Bill MacKenty

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Stack Exchange: better questions and answers

Posted in Educational Tech Support on 25 - February 2013 at 03:03 PM (11 years ago). 269 views.

This email describes a neat site I've found and I wanted to share with you. Please let me know what you think by replying to this message.

For as long as we've had the internet, we've had a place to ask questions and get answers. In fact, the very first internet spaces were called BBS's (Bulletin Board Systems). They were designed to facilitate questions and answers. Fast forward 30 years, and communities are still one of the most important parts of the internet. Asking, answering, and connecting are still at the heart of what it means to be online in 2013. However, most forums for communication are flat. Someone asks a question, and several people give different answers, only some of which may be right.

If only there was a way for us to interact with questions and answers that let the good stuff rise to the top. Enter Stack Exchange.  Stack Exchange has some pretty interesting features:

1. all questions are tagged. This means if you click on "structure" tag in the writing stack exchange, you will see all questions and answers related to structure;
2. all answers are voted on, and the top-rated answer is easily visible;
3. there is an ongoing comment stream for all questions. This gives you a sense to what isn't right about a question or answer;
4. you can contribute to answers or ask questions; 
5. all stack exchanges have an indicator if a question has been satisfactorily answered;
6. when someone asks a question on a Stack Exchange site, the community reviews, revises, and proposes answers to it;
7. answers are rated and ranked by the rest of the community;
8. members also vote for questions they find useful, or against those they see as unclear or unproductive. The more votes, the more visibility – so when you search, you get the best answer to the best question;
9.questions and answers can be edited by other members, Wikipedia-style. This lets the community continue to polish and update content even when the original authors aren't available.

(features 7, 8 and 9 are taken from this page)

Please take a moment or two to explore Stack Exchange. Stack exchange is an umbrella of many different areas of interest. Perhaps some of these may pique your curiosity:

Ask Different: a stack exchange for Apple users
English Language Usage: a stack exchange for serious linguists
Cooking: a stack exchange site about cooking
Photography: a stack exchange for questions and answers about photography
Physical fitness: a stack exchange about everything
Bicycles: you get the idea...
Math: for you know, math stuff
Biology: why did we evolve bladders, anyway?
German: questions about German language (or French if that is your thing)

Here's a list of all the different stack exchanges ordered by name.

I think Stack Exchange represents a modest but nice step forward in our quest to ask and answer questions about, well, anything online! Please let me know what you think, I'm curious to hear your reaction to this site.