too many cooks in the kitchen.
to clarify, too many master chefs in the kitchen.
when someone posts a question, many answer. these are frequently great answers from really knowledgeable people, chefs of great skill. however frequently they are chefs from different schools of cooking.
so someone asks: should tofu be spiced with salt and chiles?
four chefs say yes, they are all from the blue cooking school.
three say no, they are all from the green cooking school.
five say salt and no chiles, they are from the purple cooking school.
two say don't eat tofu at all, they are from the yellow cooking school.
all of these are master chefs, their advice is really great and important. however the person asking the question has no idea which one to pick. all of the advice has sources to back it up from the great cook books of the world, so none are wrong, but they are all conflicting.
one could say "try them all, see what works." okay so this is a good idea if you have lots of time. even if you do, you may be mixing other parts that make no sense, like you're using a recipe that calls for something that tastes terrible with chiles but since the complete recipe of yours and the complete recipe of the chefs is not known, no one knows that it won't come out of the oven right.
a minor fix that would at least help lessen some of the confusion would be for people to put what kind of school their advice comes from, or what teacher, what book etc. so if someone is telling the asker that jhana is not necessary they may also tell them they are from the mahasi sayadaw school. if someone is saying jhana is necessary and kasina practice is strongly advised, they could tell them they are from a school that takes the commentaries and visuddhimagga as authoritative. and so on.
a more solid frame work and complete ideas would make each answer to each question more useful.
one easy example is that we have people who are not even practicing theravada at all giving advice to people on theravada concepts. there is nothing wrong with this as it is VERY useful and dhammawheel would be a lesser place without this, but the asker should know not to be searching the suttas for an idea that's not even in them. i'm mainly stating that for the convenience of an obvious scenario, such as a chan practitioner telling a theravada newbie that actualization of buddha nature is the main goal. the newbie may believe them and then be very confused as to where this idea came from. the chan practitioner may even be 100% correct but without knowing that the culmination of the chan ideas is not found in the pali canon the newbie will be quite lost. however if the chan guy/gal said their two cents and told them they are chan concepts the newbie would be much better off.
this applies to everyone really, not just newbies, again that was just a convenient, easily contrasted example.
largely this is just spit balling, the issue of too many chefs is quite obvious and i just wanted to start a dialogue to help come up with ideas or at the very least to create some awareness.
my idea of school identification is grossly incomplete and does not at all fully solve the issue, it's just an idea. and probably even a bad idea to be completely rejected and ignored!
really i'm looking for others thoughts. i just posted that to get some dialogue moving.