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So, I'm thinking I'll resign as mod after all... life is getting busier in other realms, and I have to prioritize. Just wanted to express what is probably still a dissenting opinion; that Buddhism.SE is headed in a direction that makes me want to put it lower on my list of priorities.

I've expressed unpopular opinions in the past, mostly advocating for a more ridged SE-based format, wherein questions are asked looking for expert or well-cited answers; responses seem to indicate invariably that the community here would rather see the site move towards the generic Internet forum format, wherein non-answers, debates, and answers based on personal opinion are acceptable. I've generally acquiesced personally to the arguments in favour of all these elements that have come to make the site what it is at this point in its growth. But when I look at it today, I don't see the site I was interested in helping grow over a year ago, or even six months ago.

Personally, I haven't the time for or interest in debating Buddhism on the Internet - forums abound where one may do so elsewhere; I didn't think that would be the purpose of this site. I also don't have the time for or interest in answering questions about meditation practice in a broad public forum like this - it seems somewhat crass to vote on the best advice/tradition for a generic meditation problem, for one thing, and for another, I already answer such questions from my online followers daily. So again, prioritizing.

What I was looking for here was a place where I could answer specific questions about topics on which I was somewhat of an expert, under the assumption that I (or anyone) could provide the single right answer to the question as a resource for Buddhists searching for answers online, without having to deal with (much) controversy or opinion. I don't think that is the nature of this site today, and I think it is (and has been for some time) moving further away from this format in general.

Which is cool... just not for people in my position. So, I think I'm moving on. Priorities and all.

Best wishes to all, anyway. Be well.

  • 1
    Thank you for taking the time to write this – Thiago Sep 9 '15 at 5:13
  • 3
    Philosophy and religion in particular, and humanities in general draw out complex opinions because they take on very large metaphysical questions. The rise and fall of numerous schools of Buddhism easily show that one answer doesn't satisfy everyone. I am very grateful for your contributions to this site Bhante, and hoped you'd stay on, but I can understand priorities change. Thanks for explaining. – Buddho Sep 9 '15 at 7:41
  • Krishnaraj asked me to convey to you his sincere apologies. – ChrisW Oct 6 '15 at 10:30
  • I, too, owe you an apology: I'm sorry that as a moderator I didn't better or more rapidly ascertain your views and the community's views on this type of questioning. – ChrisW Oct 6 '15 at 10:38
  • Looking around for discussion forums, I don't think there are many quality sites at all, and none of the sites are long-lasting. Of the Beginners, my, there are many, of the Experts there are few. But you have been gone 2 months now, so this is the tree that fell in the forest with no one to hear. (It fell on me.) – user2341 Dec 16 '15 at 1:52
  • Bhante, this site is really crazy and is completely out of the spirit of Buddhism. We follow your teachings all time. Thank you for all of the wonderful things that you have done and changing many people's lifes, including mine. – Murathan1 May 13 at 16:41
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Ever since the discussion (and user input) which led to this I've been trying to be permissive about questions: to allow as many people as possible (including people new to Buddhism and new to the site) to post questions.

It's even been a bit of a relief (i.e. less worry) to have a policy of accepting almost any question, no longer ever worrying about whether each new question is good enough.

I've also been trying to answer (non-expert) questions that I can, specifically so that you (a genuine experts) isn't obliged to, to minimize your workload so that you can answer the more expert questions.

Can you think of any changes to the policy/moderation, which could make this more like the site you want it to be?

For example, you wrote...

I've expressed unpopular opinions in the past, mostly advocating for a more rigid SE-based format, wherein questions are asked looking for expert or well-cited answers; responses seem to indicate invariably that the community here would rather see the site move towards the generic Internet forum format, wherein non-answers, debates, and answers based on personal opinion are acceptable.

To implement that, maybe we could...

  • Restrict the range of questions that can be asked (i.e. increase the requirements/demands that we put on questions) such that they could only be answered by someone who is relatively expert
  • Be stricter about answers (possibly looking to Skeptics.SE, for example, which requires that answers reference published sources instead of or as well as being your own opinion)
  • Define what you mean by "non-answers" and "debates" and go about banning and deleting them

Personally, I haven't the time for or interest in debating Buddhism on the Internet

  • Has someone been asking you to debate Buddhism? Can I help to prevent that?

I also don't have the time for or interest in answering questions about meditation practice in a broad public forum like this

What I was looking for here was a place where I could answer specific questions about topics on which I was somewhat of an expert ... without having to deal with (much) controversy or opinion

  • Would it be feasible and would it help to erase (i.e. ban) controversy, e.g. to delete hostile comments, and to edit (or delete) answers which contain any seemingly-hostile asides?

    I have been seeing some, and if it were site (community) policy I'd be willing to try to implement banning and/or deleting that. Until now I've been willing to tolerate, what shall we call it, an "argumentative tone" on the assumption that most people were able and willing to tolerate it. If you (and/or "people in your position") are not willing to tolerate it then that probably changes the equation.

    Instead of "we're surprisingly tolerant" should it be that "we're surprisingly strict"? As if this were a library and people need to make an unusual effort to keep their voices down and to not disturb other people here? We could say for example that any/all posts might be edited/reworded to improve their tone, to make them gentler or more neutral.

