BenMordecai Could you explain what you mean? The long, in-depth overview answers that I've written, detailing multiple views that I don't hold, usually get relatively little attention. Overview questions where piecemeal answers are welcome would attract much more attention and would primarily receive votes based on agreement with the answer, not its quality. – Nathaniel is protesting Apr 6 '17 at 15:08
  • But the evangelical dude who listened to a podcast will get many more votes than the Swedenborgian expert, if each is allowed to write their an answer describing just their own perspective on a particular question. – Nathaniel is protesting Apr 6 '17 at 15:10
  • That is another issue. How much sense, really, does it make for Christianity.SE to want to produce high-quality Swedenborgian answers – Ben Mordecai Apr 6 '17 at 15:11
  • @BenMordecai But that's exactly where this line of thinking leads. This site has long stood for allowing space for all self-identifying Christians. Who gets to decide which groups are allowed to participate here? – Nathaniel is protesting Apr 6 '17 at 15:15
  • It absolutely does not make sense for overview questions to touch on Swedenborgian, JW, Mormon, etc. positions merely because they self-identify as Christians. No conceivable answer could be comprehensive enough to be an adequate overview – Ben Mordecai Apr 6 '17 at 15:17
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    True. So we don't require that every answer to overview questions deal with every tradition, for the same reason that we don't require other answers to be completely exhaustive. But bad overviews – those that attempt but fail to describe the main traditions – will get comments and downvotes: just like other bad answers. This way votes are indicators of quality, not agreement, as they would be if we had one view per answer. – Nathaniel is protesting Apr 6 '17 at 15:22
  • Ok so then imagine an overview question gets a solid Reformed, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox answer. Then a Catholic writes their answer. You now have the same voting incentives to vote for the side you agree with. – Ben Mordecai Apr 6 '17 at 16:08
  • Sure, bias would still likely play a role in such a situation. But if both are actually overviews (did the Catholic write an overview, or just his own view? If the later, it's NAA and deletable), then we're much more likely to debate which overview is more complete, not who is right. – Nathaniel is protesting Apr 6 '17 at 17:25
  • @Nathaniel 'But that's exactly where this line of thinking leads. This site has long stood for allowing space for all self-identifying Christians.' Really? Where? – Abstraction is everything. Jun 15 '17 at 10:46
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This looks like a job for [X] Community Wiki, Answer My Own question button and Protection


My proposal is this, if you want to ask an overview question, you ask the question. You also answer it at the same time. Putting every denomination/tradition/sect you care to get an answer from.

If someone thinks they're smarter than the community wiki, they can always provide their own answer. But this way no one has to be altruistic (which is tough), except the people who want to update the answer. Anyone can add extra denominations into the original CW overview answer too.

You only need 100 rep to edit community wiki posts.

If the question gets a lot of drive-by, "I want to say this" posts, then we'll protect it.

To those who think this is too onerous, remember we already ask people to go through hoops goading them into asking them to specify that they are asking for an overview. We might as well goad them into this too.


Paste this in your answer and check "Commuinity Wiki":

<h1>Official Overview Answer Wiki</h1>
<h3>Anabaptist</h3>_tbd_
<h3>Anglican</h3>_tbd_
<h3>Baptist</h3>_tbd_
<h3>Catholicism</h3>_tbd_
<h3>Christian Science</h3>_tbd_
<h3>Eastern Orthodox</h3>_tbd_
<h3>Evangelical</h3>_tbd_
<h3>LDS</h3>_tbd_
<h3>Lutheran<h3>_tbd_
<h3>Methodist</h3>_tbd_
<h3>Pentecostal</h3>_tbd_
<h3>Reformed</h3>_tbd_
<h3>Swedenborgian</h3>_tbd_
<h3>Unitarian</h3>_tbd_
  • Community Wiki is not a tool for this job. If a Wiki toolset is better suited to the content people are looking for then Wikipedia is a better home for it. They have moderation tools to deal with that sort of thing which this site (beingQ&A based) does not. We tried this on a few posts way back and it was just chaos and we gave it up. About the only thing it's good for is faq and other things that have been hased out and voted on in a separate question and just need compiling. – Caleb Apr 6 '17 at 15:20
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    @caleb, I have no idea what you're talking about Community Wiki is the tool for collaboratively editing answers if stackexchange wanted to get rid of this feature, or keep it only for meta, they'd have done it a long time ago. – Peter Turner Apr 6 '17 at 15:29
  • Removing the CW feature has been discussed many times because it's so often miss-used. In fact many of the ways to activate it have been removed because of these misunderstandings. There is a time and a place for it and it could be pressed into service, but it doesn't really offer anything that the normal editing functions do not and should not be pressed into general service for all question in this genre. It would force the regular tooling (voting to sort answers) to be irrelevant, encourage half baked or mix-and-match content, and would be more confusing to use than the pure Q&A format. – Caleb Apr 6 '17 at 15:49
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    @caleb I don't want to kick a sick pony, but aren't we encouraging half-baked, mix and match content by allowing unscoped overview questions? – Peter Turner Apr 6 '17 at 16:48
  • You might want to add an edit button under each ideology. – PyRulez Mar 13 '18 at 17:04
  • Also, if the question has been asked for a specific denomination, they should just link to that question, right? – PyRulez Mar 13 '18 at 17:10
  • @pyrulez, that'd be cool if if we could do that, like a real wiki - I don't think the powers that be are going to ever invest any more time programming the community wiki feature. I'm surprised it has lasted as long as it has – Peter Turner Mar 13 '18 at 18:36
  • @PeterTurner I meant just a link to the general edit button, not the edit button for each individual section. – PyRulez Mar 13 '18 at 18:46
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Just like on Stack Overflow, the tools at hand are not meant to handle a jumble of topics in a single thread. The Q&A format works best if you ask questions that can be answered in a single go by a single expert. If it's not reasonable to expect that a single person would be able to give a decent answer covering the major bases then the question is too broad.

