April 12, 2013 at 1:41 pm #35069
I've just looked at a half-dozen threads in a row that don't yet have replies. Most of them would be some what more solvable had the OP provided a URL.
Instead of just the topic title, content field and topic tags when creating a new thread, can a "Website address which relates to your question?" optional field be added, as a big prompt?
April 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm #35087
Definitely think this is a good idea.
Loving the Genesis Life!April 12, 2013 at 8:23 pm #35138
Great suggestion, @GaryJ!
April 13, 2013 at 10:03 am #35220
Yup. Great idea.April 14, 2013 at 9:23 am #35401
I agree with GaryJ's suggestion, because I think a reminder will mean relevant information is collected more often and sooner. But its nowhere near the top of the list of needed forum improvements, and there is a simple, low-effort way to improve in this area. I also think site links are requested too often, even in cases where I can't see any value to them. Maybe there is something I am missing. An example is this thread. (I'm going to ignore the fact that a moderator called me an "ass" and focus instead on her calling me "smart".)
While I'm sure it's well-intended, asking for a site link when it isn't helpful has bad consequences. On a basic level, it delays getting the problem solved. In my experience, users get more frustrated as more time passes without a good answer. For those that use the unanswered posts list, removing a post from the unanswered posts list also makes a good answer less likely or take longer. To a novice, it also sends a confusing signal - that the question is somehow connected to the URL when it's not. On a bigger level, this practice over time will frustrate experienced users even more, causing them to be less confident that challenging questions will be answered and to spend less time on the forums. Over time, that lowers the combined quality of the active participants, and that's not good for anyone. I recall at least 1 thread where a longtime SP forum participant said he spends less and less time here, and I understand why.
So, while I agree with GaryJ's suggestion, there are other things that are more basic - such as working site search and working favorites - that should be higher up on the "improvements to do" list. In the meantime, a sticky post in each forum with a title of something similar to "Please read before you post..." would be a nice reminder to potential posters of what information is helpful (e. g., sometimes a site link, sometimes a pastebin or Gist link to code) and isn't helpful (e. g., pasting all of your CSS) to solve problems. I think that would go a long way to get the benefits GaryJ and others seek.
Such a post shouldn't repeat all of the forum rules, but it can be a concise guide for best practices to post a question and have the best chance of getting a good response. If a user doesn't include a link, responders should be encouraged to provide as much useful information as reasonably can be provided in the initial reply without a link, so a site link (or any deviation from the best practices outlined in the sticky post) is not a roadblock to getting at least some help. An initial post with some helpful info (such as things to check) but is otherwise incomplete is better than a reply that only asks for missing information (such as a site link) or says a poster didn't follow the rules outlined in the sticky post.
April 14, 2013 at 10:15 am #35410
Again, a url is always helpful. You need to stop being foolish about my question. I've been watching this forum as well as the other since inception. Nine times of ten... there will always be a need for a url. For example, researching that users hosting company, IP address, etc., etc., I had my reason for asking that question and then you want to INSULT ME and get pissed when I INSULT YOU BACK. They can strip me from being a MODERATOR and I will still respond the same way. Treat me crappy and I will treat you CRAPPIER is my motto.
The purpose of this forum is to be HELPFUL and COURTEOUS BILL not to be insulting. You need to get off your HIGH HORSE and stop acting like you know EVERY DAMN THING because you don't. Just respond accordingly to the person who has written the question and stop insulting others when their way of answering doesn't SUIT YOU PERSONALLY. It's called stop being an ASS!April 14, 2013 at 10:26 am #35411
Please note, I have sent an email to Copyblogger support requesting I be downgraded from Moderator to Participant, so there is a "even playing field" Bill.April 14, 2013 at 1:35 pm #35445
@anitac - I think you've over-reacted.
I am sorry if anything I said came off as an insult; I did not intend to insult you or anyone, in this or any thread here. I can be long-winded but I am usually pretty direct, so if I intend to insult you or anyone it will be clear and unambiguous.
Please note that in the thread I linked to, I asked a question why a URL was helpful. I simply stated there, as I did here, that I don't think it's helpful. Note in this thread I said "maybe there is something I am missing." You said "a url is always helpful" and on that we have a reasonable disagreement, but that's not a big deal since reasonable people disagree all the time.
I don't know where your comment that I should "get off your HIGH HORSE and stop acting like you know EVERY DAMN THING" comes from. I'm pretty sure there are posts in this forum where I've said the opposite - that I am just learning, like everyone here. I admit to being passionate about my views, and perhaps that has been mistaken by you for being on a high horse, but it's not. This is a forum where ideas are exchanged, and in so far as we all have ideas and are shooting them back and forth, we're all on similar horses, high or low.
