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The current help system, in my opinion, has a serious ambiguity in that it is vague about what constitutes a "source request". This has created confusion and situations where some members are voting to close a question and others are busy writing up answers and urging on the OP. Obviously this creates a mixed message for OPs when some members are saying their question violates the rules and others are saying it does not.

To me, making source requests OT means any source request: pictures, movies, books, paintings, voice recordings, etc etc etc. Any question that begins with "Where can find..." or "Can someone give me examples of books/maps/pictures/films/speeches/scripts/cartoons/machines/inventions/etc etc etc that [list criteria here]" should be off topic.

In the interest of making a clear and unambiguous message for posters (who we have trouble getting to just read the help in the first place), we should clarify the part of the help concerning source requests and define what that means in clear and unambiguous language that a teenager can understand.

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    What an interesting approach to history. You know, some might find it amusing; I myself find it regular. youtube.com/watch?v=D_orL8BFFqo – Eivind Dahl Dec 19 '15 at 16:56
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    Seriously though, I've said this over and over and over and over before. If you want a board that's useful and usable for actual historians and students alike, allow all reference requests and make some of them community wiki resources. – Eivind Dahl Dec 19 '15 at 16:59
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    @EivindDahl The post is not whether resource requests should be OT or not. My point is that we need to make the policy CLEAR, whatever that policy is. Frankly, I don't care whether we allow reference requests or not, I just want it to be clear what IS allowed and what IS NOT allowed. – Tyler Durden Dec 19 '15 at 17:16
  • I completely agree about that. When I, as others also have, made a fuss about this almost a year ago my suggestion was that reference requests should of course be completely acceptable on a board on history. Then for some reason completely beyond me this kind of in-betweenish pseudo-compromise was introduced. I agree it's unclear: the board should either allow it and be useful and inviting to its users, or disallow it and lose any hope of being useful to historians and students. – Eivind Dahl Dec 19 '15 at 18:28
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    I say this on the back of my experience with mathoverflow.net, which is a much more friendly environment for users, and from my friend's experience in attempting to use this site as a historian (which proved somewhere between fruitless and impossible), paired with the reputation this site has for being Kafkaesque which the incredibly slow and painful process this has been is a testament to. – Eivind Dahl Dec 19 '15 at 18:37
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    I think you need a mod to change the Help page. I had entirely forgotten, but we actually had a topic on this 14 months ago. Not sure why it wasn't carried out then. Someone might need to visit the Chat room and ping one of our mods from there. As for people who are bitter about our current rules (which, afaik, is source requests are okay but book recommendations are not): you're welcome to form a reasoned argument and garner support. Derisive rants on "anal computer nerds" and angry disapproval of History.SE not being the same as your precious Maths.SE is neither productive nor persuasive. – Semaphore Dec 28 '15 at 6:54
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    Well, I mentioned below that history SE is meant to be useful to the kinds of people it needs to thrive, and those people need sources. I assume ED follows that logic, and will tell us if not. You don't consider that a good argument? – Ne Mo Dec 28 '15 at 10:48
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    @NeMo I do not see why we should focus on "the needs of academics, history students & teachers" - your categories exclude many, if not most, of our most active users. Accordingly I am unconvinced by the presumption that these groups (especially the second) are a source of many "quality users". Besides, your groups seem to be need book recommendations the least (academics should know where to look; educators/students should have textbooks and reading lists). In contrast, requests for primary sources or reviews of a specific work, seem far more useful, Both to them and in general. – Semaphore Dec 28 '15 at 12:12
  • I am not suggesting users who do not meet that criteria should not be welcomed. I am suggesting it is necessary to attract professional historians and those who work with them. If not what kind of person is this site for? Purely history enthusiasts like me? – Ne Mo Dec 28 '15 at 12:17
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    When studying history, finding sources of all kindsis a perennial problem, not just primary... – Ne Mo Dec 28 '15 at 12:19
  • @NeMo Likewise, I'm not saying we shouldn't welcome professional academics, or students, or teachers. Just that it doesn't mean we ought to be "focused" on "satisfying" them. Again, I really think a professional historian knows where to look for sources. – Semaphore Dec 28 '15 at 12:42
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    Seems axiomatic to me that our rules, and the site generally, should be designed to draw the kinds of people we need. Officially this is 'historians and history buffs'. We do OK with history buffs. To say professional historians shouldn't need our help is like saying stack overflow shouldn't help professional programmers. – Ne Mo Dec 28 '15 at 16:53
  • @NeMo You're misconstruing what I said. I'm pointing out that professional historians are hardly likely to need History.SE to answer such questions as "recommend a book on ww2". So while there might be a good arguments to allow reference recommendation questions here, "helping professional historians" is, imho anyway, a particularly unpersuasive one. – Semaphore Dec 28 '15 at 17:48
  • @Semaphore As pointed out time and time again, professional academics need source material all the time. This is why a resource like history:SE could be useful but is not. I've made reasoned arguments time and time again, against your ridiculous speculations. You've obviously never ever actually done any actual academic work. – Eivind Dahl Dec 29 '15 at 16:07
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    Let's try to keep it civil, chaps. – Ne Mo Dec 29 '15 at 17:21
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Of course it's unclear. That's why the whole rule should go. We need a site that, rather than aiming for pure stackism, is useful to the kinds of users it needs to thrive (and we badly need a bigger base of quality users).

All our rules should be focussed on satisfying the needs of those users: academics, history students, and history schoolteachers. All those people need sources, primary and secondary.

  • Yeah I've been saying this for more than a year. So far this environment has proved incredibly slow to adapt sensible argument and change. – Eivind Dahl Dec 29 '15 at 16:02

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