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We're three days into the private beta, and people have been asking some interesting and sophisticated questions about literature. People have been asking wonderful questions about the meaning behind certain elements of Mexican literature, questions about how to interpret specific lines of poetry, and questions about how to interpret a narrative given by an unreliable narrator. These questions are complex; they can't be answered with a simple Wikipedia search, because they require a detailed analysis of the text. Given the quality of these questions, and how much effort goes into writing them, you would think that they would get a lot of upvotes.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true. These questions have been ignored, and they have received few if any upvotes.

The private beta is where we decide what kinds of questions we want to have on this site. If we want this site to be filled with questions about reading order, author's biographies, and factual questions that can be answered using wikipedia, then nothing needs to change. But if we want this to be a place for detailed analysis of literature, and a place for questions that are difficult to answer, then we need to start looking for these hidden gems and giving them the upvotes they deserve.

This may be an unpopular post. But understand that I'm not trying to criticize anyone's questions. Questions about plot points, author's biographies, and reading order have a place on this site. All I'm saying is that we should also pay attention to the more sophisticated questions that have been ignored so far.

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  • Note that there are some cases where sophisticated literary analysis questions do receive a decent amount of attention, such as this question about the Aeneid. But these cases seem to be the exception rather than the rule. – user111 Jan 20 '17 at 19:25
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    If these questions are being ignored, maybe it isn't all that accurate to suggest they're our best content (whatever boxes they tick in theory). – doppelgreener Jan 20 '17 at 21:05
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    One word: bikeshedding. SE never solved this problem, in general, and I fear never will be able to. This is an issue on ALL SE sites. It's endemic to human condition. – DVK Jan 21 '17 at 0:18
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    @DVK "It's endemic to human condition." One of my hopes when I wrote this question was that people would start reconsidering their voting habits. – user111 Jan 21 '17 at 3:12
  • I've answered one of the questions you referenced. – fi12 Jan 21 '17 at 19:27
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Setting aside what's best content, let's look at the questions you describe.

These questions are complex; they can't be answered with a simple Wikipedia search, because they require a detailed analysis of the text. Given the quality of these questions, and how much effort goes into writing them, you would think that they would get a lot of attention.

Those questions also require a lot of effort to answer them. The first few days of beta a flurry, everyone is rushing to vote on everything, post everywhere first and get to the rep cap and hunt those badges.1 Just look at those 14 Vox Populi badges.

Anyways we have around sixty users who asked an upvoted question yet, forty with an upvoted answer, there's a bit of overlap surely and we only have a user total of 250 users. So there's basically two possibilities. Either of those 250 users simply no one knows the answer or of the really active users no one has had the time yet to post an answer or look one up.

In the latter case this will resolve itself, since the initial flurry will ebb and then the active answerers will look to the unanswered stuff—or find time over the weekend maybe.

In the former case we won't get answer without recruiting outside experts. While we are in private beta, everyone can join either by email invite or by detouring over Area 51.

Getting experts to join is a valid and much needed contribution to a private beta. As you already said, if we want a site that's not just about reading orders and lmgtfy questions we need expert content. That content stems from experts. That's the chicken-and-egg problem of every private beta. Experts are attracted by expert content, but we need experts to create expert content.


1 citation needed

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  • So TL;DR: Invite experts directly and/or become an expert? – user72 Jan 20 '17 at 20:12
  • @Riker that, and the site needs to mature a bit. long, detailed analysis answers take time. we haven't been open THAT long – DForck42 Jan 20 '17 at 20:34
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    This answer makes some good points, but I don't really feel like it addresses the core problem: people just aren't upvoting or paying attention to these answers. – user111 Jan 20 '17 at 21:24
  • @Hamlet without site statistics that's not easily answered. Even with those it's hard to say for certain. One reason could be that half the active people have been out of votes half the time (cf. Vox Populi badges). Another could be that people focus more on books they read themselves. – Helmar Jan 20 '17 at 21:28
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We're three days into the private beta … you would think that they would get a lot of attention.

Yes, you are only three days into the private beta. Remember the private beta community is only the tiniest sampling of users. The purpose of a private beta is (primarily) to establish the initial tone and framework to prepare the site for opening day.

Questions should be interesting and intriguing. Don't worry if every question is not a subject of mass appeal. If they are, you might be building yourself little more than a bikeshed.

I get more worried when EVERY question is somewhat common and of mass appeal. The bigger concern is if every question can be answered and 'accepted' essentially as-is… mere hours after being asked of a relatively small startup group.

Don't misunderstand; I love seeing a lot of activity on a new site, but if every answer is so easy to come by, you have to wonder if the questions aren't terribly deep, or if they've already been asked hundreds of time on every other site on the subject.

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    I'm not expecting these answers to be answered right away. In fact, it's the opposite: these questions are good because they can't be easily answered. What I mean by "attention" is that these questions aren't getting views or upvotes. – user111 Jan 20 '17 at 21:52
  • This is expected (normal and healthy). Read the Parkinson's Law of Triviality link I posted above. – Robert Cartaino Jan 20 '17 at 21:54
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    @Hamlet It's very human that more complex and difficult-to-address problems receive less attention. This happens on every Stack Exchange site. The goal is to make a higher density of those questions, so that it draws in the people who can answer them. – user80 Jan 20 '17 at 22:13
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    @Emrakul as someone who has asked questions about complex and difficult problems throughout this beta, it's discouraging when my (and other's) questions don't get much attention. If I wanted to discuss complex literary problems by my self, I would post on my blog. – user111 Jan 20 '17 at 22:20
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    @Hamlet Give it some time. The content matter of the site is complicated, and by its nature takes time and thought. We're also in private beta, and the number of active users is somewhat limited. Slow turn-around on answers, at this point, is a good sign, not a bad one. – user80 Jan 20 '17 at 22:22
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    @Emrakul again, I am not discouraged by a lack of answers, but by a lack of votes/views/interest. – user111 Jan 20 '17 at 22:25
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So I'll provide some anecdote as to why I personally haven't voted on those. I don't know those works, and I tend to not click on questions and vote on them if I don't know the material. They're good questions, and I went ahead and upvoted them because of this meta question, but otherwise I wouldn't have looked at them because they're not of any interest to me.

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    Do you really need to understand the subject matter to know if a question is a good question? – user111 Jan 20 '17 at 21:26
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    @Hamlet no, I'm just saying most of the time I don't usually go out of my way to upvote something that I don't know anything about, even if it's a really good question, and I think a lot of people are like that. – DForck42 Jan 20 '17 at 21:28
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    @Hamlet Besides that, you might not feel to inclined to read the question in the first place, especially when there's 5 others about stuff you know more about. – Cahir Mawr Dyffryn æp Ceallach Jan 20 '17 at 21:56
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    @Hamlet I had already upvoted two of the three; I had never heard of the Mexican story in the third question so I couldn't even judge if it was a "good" one. Also, while it's not the fault of that question, we've just had a string of "What did X represent in Animal Farm?" and I, personally, am getting a mite annoyed (because that was all covered if you studied the book in high school, or read the Cliffs/Sparks Notes). So I may have not bothered looking at "yet another What's This Mean question." – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum Jan 21 '17 at 16:04

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