I hope SP doesn't act on your request to downgrade your status. You've given a lot of people here great advice, and I hope you continue to do more of the same. Your consistent efforts support the role SP gave you, and the SP forums would be worse off if you didn't have that role. While I would not have used the term "smart-ass" and others might be offended if you directed that term at them, I'm not offended at all. I've called myself worse, and I'm sure I'll earn being called worse in the future. It's no big deal.
Can we get back to the business at hand, which is having some fun conversations in these forums and learning a thing or two?
April 14, 2013 at 1:51 pm #35447
I completely agree that improvements need to be made to the forum (hopefully the next version of bbPress will help with searches and so on), but for the sake of there being seemingly no improvements made since the forums were released, I was trying to suggest a bite-size improvement that could be in the meantime. The same goes for my other suggestion, regarding setting the default Notify checkbox, which for all purposes, is amending a couple of characters in a template file somewhere.
Regarding the request of site links - it is usually handy to have them even for certain PHP issues - duff back-end code might be throwing a warning or notice on the front-end that the thread doesn't mention. Furthermore, back-end code that adds markup to the front-end without error, but somehow incorrectly, is still more understandable by looking at the DOM than trying to get the OP to explain where they think something should be appearing, and where it actually is appearing.
Sure, some queries might not need a site link added, but often the person with the problem won't necessarily know if their problem would be solved quicker with a site link included or not (if they did know, then they'd more likely know what the cause of their problem was and may not even be asking in the first place). Getting users into the habit of providing as much contextual information as possible IS a good practice - for any support forums, not just here.
Asking for the site link also means that the person answering the question can easily go and find out:
- the version of WordPress
- the version of Genesis
- the child theme
- what plugins might be running via their code signatures.
- which host is being used (and therefore the likely server set up as well - PHP version, web server etc.)
Being able to get that info just from asking for a user's website address is far easier than trying to explain how to find out all of the individual pieces of data. I know that I've answered several questions where someone said some PHP customisation wasn't working, only to find out there were using Genesis 1.1, and I've seen several answers from others where this fact wasn't determined until 15 posts into a thread.
> In my experience, users get more frustrated as more time passes without a good answer.
Agreed, but I see debugging someone's problem as at least two stages - collecting the information I think I'll need (which they most likely have not provided in the opening post, as the may not have the mindset to solve a problem like they're asking about), and then offering solutions. I'd much rather see an extra pair of replies in the thread that can determine that information first, rather than launching wildly into possible solutions - since I think it's more of the trying differing solutions and failing that frustrates users more.
> I recall at least 1 thread where a longtime SP forum participant said he spends less and less time here, and I understand why.
That was probably me, but it has nothing to do with the requesting of site links or not so it's irrelevant here.
Looking forwards, I hope that SP can rectify the community support situation to make it less frustrating to those asking, and those answering, and that those with sufficient knowledge and the good will to spend time helping others out, can do so, in their own preferred ways.
April 14, 2013 at 2:03 pm #35451
It's moments like these that I wish we had the ability to have PM in these forums!
Since this is a community forum, I think we need to be cognizant of the fact that although we are volunteers here helping others, what we say in this forum, whether to people posting the questions or to each other, could conceivably reflect on StudioPress, because despite how many times we tell people that this is a COMMUNITY forum, and not OFFICIAL support, there are people who don't see that.
URL versus not requiring a URL, one question per post versus multiple questions per post - there are no real hard and fast rules around here, but I think that if you can provide an answer to someone go ahead and do so, and if someone else has already come in with what you consider an inappropriate response, who does it benefit to call them on it? If someone has given an answer which is clearly wrong (as I have done multiple times), then gently point out why the answer was wrong, so that both the person asking the question, and the person responding, can learn.
There's my two cents, for what it's worth.
April 14, 2013 at 3:33 pm #35470
@GaryJ - I largely agree with everything you said but that doesn't change my earlier points, which are:
1) Site links are not ALWAYS helpful
2) A sticky post would be a good interim solution
3) Responders - which are a smaller population than questioners - should be encouraged to provide some info in the initial response. It's an easier task to encourage a behavior change in a smaller # of people than a bigger #.
At some level, we're discussing how many angels can fit on the head of a pin when we talk about improvements to the forum that get to adding a site link. I'll wager a cup of coffee (oh, sorry, you're British - a cup of tea, probably cheaper) that even though your suggestion is a good one, it does not see the light of day here in 30 days. I'd love to be proved wrong.
