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Defining Scope for our site

In the time since we initially launched the site initiative, through the definition phase where the initial set of questions was discussed, through commiment and ultimately beta - the questions and answers raised, voted for, closed and so on, has defined what we as a community would like our site to be about.

And that mechanic works. I'd like to start out by pointing this out.

Let the community decide

We've been debating this in the moderator group, and by and large we all agree that "Let the community decide" is about the best policy we can apply when it comes to defining what questions are in and out of scope for the site.

This is not to be mistaken for "anything goes" however ;-)

But if a question comes along and it's related to our daily work and woes with and around Sitecore, it sometimes falls into a bit of a grey area where there is no well defined line to put it on either side of the "scope fence". This is where the users of the site - the community - comes into play. Vote, up and down, vote to close, use the Stack Exchange mechanics the way they are intended - the site belongs to you, the community.

That said, we do have a few grey areas where the community seems almost split down the middle. And I feel (and I do believe I speak for the moderator group on this) it is time we had a debate on this issue.

Let's take a trip back in time, to understand where this is coming from

At the very beginning

Let's take a look at an August 22 edit of our site tagline.

http://area51.stackexchange.com/posts/101710/revisions

Area 51 Edit during Definition phase

While I agree, the original tagline in our proposal was perhaps too weak or broad or whatever; a more significant change happened in that edit however. The site went from being for and by the "developers, application engineers, marketers, content editors" of Sitecore ("The Community") to being about "Developers and Users of the Sitecore ... Marketing Software".

So essentially a scope change narrowing our scope down to product related questions; as opposed to community related questions in a broader sense.

And maybe we need that. Maybe we don't. That's what this post is about. While I have a lot of respect for Robert's opinion and experience in driving and launching SE sites - I also know that defining exact scope is not up to him. It's up to the community.

So what do we know?

Some of us has been experimenting with this grey area. In a pursuit to find out, exactly where the boundaries lie - where the community likes the site to be, and where not.

Community

A few things have been tried. Me, I've been experimenting with the tag. A few posts I feel are relevant to our community at large. From my standpoint - this whole site exists only because of a dedicated community effort; and will only continue to flourish and prosper as long as there is a broad community support for it. And as an extension of that, I feel it only appropriate that questions for and by the community are considered relevant on this site - even if they do not directly relate to the use of Sitecore "The Product" directly.

Looking at stats for the questions and Wikis, they seem to be overall well received. That said; every one of them raised has led to quite a lot of discussion on our Slack channel - so the status of these questions is by no means clear at this time.

Arguments for

  • This site is built by the community, for the community
  • Questions on this tag has been received with a relatively high interest from the community
  • Will often be a Community Wiki

Arguments against

  • Questions of this nature are better suited for "forum format" on e.g. community.sitecore.net
  • Questions like this are not "expert level questions"
  • Will often be a Community Wiki (this works both for and against)

Example posts

Sitecore-basics

Then there was another attempt tried; sitecore-basics, where entry level questions were posted and tried by the community. The thinking was, to not only act as an "expert site", we would also have relevant content for complete newcomers to Sitecore. The community had a stronger reaction to this experiment, and the overall (and more or less immediate) reaction was to downvote and/or vote-to-close these questions. These questions are actually "in scope" in so far as the current tagline goes, but falls out of scope on SE sites general "expert level questions" requirements. Whatever "expert level" means.

Given the reactions we received on this tag I think it is safe and fair to say, the community does not want this type of questions. We will look into the "Documentation" feature when it becomes available to us.

Best-practices

Lastly; we allow for soliciting feedback from the community at large; on the tag. And only this tag. As we all know - in working with Sitecore, there is often multiple solutions to any given problem. And as such, there could never be no definitive "right" or "wrong" answer. That said; getting broad community input on these questions was deemed valuable to us all, and I've personally enjoyed all the high quality responses we've been getting on that tag. Community has received these questions openly and actively engaged in debate.