    Maybe if answers do disagree with each other they should keep that to themselves, i.e. state their own position positively but never saying negatively, "I disagree with some other position".

  • 4
    I'm not really saying how the site should be, and I don't think it's a matter of tolerance. It seems like a matter of focus. I always assumed SE was for expert questions and answers, and that's what appealed to me about Buddhism.SE. The current state of our site doesn't appeal to me so much, that's all. – yuttadhammo Sep 8 '15 at 22:31
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Personally I'd like very much to see an expert B.S.E -- either this one, or an offshot.

I'm not sure if the following has any significance, but I'll throw it out there for the sake of discussion. I do would like to point out that, most of the time, I don't have a solid vision of what this site should be and what is a good policy or not -- while I offer my opinion from time to time here on meta, I often expect more experienced ones to take the wheel and forge this site to it's full potential.

Having said that...

One thing that concerned me through all this last year is that we seem to be short of "experts"1 -- a reasonable number of experts available who can post high quality questions and answers consistently. I've observed a few other S.E.s and some of them have a significant body of users whose maturity shows. In the questions, in the answers -- and even in the amount of down votes a seemly innocent and apparently on-topic a question often receives.

I remember participating here on meta with the thinking that we could turn this into a very "elitist" community: one where a couple of users end up "chopping off" a large amount of posts, alienating most users that would come here (I still remember this community been compared to "soviet union"). That probably explains how I positioned myself on policy concerns, towards openness and also to have an understanding of how the community would respond. But it's hard for me to assess the naiveness of this thinking.

I also could not tell if this feeling was particular to myself or if others had a similar concern. And I also cannot tell if this trend does not indeed sabotage the possibility of this site becoming a high-quality/expert Q&A -- by alienating the very experts who would provide high quality posts and make this happen, such as yourself.

Moreover, perhaps a shortage of experts may also be a problem for moderation: as non-experts (and, specially, a B.Q&A being a novelty for most of us), it could be hard to agree on what exactly is what and later on to evaluate the posts according to the policies. Maybe this had some underlying role in the current state of affairs? While some of us might have a stronger sense of what they want this site turn into, I think a lot of the discussions here on meta shows how experiential / "learning from first mistakes" this whole thing has been.

Apart from the reflections above (which I only hope it could be useful, but am very ready to accept I'm delusional) and back to earth, here are some of my current concerns:

We seem to have difficulty retaining experts.

This not only can be observed from the first days of B.S.E. but through time we have seen knowledgeable users stop participating.

I can't quite tell the precise reasons for it (maybe they are completely unrelated to the site itself), but at least yours, bhante, seems clear and I would take it as a hint to how our current content might be non-appealing to experts.

If we "get strict", "will they come"?2

Some hypothesis concerning applying higher standards for posts:

  • Would we get more experts solely by this act; ie. by being a "high-quality-content" site?
  • Would we lose a significant portion of our current user base, alienate newcomers with stricter rules and also never see any growth of the user base, in particular, experts -- slowly dying off, watching the usefulness of this site diminish both to experts and to newcomers as well?

I could be arbitrarily regarding "strict rules" as a too strict policy (and thus being too alarmist), which might not be at all necessary: perhaps only a few extra boundaries suffice.

It might not be too clear what we want this Q.A to be

I guess this is my prime concern. Old users left, new users came, and maybe there's only a scattered vision (if at all) of what we would like this site to become -- and maybe more adhoc/spontaneous directions where taken instead of "firm" ones. For me at least, I certainly can't tell what direction everyone here is going for, or what I personally would shoot for.

One thinking of mine is that Buddhism does not seem to have a large amount of english-speaking experts in the world. At the same time, it seem to have a very large amount of people curious -- and poorly informed -- about what Buddhism is. With that in mind, and the fact that, for some fields, S.E. provides both an expert and non-expert site (e.g. math and mathematics), I have provisionally taken our current B.S.E to be useful for the non-experts -- with the fantasy that, once popular, a number of experts would feel like an specific expert B. S.E. branch would be appropriate. But it's only a thinking...

Moreover, that order does not have to be, and there have been precedents: I think the experts version of S.E. for professional mathematicians came before the non-experts S.E version for mathematics.

Final remarks

If any of this makes sense, an idea here could be discuss about what are we aiming at for this site. I might be over-analyzing though (it's late right now), and maybe it's all good or only a few minor things people feel needs addressing.


1 I'll regard here an "expert" primarily as someone with a significant track of formal studies in Buddhism (monastic and/or academic) and preferably with a significant history of practice (even though some might find distasteful to see such a prominent position for "mere erudition", I justify this based on the nature of S.E culture which values references and sources). Also, (and this might be quite irrelevant to this post, but for any clarifications) I'm not a Buddhist expert.

2Terrible reference to Field of Dreams

  • I am surprised that after so long and so much activity, this is still a Beta site. There are scads of new SE sites forming, and very few ever persist in beta to become "real sites" apparently. This is disheartening. That said, even our current level of activity is probably too low to sustain a quality site for long. I looked around for sites more suited to my personal interest (Nonduality) and saw a Yahoo forum for Spirituality that has just fizzled now, after being around ten years and peaking at over 2000 messages (or was it views?) per month! Nothing lasts, regardless of quality. Sad. – user2341 Dec 16 '15 at 1:48

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