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I've been watching this beta today, and reading the various questions that have come up, and I have noticed a troubling pattern.

Many of the questions are attracting a number of different answers, and tend to fall into a "what would you do in this situation" sort of pattern. While that makes some sort of sense, because, well, we are people dealing with groups of people, and we will all have different ideas and opinions, I worry about this from a longevity standpoint.

I've seen this sort of thing happen before - one of the things that killed LIS.SE was that it was super overwhelmed by questions like this. Lots of librarians asked for advice and things, and many questions were asking "what would you do in your library" sort of thing. It eventually became one of the things that doomed the site, because, well, as many of us know, the network isn't suited to that sort of question.

I get that there isn't a clear solution for many of these problems, as they depend on the personality of everyone involved, and their personal approaches to moderation (which, as I am sure many of us know, vary widely.) That's all well and good, but I am afraid that that makes the site super difficult to moderate and to judge content, because who is to say my approach is any better or worse than someone else's?

I am not entirely sure what to do about this, but I figured I would air the concern in the nascent stages of the site, so we can hit things with hammers and make decisions as to where we want to go from here.

  • Could start with a VTC as subjective, and see how things go from there - but given this is early beta, expect some turbulence. – Air Jul 29 '14 at 23:39
  • A possibility could be just directing all such askers to chat. Along with a VTC, perhaps. – El'endia Starman Jul 30 '14 at 0:13
  • @El'endiaStarman Based on current trends, that means a lot of chat.... – Ash Jul 30 '14 at 0:16
  • Certainly. However, that room might calm down with time. I don't really see those kinds of questions as being a kind that will help this site thrive. – El'endia Starman Jul 30 '14 at 0:19
  • I was thinking about this problem earlier. However, other SE communities have been able to get past it, and I think Moderators will as well. – Tanner Jul 30 '14 at 1:39
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It may be helpful to look at another site that has many opinion based questions: Parenting

We welcome questions on topics like these:

  • matters of upbringing,
  • safety considerations,
  • food and feeding,
  • health and hygiene,
  • development and growth,
  • language development,
  • behavior and social skills,
  • discipline and punishment,
  • childrens'/family games for developmental purposes or parental sanity.

A lot of those sound like opinion based answers would be everywhere. How do they handle this? From their Don't Ask page:

Some subjective questions are allowed, but “subjective” does not mean “anything goes”. All subjective questions are expected to be constructive. What does that mean? Constructive subjective questions:

  • inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”
  • tend to have long, not short, answers
  • have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone
  • invite sharing experiences over opinions
  • insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references
  • are more than just mindless social fun

If we follow similar guidelines, and receive answers that meet the above points, the subjectivity of moderating human nature will make a good addition to the SE network.

  • 3
    I've seen various sites adopt that sort of model (Workplace, Pets, etc). I am hoping if we are aware of this as a thing from the start, hopefully it will not doom us. – Ash Jul 30 '14 at 1:15
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    It's critically important that following these guidelines implies not only curating our own contributions but also calling attention to deficiencies in other users' contributions in a civil manner, suggesting improvements, and receiving criticism graciously. Closing a question implies that it can be improved and reopened, so don't be afraid of voting to close any question. – Air Jul 30 '14 at 16:18
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    +1 - We sometimes get overly worried about things with a "right answer". We hate things that are truly just unrankable preferences (Favorite Movie!), but Parenting is a great example of a community that's really good at questions that don't have purely "right" answers. What they do have is rankable answers, where one of the top couple almost certainly will be very useful, even on topics where experienced users fall into one of a couple of philosophical positions. – Jaydles Jul 30 '14 at 16:38
  • To be perfectly honest, moderation is somewhat like parenting... :-) +1, although we'll have to adapt these to our site (of course). Do you think that we should start another meta post to start listing these things? – Anonymous Penguin Aug 8 '14 at 13:23

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