5

Recently Stephen brought up a great idea in his answer to my question re: internal linking and I thought it would make for a great initiative. The idea is that we would write up some basic questions about things we get asked a lot and create super high quality answers for them. These could then be used as go-to spot for references. These would not only be really convenient when referencing topics in our answers (instead of having to linking out), but also this seems like a great solution for many duplicate or broad question scenarios.

Here are some initial topics that we'd probably opt to look externally for:

  • What is search engine optimization (SEO)?
  • What is a canonical tag?
  • What is a redirect?
  • What is a hreflang?
  • What is a rewrite rule?
  • What is .htaccess?
  • What is shared hosting?
  • What is a dedicated server?
  • What is cloud hosting?
  • What is DNS?
  • What is a CNAME?
  • What is an A record?

If/when we actually do something like this, I think those would be a great starting point and then obviously we just add more over time as needed.


There are a couple thing that come to mind I think are worth discussing:

  1. Should we make these regular questions/answers or should they be Wiki entries?
  2. Since these would be "official sources of information" a system for QA review needed? How would we handle that?
  3. Is the Q&A page format an ideal UX for this sort of content? What about the help center style pages - how do those get created? That style might be ideal because we could leverage the sidebar nav. It's probably a stretch, but it would be awesome if we could make these pages with the help center format.
  4. What other considerations are there?

screenshot of a prowebmasters help center page

4
  • 2
    Thanks for putting some thought and time into how to improve the site. I think Max addressed these pretty closely to how I would have as well.
    – dan Mod
    Dec 2 '21 at 6:22
  • 1
    I'll second that one. Your thoughts about site improvements have been really appreciated! Dec 2 '21 at 7:33
  • 1
    Somewhat related: Inspired by seeing this question today, I think another good candidate for a canonical catch-all question could be something along the lines of "Why isn't Google processing my page/site migration?" With an answer that basically says "Here are a few things you need to check (e.g. that you have proper 301 redirects), then you need to be patient patient patient." With consensus (and assurance that I'm not accidentally making a duplicate), I could draft a community wiki question to that effect. Dec 2 '21 at 20:24
  • 2
    We've done something like this in the past. I think what we need is to address the new common questions that weren't possible years ago. The checklist type questions are the best ones IMHO as they aren't an on-topic format but still often asked and thus valuable to have canonical answers for.
    – John Conde Mod
    Dec 5 '21 at 22:49
3

I think this is an excellent idea, however I believe that the ideal place to answer questions in the specific "What is _?" format is the tag wikis.

For example, the question "What is SEO?" is answered pretty well by the seo tag wiki, "What is htaccess?" is answered in the htaccess tag wiki, "What is DNS" is answered in the dns tag wiki, etc.

It could be useful to get into the habit of linking to tag wikis when writing answers on this site, in cases where it would help to reference or substantiate the definitions of things. I know they often get forgotten about because they are buried so many clicks deep on the site, but you can find some good content by crawling the tag wiki catacombs.

I think that aside from "What is _" questions, there must be some other question formats that could make a good focus for this initiative and good addition to the site. I always seem to come back to What are the best ways to improve a site's position in Google when I am looking for an example of an exemplary, high-value community wiki post that gets linked to all the time.

To answer your points:

  1. For open-ended "catch-all" questions that have long, many-part answers (such as the aforementioned site position question and some of the other ones Stephen linked to), I think the Community Wiki style Q&A can work great. Basically, marking a post Community Wiki means that the question and answers are no longer "owned" by specific users, but community-owned. Normally when you edit answers you want to edit them only for grammar while preserving the author's intent, but community wiki posts lift some of the rep limitations for editing, and allow multiple users to come together and add their own sections to create a true wiki entry, sort of like Wikipedia in some ways.

  2. I think it would be fine if they are "semi-official" like some of the catch-all questions that we currently have. That is, it's understood that they are a different format than usual (where a user has a specific question that they want answered), yet they are still in the hands of the community as much as possible. I think that the real beauty of Stack Exchange is that things are mostly community-driven rather than being handed down as "official", and I feel like the general Stack Exchange Q&A tooling would work great for reviewing/moderating these types of questions. If I want to address a topic "officially" without having community members edit my content, correct me and disagree with me, I've got my personal blog for that :)

  3. I do believe that the Q&A format would be ideal for this sort of content, rather than help-center-wiki style entries. The Q&A format (and to some extent the tag wiki format) is nice because it provides a standard interface that gives everyone the opportunity to write new answers and edit/update existing ones, and a voting system for the community to sort out which ones they think are the most useful.

    On the mod side I believe they only let us edit a few of the help center pages anyways (like the on-topic page) - most of them are hard-coded. I'm pretty sure they don't let us create new help center pages either, but maybe the other mods can chime in about that. If you think about it, help center pages are in effect kind of like locked posts in that only mods are allowed to edit them; personally I like the idea of getting the community involved in stuff like this as much as possible.

3
  • 2
    All fine points. Just to add to this: As already pointed out, tag wikis are really the best place to define commonly used terms. Community wikis that are used as catch-all questions really need to be voted on first by the community here on Meta. Lastly, the only page on our site that anyone (including the mods) is able to edit is indeed: What topics can I ask about here? Prior to editing that however, a consensus on Meta would also need to occur. Since these would impact the community, they always need to be decided on as a community.
    – dan Mod
    Dec 2 '21 at 6:27
  • 2
    The tag wikis have some limitations though. You can't find them in site search and they are difficult to find by clicking to them. There is no voting on them, so there is no way to get a list of tag wikis that are high-quality. I'm not sure that tag wikis are such a great resource that they would preclude similar content in questions. But I do take the point that we have them as a resource and it would be a good idea to link to them when relevant. Dec 2 '21 at 10:03
  • @StephenOstermiller I get where you're coming from. Q&A format could be better in some cases, IMO especially in the case where the definition could be nuanced, could be ELI5'd in clever ways and/or could benefit from more opinionated supporting materials that could be voted on as part of the answer. On a somewhat related not, remember Stack Overflow Documentation? Dec 2 '21 at 18:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .