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From January 2016 (1 year, 5 months ago), Jon Ericson ♦ gave some feedback about Islam.SE. The five items were:

  1. Inconsistently producing helpful content.
  2. Plagiarism.
  3. Many questions unanswerable by random people on the internet.
  4. 17% unanswered questions.
  5. Lack of non-moderator leadership (re: closing, deleting posts).

Question: Are these items still holding us back?


Item 3. seems to still be a problem. For whatever reason, we're not great at answering certain types of questions. These stand out:

Re 4.: My mini-celebration at 84% answered might have been a bit premature. However, I'm confident 5. has changed; see A sign of becoming a mature site: questions are being closed without diamond moderator intervention and Closure Moderator Tools.

I've been trying to identify (and attempt to eliminate) obstacles for a while now: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

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    I am not surprised at the unanswered tags. Malik himself used to answer most of the questions directed to him with "I don't know", with the majority of those unanswered questions being on these two specific topics: marriage (divorce related), and finance. Until today, you will find scholars who will shy away from these two topics. – III-AK-III Jun 24 '17 at 11:19
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The plagiarism/copy-paste problem has definitely improved, but we're still seeing a lot of activity from users with what I think of as the "plagiarism mindset", the idea that there's only two possible states for this site, and no middle ground can possibly exist:

  • Answers from actual scholars, and/or copy-pasted articles from "scholars" (which are often likely to include anything from actual fatwa sites to random blog posts to Yahoo! Answers) if we don't have any actual scholars
  • Chaotic free-for-all of people who have no knowledge with which to answer questions (which they are often more than happy to include themselves in while complaining that it's going to destroy everything)

The plagiarism itself isn't really the problem, it's merely a symptom of a much deeper problem: Non-experts really don't understand how expertise works. I'd argue that this is the core issue behind most of the points Jon brought up, and even if we fix those particular symptoms, we'll continue to have problems so long as we as a site continue to attract and encourage non-experts instead of experts.

Keeping that in mind, note the unanswered questions rate: Finding non-experts to ask questions is far far easier than finding experts to answer them; this is just a fact of life and Stack Exchange in general.

Flipping through a number of questions in your unanswered questions tags, it appears that many of them are unanswered less because we're not good at answering them, rather they're just… boring. Like, really, really boring. There's only so many variations on "I want to do this thing, is it halal or haram?" that people can ask before people just give up caring enough to answer them, especially when so many of them will basically require a crash course in Fiqh 101 to even understand why it's a bad question in the first place, much less appreciate any answer given to them.

(Of note, as of this post I am apparently the top user in , and , and am near the top in most of the others. I don't claim to be an expert in all or any of these fields, but when I say these questions are too boring to even bother trying to answer, that has some weight.)

As for the self-moderation problem, I will agree that it has improved significantly over the last year or so. However, we're still relying on a relatively small core of dedicated users to handle the moderation; going through recent posts that have been closed without moderator intervention, almost 85% of all close votes are still coming from the same six users.

Don't get me wrong: This is awesome and keep doing it. However, holding a site with 20k posts, 11k users and 32k visits a day on the shoulders of six people is little better than holding it on the shoulders of one: That's still a lot of work, and eventually someone's gonna get bored or go on vacation or have real life interfere or something, and then we're back to where we started.

Ideally, we want our small core of dedicated users to attract more dedicated users, until we end up with a large core of dedicated users who are also attracting more dedicated users. I'm sure our core is solid enough to do this now, but it still takes time to build up that critical mass.

Note also that graduating eventually increases the reputation required for most moderation privileges: In particular, of all the users who are regularly voting to close posts now, only four of them will have the reputation to do so after the thresholds jump. One of them will have the reputation to delete questions. None of them will have the reputation to delete answers.

Coming back to the core question, I would say that none of the points Jon made are still holding us back, insofar as we're definitely moving forward through and/or in spite of them. However, they're still pronounced enough that if Stack Exchange were to consider us for graduation now, I'd still voice my concerns and recommend they wait (of course, I'm not the one who will actually make that decision).

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  • Jon Ericson ♦ wrote that we should close boring, trivial, mindless, uninteresting, etc. questions and really need to shut down any question that wastes your top-users time and energy. Maybe this should become a new focal point for improving quality. – Rebecca J. Stones Mar 31 '18 at 4:50

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