Arguments for

  • Very high interest on the tag and high participation from the community
  • Not all things in Sitecore have a single solution

Arguments against

  • Doesn't fit the Q&A format well. Often, a single answer cannot be marked as "correct"
  • The regular 1Q multiple A format of StackExchange already caters for multiple answers

Example posts

So whereto now?

That is indeed the question :-)

I think it's time we had a recorded debate on this. Recorded in the sense that we take this conversation to Meta and try and gather community input and thoughts on the matter - as opposed to a handful of people exchanging opinions on Slack and nothing more comes of it.

This is not a vote

Community and site mechanics are in place, everyone can vote to close on questions as usual and so on. But I am hoping we can get enough community input, so we (the moderators) can make a few edits to the site to better communicate what the community wants for this site.

We will leave this question open to gather community thoughts on all of this.

What, in your opinion, should be the scope of Sitecore Stack Exchange?

We can take the above questions to a vote. Some of them. All of them. And add even more, if feedback here suggests it. It's just not practical to take all of this to a vote at the same time, so likely we'll do just one at the time, to allow dust to settle. Should we focus on strictly product? Include community? Why? why not?

Let us hear your thoughts on this.

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This is just my opinion - but I guess that is what you are asking..

  • Community tag: I would not do this on SSE - those questions are useful for the community but it's just a gut feeling that they are better placed on community.sitecore.net
  • best practices: although it might be difficult to pick an answer, I would keep those questions as they sometimes give the OP and all the rest of us some very useful ideas and insights. And picking an answer can also be difficult in other cases - we just need to realize that if an answer is picked, that does not mean that the other answers are not valid. Usually the upvotes will also indicate that. When it is difficult to pick an answer, I think the OP should post a comment to explain why he picked the one..

For the vote-to-close reasons: I'm missing the option to close questions as in SO for "simple typographical errors" - actually thinking about this example: KickUser Page Not Showing Users Not that we should copy SO - e.g. I think that questions seeking tutorials or other information online can be put here (without replacing google of course).

At the moment I do get the feeling that "the community" is reacting through comments when something is missing in questions.

When I can think of something else, I'll edit...

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  • i will second this opinion (and upvoted it) – Klaus Petersen Nov 8 '16 at 13:27
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    We are indeed asking opinions here. Also @KlausPetersen, be mindful that this is not a vote and that answers can be edited. We will put individual questions to a vote later, after soliciting "enough" feedback. – Mark Cassidy Nov 8 '16 at 13:44
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Mark, thanks for taking the time to write this up. I think that you've provided a lot of valuable insight as well as done a great job recounting where we started from and how we got to here.

Scope

My biggest opinion as to scope of the Sitecore Stack Exchange, is that I view this site as the primary tool that could be utilized to ask questions about Sitecore in general, how to use Sitecore, how to code for Sitecore, or about how to engage with the Sitecore community at large. There is not another centralized location, that is easily maintained, when it comes to the Sitecore Community (not even community.sitecore.net does a good job at that).

So I'd like to think that this is a place where anyone, of any skillset, can come in, ask a question (or answer an answer), regardless of the -expert level- that is often adhered to by other Stack Exchange sites.

However, as you recounted in our experiment of the sitecore-basics tag, it was clear that elementary questions were looked poorly upon by the community. But, maybe I skewed the results. It could be that maybe the community saw someone with a high rep asking easy questions and being off put by it. But what if the context was different? What if a nobody who just joins, with a rep of 1/1 comes in and asks "What is an item?" It could be a sincere question, from a newbie developer that is trying to figure out the wild, wacky world of Sitecore. If he was given the same reaction I was given... He'd never come back. As a community member watching that happen, I would feel awful. I don't want to be part of an elitist group. I just want to help people. But, I am the not the community at large, and this is democrazy (no wait.. democracy. Democrazy is what's happening tonight as I write this in the U.S.)! So whatever the majority rules, even I disagree with it, I'll deal and accommodate.

Community Tag

I love the community tag, makes it easy to know that these are questions about the community at large, and clicking on the community taglink, and seeing all the great questions there, makes it a valuable resource for us to give that single link reference to someone new and them be able to find their way.

