TakeOnIt Editors Discussion

by Ben Albahari 19. March 2011 09:09

This blog post is here for editors to discuss TakeOnIt.


Comments (3) -

ben United States
3/19/2011 11:21:21 AM #

Someone sent the feedback:

I've noticed that this site tends to "black-and-white"-ify topics. For example, some questions like "do children make you happy" or "is marriage a good thing" are dependent on many factors. You might be able to say one is, on average, better than others, but the questions don't always get phrased or answered with that in mind. Maybe, in one person's situation, it is more likely that children will make them happy, whereas they won't in another person's situation. It's definitely MORE useful to answer questions conditioned on individual situations than to give an "on average" answer. Priors matter in a lot of these issues. A better way to phrase questions might be "given (situation X) will children make you happier". But making those questions leads to lots of questions with similar content that aren't grouped together.

A challenge in wording questions is choosing the right level of qualification. A less qualified question may apply broadly but ambiguously. A more qualified question may apply broadly but unambiguously. You want to word questions to maximize both breadth and unambiguity. That makes the question as useful as possible. Now, in many cases, attempting to reduce ambiguity either seriously compromises breadth, or doesn't actually reduce ambiguity that much.

Take for example the question "Does God exist?". Now you could argue that the question is ambiguous, and should be split into separate questions for each religion. But now what happens when a particular expert/influencer says "I don't believe in God". Where does there answer go? Duplicate it across every question about every kind of God?

The same problem exists for the question "Is marriage a good thing?". Some people are dead against marriage. They think it doesn't make people happier and it's a concept our society can do without. Others think it's our duty to God to marry. Where do the quotes these people have go? Again, such quotes would now have to be duplicated across every question qualifying marriage. And there's no end of qualification to these questions. "Is marriage good for Latvian women aged 18-25?". Well I guess it depends. There's going to be a 21 year old Latvian girl out there somewhere who thinks that in *their particular situation* the answer doesn't apply. Does that mean these questions are useless? No! They're all useful, despite their ambiguity.

Now, the options "mostly agree" and "mostly disagree" help mitigate the issue with answering questions in a black and white manner. But ultimately it's up to the readers of TakeOnIt not have black and white interpretations of answers to questions, as opposed to the editors of TakeOnIt changing the wording of the questions so that they are safe to interpret in a black and white manner.

Having said all this, I'm sure that some questions on TakeOnIt could benefit from more qualification. And perhaps the questions on marriage and kids could be split into or augmented with 2 or 3 more specific questions.

KH United States
3/19/2011 8:28:38 PM #

That makes sense (i found the discussion of breadth and clarity interesting and useful), and definitely fits with TOIs habit of putting lots of power with the users.  I would, though, at least like to see users being aware of the qualifications they are adding/assuming when commenting on issues, instead of assuming them and not stating them (like 'on average, i agree...' or 'given my situation, i disagree...').  It would make it easier for people who met those qualifications to decide for themselves.

ben United States
3/19/2011 9:11:59 PM #

Set the example with your own comments and vote up/down comments in accordance with what you want to see. The website is still young, which means the initial people who comment and vote will have a disproportionately large effect on setting the tone. I've also just bumped you up to a moderator, so you can make edits without approval.