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.
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