I am writing as a history-lover and avid researcher of almost everything. I have been a member here for a while, though I haven't posted much. This as an earnest attempt to address what I think is a major failing of this site, highlighted by a question I posted and a subsequent response. I ran across someone who posted a similar complaint and as an academic I attempting to bring it back and with a bit more exposition. Allow me some time to elaborate. I am looking for an honest answer/discussion here.
What is the mission of this site? Now I could be wrong, having come here from StackOverflow, which handles such things very differently, but shouldn't it be a starting point for research? I mean, if you want to answer a question about History, wouldn't you want people to come here first - and hopefully stay?
With that in mind, consider the Too basic response: "This question is too basic; it can be definitively answered by a single link to the relevant topic on Wikipedia or another standard reference source"
This response is wrong on so many levels.
It is often false. I posted a question and received this response and I saw another question with this response and in both cases there is no single site as asserted with the answer, not on Wikipedia and not on another standard reference source. That's a 100% failure rate so far. I will bet my salary there are a multitude of others. Why make such an assertion unless it is true in all cases?
It is vague. Too basic for a 4th grader is not that same as too basic for a history professor at Stanford. You don't filter your users based on historical expertise so why would you make such a broad assertion?
It is condescending. Imagine you are on the receiving end of such a comment. You have spent maybe an hour or more researching a question, then trying to frame it so the question gods don't strike you down for daring to ask in a way that is improper. That's not an insignificant investment in time, even for a 4th grader. You then get a canned response saying you didn't do enough. How can you NOT interpret that as a slight.
From a recipient's perspective "Too basic" is another way of saying:
a) You are not worthy of our time
b) You shouldn't be so lazy - go away
c) This question is too stupid for an answer (Substitute stupid for basic and you are literally saying this!!)
d) You are too stupid for an answer.
Now imagine English is not your first language and you spent a ton of time trying to put together a question in a language you don't really understand only to end up with a response like this. You have just magnified the insult.
- It doesn't offer any assistance whatsoever. It doesn't tell you where to go (other than a generic Wikipedia reference) or provide any recommendation on how to obtain an answer. At the very least it should provide a link to a page that shows HOW to find the answer you are looking for. It completely overlooks the fact that somebody invested real time to come HERE for an answer only to get figuratively crapped on and turned away with nothing to show for it.
For those of us in the "The only stupid question is the one not asked" category, labeling a question as "too basic" is an intellectual affront. If one person asks it, the odds are extremely good that others have the exact same question but won't make the effort to ask - so we as a group lose. This site also becomes less relevant as a consequence. That's just a fact.
I get that some questions are pretty silly or off-topic or trolling or whatever. I have no issue with those; they should be pretty obvious and handled appropriately. It is readily apparent, however, that there are real questions requiring real answers getting flushed into the ether by the "too basic" response.
On StackOverflow, programming questions quite often get repeated and others are extremely basic - at the level of "what is the power button for?". They have come to recognize that sometimes it can be hard to even realize an answer exists when it appears obvious to someone else. I have seen literally thousands of questions and never once seen one closed for being "too basic". They get closed when a question has already been asked and answered and a link is provided with the original answer. In that way, nobody gets insulted or turned away with nothing. They may not like the original answer but at least they get one.
Most importantly, they almost never get redirected elsewhere. It happens occasionally but at such a rate it makes no sense to go anywhere else first when looking for an answer. I tell my CS students that when they get stuck, they should start with StackOverflow as the most likely place to find an answer.
I fail to understand why Stack History hasn't taken the exact same approach. If I was a history professor with students looking to maximize their time, shouldn't I want to direct them to a place where historians and enthusiasts collectively gather and share their insights?
I have run across a distinctly and disturbingly elitist attitude on this site which is personified in the "Too basic" response to certain questions and I think it bleeds into some of the "answers" I have seen as well. I was given an "answer", which was useless as it didn't really address the original question properly, but not before being upbraided for not doing enough or proper research beforehand - all without knowing an iota about the what effort I had put beforehand.
Perhaps you disagree, but I personally envision this site to be, at the very least, the starting place for anyone wanting answers to history's questions, period. That won't happen, however, if one of your core responses is to literally insult your reader and tell them to go elsewhere.
Am I just wrong here? Is Stack History trying to be the goto site for all things history or just a sight where the snobs gather to demonstrate how smart they are or some version in between?
Thanks again for your time.