I'm willing to do an a analysis of questions to date if it's of use to anyone in our discussions. I was thinking of categorising and quantifying a snapshot of what we've (apparently) decided is on-topic (by looking at all questions that haven't been closed as off-topic), but won't put in the work if it isn't useful (although I then shall have to find another diversion from trying to find the d*mnable bug that's preventing the next release of my d*mnable application).

The broad categories I was thinking of:

  1. Application of technology (e.g. choice or use of particular software, standards for data exchange, DNA testing)
  2. Best practice (e.g. naming standards, research logs, source citation, evidence vs. information, how do I start my family history, document preservation, ethics, copyright)
  3. Brick walls (e.g. I've done X to find the parents/birth/children of Y in town Z in region R circa Date without success. What might I do now?"
  4. Fishing expeditions and cousin-bait (e.g. I'm interested in any information about Fred and Mary Bloggs, London, circa 1828.)
  5. Identifying sources (e.g. where can I find sources on...)
  6. Other related specialist subjects (palaeography, heraldry, terminology)

I may come up with other categories as I do the analysis, or please suggest any I've missed.

This is one axis of a two-dimensional matrix -- the on vs. off-topic axis. The other and probably more important axis is: good vs. bad question which is being discussed at How do I know that I have a good question?. I can use the votes for each question to quantify good versus bad (although I'm not convinced at this stage that it will be statistically significant).

Update: I'm working on this based on a snapshot of questions taken yesterday afternoon and will publish the results early next week.

Take a look at one meta's approach to choosing topics: meta.english.stackexchange.com/q/273/24168 –  American Luke Nov 12 '12 at 20:00
It's actually quite common for beta sites to do self-evaluations of periodically, and the fact that you're initiating this is awesome! :) –  jmort253 Nov 13 '12 at 5:12
@Luke, thanks -- that'll be useful –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 14 '12 at 20:26
@jmort253, I'm British -- we never admit to awesomeness <G> –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 14 '12 at 20:27

3 Answers 3

This would be very helpful! Thank you.


It would also be interesting to compare that to a categorization of questions at typical genealogy forums, e.g. the Genealogy category at Yahoo Answers (maybe take a sample of 100 or so of them) and see where they categorize and whether those questions and categories would or wouldn't be wanted here.

here is another site to consider if doing comparisons - esog.org/queries.html –  Duncan Nov 13 '12 at 11:04
This might have to be a second pass, but it's a good idea so I'll add it to the to-do list. I'm not familiar with the site -- any ideas whether the most recent 100 open questions would be a fair random sample? –  ColeValleyGirl Nov 14 '12 at 20:26
It is the "query board" at The Essex Society of Genealogists, Inc. site that Duncan mentions. See also the MA Essex list (RootsWeb) and board (Ancestry/RootsWeb). As I suggest in the related meta about good questions, there are thousands upon thousands of commonly surname or location boards and lists. Those sites welcome what I'm suggesting are 20th century type queries ("I'm related/or not to So and So." They build up a valuable archive of questions (more than expert Q&A, IMHO). meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/a/1300/7 –  GeneJ Nov 15 '12 at 17:49
Continuing, this is not a small consideration. In our earlier stages, we had some push back from experts and users who frequent what I've called the "20th Century" query sites. Shameless plug--while those sites remain valuable today, there is a great need for a 21st century approach, which I hope is internationally and focused an active research, research methodology and writing expertise. –  GeneJ Nov 15 '12 at 17:57

There is another dimension of analysis of Questions and Answers that needs to inform the future of this site -- namely who is providing them.

At the end of 40 days, there is a group of approximately a dozen people who are engaged in a vibrant and active community. 2% of the members have provided 30% of the questions and 50% of the answers. That is unsustainable.

When we have identified categories of questions that appear to attract interest, there is still the very pressing need to enroll, and to keep, more active bodies.


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