Best-Practices

I think the best-practices tag has been utilized OK. I question whether it doesn't provide a catch-all bucket for random questions making it easier to ask off the wall questions. But by and large, thus far, I think it's provided a venue for fantastic dialogue.

Vote to Close

I can think of at least one that I feel is relevant:

  • Discuss with Sitecore
    • question is asking for information that should come directly from Sitecore and not solicited from the community (e.g. license questions, release dates)

In Summary

I want to thank our moderators (Rich, Mark, and Dmytro) for their hardwork and countless hours that they have already spent in backroom chats and conversations with the super powers that be to guide us on this journey to make this site what it is today and what it can be realized as in the future. I look forward to seeing how this site matures.

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  • The "discuss with Sitecore" or talk to Sitecore is a good suggestion indeed. – Gatogordo Nov 9 '16 at 8:17
  • On your sitecore-basics topic: I think you're right that the downvotes were also because everybody knows that you know what an item is.. (you do, right? :) – Gatogordo Nov 9 '16 at 8:26
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    And yes, we really should have newbie questions. But if a newbie came here and asked that "what is an item" question, I would still refer him to Sitecore training or hopefully for him some co-workers. I like helping new guys (also here at work), but that was just too basic and not related to any specific issue. I would prefer someone to ask: "I need functionality x and have read at y that I need a pipeline, but what is a pipeline?" over just "what is a pipeline?".. just my 2 cents.. hope to see other peoples opinion too – Gatogordo Nov 9 '16 at 8:26
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Many times I have stumbled across Stack Overflow questions and answers I found extremely helpful that had been closed for being off-topic. While not designed as a forum replacement, the truth is I still find the highest quality answers on Stack Overflow, regardless of topic. If we can build a single community where the best and brightest focus their attention it will be a great achievement. Narrowing the scope in any way at this point would be counterproductive, in my opinion.

Regarding the tags, I would be reluctant to use the tag as those concepts evolve over time. It would be too much effort to maintain the list, so at some point the collection will be stale.

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I don't think we should really limit the scope of SSE questions. Why?

If the question is Sitecore related, then for me it's ok.

Another thing is quality of the question - if it can be answered with a single link https://www.google.com?q=your-question-title then it should be closed with You haven't made enough effort before asking message.

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I love the Best Practices tag, as I'm in a shop where I am supposed to know the best way to do things, and sometimes I don't. So having a place where I can get some good, community tested-and-approved solutions has been very valuable to me. I think that best practice questions are good when trying to figure out some of the newer technologies in Sitecore (SXA for example), and there might not be an Official recommendation, but if others have things that are working for them, it's nice to have an official way to share that knowledge.

I've not used the community tag yet, as I think that most of those types of questions I can get answered by looking at the Slack channel.

In browsing the site, I haven't noticed many people posting questions that can be answered with a simple link. I've felt like this community has done a good job of getting high-quality participants, and so I don't have any opinion about the vote to close question either.

As far as the scope of the site goes, I'm finding it valuable for me in these ways:

  1. Configuration
  2. Best Practices
  3. Understanding how new technologies work (or don't work)
  4. Workarounds when bugs are found
  5. API/Coding questions

As a user of this site, those are the things that I find valuable. This site has been amazingly helpful for me as I've been working my way through some of these new Sitecore issues.

Thanks for putting this together! I hope this helps with your discussions!

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  • Thank you for your input! It is much appreciated! In regard to the best-practices tag—shouldn't virtually any question be answered with a best solution in mind? Or, in other words, do you think anything would change for you if that tag was removed? – Dmytro Shevchenko Nov 25 '16 at 15:15
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    I think that sometimes I know how I can do something, but I'm not sure if it's the right way to do it or not. I don't want to get down-voted because someone can say "Look at this link.... didn't you do any research before you asked the question?" For me, it's a different kind of question. It's not a "how can I do this", it's more of a "is there a better way to do this?" type of thing. Here's an example of where I think the best-practices tag has been helpful for me: sitecore.stackexchange.com/questions/1921/… – Keith VanderVeen Nov 28 '16 at 17:03

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