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This is something I've noticed of this community more than the other SE communities I've been a part of. It's a very critical community. For example:

  • the downvote is on a hair trigger
  • everyone seems so caught up in the purity of their martial art
  • questions go from asked to closed very quickly without the chance of reprisal from the asker

The general feeling I get is that:

  1. There is no community
  2. It's not a friendly place to ask questions
  3. It's not a friendly place to answer questions

Since I already feel like I'm on someone's poo poo list, might as well make it complete by pointing this out. I fully expect downvotes on this question as well, but I don't care about that.

This community has an unenviable task of attracting good quality questions, but they are few and far between. Many of the better asked questions are single art specific, yet despite the ruling on the matter, nobody seems to like answers from another art. I have no idea what this community even considers good questions. Is there a top 10 questions list? If so, is there room outside of those top 10 for more?

With how narrow things are trying to be defined, I almost get the feeling that the community has already exhausted all the good questions. Please do prove me wrong. This is the impression that I get from using this community for a few weeks.

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    I totally agree on all points. – Dave Liepmann Apr 13 '12 at 19:12
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    Suggestions? Examples? I hear what you're saying and I respect your views, but if we want to have a discussion, we need to have a place to go from here. – stslavik Apr 13 '12 at 19:21
  • I didn't downvote, but downvotes on a question on Meta usually mean disagreement, beyond the usual stuff, as you might already know. – Alenanno Aug 26 '12 at 14:48
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In an effort to respond to the post to give us some momentum, let me start off by saying that I appreciate the feedback and your continued participation in meta and hope you'll continue to strive to make this a stronger community.

Remember that MartialArts.SE is your site: you shape its direction, its sense of community, and its overall content by your participation here. It can be easy to look at a problem and say, "This is a problem"; it's very difficult to direct a solution through your example.

Community Criticality

Over the past few weeks, a number of the issues arising on meta have been directly related to the overall critical nature the site has apparently been taking. In an effort to help with this, I, with the help of extant meta discussions, the other moderators, and the SE sites that came before, put together three discussions here on meta:

The intent of these posts was to create a guideline drawn in sand – a way to give new users a rundown on the general guidelines of Stack Exchange sites and the approach we've been discussing on meta since day 1. It is not set in stone, and is posted as a to encourage all users on the site to participate in improving the quality of the site. Meta is about having a community, and making this a community moderated site.

To your specific points:

  • the downvote is on a hair trigger

This isn't the first time this has been brought up. In fact, it's addressed in Answering Questions on MartialArts.StackExchange.Com for that very reason.

Some people are far more ready to down vote other users than others. The general expectation here is the same as any other stack exchange site: down votes should be used to indicate inaccurate or dangerous information. Often on this site, due to the subjective nature of our topic, we have the issue of cross-style answers creating conflicts of accuracy. When we post answers into another style, we run the risk of getting down voted if we're not aware of, for instance, rules we may be violating. This is a way of either the OP or another answerer letting others who may read the question that it may not be in their best interest to take that advice. It should not be used, however, for disagreement (as it is on meta).

  • everyone seems so caught up in the purity of their martial art

Unfortunately, I don't have a response to this; perhaps you could provide an example and I'll edit accordingly.

  • questions go from asked to closed very quickly without the chance of reprisal from the asker

Recently, with the addition of the FAQ and some spam posts, we've had to close, delete, and destroy some questions that were not constructive. As an example, a question was posted about following up a roundhouse kick, and references were made to techniques from video games (a violation of the FAQ). Originally the question was closed, but comments continued, so I posted a comment about the nature of what was being asked and why it was closed. I believe that it was because of my comment that you began receiving down votes on your answer. This has been cleared up, the user destroyed, and while you will lose any up votes for that post, you will also lose the down votes.


A site like this thrives with the passion of its users. We can't rest on our laurels and expect the site to magically be perfect; instead, we have to work to make it better. The way to do this is by fostering the community.

I recently moved to a new neighborhood. In fact, it was shortly before I came here. My wife kept asking me why all our neighbors were so stand-offish. Of course, I'm at work every day, so I didn't really have an answer for her. Over the months, I've gotten to meet a few of them, and have been building rapport with a few simply by waving, saying hello, and asking after them. I realized it's really not a difficult thing: communities don't happen because people all occupy the same space, but because they're all sharing their common interests. If you feel that there's no community, ask if you're making the effort to be part of it.

Everyone on this site should be made to feel welcome; sometimes the easiest way for them to feel that way is to make another user feel welcome too. Look at how you and Dave both have found common ground – we're all more alike than you realize.

I want to encourage you all to come and take part in the chat room as well. Get to know everyone, find out about their backgrounds, and share a bit about yours.

  • speaking of getting to know people... I noticed you changed your avatar. Did you get married? – THelper Apr 16 '12 at 7:26
  • June of last year. This, though, is the perfect sort of discussion for chat :) – stslavik Apr 16 '12 at 15:22
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I think part of it is how much time many of the posters have spent training in their various arts. If you've put 15+ years into an activity with the level of learning that is required such as martial arts, the tendency is to say "By God I know what I'm talking about!" which almost precludes rational discussion.

The other tendency is to be insular, and only look at questions that pertain to your own art. While I may read a post on BJJ or Judo, I only have minor familiarity with it, so I don't tend to actually answer.

I'm not sure how you get around that without running into more of a discussion rather than Q&A format, however.

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Feedback is an integral part of the Stack Exchange Q&A model, and criticism should be expected. People are coming here from different backgrounds to share their knowledge. Because this site is meant to be a place for experts, I would imagine that many people here would hold their own martial arts experiences and views close to them because they find it very personally meaningful. However, no one should astroturf or feel "ownership" of any particular aspect or topic of the site and use that as a defense for how to govern themselves here. Everyone should be keeping an open mind and be respectful of each other.

Like I said in one of my other answers, people are free to downvote and leave comment on answers that don't address the question properly or contain information that is seriously wrong or bad. My personal opinion and perspective on downvotes is that they should be reserved for seriously problematic answers. If there is something wrong with a question or answer that can be fixed, people should leave a comment to help guide the user, edit it to improve it, or find an expert who can properly answer the question.

The idea is to "pay it forward" and promote a positive and nurturing community. How people vote or comment is not something we can enforce though. People are allowed to disagree with each other, but downvoting should not be used as signal that an answer has no value at all, is completely irrelevant, or that you disagree with someone. You do want to address the question at hand, but keep in mind that you are also contributing to larger community. If you are serially downvoting someone because you simply disagree with one person, the moderators will step in and take action.

Dave touched upon the umbrellas that answers appear to fall under, and I agree with him that determining the "quality" is hard for this site. What has been asked so far I think is appropriate for the site, even if some of them are too specific or too general. I think the specific questions would work great for this site if we can continue to draw in the martial arts communities from those styles. I also believe there are questions that may be cross-disciplinary (and maybe some laymen) ones that would be of value as well.

What we can do to address the "quality" of questions that are being asked is create meta discussions and provide a list of questions that exemplify what is good and bad for the Martial Arts Stack Exchange. These meta questions can serve as the basis and reference for incoming and new users. It should not be treated as a fast and hard ruleset but more of a guideline, something like a "greatest hits" or "all-stars" of questions. The list doesn't have to be set in stone and can change over time as the site and community grows. In a way, it's also a sort of community-driven beta site evaluation for Martial Arts to see how we are doing for ourselves.

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    The general feeling I get is that the voting is used like a sparring match. But even worse than the voting is the fact, that I have a really hard time envisioning what a good question would be on this site. There are some that may have been a little weak on setup, but at least it provides an opportunity for some answers which may in turn spark good questions out of that. Something like that happened with me a bit over a year ago on fitness.SE. An answer I got to a question on strength training sparked another question--which was better than the first. – Berin Loritsch Apr 14 '12 at 3:27
  • @BerinLoritsch In what variations have firearms been implemented in the martial arts? How does "kinetic linking" benefit striking power? How does typical karate instruction in the United States differ from training in Okinawa? Does atemi no tanren make a discernible difference in striking damage? What long term effects do atemi no tanren or tie zhang gung have on the hands? – stslavik Apr 15 '12 at 2:16
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    @BerinLoritsch Shouldn't the voting be used that way? Or should downvoting be held back until the site, and perforce the examples of good questions, are more established? – Dave Liepmann Apr 16 '12 at 20:10
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    Voting shouldn't be a sparring match. Voting should be "yeah that's a good answer", or "that answer is going to hurt the op". If you just don't like it, but it isn't harmful, don't vote. If it's a "meh" answer, don't vote. At least that's the way it practically works on most of the other SE sites I've been involved with. – Berin Loritsch Apr 17 '12 at 11:49
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    @BerinLoritsch Have you considered that perhaps it's the view of the down voters that the answers being voted upon are unsafe or very low quality for the question? – stslavik Apr 17 '12 at 15:26
  • Unsafe? I couldn't answer because there's no feedback to indicate that. Low quality? Check out my writing style--on any of my questions/answers from any of the SE sites I frequent. I don't think that's it. It seems/feels like more like a "I just don't like it" type of response. – Berin Loritsch Apr 17 '12 at 18:02
  • @BerinLoritsch What you're referring to is a cognitive bias called "Negativity Bias"; the tendency to give more weight to negative events than to positive ones. You're in the top 6 of all time participants by reputation on this site. In that, you're going to earn some down votes. I'd be happy to discuss this further with you in chat. – stslavik Apr 17 '12 at 18:41
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I think a big problem with having a Martial Arts SE site is the same problem as having a Martial Arts forum. If that's all you've got people coming in on, you have some very different perspectives on what martial arts are. You'll get much more community if the site has a more focused principle, ie "aliveness > dead patterns". Usually it wouldn't be stated as such, but that's an underlying assumption of the UG. Everyone agrees on the importance of aliveness, and as a result, when a question gets asked about a dead art, nobody gets bent out of shape because it's assumed the asker understands the importance of aliveness, so there's no need to convince them of it.

