We all love Project Management Stack Exchange, but there is a whole world of people out there who need answers to their questions and don't even know that this site exists. When they arrive from Google, what will their first impression be? Let's try to look at this site through the eyes of someone who's never seen it before, and see how we stack up against the rest of the 'Net.

The Site Self-Evaluation review queue is open and populated with 10 questions that were asked and answered in the last quarter. Run a few Google searches to see how easy they are to find and compare the answers we have with the information available on other sites.

Rating the questions is only a part of the puzzle, though. Do you see a pattern of questions that should have been closed but are not? Questions or answers that could use an edit? Anything that's going really well? Post an answer below to share your thoughts and discuss these questions and the site's health with your fellow users!

3 Answers 3


Every time I do a site self-evaluation, I wind up learning as much about my assumptions as I do about the site. Midway through this time I realized that I was supposed to evaluate both Q&A, so my evaluation procedure changed. Your mileage may vary considerably; In the interests of transparency, I'll offer my highly opinionated summary of my personal site evaluation.

Before I list my evaluations, let me offer my two observations:

  • I think that many of these questions are thinly veiled requests for discussion or confirmation bias. I think these should be closed/edited more rigorously; others my have differing opinions.

  • Some of these are, I think, the core competency of PM:SE - questions where OP doesn't understand the problem well enough to google for an answer. Because PM:SE answers are provided by experts who have suffered through the problems, we can offer insight that goes beyond the capabilities of any other resource and serves as a sort of a "bottom feeding coaching/consultancy". If others agree with this analysis, we may wish to alter the help center to support these questions, and possibly use tags or other resources to help us capitalize on these opportunities.

Should I list support activities the Development Team is engaged in as User Stories?

I can find no useful answers with a google search, so this question is superior to google by default. Furthermore CodeGnome’s advice goes beyond simply citing the principles to analyze the underlying problem. The answer compensates for the deficiencies in the question; I wish I did that more often. Note however that this question is an “I think X, what do you think?” question.

Functional vs Non-functional requirements: Standard proportion of time spending

I can’t find an answer with google, so once again PM:SE wins by default. The answer points out one of the many variables that would affect the question and offers a potential strategy and a reference. Good answer. Self evaluation asks us to evaluate the answer, not the question, but once again, it isn’t clear to me what the question is, and when I try to understand the question, I find another thinly veiled, “I think X, what do you think?” OP has already reached a conclusion and is looking for evidence to bolster that conclusion. I prefer questions where the question is clearly expressed in the title and the body of the question modifies that question in journalistic fashion (most important points first).

Is there an optional ratio of talented vs average people in a team?

Google reveals no useful answer. SE provides a reference and an answer. There is some debate over the answer, but it appears to be largely editorial rather than factual. I’ll give this another satisfactory, and once again remark that the question appears to a request for confirmation bias.

New team with little to no management of work and lack of processes

Two answers with significant practical first steps; I’ll mark this excellent. But I’ll remark one more time that I’m not entirely sure what the question is – the title doesn’t reveal it, and the question seems to be “I need advice”.

How should technical writers fit within a Scrum team?

Scrum is not my area of expertise; I’m not even interested in Scrum, but I think CodeGnome nails the answer “no” – and provides an excellent justification “Techwriters are team members”. There is some moderately interesting discussion in comments that I think amplifies the answer. Once again, the question is a thinly veiled request for confirmation bias; the question begins with “I think X” and ends with “is this sensible”. Based on this pattern, I’m beginning to think we should contemplate revising the help center.

How to avoid mail-chatting and improve the online communication?

I probably should recuse myself from this one because the question raises my blood pressure. I’m going to resist my temptation to rant about this, but the subtext is “How can I get my teammates to communicate the way I want rather than the way they want?” This is a request for a discussion (might not be intended to be a request for discussion, but the only possibly response to “How can I get my teammates to behave more like me and stop having opinions/habits/preferences different from mine?” is a discussion – a pointless, discussion which is almost guaranteed to be counterproductive.

