There should be a way to mark an answer or a question as “canonical” if there is proof that the user posting that information is a developer of the software (writer of the book, professional researcher, licensed specialist) being asked about, or is otherwise a recognized authority on the topic. There should probably also be the title/rank displayed too, so that if multiple figures of different ranks of authority are in the same post, we could differentiate between them.
Maybe it can be a reaction icon or a notice bar or a short text field appearing next to the user’s avatar/username in posts and comments. Like a sherrif’s star badge or a square graduation cap icon. It should probably be the same on all sites and be recognizable and not depend on a site’s theme.
I disagree, the site should not be an attempt to become the place where you find official documentation. if someone wants to use it like that - fine - but it shouldn’t be the aim of the site. Nor should it strive to become Wikipedia. This was never the aim of SO either - the key is interactive Q&A, and not just building some encyclopaedia.
We can also learn from the SO fiasco “Documentation” project, which pretty much failed because there was no specification and every user interpreted what the feature was for in different ways.
It seems to me this is conflating canonical with authoritative. I see some point to recognized experts being able to say “This answer is exceptionally good.”, but I don’t see the point at all in labeling something canonical. It doesn’t take an expert to do the latter either.
A true subject matter expert may or may not be able to write a good answer (or a good Wiki article or whatever). All we can reasonably say is that if a true subject matter expert’s statement of “This answer is exceptionally good” means more than the average user’s statement.
I still like the idea of some sort of separate “Wiki” or “Blog” or something where we can write articles (for lack of a better term) that function as answers to frequently asked questions (in the subject matter sense, not the web site administration sense). Those could be written by anyone, though getting the “expert seal of approval” would really mean something there.
The quality of an answer to a practical coding question is defined by the behavior, not the credentials of the answerer. I don’t particularly care if Guido van Rossum wrote a snippet or not, but I do care if it produces the desired behavior.
What do you think of, let’s say, game developers coming to Arqade and posting an answer explaining exactly how a game mechanic works, when it is not published anywhere else on the internet (or has a basic, not precise enough explanation on the game’s wikia)? Or a programmer of some obscure piece of software explains some issue causing a crash, when the source is not available? Personally, I think these answers have a place and can be distinguished somehow to underline that they come from a trusted/knowledgeable source.
I’d agree that they have a place, but I don’t agree that it makes sense to put the effort required to verify specific developers, decide what level of credential counts as authoritative for what. Certainly not in the MVP. When someone of note answers a question, we can let that speak for itself without having to deal with any of the complications.
I really like the idea of canonical posts or questions, but I’m not sold on canonical answers. This was tried at SE with “community wiki” answers, and I’ve rarely seen it work.
Particularly, I think part of what makes a good Q&A site better than Wikipedia is the individual voice of authors — even for basic and common information. After all, why isn’t the “canonical” answer to most basic questions “see the Wikipedia article on this”? It’s because the dry, neutral-point-of-view approach isn’t always the best for learning.
I think canonical questions need to be able to have multiple answers, and each answer should have a primary author.
The use cases I had in mind when writing this were something like this:
Q: Question about in-universe explanation of a certain event or a decision by characters
A: Speculative answer by a reader
A: Answer from a dub voiceover actor who worked closely with the writers of the game/book/movie
A: Answer from the writer of the game/book/movie
A: Answer from a second writer of the game/book/movie
Q: Question about a certain game mechanic and reasonings behind why it works that way
A: Answer from a player
A: Answer from a well recognized game developer who has experience with this game engine and can explain certain aspects of it, but not all;
A: Answer from a developer who worked directly on the game;
A: Answer from the lead developer who did extensive testing and knows exactly why it works that way
As you can see, not all of these options may deserve very precise distinctions, but I figured at least having some way to show “this is probably a developer/writer, from the looks of it” by checking if their credentials match their bio on the site they claim to work on. Maybe this is asking a bit too much on busy sites, but on lower traffic sites where users and moderators have some spare time to verify users like that, it could be a reasonable feature to make use of.