This is a mobile:
I'd like to argue that Biblical Hermeneutics is like a mobile:
- We have a fixed point in space, the text of the Bible and the philosophy of interpretation, from which our structure hangs.
- Our questions represents the horizontal rods or hoops that define the space our structure occupies.
- Each answer is like one of the objects hanging from the rods.
I suppose you could fill in the analogy on your own: comments are decorative elements, votes determine size, etc. But my point is that each question and answer page is like a sculpture that should be viewed as a whole and not a series of posts to be taken individually. I mean you can look at each post individually, but since ~75% of our traffic comes from search engines, we must be aware that most people see us as a single page about some aspect of Biblical Hermeneutics. Our site evaluations are intended to help us think in those terms.
Now I think we have a solid understanding about which fixed points we can hang questions from and we know how to design questions to give us pleasing results, but we are not producing well-designed sculptures in every case. The evidence suggests that many are at least satisfactory and some are truly excellent, but we'd like to at least have a plan for how we might make every one of our pages outstanding resources.
One proposal is to do the same thing with answers that we did with questions: require each answer to be a broadly applicable as possible. Instead of talking about the "Old Testament" or the "Tanahk", we would all agree to "Hebrew Scriptures". If something is said that can't be supported, we edit answers to remove controversial statements. Answers work directly from the text or peer-reviewed scholarship. Taken to it's logical conclusion, we emulate Wikipedia's core content policies.
Another proposal is to encourage as much diversity in answers as we can manage and allow voting to sort things out. Now it should be obvious that the first proposal will produce a balanced view of the question because every answer is balanced. Allowing answers that are seriously biased toward unusual viewpoints seems a recipe for disaster. Calder's sculptures require considerable planning and engineering to come out right. Adding a new element will destroy the entire work.
And yet, I think our site could support the second model, but only if some of us operate on the first. To see what I mean, consider one of our earliest questions: What's wrong with cooking a kid in its mother's milk? Each one the the answers comes from a unique viewpoint and because the most general answers are voted up, the page seems very balanced. Reading from top to bottom by score, I come away with a sense of greater understanding of the broad answer to the question and the richness of interpretation traditions. The inclusion of the more specific answers don't hurt the broader answers at all. Instead they highlight, to a neutral reader, the strengths of the answers supported by scholarship.
(The one exception are answers that are ugly. Very poorly constructed answers and answers that offend do ruin an otherwise enjoyable page. These need to be edited or removed at some point.)
Our site will produce the most pleasing results if questions have at least one well supported or logically argued answer that adheres to the back-it-up principle and any number of answers that are interesting even if they are not themselves balanced. However, I'm not sure how to accomplish this—some questions may never get balanced answers.