Edit: This was not intended to be a "Choose #1 or #2 proposal." This was intended to be a prompt for discussion about what the current community wants from this site. #1 and #2 are just things I've heard from users in the recent past. I am looking for answers that address the general idea of "What should Academia.SE be?" whether they relate to these themes or not.
Recently, we've had several disagreements on meta that I think stem from slightly conflicting views of what this community is (or should be). Broadly, these are:
We are building up a library of concise, clear and correct questions and answers as an archive for interested readers. The main goal of this site is to help both those asking questions and future Google users. We want to make it as easy as possible for others to get/find accurate, focused answers to questions and problems that are within the scope of this site.
We are facilitating "on-the-record" problem-solving between academics/researchers with questions and academics/researchers with answers. The goal of this site is mostly to connect users with questions to other users who want to answer those questions. The main purpose of a thread is to help the people who participated in it, with the entire thread preserved for the benefit of participants and future viewers.
Both of the sites I've just described can be extremely useful and valuable resources (I think Cross Validated is an example of the former, and MathOverflow is an example of the latter), but trying to be both at once causes some friction. For example,
- Editing: The first Academia.SE encourages editing - improving question titles, removing "noise" ("sorry for the dumb question," extended thanks, over-lengthy and irrelevant personal information, and pleas of desperation) while still preserving the intent of the OP. The second Academia.SE has a hands-off approach to other people's content, in which edits are discouraged unless a post is made CW to explicitly signal that edits are welcome.
- Closing questions: On the first Academia.SE, questions that are outside the scope of the site (as defined on meta) are "noise" and should be closed and/or edited to fit the scope of the site. On the second Academia.SE, if a question is broadly relevant to academia and someone is willing to answer it, it should stay open/be reopened if it's closed.
- Comments: To the first Academia.SE, comments that no longer add any value to the author of a post or to future readers are distracting, and should be removed (once they no longer serve a useful purpose). To the second Academia.SE, comments are a part of the historical record of the communication, and should preserved (except for offensive comments).
- Answers: On the first Academia.SE, answers that might be useful to the OP but are not really answers to the question should be downvoted, converted to comment, or deleted, so as not to distract from "real" answers. On the second Academia.SE, answers that aren't really answers are useful content, and should be treated as such.
I don't think either of these approaches is especially bad - but trying to be both at once, or to be different things to different users, is (I think) not healthy. As a moderator, it makes it difficult to act on the community's wishes (which part of the community should I follow in acting on flags)? It is confusing to new users, since the site policies are so inconsistent (both in action, and as expressed on meta). And I think it leads to conflict between users (in a bad way, not in a healthy way).
We have grown quite a lot (and graduated!) in the last year, and I think it's well past time to revisit what this community is and what primary role it serves. Do we want to tend more towards Academia.SE #1 or Academia.SE #2? How far do we want to go in whatever direction we choose? What goals are most important to us, as a community?
Note: this is not a question about a specific scenario or a specific site policy. This is a general question about the future direction of the site, please answer accordingly.