We all love Astronomy Stack Exchange, but there is a whole world of people out there who need answers to their questions and don't even know that this site exists. When they arrive from Google, what will their first impression be? Let's try to look at this site through the eyes of someone who's never seen it before, and see how we stack up against the rest of the 'Net.

The Site Self-Evaluation review queue is open and populated with 10 questions that were asked and answered in the last quarter. Run a few Google searches to see how easy they are to find and compare the answers we have with the information available on other sites.

Rating the questions is only a part of the puzzle, though. Do you see a pattern of questions that should have been closed but are not? Questions or answers that could use an edit? Anything that's going really well? Post an answer below to share your thoughts and discuss these questions and the site's health with your fellow users!


3 Answers 3


Final Results

Net Score: 6 (Excellent: 6, Satisfactory: 5, Needs Improvement: 0)

Net Score: 2 (Excellent: 3, Satisfactory: 5, Needs Improvement: 1)

Net Score: 1 (Excellent: 5, Satisfactory: 2, Needs Improvement: 4)

Net Score: 1 (Excellent: 3, Satisfactory: 7, Needs Improvement: 2)

Net Score: 1 (Excellent: 1, Satisfactory: 9, Needs Improvement: 0)

Net Score: 1 (Excellent: 1, Satisfactory: 7, Needs Improvement: 0)

Net Score: -2 (Excellent: 3, Satisfactory: 3, Needs Improvement: 5)

Net Score: -2 (Excellent: 1, Satisfactory: 5, Needs Improvement: 3)

Net Score: -4 (Excellent: 2, Satisfactory: 3, Needs Improvement: 6)

Net Score: -7 (Excellent: 0, Satisfactory: 3, Needs Improvement: 7)

  • $\begingroup$ Net net score of -3. Ouch. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Oct 12, 2014 at 15:17

Generally, I didn't see anything that stood out as really bad. Some of the questions show little interaction in answering questions. One question, one answer, no commentary, no discussion. (example 1, example 2) The first example is quite specific in nature, so This wouldn't necessarily be bad, but they also tend to have only one or two points. I don't know about you, but from an outside look, finding a page with a question and a single answer with a +2 doesn't exactly scream reliable information, especially without supporting material for a discipline largely based in research and data.

While Astronomy may not have a very large volume of questions, we certainly have the resources within the community for improving the quality of the answers we already have. For instance, this question which was included in the queue is extraordinarily detailed. Perhaps not concise, but for users who are asking questions out of enthusiastic curiosity, a detailed answer can be very enjoyable and lends a great deal more credibility.

In general, I would say that all of the selected questions had answers that would be easy enough to understand to amateurs in the topic.

Notable, based on the users contributing to the selected questions, most users in Astronomy could be fairly easily distinguished as either 'askers' or 'answerers' with very few members who actively participate in both answering and asking questions. Additionally, at least two of the questions were asked by members whose participation seem to be limited to asking only that one question. This is not necessarily surprising considering that for many people Astronomy is a subject of curiosity rather than study.

Overall, the vast majority of questions in Astronomy.SE are answered. I think polishing existing answers or offering competing ones would improve the experience of outside visitors.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The first thread I reviewed during this site self-eval: chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/18007240#18007240 Plagiarism is a serious problem and we need to root it out ASAP. Please, to all, be more careful what you upvote. Large number of questions here have been asked and answered before, so chances are pretty good that someone will simply "borrow" an answer. And we also had "borrowed questions" before, so that's also something to pay attention to. Our site's fate literally depends on this. Cheers! $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Oct 5, 2014 at 20:42

I'm a new user (and a young one), so I might be able to provide an interesting perspective on how the site's doing.

Looking through the sample questions (and poking around the site in general), I noticed something that has been nagging me for a while, which is that the questions don't seem to generate a lot of answers. It is true that for yes-or-no questions (see here and here) it can be hard to give a variety of answers, and for identification questions such as this, there is really only one answer, but there are a lot of questions where multiple answers can be useful, such as this. Unfortunately, there are a lot of questions where multiple answers would be useful, but only a few are forthcoming.

The other problem is that we need more sources. It's been brought up on meta a few times, and each time it has been decided that it's important for people to cite their work - in fact, it would plagiarism to do otherwise. I've been trying recently to improve the quality of my answers by adding links and sources, and others have done the same, even using direct quotes

using this feature

but a lot of answers could be improved. The top users here generally explain themselves well enough without needing additional links to make their points clearer (and they generally do have sources), but links and sources on everyone's answers could really help the quality of posts on the site.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Re the first point, I don't see it as a problem. Astronomy is, at its core (not thinking here of cosmology and the cat in the box applications of it), an exact science and doesn't leave much room for either/or answers to well specified questions. So for those questions, one well written and thorough answer should do, and you'd only likely miss having more of them when the sole answer doesn't quite cut it. That's then a sign it lacks quality, not quantity of answers. Comparing Astronomy with Worldbuilding that is highly subjective / philosophical in nature is a bit unfair IMHO. ;) $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Oct 7, 2014 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ I completely agree with the second point though. We'd need support from our community and its moderators though to enforce stricter qualitative norms / requirements. E.g., if you see an answer that is missing references and attributions, please flag them for moderator's attention with a custom flag and explain what you had in mind. Mods can then decide to either add a post notice (we have a few generic texts prepared to ask for citations or additional explanation), invite its author to improve it in the comments, or even delete it in case it abuses copyrights or anything like that. $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Oct 7, 2014 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ @TildalWave Good point on my first point. A comparison would be pretty subjective, and I suppose there are many more cases where one answer is enough that I didn't consider. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Oct 7, 2014 at 23:27
  • $\begingroup$ I would agree with Tildal wave. Worldbuilding questions tend to involve creative responses that can vary a lot. We tend to gauge answers here based on their accuracy, support, and in some cases argument. This does suggest we should edit more to refine answers where possible. Another reason to consider this is that individually we don't always have access to the best material. Even working at a state university, I can't always reach the journals I would like to for support. Pooling our resources, we could provide much greater support in answers. $\endgroup$ Oct 15, 2014 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ @TildalWave as already said elsewhere I disagree with being too focused on references and citetions. In it also possible for in particular well explained answers to theoretical questions (that involve LaTex) answers t be selfcontained without any need to rely on external sources, references, etc... I dont see why answers that do not provide external sources are aleays bad and should always be flagged. $\endgroup$
    – Dilaton
    Oct 16, 2014 at 19:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton That's not what I said, I haven't a clue what you're on about. My concerns are strictly qualitative, among which also e.g. plagiarism. Providing references (where available) and attributing sources should help avoid that, but I don't say anything about providing original contents. In fact that would be great IMO. What I said is if you see an answer that is missing references and attributions, so those that clearly use them yet fail to mention that, or those that could use some to improve on post's credibility (but the latter is a more subjective call so shouldn't be sanctioned). $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Oct 16, 2014 at 20:07

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