5

I've been soliciting private beta testers for mi.yodeya by posting discussions (without mentioning the name of the site) in a couple of Jewish LinkedIn groups. In one of these groups, FrumNetwork, someone asked the following important question:

AskMoses.com

It's been online for years and has a well qualified rabbinical staff answering the questions. Why do you need something new?!? Try it today!

I replied, in part, with:

Thanks very much for the important and essential question. AskMoses is an excellent resource whose archives have proven valuable to me on occasion. I am confident, however, that the new site offers unique value in various ways. I hope you don't mind if I take some time to write these up properly. Check here again in a few days.

I have a bunch of such aspects in mind, which, like I said, I'm planning to write up, starting as an answer to this question. But, I'd also love to hear what you think, mighty testers of the private beta: What aspects of mi.yodeya make it especially valuable, such that it's worth creating it despite the existence other tools out there that offer related services?

Note that I'm not interested in discussing the specific drawbacks of AskMoses (or even necessarily suggesting that there are any). Please focus your comments on what's good and special about mi.yodeya, rather than trying to point out what's wrong with other tools.

(Please excuse the meta-ness of this question. I will keep this stuff to a minimum. I really think, though, that this is an important question and that the people who have been trying out mi.yodeya so far ought to have particularly good insight into it.)

9

Here's what I answered. Thanks very much to Shalom for his contributions. I'm community-wikifying this so that those who are so inclined can polish it over time. The links were not in the version I posted on LinkedIn.


There's plenty of room on the Internet for all kinds of tools, new and old, with each one filling its own special niche. So, I'll respond to your question by describing the niche that the new site is trying to fill and the unique collection of benefits that it offers. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with existing tools, including AskMoses, or even that they don't share some of the same benefits as the new site; I'm just saying that the new site has its own unique value.

  • The new site is like a cross between a wiki (e.g. Wikipedia), an ask-the-expert site (e.g. AskMoses) and a forum (e.g. Hashkafah.com). The idea is that the whole community of users collaborates to produce a repository of information about Jewish life and learning that is first interesting and useful to themselves and then available in perpetuity for the browsing and searching public.
  • Every question and answer is editable by the person who posted it and also by moderators and super-experienced users. This allows askers to respond to feedback or their own research by sharpening and deepening their question and allows answerers to similarly refine their answers.
  • Everything on the site is subject to massive peer review. The more people like a question or answer, the more prominently it will be displayed.
  • There are many types of questions for which the best answers might come from unexpected sources. For example, the person who can write up the clearest, most workable procedure for doing Hagbaha might not have much Jewish education, and the person who can suggest a durable alternative talit bag may never have heard of a talit before.
  • When there are multiple relevant minhagim, it's useful to have the potential for users from different backgrounds to each describe their minhag. If someone asks, "Do I stand when mourners say Kaddish?", an Ashkenazi can answer "we do in my synagogue", and a Sephardi can answer "we don't in mine." Both answers are correct.
  • All information on the site is presented in a way that's easy to find from Google or by looking for it specifically on the site. As questions and answers accumulate, the site will be an increasingly valuable repository of Jewish knowledge and Kiddush Hashem for the entire Internet to access.
  • 3
    kidush hashem and kiruv – Avraham May 17 '11 at 17:42
  • 1
    "I'm community-wikifying this"... but it isn't. – Scimonster Feb 25 '15 at 7:29
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We can have questions where the "norm" may differ from community to community; if someone asks, "do I stand when mourners say Kaddish", an Ashkenazi can answer "we do in my synagogue", and a Sephardi can answer "we don't in mine." Both answers are correct. mi.yodeya allows for multiple well-ranked answers.

6

If the matter is strictly Halachic, a good team of rabbis is the way to go. But sometimes there's non-Halachic, nuts-and-bolts things (e.g. robogabbai) where crowd-sourcing may come up with ideas that the rabbinical staff didn't. If I want to know the laws of a Talit, I ask a rabbi. If I want to know where to get a durable Talit bag, I'll ask whoever has experience with this. (As long as it doesn't violate Halacha.)

6

There's a benefit to the asker of the question to mi.yodeya. To ask a good question takes a bit of preparation. I should say why I am asking and what possible approaches to an answer I have considered.

Then there are benefits to each person who attempts an answer. He has had to clarify his thoughts and probably check his sources.

In short, do not just consider the reliability of the answers, think about the benefits of the process.

5

What makes mi.yodeya unique is that it provides a more heterogeneous array of legitimate answers and their sources to the public. It invites the layman to become a scholar by exposing him to the sources.

3

When a Rabbi answers a question, he is limited to his audience. For example, Igros Moshe forbids people from translating his Tshuvos, as he was afraid that people would rule from his Tshuvos (especially from a Hava-amina in his tshuva, or from a mistranslation, or even worse, from a misunderstanding of the tshuva or the Halachic process). He wouldn't ask a Rov, he would just say "I am relying on R' Moshe Feinstein".

When one asks an ask-a-rabbi website, the Rabbi (especially when he doesn't know the asker) must respond clearly and to the point (it's mutar/assur). He can't provide a pilpul, as it will likely be over peoples head.

Many times Rabbonim aren't involved in every sugya (they may be knowledgeable, but not baki in a remote sugya in Temura).

Here, on the other hand, we don't rely on trust. I don't trust random people for final psak, and I assume (rightly or wrongly) assume others don't (and if they did, there are plenty of sites ready to confuse people anyways). Therefore, all I can give are Maarei Mkomos lists (which a Rov may be hesitant or lack the time to give).

  • 1
    I wouldn't call Daf 2a remote. – Double AA Apr 4 '14 at 14:12
  • 2
    @DoubleAA Temura is beetzem remote – Shmuel Brin Apr 4 '14 at 17:19

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