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How will Judaism Codidact be better than Mi Yodeya?

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I feel a bit confused. On the one hand, I suppose we all supported Monica and her case against Stack Exchange, but obviously it's hard to ignore that Mi Yodeya is (at least in my view) the best thing that happened with Judaism with regards to the internet. At the same time, I also saw leading members of the community here at Codidact, among them Isaac Moses, who himself founded Mi Yodeya.

So I would like to ask, in what terms do you think Judaism Codidact will or should be better than Mi Yodeya? How would it be possible to create a community producing a valuable content instead of creating just another Q&A site which would eventually fall into oblivion?

I let myself be convinced, but frankly I am not aware of a clear and good answer now.

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@manassehkatz's answer got me thinking that (from the small handful of people who have spoken before me) it's clear folks want Judaism to be more inclusive and welcoming than Mi Yodeya, while at the same time not discouraging the kind of deep scholarship and wide-ranging familiarity with Jewish texts that made Mi Yodeya so valuable.

Perhaps a separate category for deep scholarship would help reinforce that it is welcome but not the only valued path. (My inspiration is the "Rigorous Science" category on Scientific Speculation.)

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As Isaac said, let's not think in terms of "better", as if there can be only one strong online community for rich knowledge-sharing and Q&A. Mi Yodeya is an important community and we should not seek to diminish it. We should assume that many people will participate on both. If this site helps to increase learning about Judaism on the Internet, it will accomplish something important regardless of where else that is happening.

In this post I speak for myself only. In describing what I'd like to see here I will sometimes draw comparisons to Mi Yodeya. Those comparisons are not meant to be critical; they're just comparisons.

These are things I would like to see this site aspire to and grow in:

Broad inclusion: Chazal teach that there are seventy faces of torah. We are not all the same. Our backgrounds are not all the same. We sometimes disagree vehemently with each other. That's ok; so did our rabbis. Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel argued on everything, but they ate in each others' homes and their children married into each others' houses. If they can do it so can we. I want this to be a community where questions coming from diverse perspectives are welcome. I don't mean we should lower our standards; we have certain expectations of all questions and that remains the case. But somebody asking a question about a tradition that isn't my own does not diminish me; rather, it can teach me something, or at worst I skip past it. And because of our strong emphasis on sources and showing our work, it will become clear when a post does not measure up.

All things Judaism: This answer on the proposal for this community suggests a broader scope than Mi Yodeya and gained strong support during the proposal phase. This site is not only a halacha-and-tanakh site, critically important as those topics are. Let us also welcome questions about Jewish history, Jewish communities, and even prominent Jews. If they are not interesting they won't get votes and answers, and that will be signal. But if they are interesting, let us allow that knowledge to be shared here. Of course, questions must still be answerable (not opinion-based) and avoid issues of lashon hara.

Multi-modal learning: As I said in The Codidact Vision, Q&A is central to learning, but it is not the only path to sharing knowledge. I'd like to see our community support other content alongside our body of questions and answers, including a well-developed glossary or dictionary and divrei torah. We can use these other modes to broaden our shared knowledge both for us and for the whole Internet, and through other modes we can engage our contributors in different ways (which gets to my next point).

Strong community: Some of the regulars on Mi Yodeya have strong connections to each other, built through chat, meta, and interacting on Q&A (and probably through many, many comment threads). It's truly heartening to see the community rally around its individual members, such as when somebody recently asked after an absent member. And, of course, I'm touched by those who rallied around me. But sometimes people have had more trouble forming those bonds, whether the barriers are due to language, background and knowledge, or the tools themselves. I'd like this community to be a place where people can build strong connections and all who sincerely want to engage with Judaism and Jewish learning feel welcome. I think multi-modal sharing helps with this by removing a barrier to one kind of participation. Several times on Mi Yodeya we saw somebody come with an idea to share and grow frustrated when told it had to be shaped into Q&A. Here we can remove that barrier. It's my suspicion that somebody who comes to teach an idea or tell a d'var might then stay for the Q&A and become part of the community.

