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Would it make sense to encourage users to answer questions in topics other than their expertise?

I'm thinking about boosting reputation and handing badges for diversity. This to encourage users to research new domains to answer questions in areas other than those in which they answer questions most often.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Sure, however a lot of people won't simply for the fact that they will be down voted, especially asking from a reputation point of view.

I often read solutions and questions out of my domain of expertise and now and then have the ability to answer a question or two based on the fact. So perhaps more people learning about other domains is the first step.

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I think the risk is relatively low, and the consequences of "failure" aren't very substantial. If the question is narrow enough and make my research then most often I expect not to be very wrong. When I am wrong, I lose points for each downvote, until I choose to correct or delete my answer. If I learnt something still then maybe it's worth it, because gaining this points back should be easy. But I wonder if it makes sense to encourage people to get into this habit. –  wilhelmtell May 13 '10 at 5:16
    
@wilhelm - Apart from the downside of being negatively voted, think of it from the OPs point of view. They ask a question wanting help that they have been struggling with for ages, then 10 baby unicorns come and spam his question with answers aimed at the most basic level. That will also detract from asking questions, as it would be the same as any old forum. I believe first people should browse other domains, learn, then try to answer. This already happens naturally. –  Kyle Rozendo May 13 '10 at 5:20
    
Yes, definitely, I have to research before I post an answer. But I think we're all intelligent people. We're programmers, after all. I don't think any good programmer will post an answer before having the confidence to do so. If your answer isn't good it will be downvoted. Then, you learn. The OP won't be mislead, because bad answers are downvoted. But it's a good way to expand my horizons. The reason I ask this is because I start to feel questions and answers are really the way to go for education. I learnt a lot here, and I'd like people to be encouraged to broaden their horizons. –  wilhelmtell May 13 '10 at 5:54
    
Again, emphasizing that questions and answers are an excellent approach to (self-)education. It's much easier to learn something when there's a specific question that leads your way. You go and look for answer, you (think you) find it and you share it with others. Then you get an approval or or a dismissal. You learn either way. It's the encouragement I'm talking about. And also the game, I love the game of points and badges. –  wilhelmtell May 13 '10 at 5:56
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@wilhelmtell I'm not convinced by this. I think the main strength of SO is getting answers from experienced, knowledgeable users of the tech in question, not from people who have done a bit of Googling. The research you speak of may be good for you, but it isn't necessarily good for the questioner or the wider community. –  nb69307 May 13 '10 at 8:17
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I'd be on board with this if inexperienced answerers would have a L plate in that tag like young drivers in the UK do :D Seriously though, I have to agree with @Neil. SO's first and foremost greatness lies in that it has a lot of professional, great, correct answers from people experienced in the field. That it's a very friendly community and it's possible to learn a lot while answering is a great side effect and the reason why I'm here regularly, but the overall quality and professionalism of the site must not be touched. –  Pëkka May 13 '10 at 8:55
    
I definitely understand where you come from. Initially I saw StackOverflow as a simple Q&A site, but lately I start to feel it's more than that. I start to feel it's a learning tool, both for the questioner and for the answerer. I mean, it feels more than "let's accumulate questions and attach to them their answers". I'm thinking along the lines of "you ask a question, I answer. Then I ask a question, and you answer. This way, we both get to bring something on the surface and think about it out loud". –  wilhelmtell May 13 '10 at 9:40
    
Also, there are a few areas in which I feel comfortable, yet never quite. Sometimes I feel the site is a lie: no one is an authority, we're just fools pretending otherwise. (I reside in the scool-of-thought that believe math is the only discipline that gets anywhere near an absolute truth. Bear with me). I thought, we might as well admit it and try to play the game of asking intelligent questions and then offer intelligent answers. With that, all doors are open for everyone in every field. –  wilhelmtell May 13 '10 at 9:42
    
When I say that of course I trust we're intelligent, responsible people who know when to correct or delete our own post. There's no humility in being wrong on the internet, only in not correcting one's self or throwing away what is irreversibly wrong. –  wilhelmtell May 13 '10 at 9:43
    
@wilhelmtell You are right that no-one is an authority, and even if they were they could still get things wrong. My point is that coming up with a good answer takes more than access to facts amenable to research, it takes considerable experience in using the technology in question. –  nb69307 May 13 '10 at 10:02

Would it make sense to encourage users to answer questions in topics other than their expertise?

No. I like the spirit of the idea, but it would lead to an increase in half-baked answers that may be technically correct, but have side-effects only a person experienced in the topic can know about.

That is not to say I'm against people who are learning a new technology answering questions in the field as they learn more and more, and risking giving some half-baked anwers in the process (which will then hopefully be recognized by the experts and downvoted/commented upon). I just don't think this needs encouragement.

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I suppose it could work out OK if it was a gold badge for earning, say, 5 or 10 silver category badges in different areas. That would make it ultra-rare and discourage gaming to get it. But I don't really see the value in actually doing this; the people who would win it would be people who don't actually care about “stinkin' badges” and who instead focus on doing lots of really good answers.

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Would it make sense to encourage users to answer questions in topics other than their expertise?

I would argue that the system already does, if you are only willing to answer questions in your tight domain, the pool of questions available to you is a lot smaller than going wide.

I'm thinking about boosting reputation

The mechanics for this are way too complicated, and if you want to defend against gaming it would become more complicated still

badges for diversity.

There has always been the threat to implement the generalist badge, personally I think it would be a good idea to have both a silver and gold generalist badge. The tricky thing is figuring out who should get it.

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