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We all love Open Data Stack Exchange, but there is a whole world of people out there who need answers to their questions and don't even know that this site exists. When they arrive from Google, what will their first impression be? Let's try to look at this site through the eyes of someone who's never seen it before, and see how we stack up against the rest of the 'Net.

The Site Self-Evaluation review queue is open and populated with 10 questions that were asked and answered in the last quarter. Run a few Google searches to see how easy they are to find and compare the answers we have with the information available on other sites.

Rating the questions is only a part of the puzzle, though. Do you see a pattern of questions that should have been closed but are not? Questions or answers that could use an edit? Anything that's going really well? Post an answer below to share your thoughts and discuss these questions and the site's health with your fellow users!

  • I've never done one of these reviews before, and I'm a bit puzzled by the evaluation rubric. The description of the evaluation categories seems to conflate the quality of the answers with how easy they are to find via search. Is that intentional? What are we supposed to do if there are great questions/answers that aren't showing up in search engine results? – BrenBarn Aug 17 '14 at 21:25
  • @BrenBarn: I'm really sorry I didn't see your comment sooner. The criteria is: do these questions make the internet a better place for people to get answers to their Open Data questions? There are a few things you can do to improve the odds of a question being returned by a search of Google: descriptive titles, accurate tagging, and comprehensive answers. Stack Exchange does a remarkable job of being noticed by Google, but only when the relevant keywords are available to index. (And yes, these reviews are a touch muddled.) – Jon Ericson Aug 26 '14 at 22:41
  • @JonEricson: Okay, that's more or less how I evaluated them. When I said "what are we supposed to do", I was asking more about how we're supposed to evaluate the questions in the review, not how we can boost their search engine profile. Basically I still rated them positively if they provided useful info, even if that info was not prominent in search results. – BrenBarn Aug 27 '14 at 0:54
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A lot of these questions reflect a minor concern I've had: they ask for the location of data which probably doesn't exist anywhere. It's not clear what the best strategy for answering that kind of question.

I'm slightly ambivalent about simply voting to close that kind of question, since having a marker that there's interest in the data is not bad, and sometimes useful information gets posted, even if it doesn't quite answer the question.

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    Such questions should be left open. The data might get available in a year. – Nicolas Raoul Aug 29 '14 at 8:58
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Final Results

Net Score: 7 (Excellent: 7, Satisfactory: 3, Needs Improvement: 0)


Net Score: 6 (Excellent: 6, Satisfactory: 6, Needs Improvement: 0)


Net Score: 4 (Excellent: 4, Satisfactory: 7, Needs Improvement: 0)


Net Score: 3 (Excellent: 4, Satisfactory: 6, Needs Improvement: 1)


Net Score: 3 (Excellent: 4, Satisfactory: 6, Needs Improvement: 1)


Net Score: 1 (Excellent: 4, Satisfactory: 3, Needs Improvement: 3)


Net Score: 1 (Excellent: 2, Satisfactory: 7, Needs Improvement: 1)


Net Score: 0 (Excellent: 2, Satisfactory: 7, Needs Improvement: 2)


Net Score: -4 (Excellent: 2, Satisfactory: 4, Needs Improvement: 6)


Net Score: -6 (Excellent: 0, Satisfactory: 4, Needs Improvement: 6)


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Last time, I suggested focusing on editing questions. There's still some work to be done there.

I have a nagging concern about this site. It seems like many of the askers are getting useful answers. But I'm not sure those answers are helping many people who aren't using this site. A few years ago, Joel Spolsky wrote about building enduring resources:

Don’t answer questions that have already been answered elsewhere. Yeah, you might earn a couple of points of reputation, but, because you are duplicating content, you are actually making the internet worse. Why? Because that answer might be true today, but as technology changes, it might not be true tomorrow. There are almost certainly thousands of wrong facts on Stack Overflow already, which may have been true when they were written but are no longer true. These facts will pollute the Internet for years. This problem is not tractable if we allow Stack Overflow to become just an endless river of questions and answers. It has to be more like a Wikipedia of Questions and Answers, with canonical answers that can be edited in one place, if we are ever going to stand a chance of keeping all the information that we expose to the Internet at least reasonably correct.

The bulk of the questions on Open Data seem to be resource requests; the equivalent of identification questions on Movies & TV. Personally, I think these are great for giving new users something to contribute. However, they don't do much to bring people to the site via search. In fact, the only really significant search string that brings traffic to this site is linked question on government. So even though this remains a great resource for people who know about it, there's little chance for organic growth.

Consider helping people use Open Data in addition to finding it

The top question in this self-evaluation is a great example: Rocket attacks dataset in Israel and State of Palestine. There are two distinct answers and both do an admirable job of explaining how to obtain the data. If you prefer CSV data to JSON, one of the answers points the way. The answer suggests several other data sources and gives advice on how to request one that's not exactly open. More answers like these could help this site be more than a curated list of resources.

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