This pertains to both asking and answering questions.
According to the Area 51 FAQ:
To attract experts, you need a site where people are asking very interesting and challenging questions, not the basic questions found on every other Q&A site. Your goal is to make it clear that this is a professional site.
Ask real, expert questions
- Remember, pro sites WILL attract the enthusiasts, but not the other way around!
On the ELU FAQ:
The English Language and Usage Stack Exchange is for linguists, etymologists, and (serious) English language enthusiasts.
From an answer on Meta:
Thus, if you want to come on our "campus" and learn with your fellow students, we expect users to be armed with the basics and fundamentals of the field. Users who fail to meet the absolute minimum standards of a practicing professional, whatever field that happens to be (think FizzBuzz for programmers), should be helpfully directed to other resources where they can learn these things before coming back.
If you don't enforce some basic standards for participants, you soon won't have the benefit of any experts at all. And God help everyone on your Q&A site then.
As a non-expert, I sometimes feel "out of my depth" or at least ill-positioned to contribute. I consider myself an "enthusiast". On this site I expect to learn and sometimes be corrected on what I thought I'd learned.
I personally dislike the amount of questions that don't meet the site's aims, namely, basic reading comprehension questions couched as "meaning" and please-write-my-report-so-I-don't-sound-dumb "usage" questions (and I've given my (voting) support to ELL). The questions aren't the problem; it's that they (and the homework, non-native speaker, general reference, etc. questions) don't belong here in most cases.
Perhaps due to the glut of "softball" questions, a layperson may think, "I can answer that!" I've seen native and non-native speakers very adamantly declare what is "right" and "wrong" in their questions, answers and comments. This raises the question: who is right?
If a person:
- Does not have a subscription or access to OED
- Does not have access to academic journals or a thorough library / university
- Is not a linguist or received a degree in English studies
- Is not an academic with ties to "authorities" on relevant matters
In short, if one is not an expert, does one have any business answering most questions on this site? That is not to say that one should be barred or discouraged from answering. However, that person's contribution to a question and the community as a whole would seem likely to be limited. Similarly, any questions from that person may be unlikely to have value (even if they are popular, they may be trivially answered). Perhaps one in that position should stick with voting, flagging and performing minor edits to best serve the site. Would that be in line with the site's philosophy?
On SO, a major goal is solving a problem. However, on ELU that problem seems rarely about the topics in the FAQ but is instead about how to write or speak "correctly" (i.e. proofreading, writing conventions, "which sounds better", etiquette, etc.) -- though perhaps I misinterpret the site's purpose. Does this site have too many "non-experts" involved where they don't belong?
Note: These are anecdotal observations, and I don't claim my answers or questions are of value.