You've got people within the very broad umbrella category of martial arts who strongly believe that forms are the best way to train, the ultimate test of skill, that sparring detracts from martial arts and that it's really not about fighting but about spiritual development. Then you have other people under the same broad umbrella that believe forms are detrimental to your training and you're better of practicing dance, that sparring is the ultimate training tool, and that it's all about fighting. The only thing that these two opposing viewpoints might agree on is the importance of pre-fight avoidance strategies for self defense, but there will still be some details that come up as points of contention.

There seems to be a live and let live attitude on here since this question was originally posted, but now instead of the downvote being on a hair trigger, there's just an absence of upvotes. I don't give them out much either. I recognise that some answers might be good answers from a different perspective from mine, but because I disagree with that perspective, I don't give it an upvote, as I consider the flawed premise to make the answer a bad answer. And I'm sure people with opposing viewpoints to mine do the same with my answers.

SE seems to thrive on upvotes (primarily) and reputation, and the MA topic seems to be antithetical to developing either of those. How many people are interested in sticking around to answer questions when pretty much all the answers stay at a score of 0? For that matter, how is it supposed to be useful to someone asking questions if they get multiple conflicting answers and have no way of telling if one is more valid than the other?

  • I agree with your first two paragraphs, but I don't think there's that much of a dearth of upvotes. There's just not much traffic. Regarding your final question, I think it's OK. SE is designed to let answers compete, and may the best argument/evidence/theory/explanation win. – Dave Liepmann Jul 15 '12 at 0:19
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    My experience with MA forums suggests otherwise. It's not the best answer that wins, it's the one with consensus that wins. So whichever style or philosophy somehow manages to take a hold in the community will end up ruling by majority vote. I'd also suggest that the lack of traffic is contributed to by the lack of upvotes. That's literally the only way you really get any feedback that someone read your stuff (down votes too). If you're not getting upvotes, what's the incentive to come back to the site? – Robin Ashe Jul 15 '12 at 0:56
  • I'll throw in that BoardGameGeek has a very interesting set up for their forums. You can give a thumbs up for a post, and the community has decided to generally give a thumbs up for any post that you appreciate the thought and effort to put into it. Then you've got a second option for posts that you really like to give a GeekGold tip. This is similar to spending your reputation for a bounty, except you can do it for more than one post/answer. Not sure if it's feasible to do anything to change it, but something needs to be done to attract more traffic, otherwise it'll never graduate out of beta – Robin Ashe Jul 15 '12 at 1:01
  • Your point about the consensus view is well taken. – Dave Liepmann Jul 15 '12 at 1:12
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Community

I agree on your assessment.

Speaking for myself, my downvote and critical comments are sometimes on a hair trigger because I think people are misguided or misinformed. I don't know what to do about that. Martial artists disagree strenuously on the most fundamental issues, and (unlike in, say, programming) don't have much common ground to smooth over the disagreements.

I am much, much slower to downvote style-specific questions and answers because they are defining their scope, which most poor-quality posts do not do well.

Not to be a one-issue voter, but I think that the only way to have a successful MA.SE is to strenuously keep each style in its own questions. It helps a koryuka barely at all for a sport jiujitsiero to give an opinion on lineage or naginata technique, and vice versa for negotiating club dynamics or armbar technique. They disagree on the most fundamental issues. To get good answers, we need communities of specific stylists, not a single community of martial arts. (I have similar views about F&N.SE.)

