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I changed the Q from obligatory" to "suggested" as it seems the very idea of "obligatory" frightens people.

Many, if not all "self-help" QA sites in computers require users to provide their hardware profiles to streamline the answers.

On MiYodea, I noticed that it is extremely hard to answer properly without knowing the OP's background, experience, affiliation, country (in other words - his expectations). For example, I would answer differently for a novice secular than for a novice Baal Teshuvah or I would never answer to an American Brisker if I'd know, as I know how my tradition is different almost on all topics.

Another example is that many many answers are country specific (the USA, based on R' Moshe's Z"L or other prominent American Rabbis' answers) and are not accepted in Israel. Most of the users are not aware of this fact and wrongly accept Halachot as universal.

I routinely check user profiles but most are blank and the rest are too general and useless for this purpose? Unlike other sites, SE does not force or insist on completing user profile. Undoubtedly, this feature could drastically improve the overall quality of answers and specifically their suitability to the question.

What can be done in this direction?

2
  • I think you know this already but "voting on Meta is different". Negative notes don't always mean this is not a good question/answer, but instead mean people don't agree with your proposal.
    – mbloch
    Jul 13 '18 at 3:21
  • 4
    feature-request pings the SE staff for features to implement into the system. Site policy should be under discussion. I made this mistake myself several times when I was new here until someone explained the difference to me.
    – DonielF
    Jul 15 '18 at 14:13
7

There is no need for this. A question should include any information relevant to the question. If someone is only asking from the perspective of a specific community/tradition then he should state so explicitly. Similarly, an answer should include any information relevant to the answer. If someone is only answering from the perspective of a specific community/tradition he should note this in the answer.

This is no different from anything else left out of a post. The general rule is: missing information = lower value post.

If you feel that someone is misrepresenting Judaism in any post, you should bring it up, either in comments to the post, in Chat, or as a Meta post.

1
  • This is exactly the problem, that people, inc myself, are largely unaware of their expectations and biases and ask questions without expressing their backgrounds. Your assumption that there's one Judaism is also problematic, as we can clearly see from our Halachic sources.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 14 '18 at 19:11
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One reason not to do this is that we should not place additional hurdles before new users. But more importantly, questions and answers here are not just for the person asking the question -- they're for other curious community members, people who find the site later, people who have the same question and get here from Google -- people who won't create accounts and ask but who would nonetheless like to learn.

If you tailor answers to the person who asked the original question, you potentially leave those people out. Or, at the very least, they have to look in the OP's profile (will they know to do that?) to find out if answers even apply to them -- not something I expect to be very successful. And that's all assuming that the account is still here; sometimes people delete their accounts, leaving behind only what was in their actual posts.

A question on Mi Yodeya, or any other Stack Exchange site, should contain all the necessary information for people answering the question. If something that you need is missing, ask the OP to add it. Answers should address the OP and future readers.

This doesn't mean questions need to be general and answers need to cover all cases; we want questions to be focused and answerable. It's perfectly fine to ask a question about some halacha specifically for the Brisker or Lubavich or Mizrachi or whatever community. It's perfectly fine to ask how a specific tradition interprets a text. We just need to make sure those restrictions are in the question where everybody can see them.

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  • I think we should educate Jewish self-awareness as the lack of such causes שנאת חינם and large misunderstanding of "outsiders" (if not outcasts) like me, for example. Most people are unaware of their affiliation until they meet someone truly different, and then they judge him as an apostate, just because he has a different שיטה. "Orthodox-leaning member of a Reform congregation. It's complicated." - do you think it enough for one to find a right answer for you, for example?
    – Al Berko
    Jul 14 '18 at 19:18
  • 2
    @AlBerko we're not here to give and get p'sak, though, where individual circumstances are relevant. If I ask a halacha question I expect to get as good an answer as somebody whose profile says "long-time Orthodox rabbi". If I want to scope my question to a community or a tradition I may do so; it might not even be mine. Sometimes I'm curious about other communities, for example. That's why I say that the information needed to answer the question needs to be in the question, where it helps the next person with that question too. Jul 15 '18 at 18:00
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No.

Because it is just one more thing a new user would have to do before this community condescends to take their question seriously.

Because it would lead to the some users dismissing others for not being Jewish enough or the right type of Jewish.

Because it would lead to answers of the type “you’ll understand when you go away and do ______”

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  • It is not about the question, it is about the answers. #2 not relevant - we don't judge the questions, we seek suitable answers. #3 those answers will be deleted anyway.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 12 '18 at 21:45
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    @AlBerko when I read your post, it sounded to me like you want askers' identities to be known so that answers could be tailored to the asker. If that's not what you meant, please edit to clarify what you meant.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Jul 13 '18 at 1:33
  • @IsaacMoses Exactly, if you have enough experience in the field of teaching Judaism you will know how different your answers to the same question could be based on different audiences. As your community grows this issue becomes acuter - this is clear from comments and answers.
    – Al Berko
    Jul 14 '18 at 19:23
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    @AlBerko, OK, I see what you meant by "not about the question, about the answers." You want answerers to know askers' identities so they can tailor answers appropriately. If this was an ask-the-rabbi site, that would be appropriate-to-necessary, but we deal in information, not pesak. The point-of-view of the question may not be identical to the asker's identity, the asker isn't asking for personal guidance, and the audience is everyone on the entire internet who may be interested in the question as stated. Answers should be tailored for that set.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Jul 15 '18 at 3:26
  • @IsaacMoses I would agree for some trivial questions, but it seems that most of the questions ARE some kind of "ask a Rabbi".
    – Al Berko
    Jul 15 '18 at 9:42
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    @AlBerko Please take a look at the second paragraph of our tour for new users, which is reproduced on the top-right of all content pages on Mi Yodeya. We don't offer pesak. Questions that ask for pesak get closed. This is a fundamental aspect of Mi Yodeya and an important part of why some people (including me) are comfortable participating here.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Jul 15 '18 at 13:07

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