My reference to a longtime SP poster wasn't you. I recall the specific poster and thread. To be clear, it had nothing to do with this topic of site links, and any comments he made about the forum had nothing to do with that. Perhaps I didn't effectively make my point: good information and helpful responses in the forum raise the bar for everyone, bad information and standardized responses lower it. If moderators establish a guideline that posters must always include a site link and make that alone the initial response, I'd say that is a bad rule and sends a less helpful message. I agree with everything you said about information collection. It comes down to helpfulness. I think my sample responses are more helpful than responses which provide less information (ie, just ask for a site link or include a link to the sticky post that has guidelines).
@susan - ... "gently point out why the answer was wrong" - I agree with this completely. But your comment sends mixed messages, because you also said "who does it benefit to call them on it?" in pointing out something that someone disagrees with. Since I remember making a comment in a thread you replied to about 1 question per thread, perhaps that bugged you. I'm sorry if my response came off as heavy-handed, but my responses are just my opinions. Anyone is free to take them or not take them as they see fit. However, YOUR comments come with the "moderator" tag. If you make a post that people should post all questions in a 30px pink font, there will be people that will try to accommodate your request. And there will be others that will tell you that you are being silly. I'm in the silly camp but I don't intend that in a mean way, because we've all done silly things, myself included. And I fully expect (and want) people to tell me when I am wrong or silly. Why? As I said before, I think people are here to learn. I recall a thread on the old forum where I answered a question, and GaryJ came along and gave a much better answer. He made my answer look amateurish. I'm thankful he did, because I learned something. I never felt that he showed me up or took offense at his correction. I think we'd all be better off if people focused more on the learning, and less on the taking offense.
April 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm #35477
Bill - maybe I've muddied the waters - I think that it's good to point out when a response is the incorrect one - for example, I might direct someone to change something in their CSS, without thinking that they also need to change something in their functions file, too. Those kinds of responses do deserve to be corrected. But on the other side of the coin, if it's not pointing the original poster in the wrong direction, you could steer them another way without making someone else look (or feel) bad. I guess it's hard to kind of get the point across in an online community.
Your response about the one question per thread didn't bug me - you had perfectly valid reasons why someone should ask six questions at once versus posting 6 different posts, just as I saw the other side of the equation - for example, if someone asks six questions, and I can only answer 3 of them, I will tend to ignore the post, because in reality, it's very rare that a post which has seen one person responding, also gets another person involved (unless I ask for help on Twitter!), so if I only half help someone, I don't know if someone will come by to help them with their other questions, and then I feel bad because I didn't fully help them. Easier to just move on to another post where I can fully answer the questions...
I became a moderator here not because I'm some kind of expert (I'm definitely not!), but because I saw the need to have someone monitor for things like spam, and maybe escalate when issues come up. You're right, though - we do need to be told when we're being silly - although I have to ask what's wrong with 30px pink fonts? 😉 (tongue firmly planted in cheek.)
By the way - I think it's great that we're having a conversation, because this is supposed to be a community forum where we foster conversation, but too often, it's just a place for people to come and ask their questions, hopefully get an answer, and then we never hear from them again.
April 14, 2013 at 5:10 pm #35487
1) Site links are not ALWAYS helpful
1) Always? No. But more often then just obvious front-end related questions? Yes, for the examples I gave. For instance - I can tell that you're running the WP 3.5 branch, with a heavily customised / empty theme, but Genesis 1.9.2, Prose 1.5.2, Metro 1.0 and likely other themes present. I think your host runs PHP 5.2.6. Even if it's not quite correct, that's a good starting point in my mind to go back on post 4 of the thread with a possible solution, given the context.
Of course, some threads can have an offer of a solution in post 2, and that's great - the person answering should make that call, and that comes from experience as much as anything. You or I might not need that info to answer a question with confidence, but if someone else does, then not let's knock them for it - especially if no-one else up until that point had made *any* reply to the thread. I disagree that asking for a site link, when it might not be needed is in and of itself, bad for the person asking the question. That's why I've made this suggestion in the first place - more info (especially that which is going to be readily to hand for professionals and novices alike) is better.
I deleted my responses to question 2 and 3, as they weren't relevant to this topic of discussion.
However Bill, I would like to see you make less of the fact that some volunteers have a "moderator" tag, and that it some how means people will follow their advice to the letter, even it's incorrect. What it means, as I'm sure you know, is that they simply have extra permissions for this forum. It's one of the reasons they aren't called Community Leaders any more. There are more experienced folks who don't have that label, so what matters is the quality of the answer that is given, whomever it is from.
