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Currently, our scope is defined in the Help Centre as:

Islam Stack Exchange is for Muslims, experts in Islam, and those interested in learning more about Islam.

The Stack Exchange model works best by focussing on one particular area of expertise. Our current scope, however, includes three distinct classes of people, which don't really have much in common except for their interest (not the same as expertise) in Islam.

Given that our best chance of success is to gather a critical mass of users who are both able to ask and answer interesting question, should we modify the focus of our site? If so, how?

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Right now, the current scope includes three distinct groups:

  • Muslims
  • experts in Islam
  • those interested in learning more about Islam

However, while we seem to be welcoming questions from all three groups, we as a site seem to be particularly harsh on any answers from anyone other than "experts in Islam."

That's all well and good, but we can't really say that this Q&A site is for any particular group if we're telling them that their answers are not welcome here: A Q&A site without answers is…well…I'm not sure what it is, but I don't want one.

And I don't think anybody else does either.

I propose that we strike the "Muslims" and "those interested in learning more about Islam" from the site scope, and changing our target community to "students of knowledge and experts in Islam".

This would not prevent questions from non-experts, any more than being for "professional and enthusiast programmers" has prevented beginner and homework questions from Stack Overflow. The difference would be that incoming questions would know that they're asking (and expecting an answer from) a community of "experts in Islam," not just any random Muslim or person interested in learning about Islam who don't claim any level of knowledge or expertise on the subject.

  • Are you sure that you want to prevent the questions by general public? Maybe it's better to try to avoid the answers from general public, not questions? – kolja Jul 20 '13 at 12:08
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    @kolja Even this scope change would not actually prevent questions from the public but it would change the focus to put it on the part that this site could best handle. See also Optimizing for perls not sand – Caleb Jul 21 '13 at 15:56
  • @Caleb: I didn't know you too were JAPH. ;-) – Jon Ericson Sep 19 '13 at 16:31
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    This is an excellent change as long as it's not used to exclude people rather than content. Several sites on the network have gone a bit overboard in that respect and practically required people to show their credentials. I know this isn't the intent of the change, however. As you say, the intent is to encourage the types of questions experts ask. – Jon Ericson Sep 19 '13 at 16:34
  • @JonEricson One never quite gets over their first love. Mine was perl. – Caleb Sep 19 '13 at 18:23
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I think the scope is fine. The description you mentioned is common for SE sites and seem to work fine on other similar sites like Christianity and Judaism. I think as graduated sites we can use their experience.

Further more, I think restricting the scope is a bad idea. right now we get around 4 questions per day and that is pretty low for a site after a 393 days. Restricting scope would very likely mean that we will have even fewer questions.

If valid questions are unjustly treated too harshly then that is the problem, not the scope. There were discussions in the early days where some active users promoted harsh treatment of questions in place of being welcoming and trying to edit questions to become suitable. The harsh treatment you mention is likely a result of that turning into a culture. I think that attitude has to change if the site is going to survive.

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    valid questions aren't treated particularly harsh, it's the answers that are. we're basically drawing users with one hand, then slapping them down with the other. – goldPseudo Jul 18 '13 at 14:55
  • Being welcoming to new users and pushing away those users who insist on behaving non-constructively and using the site for means that it is not and was not intended for are both important. Keeping these troublemakers at bay is important for having a healthy environment, the troublemakers can alienate the main target community of the site which is Muslims. – Kaveh Jul 19 '13 at 9:09
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    On Christianity during the 22 months of beta we spent untold thousands of hours educating every new user that came along that we weren't just interested in basic curiosity questions or pat answers, that the bar was really set on expert level things. This includes requiring some research to ask questions and being able to cite sources and identify perspectives in answers. The current scope of the Islam site is much broader than what we have narrowed down on and been successful at doing. – Caleb Jul 21 '13 at 15:59
  • @Caleb, can you elaborate further and explain how the scope is narrower in more details? – Kaveh Jul 21 '13 at 22:57
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I think you should just write:

"Islam Stack Exchange is for Muslims, experts in Islam, and those interested in learning more about Islam from Muslim point of view."

It is clear, not offensive and sincere.

That way you would not have me writing scientific answers and debating just about everyone here. Sorry, but current description is misleading and I vote up for you to change it.

On the other hand, since we already have thousands of Islam Q&A in forums all over the world, maybe you should just do the opposite and be more welcoming and tolerant towards people giving the other kind of opinion about the Islam.

  • I don't think the change is necessary. It is fine as it is. It is similar to how Christianity and Judaism are described on their about pages. If there is no problem with them there is no problem with Islam's scope description. – Kaveh Jul 19 '13 at 5:45
  • @Kaveh I am an atheist. The question is do you really want me and similar people to participate? If you say you do, fine, but then why downvote every expressed opinion simply because you do not agree with it? If you include "from the Muslim point of view", that would discourage atheists to give answers because their perspective is "wrong". Of course, they still could ask questions. – kolja Jul 19 '13 at 11:57
  • On meta votes show agreement and disagreement. We don't require people participating on this site to be believing Muslims, in fact there are some relatively high reputation users who are not Muslims. However, if you want to answer from atheist perspective then that is off-topic here as it is on Christianity and Judaism. Those view are outside the scope of these sites. The only acceptable answers on this site are those based on classic Islamic sources. If you want you can start atheism.SE and on it you can answer questions from the perspective of atheism. – Kaveh Jul 19 '13 at 13:15
  • @Kaveh, I agree. That is exactly the reason I voted up the proposal from goldPseudo to amend the rules. See, questions are not islamic or atheist. Only answers are. – kolja Jul 19 '13 at 13:18
  • There is no need to "amend rules" or change the description of the scope in the about page as I explained. There will be always some users like you who misunderstand the scope and in such cases it will be explained to them as it is explained to you. The description of this site's scope is similar to the description of scope on Judaism and Christianity in their about pages and it doesn't need any modification. – Kaveh Jul 19 '13 at 13:25

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