This isn't about suppressing quality content. It's more about giving content a venue in which the quality stuff can thrive while the less quality stuff sinks to the bottom out of the way. If you allow competing ideologies to post answers to the same questions then the vote mechanism ceases to sort useful quality content from the dross and starts to become a proxy for the ideological debate. In order for the vote mechanism to do it's job answers need to compete on clarity and usefulness, not on what viewpoint they represent.

Just like on SO where you can't ask "How do I make a deep clone of an object?" without specifying what language you are working with but you can ask two questions, one "How do I make a deep clone on an object in Lua?" and the other "How do I make a deep clone of an object in Javascript?", so you can do the same thing on this site. Likewise just as you could ask "What are the differences between the way Lua and Javascript copy object structures on assignment?", so you can ask comparative or overview questions on this site.

  • If you want in depth knowledge about a topic, ask specifically about the tradition you want to hear from. This allows experts in that field to dig in and when the answers come in they can be sorted by quality.

  • If you want specifically to zero in on differences between views on a topic, asking a comparison or overview question can be a way to get that. In this case the expertise needed is going to come from people who have made a broad study of the topic and can zero in on describing them in relation to each other.

The expert in Javascript who's never used Lua isn't going to be able to answer the question about the differences in their assignment mechanisms. They might have quality content to contribute about Javascript, but they don't actually have the expertise required to make a comparison. Likewise people who don't actually know how different views compare aren't going to be as good at answering theological overview questions. This is where the vote mechanism will do it's job in sorting good useful knowledge from ramblings if and only if answers are being compared on a level playing field. If they are being compared based on how well they cover an overview then the votes will be useful. If there are competing viewpoints people do and will vote their views.

The potential benefit of overview questions is not to list off all the possible answers but to highlight the relation of different views to each other. This requires a different kind of expertise than just going in depth on a specific view and makes them inherently a different kind of question.

  • How can the answer be possibly complete? If it is incomplete, what recourse does the non-expert in all things Christian have to complete the answer? – Peter Turner Apr 6 '17 at 15:19
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    @PeterTurner I've never suggested that such answers can or should be all inclusive. The answerer should use their best judgement to pick out the main views on a topic and cover those with mention of any significant outliers. The point isn't to catalogue every view but give a rough overview of the landscape of a topic. Somebody that tries to cover a couple minority views and misses the major ones should get downvoted even if they do a good job of covering the outliers because they didn't provide a good map of the globe. – Caleb Apr 6 '17 at 15:23
  • Further, it requires you to be an expert to ask the question. Someone who wants to understand the parable of the sower doesn't know the history of the manifold denominations in their interpretation of the parable. We don't need 16 identical questions about the parable of the sower for each and every denomination out there. – Ben Mordecai Apr 6 '17 at 15:23
  • @BenMordecai Yes, asking any good question requires some prior research. But this site isn't the place for the kind of question you describe. Somebody who want's to know the meaning ofo a parable or weigh the options for exegeting a text should ask on Biblical Hermeneutics which is built around that concept and votes on answers based on the merit of their arguments rather than on their accuracy in representing some theological tradition. – Caleb Apr 6 '17 at 15:25
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    What if someone does a good overview of Protestantism and Catholicism, but leaves off Orthodoxy? Does an Orthodox expert have to become an expert in the other denominations just to fill in the blanks? – Peter Turner Apr 6 '17 at 15:26
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    @PeterTurner Yup, when positing an answer as an overview of Christianity on an issue where Orthodoxy has a significantly different view than other traditions, not addressing it at all would be a huge weakness. A proper expert can either pitch in a better world map, or if they don't want to flesh out a whole answer maybe they can pitch in to help the original author add some notes about any significant differences between the content already given and Orthodoxy. – Caleb Apr 6 '17 at 15:30
  • @PeterTurner This exactly happened when I wrote an overview of Protestants and the “unforgivable” sin, and bruisedreed commented and pointed out a deficiency in my answer regarding Pentecostalism. I edited accordingly, but if I hadn't noticed his comment he could have edited himself. – Nathaniel is protesting Apr 6 '17 at 15:44

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