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I really love this site. I check it out daily and tries to be a good citizen by contributing from time to time.

My time however is limited. I know that there are some disagreements among those of you that are the most active. This really bothers me, because I don't want this site to fall apart!

I have voted in the question "What kind of site do we ultimately want to have?" but since then the conversation seems like it have stalled. I don't have time to go through all the conversations in "The library" but I would like to have a summary of the current state of this site. I don't think that I am alone in this situation.

Question: How could the current state of this site be summarized?

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    Thanks for speaking up for the site Niclas :) Conversations are still going on, though it is certainly true that opinions are polarised as evidenced by the voting on that other Meta question. Myself, I'm hoping that eventually a compromise answer will be posted that most folk will get behind… – Jack Douglas Nov 1 '13 at 13:44
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    @GoneQuiet: I'm really happy to hear what sounds like a commitment to make it work. I, for one, misses your Jewish perspective (and I say that not as a Jew myself but a Christian pastor part of the Swedish pentecostal movement). I hope I don't start another "flame war" or something. But I came to this site for answers that was more focused on the biblical text than doctrine and also for the diversity of people from different backgrounds. – Niclas Nilsson Nov 1 '13 at 19:06
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    I understand this. The problem is that I want all perspectives. But it's silly to post the same question to two different sites (and not the way things should be done). Maybe I try to think the options through one more time and see if I can contribute somehow in the Library (I understand that this is not the place for lengthier discussions). But I think my family would like my attention right now :) – Niclas Nilsson Nov 1 '13 at 19:21
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Imagine a consensus on the desired shape of this site. It's not unreasonable; I think that there is a good deal of common ground expressed here. What would happen next?

What would happen next is a very hard moderation challenge. For the site to succeed, it has to project its chosen shape, and it has to attract a community consistent with that shape. The fact is that attracting a community is partially about bringing some people in, and partially about pushing some people away. Yes, I wrote 'people,' not content. A community is made up of people, not posts. And not everyone wants to participate in the site imagined here. They want to participate in some other site that they mistake this one for. Sometimes you can move them into the frame, and sometimes you have to just move them away.

To begin with, there has to be vigilant moderation of questions, so that the front page is not routinely decorated with 'broken windows'. My sense is that, even looking at the core points of agreement in the arguments here, the front page frequently shows bad-example questions. (a) there is not a large enough vigilant cadre of question-closers, and (b) there are not enough questions to even push closed questions down off the page.

However, that's not enough. This site, more than some of the technology sites, attracts questionable answers. On Stackoverflow, or Ask Different, and the like, the overwhelming majority of the moderation task is questions. Most people who show up do so to solve a problem. Here, a fair number of people show up to spread their particular good news, or to join a discussion (= forum) about a subject that is extremely important to them. And they deliver answers. And some of those answers are not consistent with the vision of the site. This required even more moderation vigilance, since some kinds of answers to some kinds of questions are particularly discouraging.

Now, maybe I'm wrong, and really this can't be expected to function until and unless there's a consensus right here. I've written as much as I think I have to write on the meat of the argument here elsewhere, so I won't repeat myself.

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    I confess, I just can't make up my mind about my level of commitment here. I'd love to have online contact with fellow Hebrew-Bible geeks, and I don't mind looking things up in HALOT for people who don't have a copy, but past a certain point, I'm about to follow you into obscurity. – user947 Nov 3 '13 at 18:30
  • I mostly agree with the sentiments you've expressed here. In particular, if we can move in a direction most folk support, we'll need to be firm about the move. – Jack Douglas Nov 4 '13 at 8:56
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Your timing couldn't be much better! This past week the Community Team completed an internal review of the October 2013 self-evaluation. Normally only one member of the team makes these reviews, but when a site nears graduation the entire team looks over the site from top to bottom. With 9 of us looking at graduation candidates and considering that we would rather leave a site in beta for another quarter than graduate a site that eventually fails, you can be sure this is a very thorough critique.

Quality

Not all of us are familiar with the topic, but we all recognize good writing and healthy criticism on display in the self-evaluation. This is clearly an academic site which has generally avoided problems that plague "religious" sites on the internet. There are clearly tensions between people who would like to see poor answers culled from the site and those who are content to leave them as long as better answers exist. (This mirrors the deletionism and inclusionism debate on Wikipedia.) Members of the team with more experience than myself have observed this is a natural part of site maturity. It's healthy to have the debate without necessarily coming to a resolution.

Traffic

Since the last evaluation, traffic has increased nicely. By the Area 51 metrics, visits per day is well past what we are looking for and much of them are via Google. Looking for the questions via Google, it's clear that the site is quickly becoming the definitive resource for many long-tail questions. There's every reason to expect traffic to build.

Participation

Relative to other sites, user retention looks good. The number of people who visit regularly and post occasionally increase steadily month after month. But there still aren't enough people with 500 or more reputation who are active on the site. A moderator election at this point will be difficult to pull off.

