In the beginning, there was Christianity.SE
Congratulations community, we are now just over half-way through the minimum stay in public beta! We have lots of participation and a full seven weeks of asking and answering. Honestly we have a lot of good content and some wonderful users.
However, many of us who have been here from the beginning have become increasingly concerned at the prevalence of low quality questions. At first we stood by - hoping that we could get the low quality basic questions out of the way and grow into expert, high quality questions. Unfortunately this hoped for direction is not materializing and we have realized that Christianity.SE is not improving. Instead, it seems that as we gain new users, the number of low quality questions seems to increase while the number of high quality questions diminish.
Over the past several weeks, several people have raised this issue in chat. Other concerns about low quality can even be seen much earlier in our history in meta posts like How can we get better expert-level questions?. This problem has become even more tangible since Biblical Hermeneutics went into private beta. Those of us who have participated in that beta so far have been impressed by the high quality of that site.
With all of this in mind, several of us have tried to nail down what our problem is and we have a possible solution to propose. After several long discussions, we’ve concluded the problem is two-fold: unfocused questions and unsupported answers.
The primary problem that we’ve identified that makes a question low quality is a lack of focus. Questions like Is it a sin to get a tattoo? invite low quality responses due to their unfocused nature. Pure opinions and speculation would be completely valid for this type of question. However, opinions and speculation make for very low quality answers. Unfocused questions like these have drawn a large number of low quality answers and encouraged a general trend in opinion-based answers.
The fact that unfocused questions lead to poor quality answers can be clearly seen if we compare the previous example question (about tattoos) to a high quality, focused question such as What is the Mormon doctrine regarding becoming a god?. Clearly this second question invites high quality answers that are focused and well supported. Anyone that posts an answer to the second question will post high quality, supported answer based on doctrine*. Low quality posts (speculation, opinion, or unverifiable doctrine etc.) quite simply do not answer the question and can easily be identified, downvoted, flagged or removed as appropriate.
* Thus we see the other advantage of focused questions: they make it harder for trolls to get a word in edge-wise :)
While unfocused questions are clearly the primary problem (as they lead to unsupported, low quality answers), we have also seen a lot of low quality answers in general. This answer in response to an excellent question regarding Catholic prayers is currently the highest voted answer. However, the answer itself is completely unsupported and purely opinion.*
*I [Richard] suggested this example but am not encouraging you to downvote it, it is after all my answer!
If we compare that low quality, unsupported answer with this answer regarding the translation of Elohim, we can see that what makes it good is its thoroughly support using biblical references and external sources. Obviously, these are the types of answers that make StackExchange a better place.
What could happen?
Our goal when we committed to Christianity.SE was to see this site succeed. (I’m sure that is true of almost everyone reading this long post.) We wanted Christianity.SE to be a place where people could come and ask questions or find answers to the theological and doctrinal issues that they struggle with.
We believe that the quality of the questions and answers around here needs to be raised. We believe this is essential in order for Christianity.SE to become a haven on the internet for intelligent questions and for doctrinal experts. We believe that without raising the bar on the questions and answers, this site may never graduate from public beta and may eventually end up failing as a StackExchange site.
Therefore, we believe we need to refine our quality guidelines in order to raise the bar on both questions and answers.
So what now?
Lets hear some voices! Do you agree that something needs to be done? Or do you think things are fine the way they are? This is an opportunity to either agree or disagree with our conclusion. This is not our site; it does not belong to the moderators or even just those with the highest reputation. It is a community effort and the whole community needs to pitch in to help choose a direction.
We will deal with how to fix this in later meta posts. At this point we are just looking to establish a baseline that there is a problem. Please use the answer section here to voice your support or disagreement and explain why.
Furthermore, you can help out with this effort by getting involved.