Only 2 (well 3) answer postings and comments of only 7 different people for such an important question? (By 1.12.2014)
I think this in itself might be an indicator about the site. A lot of people enjoy it, but how many of them care about where the site is going?
I have to admit, that I'm on this site for a very short period only myself by now. And I was not lured by any mission statement, but by an interesting looking puzzle popping up on the right-hand side list of hot-network-questions. Once on the site, I was caught though. Can't resist a good puzzle (although I'm not the best in solving them.), and absolutely love to have a site where I can bounce off my ideas - good and bad, I've produced examples of both (I hope). So until I was brought to this meta-posting by a another of these "right-hand-side-links", I didn't think too much about the site and it aims itself. And I think that might be the problem most users here have.
So this leaves one with the main question, I guess:
Where do we want the site to go?
And maybe more importantly:
Who is we?
Is it the majority ? In this case, "having fun" might as well be the uppermost goal and forever beta wouldn't hurt.
Is it the founders of the site? In this case, it is their responsibility to define the goals of the site. (And I shouldn't be listened to.)
Is it the majority of those who care? In this case, there should be a regular attempt of directly guiding users towards a meta-discussion (like this post) and then a vote on goals.
From the answers given already, I assume some sort of mission-statement/goal is generally wanted. What could it be? Is this site about
- Having great puzzles (i.e. finding great puzzles on site)
- Teaching/Learning facts about puzzles
- Teaching/Learning about solving puzzles
- Teaching/learning about building puzzles
At first glance the site seems to be of the first category, but I think people on this posting are generally of the opinion That's not enough. - and I agree.
The second category seems the best defined, but at the same time least interesting/appealing one. Yeah, it's great if I have an 'expert' place I can ask my odd question, but can such a site hold enough interest to keep together a community of sufficient size? I somehow doubt it. Personally, I'd likely Google-browse the site, but never participate.
This leaves the last two categories, which I personally think is the life and soul of this site. There are people who enjoy solving puzzles and want to improve their skills by ever increasing difficulty/complexity of puzzles, and there are those (like me) who like inventing puzzles but can only improve their skills by getting feedback of 'serious' puzzlers. And guess what, if those two categories are catered for, the first category evolves out of it on its own!
I think this is what helps making this site great, so the question possibly is: How do we best support and steer this development?
If I were to devise a mission statement for this site, it potentially would be:
"We help puzzlers to become better. Better at building puzzles,
better at understanding puzzles, and better at solving puzzles."
I think we should not be so focused on the quality of the puzzles.
Instead, we should be far more focused on the quality of the comments and potentially the quality of the edits.
Yes, there is potentially a large amount of poor-quality puzzles. Lets vote them down (not necessarily close them), but don't judge them with the vote. Learning is a process of failure and repeat. Use negative votes but only in combination with a comment explaining that&why you down-voted the puzzle.
I wouldn't even "forbid" bad puzzles, just repeating the same mistake should be discouraged. There will (hopefully) be new users of this site all the time - they will make similar mistakes. But let's build on the experienced of the old users, i.e. the comments & edits.
I think a really poor-quality puzzle/riddle with constructive feedback on how to improve or what went wrong can teach follow-up readers a lot! And the vote-score will tell potential puzzle-seekers which ones are well-built puzzles, and which potentially aren't.
Similarly, we should judge the quality of solutions by how well do they teach how the puzzle was solved? How much reasoning was given? Don't up-vote the "fastest" or "most correct" answer, but the one which teaches most. Again, use comments to promote editing towards this goal.
Finally, I think with a mission statement like (or similar to) the one above, we can come up with guidance-rules we agree (and/or vote?) on which can be summarized in a meta-posting as a reference. Measuring against those rules would potentially give us a measure of "quality" of the site in accordance with the SO philosophy. In particular, if one of the policies is that
Votes are used to indicate quality of the posting in accordance with the guidelines.
Votes should not be used to indicate a voters like/dislike of the puzzle.
Votes should not be used to indicate the quality of the puzzle itself.