A welcoming and kind community: Newcomers (and sometimes even "oldcomers") stumble sometimes. Some questions really don't fit and can't be fixed; some answers do have profound problems; some ideas are beyond the pale. What happens next tells a lot about a community. I want ours to be a community where we offer the helping hand, greet the person with the friendly word, and walk in the path of darkhei shalom. This isn't about compromising quality, which I am not advocating; this is about how we engage with people. I want us to aim higher than "civil". And I know that this is especially challenging online (text-only) with a worldwide community and many different backgrounds, so I want us to also strive to be kind and gentle with each other and always presume good intent. I've learned a lot from my peers about how to disagree constructively online; none of us are born knowing this stuff. We should be welcoming and kind, and when we stumble in that we should be kind in how we correct it.

Jewish values: We should strive to uphold Jewish values and ethics in our participation here. This probably goes without saying (we all strive to uphold Jewish values in our lives in general), but it's worth saying anyway. There will be times when Jewish values place a higher demand on us than baseline social/Internet norms -- in matters of modesty, in how we talk about others, in how we handle disputes. We should model our best values here, through which we might be a small part of the or l'goyim.

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One way in which I see this platform excelling for Judaism Q&A is through the platform team's responsiveness to feature requests to enhance the Judaism Q&A experience, in particular. As we're one of the first handful of communities on this still-developing platform, whose code is being developed as an open-source project, there's more potential for us to be able to get features we want implemented. It doesn't hurt that multiple members of the volunteer platform team are knowledgeable, observant Jews themselves.

We've already seen this sort of responsiveness in the rapid addition of the following features, most of which are not available on Stack Exchange and probably won't be:

  • Automatic Sefaria-linking of citations that fit Sefaria's expected formatting.

  • A custom button in the editor for looking up likely Sefaria-compliant titles.

  • A better Hebrew font for post titles

  • Hierarchical tags, which will certainly be helpful to many communities on the network, but was requested here because it's especially helpful in the context of Judaism's core texts' complex divisions and subdivisions.

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Per @AA's suggestion, I'll attempt to put my thoughts into words about my hopes for the site:

I'm with @manassekatz on MY's elitist feeling. Though I've only been on MY since the winter, for most of the time I've had that feeling. When people comment, it is often unclear if they're attacking you or genuinely interested in understanding your POV. I think this stems, at least partially, with how some questions are addressed: people simply down-vote with no explanation, a kind of hit-and-run situation. When it happens to new users who aren't too clear on rules and guidelines, that's not too welcoming, to say the least. But even for some of the more old-timers - is this a place of learning or not? How is one expected to learn if one has no idea what supposedly they did wrong? Personally, if there was a way to enforce commenting when down-voting, I think that would be a big plus for everyone. There may be other reasons for the elitist feeling, but that's what comes to mind at the moment.

Secondly, quite honestly, what's so wrong with having some categories allowing opinion-based answers? "V'ten Chelkeinu b'Toratecha" means everyone has their own share in the Torah. If it's a really horrible senseless answer, discussions with the poster can be made to clarify or redirect, or else simply don't vote for it. What if I have an answer that I think is a mind-blowing chiddush, but I've been unable to find sources for that - is that so bad? (this is kind of like the Ashkenazi/Sephardi iyun-style split - what's the focus on: tradition or chiddushim?) After all, the banner of both this site and MY is that for actual halachic matters, CYLOR. If there's some fear that someone will take an answer from here and make it halacha-l'maaseh, why are practical halachic questions allowed in the first place?

Thirdly, as others have already pointed out, making the community more welcoming and friendlier is important. I don't have much ideas for this right now. My suggestion on the Meta a few weeks ago to have the Purim Torah category open all year appears to have been pushed back to Tevet (not sure how that happened exactly and who voted on that one - I'm still in the dark on that) and as things appear to be moving so far, will probably become a tolerated (not necessarily enjoyed) Adar-only category like on MY (seriously, who down-votes PTs? Why?). I think that's unfortunate. I stand by what I said then - I think that having a more light-hearted category serves for giving the site a more friendlier, occasionally light-hearted feeling. For all those that fear a flood of PT questions: a. Why would that be so terrible? Is not the goal to improve Jewish learning? b. I expect there will be a flood at first, because on MY that category is only open a few weeks a year - it's like opening a dam. After a while though, it will slow down and I think there will be a good balance of different types of questions (anti-PTers: you make it sound like in your learning you never joke around at all. I honestly envy your concentration abilities).