Questions per day have hovered around 2, which just isn't enough to keep the current user base active. It feels like people are looking around for stuff to do. The topic is finite and narrow, but there's no reason there shouldn't be more questions for people to answer. (As of this morning, the statistic reads 2.8 Q/d, but that could be an anomoly.)

Summary

We are not yet ready to graduate Biblical Hermeneutics, but the problems we see are the solvable type. I feel confident that asking a few more questions will bring in more contributors and accelerate the self-sustaining growth we like to see on Stack Exchange sites. In addition, please continue to introduce people who would be a good fit for the site. There are still challenges to maintaining the sort of academic site this has always strived to be, but with the solid core of smart and industrious users that already inhabit the site, we have full confidence in continued quality here.

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    Even though there are problems, as you mention, I feel that your answer is really encouraging. That's good :-) But I'm also a little unsure now which questions that are "low quality". Care to give a sample? If I have one, feel free to use that one. Of course, I've seen bad answers on this site. But I'm not sure where to draw the line. – Niclas Nilsson Nov 4 '13 at 20:10
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As a fairly new user of this site who seems to be 'out of synch' with the current moderator direction I can propose from my perspective "What works and what don't".

1) Civility(tone and address)

You opened the door to all, you expect all to be courteous and respectful. Wars have been fought over this stuff, they don't have to be fought here. Respectfully disagree and don't prolong the agony.

2) Handling Tensions

Anytime someone posts their research/opinion there is a certain amount of tension: they are invested in their viewpoint and someone else is invested in theirs. This site exposes the tensions that exist by giving the answerer the means to expose a certain view and the audience to approve/disapprove based on their vote. The challenge with THIS SITE is that there is no neutral corner: unlike microbiology or quantum physics, G-D is not 'neutral', sitting in the audience eating popcorn while we debate. What that means then is there ARE right and wrong answers, and they can't be decided by 'thumbs up or down'.

The 'mods', like it or not, are predisposed to a certain view, so therefore their 'interference' should be based on 1) Is this a legitimate question arising from the text-to which hermeneutics can be applied(whether or not I agree with the answer); 2) Are 'credible'(objective) sources being used to support one's viewpoint? 3) Are there glaring inconsistancies, ad hominum, straw men, or other methods used to win an audience without substance? 4) Does the answerer make a 'point', and have they established a position that can be supported or rebutted?

3) Handling Diversity

You have a Global Website, so therefore you have a Global Audience. English-though the language of use may not be the user's native language. Culture also plays in the mix, a user from Europe may be predisposed to respond to an answer differently than someone from the Lone Star State. If the user knows the guidelines, then they have a context to which they can respond, and can expect some leeway given their 'cultural/language/theological perspective' as long as they operate within the guidelines. Tensions exist-they don't need to create them. What would be helpful is if they posted answers which help to explain and resolve tensions-where they can be resolved.

4) Questions

I don't have a clue as to what a 'good' question is. I would say,"One that stems from the text and can be resolved from the text", but further inquery told me that that wasn't necesarily so. I had hoped we could ask the "Hard Questions" that demanded good answers, not just repeats of last Sunday's sermon. I believe that the 'mods'(when they get their act together) would expand the boundaries of what is a 'Good Question'. I believe the Community through it's involvement would help focus them on this endeavor. I believe the current effort is being made to 'limit' what a good question is, so that only a language scholar or 'academe' would feel welcome in offering his technical expertise: this makes it easier to correct, but limits the focus and audience-besides, the 'academe' has many other venues and opportunies to exposit his views, it would be the height of boredom (IMO) to need an on-line site to accomplish this.

If you want to stay current, relevant, and necessary, I suggest you allow questions and answers to flow from the mass of participants who feel the need to ask or response to answer-and (mods) be referees given the perameters that I've outlined. It's more work, I believe there will be more usefulness/reward.

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    @Gone Quiet-I hear your response to text-centered analysis; that would be my response also. What I sense, however, is'text-centered analysis in this particular way'. To elliminate raw opinion, speculations, questions in which NO attempt at research was made, certainly deserve the red pen. What I sense though is an attempt to make every answer a 'linguistic' comparison in which a select few individuals with those skills can answer 'correctly', while the rest of us peek through the window and watch. I don't believe 'bias' can ever be factored out-especially when it concerns the Bible. – Tau Nov 4 '13 at 20:22
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    @Gone Quiet-(continued) However, I don't believe it is in the Mods best interest to factor out bias-they have bias's too. Keeping it on topic and in context is the best anyone could ask-the reader can vote for themselves whether the content meets their criteria or not – Tau Nov 4 '13 at 20:29
  • @Gone Quiet-Thank you for your patience! I'm sure you will find the common ground to get your feet on to promote excellence and respect diverse viewpoints! – Tau Nov 4 '13 at 20:34

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