I am grateful to lkessler for linking back to the Area 51 discussions and the earlier discussions on Meta.
I am opposed to dropping the word expert from the site description -- I don't know of any other English word that conveys as well the idea that the site is designed for people with knowledge and skill.
On Twitter, I pitch the site like this:
Got questions? Got answers? Share your expertise and bust your brick
walls at http://genealogy.stackexchange.com the #genealogy Q/A site.
Dictionary.com's first definition of expert is:
a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field;
specialist; authority: a language expert.
There's a humorous definition of expert that defines it as "the person who knows more than anyone else in the room". Other definitions can be found in the Wikipedia article:
Mark Twain defined an expert as "an ordinary fellow from another
town". Will Rogers described an expert as "A man fifty miles from
home with a briefcase." Danish scientist and Nobel laureate Niels Bohr
defined an expert as "A person that has made every possible mistake
within his or her field."
Of these, I especially like Bohr's, because it conveys the idea that becoming an expert is a process that includes learning from one's own mistakes.
In a more serious section, the Wikipedia article cites Marie-Line Germain's Expertise Scale:
Relative to a specific field, an expert has:
- Specific education, training, and knowledge
- Required qualifications
- Ability to assess importance in work-related situations
- Capability to improve themselves
- Self-assurance and confidence in their knowledge
The argument against our using the word expert centers on one point of this scale, the 'required qualifications'. But look at the other five points. Aren't these things what we want to encourage in every user that visits this site?
Answering someone's tough question is fun, but that's not the only thing I want to do here. I want users to see my answers and learn from how I solved the answer. I want them to learn how to notice important clues they overlooked before. I want them to develop their own intuition and confidence, and build their own skills. And I want to get better at my own skills by practicing on solving the problems that other people are stuck on.
The Stack Exchange philosophy is to make the Internet a better place, is it not? So shouldn't our basic principle be that if you participate here, no matter what level you begin at, you will become a better genealogist?
If that's not what we want to do here, then I don't see why I should be here. Otherwise, I'm just frittering away the time I should be spending on my own research by doing other people's homework for them.
Therefore, I propose that we keep the term "expert" in our pitch. I would follow the lead of previous discussions from Area 51, and broaden the pitch slightly, like this:
Genealogy and Family History is a question and answer site for experts
and enthusiasts to share their knowledge and build their research
skills in genealogy, family history, and microhistory.
I include microhistory specifically because I think we could deepen our base by reaching out to local historians, people who do house histories, etc. The previous discussions on Area 51 showed that if you try to include one-place studies and one-name studies and house histories and all the other varied sub-interests, the description becomes far too wordy. "Microhistory" embraces them all, and nicely delineates the kind of question which is too "small potatoes" for History.SE.
The point is not that you must already have knowledge and skill in order to participate here. The point is that you want to acquire more. Like the intro of Anthony Bourdain's travel show No Reservations, we should all be hungry for more. Otherwise, why are we here?
Updated 27 Sep 2015:
Incorporating a comment from @PolyGeo:
Could we perhaps compromise to "Genealogy and Family History is a
question and answer site for enthusiasts and experts alike to build
their research skills and share their knowledge in genealogy, family
history, and microhistory."
I would like to see something more in the description that would discourage the hit-and-run "does anyone know anything about this family" sort of 'cousin bait' posts.
G&FH.SE should be for workable problems. It should not be a dusty bulletin board full of unanswered and unanswerable "does anybody here already know X" questions.