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We all love Chemistry 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!

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Final Results

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Thoughts on answers

It seems to me that after looking through this set of evaluation Q&As that the most common deficiency in answers is the lack of references. Many of the homework and everyday chemistry questions can probably be answered with an appropriately phrased web search, and oftentimes when I find a question that I don't know the answer to but want to know the answer to, I just do the search and report back to the OP.

Even though many questions asked might be answerable with a little bit of work on the part of the OP, I nonetheless find it valuable to have a collection of chemical information in one format that is familiar. It would be nice, however, if answers included a summary of references (preferably expanding beyond wikipedia) that were used in crafting the answer.

Thoughts on questions

As for questions themselves, I wonder if we are starting to get to a point where we need to consider the presence of duplicates. Recently there have been a lot of questions based on electrochemistry. As an electrochemist, I welcome these questions, but I wonder if we need to start referring future questions to asked and answered questions. Take Galvanic cells for example:

All of these questions are technically different from one another, but those with expanded answers all provide (to varying degrees of correctness, thoroughness and clarity) the same information about Galvanic cells. Do we get serious about a duplicate policy or is there perhaps a special tag that is used for general concepts in chemistry.

The Community Wiki Content Map

Another possibility (and I've now gone a bit off topic, so I'll keep this short) is to consider a set of community wiki questions that are based on the American Chemical Society Exam Institute content map. This would allow us to build a resource of general chemistry information that members answering questions can refer to when answering questions. If there's interest, I'll start a second meta question to flesh out some details of this kind of process.

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    $\begingroup$ A nice thing to do is to write a broad, canonical self-answer whenever you see many similar questions. Basically, ask a question that covers the different similar subquestions, and then give it a nice, long answer (we can then tag it faq and close everyone else as a dupe. These are usually made community wiki, too). I'm not too sure if the content map thing would work very well on the SE engine. $\endgroup$ – ManishEarth Aug 19 '13 at 12:38
  • $\begingroup$ @ManishEarth I envision the content map manifesting itself on SE by way of tags. Making tags that are "generally accepted" (loosely speaking here) by the chemistry teaching community can open Chem.SE to a broader audience, I think. $\endgroup$ – bobthechemist Aug 19 '13 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting idea. That could be done quite efficiently with tag wikis (in which you can add a list of subtopics, common questions, and an overview) $\endgroup$ – ManishEarth Aug 19 '13 at 15:55
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I think the system short-changed us a bit by selecting a lot of our shorter, potentially googleable questions. I do think we should be on the lookout for these, but I don't think closing them is a solution (it is nice if we can be the "one stop shop" for chemistry knowledge of all types and ability levels.

I agree with bob that it would be nice to have more references with our answers, if the topic is of research-level for sure, and certainly throwing a reference in to a general text would help a beginner to find their way in the field.

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  • $\begingroup$ I wonder if it would make sense to start off with a canonical "good on-line chem book" reference list that can be used as a general go-to resource. $\endgroup$ – bobthechemist Aug 19 '13 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ @bobthechemist We can use the tag wiki(s) to establish these as well, though I agree that having an actual question would allow us to close any subsequent questions as dupes (as Manish pointed out above) $\endgroup$ – jonsca Aug 19 '13 at 14:38

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