Recently our site editor posed the question 'do we need a history site' and expressed that his recommendation would be to close the site based on the 'how things work' problem. The 'how things work' site closed down because the answer process became a race to regurgitate existing content online.
I think this analogy to our site isn't valid. I tried out a few questions that I imagine would have turned up on that StackExchange:
Now lets look a Google results for our three most popular questions:
- Why did Hitler attack the Soviet Union when he was still busy fighting Britain?
- Why didn't Imperial Japan attack the Soviet Union during World War 2?
- Is there any proof that Robin Hood existed?
Looking at the google results for each of these in turn:
Why did Hitler attack the Soviet Union when he was still busy fighting Britain?
Google gives us a biography of Stalin, a fairly impenetrable CIA article about what Stalin knew prior to Barbarossa and a post on the Battle for Berlin. Dig a bit further and you will find content that gets close to answering question, but in horrible pre-StackExchange type sites.
Why didn't Imperial Japan attack the Soviet Union during World War 2?
From the first result:
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Followed by an adsense block and then some forum results. The second result is the Hirohito Wikipedia article (getting closer but no cigar) and the third result (I think we have a winner) is a list of alternate fiction.
Is there any proof that Robin Hood existed?
This is certainly the best of the lot, an article on Wikipedia followed by various other fairly credible posts on the history of Robin Hood.
My conclusion is that the analogy isn't valid
So the point of this analysis? Two of our three best questions have terrible results on Google. The answers we have are clear, provide a new analytical perspective and, I think, do a good job of answering their respective questions.
If our answers were available on the Internet we would be adding very real value. If this was baseball we would be world champions.
Compare this to my 'how things work' examples, the results are pretty straightforward and there already exists sites devoted to this particular vertical. This is a solved problem.
History Q&A is not a solved problem (believe me, I have looked).
What do you think?
These questions, although the most popular, probably aren't the best examples from the site (and they are still beating Google). I think there are many more examples (some of which I noted in my answer to Robert's question).
If you have other examples were we have added something awesome to the Internet (that wasn't answered before), post them here. I think we need to clearly demonstrate the value we are creating.