Questions

As for quality questions...it's hard. This site had mediocre sample questions when it was in Area51, and the situation has not improved. I think it's a simple problem of the subject matter. For analogy, what would be a good question for a hypothetical Dance.SE? "How do I do a pirouette?" sucks; the medium just isn't appropriate. "Should I do ballet or tap?" sucks; there's no real answer. "How do I pick a dance school" and "I broke my toe dancing at a club, what do I do now" suck; they're not specific enough to dance as opposed to yoga or martial arts or whatever. We're currently getting two types of questions: good ones that are too specific for nearly anybody to comment on, and ones like my Dance.SE example that suck.

In terms of people...what's the draw for a potential visitor? People who don't agree with me about how or what to train are going to answer my questions about training? Huh?

I don't want to come across as negative and pessimistic, but I am, so that's how it comes out. :) Hopefully this will all resolve itself. The best way forward, keeping in mind the two good questions I linked to above, would be a robust community of specific stylists (e.g. Okinawan karateka and grapplers, respectively, and rarely the twain shall meet.)

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    I don't agree with the OP and with you that MA is an unfriendly place to ask question, but I do like your analysis. – THelper Apr 16 '12 at 7:37
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    Both of your examples for being too specific have multiple answers, well above the proposed minimums. As for the draw, at the time of posting this, Yahoo! Answers had 88 questions posted in the last 24 hours on Martial Arts. If 1/4 of them are translatable to our specification, that's 22 questions that may have some value. If 1/4 of those "don't suck" (which is entirely subjective to the reader), then that's at least 5.25 questions a day worth asking. In order to have a community, you must be part of the community. – stslavik Apr 16 '12 at 16:23
  • @stslavik Where are we getting this one-out-of-four filter? As for the two examples, I agree! I'm not saying they're bad questions or bad answers. (Well...the grappling dummy answers could be better fleshed out.) I'm saying that these questions are very, very specific, and so need very, very specific people to answer them. I said this in order to advance my broader thesis that the community needs to be built around smaller subcommunities of experts in each separate martial art. – Dave Liepmann Apr 16 '12 at 20:08
  • @stslavik Also, I don't see what you're getting at in your last sentence. – Dave Liepmann Apr 16 '12 at 20:09
  • @Dave Exemplary "If" and averages of my typical responses from my time on Y!A. As for specific audiences answering, it's not necessary, but preferred (as with any and every stack exchange site). As for my last sentence, I'm getting at your last paragraph: negative, pessimistic outlooks do nothing to further the site's goals. If you want something changed, work to change it. So far, all I've seen are problems, not solutions. – stslavik Apr 16 '12 at 21:20
  • @stslavik I've proposed several solutions, my good sir, and am indeed working to resolve these and other problems according to the solutions proposed by you, me, and others. – Dave Liepmann Apr 17 '12 at 2:12
  • @Dave "The shortest answer is doing the thing." – Ernest Hemingway – stslavik Apr 17 '12 at 15:28
  • @Dave, where do people fit that have a smaller community of people who train the same? I've got a relatively unusual combination of striking (TKD style and Okinawa style) and grappling (jujitsu). I know for a fact it's not a main stream art. More and more MMA practitioners are training a bit more like me (mixing striking and grappling), but they tend to pull a lot more from wrestling than I do. In some sense you could say I studied MMA before there was such a thing. The focus of my martial art is more self defense, so I'm trained to think outside the ring. – Berin Loritsch Apr 17 '12 at 18:08
  • I find that my perspective isn't well accepted here, due to that blending of striking and grappling. – Berin Loritsch Apr 17 '12 at 18:10
  • @BerinLoritsch I actually think that there are a lot of people with a background similar to yours. Many karate practitioners who don't come from a karate-for-kids background have cross-trained Japanese jujitsu, Aikido, or a similar non-sparring-focused grappling art. Sometimes their karate includes some standing arm locks in its curriculum. – Dave Liepmann Apr 17 '12 at 18:15
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    @BerinLoritsch I would add that your perspective is definitely valued on many kinds of questions, such as those relating to self-defense, standing (non-judo/wrestling) grappling, history, dojo standards and etiquette... – Dave Liepmann Apr 17 '12 at 18:17
  • Speaking for myself, my downvote and critical comments are sometimes on a hair trigger because I think people are misguided or misinformed. Do you think that people are more likely to agree with you if you're blunt to the point of being rude? I came to meta to see whether there's a topic equivalent to this one on Skeptics.SE and didn't find one. – ChrisW Jun 1 '15 at 18:36
  • @ChrisW I agree with Phil Plait on that topic, though I don't always meet that standard. – Dave Liepmann Jun 1 '15 at 19:05
  • @ChrisW Specific examples of where we fall short would be useful, though this comment thread might not be the place for it. I do think that when someone asks a direct question (as often happens on this site) it's fair to be direct. – Dave Liepmann Jun 1 '15 at 20:04

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