The Politics site inherits an administrative culture that has worked well for StackOverflow, a site for professional-grade coders who have problems that need solving right now and are requesting a knowledge transfer. The Politics site is different, should the administrative culture reflect this?
Indeed, the site runs on the engine that was designed for Stack Overflow. But Stack Exchange sites develop their own culture: even at a brief glance, one would not mistake The Workplace or English Language & Usage or WorldBuilding sites for Stack Overflow. This is a natural development because Stack Exchange sites are moderated by those who use them: by you.
Some site-specific settings can be adjusted based on the needs of specific sites: for example, Workplace has a setting that discourages excessive comment threads, while Code Golf has a setting that makes it easier to post many solutions to a programming challenge.
Raising a specific feature request on this meta site is the way to make such changes happen, if they are feasible and the community is on board with them.
The StackOverflow model fundamentally works here. The general model is that people post questions, and they are rewarded (with reputation) for posting good questions. Other people post answers, and they are rewarded for posting good answers.
StackOverflow and the other technology sites are primarily about solving problems. An answer is good if it is useful, and bad if is not useful. On Politics.SE we have an informational, rather than problem-solving mentality. Good answers provide relevant, factual information and present it in a way that is unbiased and informative.
Many of our struggles are related to a failure to recognize our similarities to the technology Stacks. Not everyone can write a great answer about programming. It's silly to think that because someone has been using computers, or reading lay-articles about computers in magazines or newspapers, that they would be able to answer programming questions. Unfortunately, many people believe that because they have lived under a government and read newspapers that they have the expertise required to answer questions about politics.
We can do better. Specifically, we can:
- Ask that answers be backed-up. Answers can be backed-up by personal experience (in some cases), documentation (laws, government reports, public statements), or professional analysis (such as academic research, governmental audits, etc.).
- Respect that personal and professional experience is a legitimate basis for an answer for some questions. Sometimes we are too hard on people for relying on their experience, when that is a perfectly appropriate basis for an answer.
- Assume good faith in both questions and answers. Politics can be a divisive subject, but if we approach it through the lens of a technical question and answer site we can encourage open, respectful, and factual content.
This is a complicated (for me) issue so I’ll put up a strawman and people can take shots at it:
The Politics site is not a philanthropic project, so any suggestions for improvements need to be openly set against revenue considerations. I say openly because any pretence otherwise is always going to be suspicious. This is what optimised, in my comment above, refers to: Openly and unashamedly optimised for profit.
Who is the target audience? Right now it looks like somebody just put their finger in the air - hey, let’s just use our existing infrastructure and just see what happens with Politics! Implicitly this means that no side has been taken, yet, so high-level political discussion is still a possibility. I suggest that you want people with money to spend and a taste for intellectual stimulation. The kind of people who might actually click on one of those advert panels on the right (oh, wait…). THey will not be the same sort of people as go to Stackoverflow because their on a deadline and need correct answers fast. You might want to discourage ranters, who are perhaps less likely to be wealthy, by insisting that answers must be provided before comments are allowed rather than just 10 points.
Questions should not be editable by any Tom, Dick or Harriett. This is Politics, some of the players may not be entirely honest (it’s Politics), others might be dim-witted (it’s still Politics): What it’s not is Stackoverflow, where there is a high level of agreement about what the site is for and little incentive for subversion. There should be an easily findable audit trail that shows all edits to Q’s, who did it, and why. (I couldn’t find the audit trail easily for my last answer which got totally clobbered by an edit to the Q.)
Stupid and non-conforming Q’s should be allowed to stand. If a question appears to someone to be liable to attract low-quality answers then who cares? The answers are hard to write and correct politics answers are as rare as hens' teeth.
If a question is clearly more that one question, does this really matter? It’s not Stackoverflow where it absolutely does matter. Why not leave these slightly imperfect Qs be ignored or taken up by someone who can see value. Right now, people with important questions but faulty English and no idea of the Stackoverflow protocols are being dissed unnecessarily for the satisfaction of the self-important.
Qs that are likely to cause a disturbance or break laws should be reportable, like in many online comment sections. This would, I think, be a new feature, but one worth considering carefully. Why do others do it? Surely for good reason? This is not Stackoverflow where people do not make threats to each other as a rule.