I feel like it's time to open this discussion in its most general form. Countless recent meta discussions (okay, fine, they're countable) keep coming back to a fundamental issue with this site: our content quality is rapidly declining. Not all of these discussions have strictly been about the quality of content on the site, but the discussions have invariably lead to concerns about the quality and direction of the site.
In private beta, our site was very different. We generated comparably complex, expert questions that generated theoretical, interesting, and intriguing answers. We still have those, but we've recently been flooded by "solve this puzzle" questions.
In the days of yore, we discussed whether specific puzzles were on-topic at all, and came to the general conclusion that specific puzzles are on-topic, though they need answers with complete explanations. We've seen answers nowadays that are simply "Is it >! [answer] ?", and these are terrible answers. But this isn't our only problem. We later asked whether riddles are on-topic, and at this time, we seemed to be heading toward 'no,' or at least 'yes, with limitations.'
Later, Jon Ericson, a community manager, asked the question of whether chestnut puzzles are on-topic here, and this entire question and answer are worth reading. Other questions worth reading:
- Are specific coded message puzzles on-topic in Puzzling?
- Why are questions off-topic if they invite answers which are not demonstrably correct, or are otherwise speculative? (this is the basis for our only existing custom close reason)
- "The oracle was lying!", "Just stab them instead!" and other... 'creatively' unhelpful answers (alright, I posted this one, but it hasn't received responses yet)
In short, our stance on puzzles as questions and pretty much every other quality issue can be summarized in one word: "conflicted."
I think it's safe to say that we were not the least bit prepared to handle the sudden and terrifying influx of traffic. There wasn't strong enough consensus about what is and isn't on-topic, what constitutes good answers and questions, and what voting means to us. I doubt our traffic will be spiking fifteen-fold like it did over the past few weeks anytime soon, and this is our chance to work through some of these problems.
However, we absolutely need to address the quality of questions and answers on our site. We need to promote high quality content, and turn away low quality content. We want to attract experts, and experts are being driven away.
Let's keep our precedent firmly in mind, then take it with a grain of salt. Precedent is great, but we have issues to address, and our site has changed in many ways since much of this precedent was set. Let's focus on developing solutions that are directly appropriate to the quality concerns we have right now. We can make any decisions we need to about what's on topic and what isn't, what is good quality and what isn't, but whatever we decide here needs to drastically improve site quality. If that means disallowing questions-as-puzzles, then let's do it. If that means aggressively deleting low-quality answers, let's do it. But we do need to do something, so let's figure out what that something is.
What are the first steps to raising the quality of questions and answers on our site? What specific actions do we need to take to push us in the right direction? We need to figure out what's most important, and how we hold each other accountable for upholding our new policies. What needs to happen?