April 14, 2013 at 9:31 pm #35499
God help the person that reads this thread top to bottom 🙂
@susan - The bottom line is that there is no "one size fits all" here.
...you had perfectly valid reasons why someone should ask six questions at once versus posting 6 different posts, just as I saw the other side of the equation...
And your reasons are good and valid reasons too. If I recall correctly, in that thread, you first voiced the notion of "1 question per thread" and only after that did I offer the opposing notion. I generally don't post first that questioners have to play by my rules, if indeed I have any rules. I just try to add a response when I think it's helpful, and if I see something I disagree with in that thread, I say so. If I come across a series of posts where a poster has followed the 1 question per thread approach (your preference), and I first ask the poster to please refrain from that behavior and follow what suits me, I don't see a problem if you point out that such a preference may be unique to me, and that others (including yourself) have a different preference. I' also not likely to do that, because I try not to push my preferences early on (if ever) in the conversation because I don't think that's helpful, but I've probably been guilty of not following that rule myself.
...you could steer them another way without making someone else look (or feel) bad
I agree that no one should intend to make someone else look or feel bad. But just because someone "feels" bad after an exchange, that doesn't make that feeling reasonable or justified. Are you referring to my exchange with Anita when you make that statement? As I said before, I didn't intend to make Anita feel bad, and I don't think I've said anything bad about Anita in any thread. By the way, I haven't said anythind bad about Anita because I have nothing against her.
I think it’s great that we’re having a conversation, because this is supposed to be a community forum where we foster conversation...
I agree 100%. I think it's s shame that many conversations are closed prematurely, especially those that are critical of something SP or forum related. A lot of the conversations in this particular forum have been closed (some even deleted), and I think that is a weakness of the community, not a strength.
@GaryJ - You seem to be trying to convince me of the value of site links, but I think I've been pretty clear that in almost all questions ("almost" being the operative word there), a site link is a) valuable and b) something that posters should be encouraged to provide. I have only expressed that site links do not ALWAYS have value, and on that narrow question (which is a small % of the cases), I think we agree. Therefore, your discussion to convince me of what can be gleaned from a site link is interesting, but it's not terribly productive because I already agree that site links are important. Furthermore, if the info you were quoting you thought you gleaned from MY site, it's not accurate, at least with regard to PHP version. It's 5.3.2. (Whoops! Scrap all requests for site links! They can send us down rabbit holes! 🙂 )
Let's cut to the chase. You said I should not knock someone for asking for a site link. I don't think I did that. If you're referring to the thread that got Anita upset, here's a complete quote of what I said (other than my technical answer to the person that asked the question):
How will a link to a user’s site help to diagnose a problem that is related to functionality on the WP dashboard? Unless I am missing something, it doesn’t seem that such a link would provide any info that’s relevant to the question at hand.
Is that knocking someone? If it is, we have a different definition of knocking someone. If not, then we can assume we probably have similar definitions, and I agree with you that someone should not be knocked for asking for a site link. For that matter, I don't think people should be "knocked" on this forum period, but expressing different opinions is not knocking someone. I simply proffered in this thread that there is a better approach - that of mixing the request for a site link with some information. I've given several examples of that, so I am not going to repeat them. Since you didn't like my last bet, I'll offer a second. Have a poll where the 1st response to a question is "post a link" or "see our required info for questions" vs my suggested response that includes some tidbit of info AND the "post a link" request, and I'll venture that most prefer my suggested response because it seems to be more helpful. For good measure, you can have your choice of tea or coffee.
I would like to see you make less of the fact that some volunteers have a “moderator” tag
I am making a guess as to how others behave, not how I behave. I don't have more or less respect for any poster here based on the person's assigned role. The respect is entirely based on the cumulative value of one's posts (or in your words, "the quality of the answer that is given"). I doubt either of us has any good data on what weight the "moderator" tag confers, so if you think it has less weight than I do, that's an interesting observation, which is about as interesting as mine that the moderator tag carries weight.
There have a been a lot of words spilled in this thread over the value of a site link, a topic on which we have more agreement than disagreement. Note that the first words of my initial reply were that I agreed with your suggestion that started this dialogue. Hopefully, that doesn't get lost in all the long replies.
April 14, 2013 at 9:41 pm #35501
... so, if we're taking bets, do you think we'll actually get an additional field added? If I win, I'd like a diet coke, please 😉
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