I was reading this post about one person's issues with Stack Overflow, and something it said struck me (as I noticed the same thing, but didn't attempt to articulate it):

The "flavour" of StackOverflow today is entirely different than the flavour it had when I started. When I started the community as a whole still had a bit of a sense of humour. Sure sometimes questions and/or answers would be a bit off-topic or a bit irreverent, but it gave more of a community feel that way, even if it was on occasion less-than-"professional".

He then goes on to list his version of O’Sullivan’s Law of community moderated sites (call it Richter's Law) and continues:

This happened at Wikipedia and it's happened at StackOverflow. StackOverflow was once fun. It is no longer. StackOverflow once had a tolerance for things a little outside of the norm. It does no longer.

This put words to something that has been rattling around in my head for a while, and a few posts here and there on Meta have really been about this underlying concern (IMO). Many times things which are very relevant to those who "base their lives on Jewish law and tradition" get downvoted/closed/deleted because they are about history, about Jews, about whatever, in a very narrow reading of the rules. (And את חטאי אני מזכיר היום - I have participated in enforcing those rules).

The problem isn't the scope per se, the problem is the scope makes it a dry academic exercise, not a community that invites participation by people who want to be part of a community, not just who enjoy dry academic exercises.

This problem isn't unique to Mi Yodeya within the Stack Exchange network, but that doesn't mean Richter's Law, like O'Sullivan's Law, can't be consciously overcome here, even if it is embraced and encouraged elsewhere.

So what tweeks to Mi Yodeya's scope can be made that keep its character while broadening its reach? Or in the alternative, you could answer that you like Mi Yodeya just the way it is, its perfect, and then we can see which gets the most upvotes.

EDIT: An example of the kind of thing that I am talking about, more extreme than I imagined when I posted this question, is the closing of this question, which was arguably just fine for 6 years (it was not a well-viewed question, so that is debatable).

  • 2
    I haven't been here for long enough to have been here in the beginning, but from my (8 months of) experience, things are fine the way they are. I certainly have fun here; for evidence of that, see judaism.stackexchange.com/q/50973/5323, chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/19289534#19289534, and judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/51088/…, all from this week. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm having a good time :)
    – MTL
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 1:29
  • 1
    Do you think the rules are read more narrowly then they were originally? On what basis? Consider the examples given for off- and on-topicness back over 3.5 years ago: meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/a/196/759
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 4:10
  • 7
    Worth noting that there may be a correlation between those who like dry academic exercises and those who enjoy full-time Talmud study.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 4:12
  • 2
    @DoubleAA, for example. I'm sure if you want to to build a community focused on those who enjoy full-time Talmud study there is a good case to be made for strong legalistic community rules. But how broad a community is that?
    – Yishai
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 15:07
  • @Yishai It's broader than those who love Kodshim and less broad than those who speak Hebrew. The question becomes what level breadth are we looking for in a site. Wider isn't necessarily better.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 2:52
  • 2
    @Yishai Thanks. I've tried to ask basically this exact same question several times on Meta, although whenever I do, it gets downvoted and starts a war. You clearly have the diplomatic touch. I hope it works better.
    – SAH
    Commented Mar 16, 2015 at 13:28
  • יישר כוח this issur is very interesting I ask myself everyday similar questions
    – kouty
    Commented Jul 29, 2017 at 21:34
  • FWIW I have no regrets in contributing to the closing of the toad in tanach question . But I do take the point about "which was arguably just fine for 6 years". Maybe we should have a Statute of Limitation: questions cannot be closed after 1 year? Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 11:25
  • @AvrohomYitzchok, then I invite you to provide a policy proposal that justifies it here.
    – Yishai
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 12:49

2 Answers 2


The problem that you raise is that Mi Yodeya has become or is becoming

a dry academic exercise, not a community that invites participation by people who want to be part of a community, not just who enjoy dry academic exercises.

I don't see any evidence of that in your post, and I do see plenty of evidence against it on Mi Yodeya.

