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When the proposal of Bioinformatics started there was a discussion in Biostars about the this site (and SE in general compared to Biostars). Some of the points raised are:

  • Unfriendly community, questions are received with down-votes
  • Toxic environment
  • Lack of support from moderators
  • Lack of discussion about questions
  • Adding more sites is diluting the user base
  • Cross-post with other communities
  • License of the code provided in Stack Exchange

How do we want the community to handle this issues?

Additionally there are also seqanswers, Bioconductor, Galaxy community and other communities (and mailing groups) around different tools and projects.

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    $\begingroup$ So in my opinion, the main problem with biostar is low quality of answers. I compared top biostar questions to average stackoverflow question, and the later is much better. I think we should mainly focus on the answers quality. $\endgroup$ – Iakov Davydov May 17 '17 at 8:33
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    $\begingroup$ The main problem with Biostars is the low quality of questions that is precisely what needs to be sorted out here. $\endgroup$ – DrDanielSwan May 17 '17 at 9:39
  • $\begingroup$ Well, then the problem with Biostars seems to be from the quality of the site. What troubles me is that the question now on the site, many seem of low quality too. And we are just in the first day, we should correct that too $\endgroup$ – llrs May 17 '17 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ All above points are a bit exaggerated. SE is about making the internet a better place, it is not about a single user. Incentive system should be both ways, encourage good answers and good questions, upvotes/downvotes. $\endgroup$ – zx8754 May 17 '17 at 11:10
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    $\begingroup$ @zx8754 Agreed. I've only ever had positive experiences on SO and other SE sites. It might be the sorts of questions I'm looking at/asking, but the complaints always seemed strange to me. But I agree that keeping these stereotypes in mind is worthwhile, we should actively work to promote a positive atmosphere, but also good questions/answers. $\endgroup$ – kevbonham May 17 '17 at 13:03
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    $\begingroup$ On a related note - if a question is asked that has already been answered on seqanswers, support.bioconductor.org or biostars, whats the policy on pointing to that answer? $\endgroup$ – Ian Sudbery May 17 '17 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Ian Answers must be self contained, so you can reference them with a link an write your answer $\endgroup$ – llrs May 17 '17 at 17:51
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Here's my take on each of the points you raise:

  • Unfriendly community, questions are received with down-votes

    I know many people feel this way but my experience in the SE network has been the exact opposite. Downvotes are not bad. Let me repeat that. Downvotes are not bad. They are in fact precisely what makes the SE sites so useful. We need bad posts to be downvoted, that's the only way good posts come to the top. yes, some people can take the downvotes as an insult instead of as an invitation to improve their answer. Quite simply, those people won't have a good time here so it would be better for them—and us—if they go to another site.That's not a problem, there's enough to go around.

  • Toxic environment

    That really isn't my impression of SE and I feel that most people who feel it's toxic simply don't understand the system and consider downvotes and closed questions to be personal attacks. With the possible exception of SO which is orders of magnitude larger than any other site, most SE sites are relatively friendly as long as you put some effort into your posts. Yes, dumping your homework with no attempt to solve it and asking others to do your work for you are not well received. Well, they shouldn't be.

    However, I have been quite active (>10 or 20k rep) on 4 sites of the network, I'm an elected mod on two and participate in quite a few more. I haven't felt any of them were in any way "toxic". Maybe I was lucky, granted, but I really think the "toxicity" is almost entirely born of simple misunderstandings about what the SE site are and are not.

  • Lack of support from moderators

    I don't really know what that is supposed to mean. I see some complaints about too much moderation in the linked biostars post but none of a lack thereof. Also, most people who're not familiar with SE tend to assume that anyone who cotes to close a post or edits or does anything else that wouldn't be possible by users on traditional forums is a mod.

  • Lack of discussion about questions

    Yes, absolutely! SE is not a forum and not the right place for disussion. But that's great! If you need a discussion, you can always go to Biostars or SeqAnswers or even our chat. This isn't a place for discussion, it's a Q&A site. That's fine: to each their own.

  • Adding more sites is diluting the user base

    Dunno about that. I, for example, find both SeqAnswers and Biostars unpleasant, chaotic and far harder to extract useful information out of than the SE sites. Which is why I am so pleased with this proposal. So it's not so much a question of diluting the community as it is one of offering multiple venues where each of us can find their niche and the site they find most useful. There are enough bioinformaticians around by now that the community can support multiple sites, I think.

  • Cross-post with other communities

    Why does this matter? If another community has a useful piece of information, we copy it over. That's the beauty of open licenses.

  • License of the code provided in Stack Exchange

    Again, for me that's a feature and not a bug. Any code posted here can be used by anyone else in the community with attribution. Surely that's a good thing?

In summary, there's no reason to please everyone. This is an SE site and the SE network has clearly demonstrated that there are many, many users who enjoy their system and find it useful in their work. Other people find it too restrictive or negative or hard to deal with. That's absolutely fine. Those of us who like the SE system are free to use this site and those of us who don't are free to use the others. Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything.

So yes, we should be friendly and open and helpful to newbies. Ignorance is never a sin. On the other hand, laziness and unwillingness to put effort into your question and answer are, and I see no reason why we shouldn't have strict quality standards. Many SE sites cater to both experts and novices and the level of expertise is far less important than the effort put into a post. So as long as you don't use this site as a substitute for doing your own work, you should be welcome to ask a question of any level of expertise here. But not things that would be answered by pasting the question title into Google or Wikipedia. Some effort is required, yes.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree that downvotes are any important part of a good community. I'm new to the whole SE platform but maybe there's somewhere we can write a piece about how downvotes aren't bad, and how more experienced users should do their best to help while downvoting(i.e. posting the link to the duplicate or a link to the wiki article) so we don't discourage new users. Bioinformatics is a daunting field even when you have a solid background in one of the fields that are a part of it, which makes it difficult for new members to participate because the minimum knowledge is set high. $\endgroup$ – EMiller May 22 '17 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @EMiller sure, and we shouldn't be downvoting duplicates (we just close them as duplicates) nor should we download simple questions (we were all newbies once)_. Downvotes are reserved for questions that show no research effort, things like dumping your homework here for us to do for you, or ykonw txtspeak lke this crp (very poorly written but not because of the language barrier, only because of laziness). Also, downvotes on wrong answers are extremely important to separate the good from the bad. $\endgroup$ – terdon May 22 '17 at 14:42
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I understand the feelings of Biostar people, at the same time competition is almost always good.

In order to address those issues I think we should do the following:

  • Try to be friendly to newcomers once the site is open.
  • Keep our answers and questions high-quality. This is really an issue for some of other websites you mentioned.
  • Allow some discussion.

I do not think dilution is a problem. Academia is very decentralized anyway, there are thousands of journals, a lot of software which is very similar, etc. Competition is usually good. All of the communities will have a stimulus to function better.

Also, I don't think licensing is a practical problem. This is not a software development SE.

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  • $\begingroup$ We can't really allow discussion. The SE model doesn't really lend itself to discussion. We have the Bioinformatics Chat for that, but the site itself should be strictly Q&A. Not because discussion is wrong or not useful, it's just that this isn't the right place for it. $\endgroup$ – terdon May 19 '17 at 19:15
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My feeling is that this site and biostars should be serving different purposes.

Biostars is, as far as I understand, explicitly about helping beginners or those without much experience to get their head around bioinformatics. I'm happy to help out their when I can to help people, but while I have posted my own questions their, I wouldn't rely on it for answers to any difficult questions I had.

I think bioinformatics SE should be a bit different: A place to go to find if other professionals have come across and solved similar problems to the one you are having. While newbies, interested amateurs and non-bioinformatics students should be welcomed, the primary target level should be higher.

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