Project scheduling based on use cases or technical tasks

The question is prima facia too broad; there are books on the best practices of scheduling. Within the body of the question are references to story points, which indicates to me that the question is incomplete. Mark Phillips requests clarification and the answers indicate that they needed clarification. I’m going to mark this Q&A “needs improvement”, despite very good efforts by Ashok & David

How do you create your burn-down charts apart from using paid tools

I will recuse myself; I voted to close and still believe the question should be closed.

Who to Include in Sprint Planning

I’ve got to mark this excellent; OP notes that the answer went beyond what he asked. This may be an example of PM:SE core value; confused questions, crystal answers. OP is struggling to find the right question to ask; answers recognize the pattern based on experience, and provide a deeper answer. By definition, you can’t find that in a search engine.

  • Hi Mark, thanks for the detailed analysis. I'd be interested in hearing, in more detail, the changes you picture for the help center. Also, for the questions you marked as "needs improvement", is there any kind of editing that you see, on either question or answers, that could possibly bump them up to "satisfactory" instead?
    – jmort253
    Dec 17, 2013 at 5:12
  • I tried editing your post for formatting, but I'm not sure if I achieved what you were aiming for. Take a look and see if I accidentally moved your cheese.
    – Todd A. Jacobs Mod
    Dec 19, 2013 at 0:25
  • 1
    The original answer was great; attempting to weave an answer to a related (but different) question from @jmort253 into the original answer makes it confusing and unwieldy, and is one of the many reasons why SE is a terrible platform for discussions. I'd recommend cleaning up the post (or rolling it back), unwikifying it (because you deserve the upvotes for a great analysis), and then moving the rest into a separate Q&A or even the site's chat room.
    – Todd A. Jacobs Mod
    Dec 19, 2013 at 0:30
  • I'm sorry Mark, I should have been more clear. Ideally, the details on the help center changes should be created as a new meta discussion. That's my fault. If you don't mind creating a new discussion, that would help keep this thread focused on the eval.
    – jmort253
    Dec 19, 2013 at 3:37
  • Hi Mark, let me know if you want me to un-wikify this. :)
    – jmort253
    Dec 22, 2013 at 4:05
  • The fact that when we do Google searches, we don't find competing material, is interesting. Does that suggest we have unique content?
    – jmort253
    Dec 22, 2013 at 4:08

Overall, my impressions of the evaluation questions/answers boiled down to some over-arching observations:

  1. Many new questions are open-ended, discussion-generating questions that aren't targeted enough to generate canonical answers.
  2. We get a lot of soft-skills questions that may be PM-related, but might belong on Workplace SE (if they belong anywhere at all).
  3. Since the practice of project management is at least as much art as science, we're not going to be flooded with simple questions with short canonical answers.
  4. We collectively need to be more vigorous in asking clarifying questions in the comments to ensure questions have sufficient context to provide targeted answers.
  5. We need to collectively be more vigorous in editing, down-voting, or closing ambiguous or too-localized questions.
  6. We need to find the right editorial balance between sufficient context and one-off organizational problems that won't apply to anyone but the OP.

For a great blow-by-blow analysis of the specific questions and answers, and additional drill-down into specific types of problem questions, please refer to the excellent analysis done by Mark Wallace.


Final Results

  • Good Part: More participation this time (6 users) as compared to 3 users in Sep 2013 and 4 users in Jun 2013. Bad Part: Only 5 out of 10 posts got a positive net score (and 5 got negative score). Whereas earlier 6 out of 10 had positive score and only 1 post below zero. Does that mean we had more bad content during this period. Or maybe we were not strict enough on posts which could be have closed. Dec 23, 2013 at 8:07
  • 1
    @AzizShaikh Unless we know more about the way that the survey content is selected, I don't know that it really means anything in particular about the site as a whole. It just means that, within the pool of surveyed questions, the surveyed population converged on some result. --IMHO, the real value to the survey is in how we look at questions and answers on the site and what changes we make to our site culture, not in the specific survey data.
    – Todd A. Jacobs Mod
    Dec 23, 2013 at 19:50
  • @CodeGnome Based on past info I am guessing that survey contains randomly selected posts, reference: Below you'll find ten questions randomly selected from this site. Statistics say that a random sample usually is a good representation of the population. So I still believe that during the last quarter, PM.SE got more content which was rated below quality expectations and the community somehow didn't improve or close those posts. Dec 24, 2013 at 6:28

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