I think that we handle quirky questions very well and tend to give them a great deal of positive reinforcement in the forms of attention, answers, and upvotes. Two very recent examples of such questions are:

Sure, the answers take the subject of Judaism seriously even as they consider it in the context of fantastical situations, but I don't think that taking Judaism un-seriously is what you're calling for. Beyond actual Q&A, there are frequently all kinds of silly exchanges in our comments. (I'll leave chat, which is a separate website, out of this.) I don't think that Mi Yodeya can be fairly characterized as a "dry academic exercise."

Regarding inviting participating by people who want to be part of a community, I think we do a pretty good job of that, too. For one thing, there is the pervasive practice of welcoming new users, which many community members take part in, each with their own style, with the result that almost every new participant gets some sort of welcome message. This practice is sometimes explicitly appreciated by the new people, and more frequently elicits continuing conversation with them. We also do various things with comments, chat, Twitter, community publications, etc. that work in the spirit of building and maintaining community.

Finally, we indulge heavily in what Joel Spolsky referred to twice on the Stack Exchange Podcast as "rites of intensification" - periodic events in which certain societal norms are suspended to provide an opportunity for people to bond together while getting non-standard impulses out of their system (or something like that): Purim Torah, in which, for a couple of crazy weeks, non-serious Q&A are allowed and encouraged on Mi Yodeya. This event serves to both keep us non-dry (and, being Purim Torah, benefit from people being non-dry, presumably) and provide an extra avenue for communal bonding.

I believe that warmth, appropriate forms of irreverence, and a community feeling are all strong features of Mi Yodeya, and while I'm certainly all for measures that would continue to enhance those characteristics of the community, I really don't think that they represent problems that need to be solved.

  • 1
    Well, I certainly didn't mean to imply that all is bad. But evidence includes and the flagged comment of "do we have Sotah water" "no but we have soda-water". Even a humorous comment was not clearly in-bounds. Why is a pun or jokey answer or question only acceptable 30 days a year (note, that is different that dinosaur questions which are serious about extreme hypotheticals which some find fun to engage in).
    – Yishai
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 15:11
  • 1
    I realize what I'm proposing is fuzzy, which is a problem, but what I'm saying is that dedication to maintain a fuzzy grey is the only way it doesn't get smothered out of existence.
    – Yishai
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 15:11
  • 1
    Note that even our silliness has strict guidelines. (Which I approve of and agree with, just pointing out) Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 3:42

As @IsaacMoses pointed out MY.se has institutionalized "mandatory fun" activities centered around Purim. There are the publications which allow MY users to work collaboratively to produce something beyond a massive list of questions and answers. There are institutionalized practices to deliberately greet new users. One feature of this community is an aggressive desire to edit marginal questions which can be disconcerting to new comers if the communication is not perfectly clear. So there is a lot of community interaction going on that many other SEs do not have, or have spread so thinly over a huge user base that you never talk to the same person twice.

There was a recent tweak of scope recently with the introduction of the 'how-to' tag. Which I felt supported the asking and answering of questions that are more accessible to newcomers. Similarly there has been a move to provide source links pointing to sources with English translations (vitally important to me). Also to provide a glossary. I learned about these tools by happening to be reading MY.meta on the right day so my suggestion is to add to either the site tour page or a sidebar somewhere links to these "useful tools."

On a more philosophical note, I have been lurking MY.se for about half a year now along with a handful of other SE sites. From all of this reading and watching the insight I have to offer is that MY.se has more in common with the scientific SEs than the other culture-centric SEs. This, I believe, helps MY.se, like for example Mathoverflow.se, maintain a sense of community because there is a common experience and standard of evidence, not just interest, that a large portion of the members share. This helps develop a community standard for acceptable silliness because there is a way to respond to a good silly question that plays along with both the intent of the site and the humor in the question, see the Tyranosaur again. This comes down to saying that MY.se is mirroring a long-lasting community from the real world and not creating one from pure electrons and this is why I would suspect that the site has not fallen to O'Sullivan's Law.

  • 1
    We already have a Community Promotion Ad for the link referencer, so it appears on the sidebar from time to time. Maybe we should make one for the glossary and other, similar features.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 17:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .