As promised here I've done an analysis of questions to date to help understand what we've deemed on-topic so far.
From the beginning of the Beta to circa 1500 GMT on 14th November, 261 questions had been asked, of which 14 (5.3%) were closed. Although only two of these questions were closed as off-topic, I’ve disregarded all closed questions in the analysis that follows.
Breakdown by Topic Area
I’ve categorised the questions into 6 “Topic Areas”; the sort of questions I’ve allocated to each are shown at the end of this post. For some questions, a case could be made for it to sit in more than one topic area, but I’ve made my best judgement and I don’t think it materially affects the analysis.
Over half our questions have been asked about Locating Records (30%) and Best Practice/ Research process and methodology (28%). Researching specific ancestors (14%), Interpreting records (13%) and Applying technology (12%) make up almost 40% between them. My view is:
- that this is a healthy mix of on-topic subject matter
- I’m encouraged that we’ve closed so few questions as off-topic
- we should expect the proportion of Best practice questions to reduce as the ‘obvious’ topics are covered and it becomes harder to avoid duplicates
- we should expect the proportion of questions on Locating records, Interpreting records, Researching ancestors and Applying technology to increase. There’s a potentially limitless supply of these out there; our challenge will be to get them asked here rather than somewhere else, and get them asked well.
Analysis of Votes by Topic Area
For each topic-area I’ve extracted the minimum, maximum and average votes per question. This should be a reflection of how good the questions are viewed to be, but as a community we have not yet thrashed out our definition(s) of good, and whether voting means “I like this question”, “I’m interested in the answer to this question” or “I think this is a good question”.
On average, we have a preference for questions on Technology, Best practice and Interpreting records. Might that be because these are the more generally interesting topics?
Minimum votes in all the topic areas are pretty consistent, proving nothing except there are always some questions that are so narrowly focused or so badly written they don’t appeal.
Maximum votes in most topic areas are similarly consistent. However, Best practice questions have the widest range of popularity (even discounting the single question that scored 24 votes). And Specialist questions don’t get as much love as the others.
Overall Distribution of Votes
I was curious to see what the overall voting pattern looked like.
1520 votes had been cast in total at the time the snapshot was taken. The average question gets 6 votes. 9.7% of the questions were average by this measure, and 52.6% of the questions were below average, making 62.3% in total average or below.
Description of Topic Areas
This is an overview of the sort of questions I’ve allocated to each topic area. If it’s generally agreed that this is a useful breakdown, I’m willing to work on it some more in discussion with others) to form the basis of guidance on what is on- and off-topic here, along the lines of the post Luke pointed to at https://english.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/273/what-questions-are-on-topic-and-off-topic-here.
Application of Technology
- Use of specific software products and web sites/technologies
- How do I do X with package/website Y
- Establishing criteria for choosing software products
- Data exchange formats and other technical standards (GEDcom, FHISO etc.)
- DNA testing
- Use of GIS technology (Geographic Information Systems)
Best practice/research process and methodology
- How best to document and present what I’ve learned
- Ethics and legalities (copyright, privacy, sensitivity)
- Numbering systems
- Working with personal or place names
Working with sources
- Genealogical Proof Standard and other best practice guidelines
- Organising and tracking research activities and results
Approaches to research
- Getting started
- Working with others
- Inferential genealogy
- Person based versus record based research
- Document and artefact handling and preservation
How can I find records [about X event] [in P place] [around time T]
How can I find a specific record/document
How can I find information about a specific topic
Reading and comparing handwriting
Working with records in foreign languages
Dating, identifying and extracting information from photographs
Understanding terminology in records
Understanding record types and their contents
Using specific record types in research
Evaluating the reliability of specific sources
Researching Specific Ancestors
How do I learn Y fact about a specific ancestor
How do I learn about the historical context of a specific ancestor
How do I learn X historical fact, knowing which may lead me to more information on an ancestor
Other Related Specialist Topics
- Origin and meaning of surnames
- Government policies relevant to genealogists
- Academic and other studies of genealogists and their networks