Fourthly, I think having an area for discussing and debating certain topics will be helpful. Somewhere that a person can come and say, "Science and Torah, discuss" (random example) and everyone can join in on the discussion/debate.

This is what I have at the moment.

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General comments (2 comments)
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Without directly answering the question [yet], I'd like to point out that for Judaism.Codidact to be worthwhile, it doesn't have to be better than Mi Yodeya in an absolute sense; it just has to be capable of attracting a community of people who are willing to contribute here to worthwhile Q&A about Judaism. What that means, practically, is that J.CD has to be a better fit for at least some people, for at least some purposes, than MY. I encourage people to post answers here that describe ways in which this community can and should distinguish itself.

Manassehkatz' answer is a good example - J.CD can distinguish itself by choosing to err more on the side of inclusiveness when inclusiveness and content quality are in tension. That includes a criticism of MY, but mainly indicates an opportunity for a different emphasis here and therefore a potential to attract and be useful to a different population.

Ideas for differences in scope, similarly, could indicate niches that J.CD could fill.

I'll conclude with a meta-answer to the question at hand: It's worthwhile to participate in this new community now because a new community provides an opportunity to develop in new ways, with different ultimate emphases and niches, not all of which will necessarily be obvious right away.

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General comments (5 comments)
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I am a middle-of-the-road SE user. Not anywhere near the top, never a moderator, etc. But also stuck around long enough with some specific communities to have (I think) some productive and positive impact.

Mi Yodeya was never one of my main sites - I mainly participate(d) on DIY/Home Improvement and Retrocomputing. Why? I felt I could contribute more on those sites - they were, dare I use the words, more welcoming. Welcoming does not mean a bunch of crazy popup reminders about new users or guided tours or "be nice" notes - all the things SE management has, in recent memory, been pushing. Mi Yodeya always seemed to have a bit of an "elitist" attitude. I think part of that is due to a quest for truly high quality Questions and Answers - which is a wonderful goal. But somewhere along the way, it feels to me, as a moderately learned & observant Jew, but not a Rabbi or anything close, to have grown to the point where if you can't cite Gemara, Tosfos and Rishonim to support the simplest statement that it gets pushed away as "need sources" --> "junk". More to it than that, I think, but that is the sort of impression I've had and I ended up occasionally visiting Mi Yodeya but rarely contributing, and not even reading on a regular basis.

It remains to be seen how Judaism Codidact plays out. I do want it to be high quality, but I also want it to be the type of place where anyone with the right intent (not trolls, etc.) can participate even if their level of Jewish knowledge is not "almost Rabbi".

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General comments (11 comments)
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One very important thing I would like to see here is people being more friendly. Mi Yodeya was the least friendly forum site I have ever visited. Whenever I am posting on Mi Yodeya and other forums around the same time I am almost in shock how much friendlier the other forum is. The most important thing is being more welcoming to newcomers. When I was new to Mi Yodeya it felt like at least have the times I would comment it would get deleted with no explanation. My questions were also always getting closed for very dubious reasons. I can't begin to guess how many potential members Mi Yodeya lost because of that. I would guess its at least 20%. I know some of my friends almost never use it anymore for that reason.

I've been following new visitors who come to Mi Yodeya and I'm constantly dismayed by the same trend. They are getting attacked left, right, and center.

One common issue, for example is questions being closed as opinion-based. I have several times found answers for questions that moderators decided were opinion based and closed, assuming nobody would be able to find a source for.

Another standard example is the rampant closing of practical questions when with about four seconds of editing they could be changed into general questions (For example, "If I..." can be changed to "If one...")

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