Taking a harder line on the forum?


#1

The current Discourse forum has been operating for a few years now and there’s a good level of existing content here.

However, something which frequently occurs is re-posting of the same question multiple times, whether when someone posts something covered last week or last month, or when multiple people post the same issue soon after an update pack.

The Arch forum tends to take a very hard line on these kinds of things, mainly coming down to a “Search the forum. Closed.”

While I don’t want to go down quite as hard a line, I also feel that “enabling” lazy behaviour by parroting the same answers multiple times in multiple threads is a waste of our active members’ time, and helps feed “help vampires”.

I’d like to start a discussion around how we, as a community, should approach these kinds of “tired old questions” which are regularly asked on the forum.

To get us started:

  • How hard should we be?
  • Are we already hard enough?
  • Do we need a “FAQ” post which we can link to when closing a thread?

Edit July 30, 2018 (Europe: Paris), July 29, 2018 (America: Los Angeles)

General point:

Ideas which are impossible to implement almost always sound good - up until you want to implement them. :wink:

When suggesting something can people also try to keep in mind whether it’s possible, how much effort it would take, and who would be implementing it?


#2

I think the good middle ground to solve the issue but not be abrasive is to have those questions that qualify in a unified, easy to find and consistently updated place. Then direct those who do not check before asking to it and close/delete their thread.

I think this means having these types of questions and answers in a single, easy to find location. Clearly written in the highest degree of layman’s terms possible. It then needs to be kept up-to-date, with old content no longer relevant removed and the remaining content being applicable to the current state of things.

What it should not be; the same information in multiple places (wiki, posts, stickies, site pages, etc.). A static post on the topic that’s never updated. A set of directions clear enough for someone who is experienced to follow but not clear enough for a inexperienced user to follow.

I think what works well I have seen on other sites is having a wiki (well maintained) and then having a single sticky at the top of a forum that explains in general terms the expectation and how to use the wiki.

As an extension, I have been on forums that make you agree that you have read the rules prior to being allowed to post. Sometimes until you have posted x number of times. The good part of this is its not something a poster can ignore.

Just my 2 cents


#3

Just to say, from my own “educational philosophy”, I much prefer to point people towards an answer than to simply provide something for them to copy and paste. This way they start to learn how to solve their own problems rather than learn to rely on someone else.

I’m not sure whether this could be applied across the forum, but it might be worth thinking about…


#4

I have posted about this subject some months ago but the thread was kicked down into the ground so hard, it almost came out on the other side:
https://forum.manjaro.org/t/i-have-been-thinking-about-how-to-handle-new-forum-users/47298
It’s obvious that things have to be done, the sharks slowly get the upper hand. It’s getting worse and worse. Where this forum was great, you could ask info about a problem you had and you would get it, now it’s more about how do we deal with this person, how with that one? How many threads are there already about this subject.
Please read my post again and change it here and there but let’s do something.


#5

Hm, the thing is that indeed I can use the search function quite often, sometimes KNOWIING which thread I like to find (i.e. using proper search terms) and am unable to find it back. So not having been able to find does not mean that you have not tried to search in the first place.

Given that background I would find being overly strict with such postings a bit … unwelcoming (rude would be a too hard expression). Yes there will be some that simply ignore that a searchline is present, but I think it’s better to treat everyone as required and not to shoot “strangers” for having used the wrong search terms (and such discussions might then be plenty and they are at least as useless than a “duplicate” thread.

I would be interested in how many “duplicates” come up per week/month/whatever, to see whether it is a “real” problem or only a “felt” problem?


#6

I’ve had another look at this, and one option is to include this in the user’s “Welcome email”.

They might not read it, but at least they’ve been sent it.

It varies week-by-week, but it’s a real problem. Anyone who is very active on the forum (e.g. me and most of the Regulars) will have seen this.


#7

I agree going hard (“Search the forum. Closed.”) is not very welcoming to the new users. Manjaro is popular due to its out of box/ beginner friendly set up and would attract non-technical users (like me) and they should feel welcomed.

One suggestion would be that new posts from ‘forum newbie’ members should be subject to moderation, i.e. they will not be posted to the forum unless approved by moderator/senior users. We can put up a message after forum newbie creates a topic advising its subject to moderation and meantime they can use forum search to look for similar topics or provide a link to FAQ/Tutorials.

Or have an interactive course with the discobot that every user needs to complete before they are allowed to post anything, wherein this tutorial advises them of basic steps they need to follow before posting it on the forums.

This will definitely improve the quality of questions/queries posted.


#8

I’d recommend you do the opposite.


#9

My perspective on this is that you can’t be hard to newcomers, or lazy, or with not good search experience, UNLESS you have a good FAQ/Tutorials/Known issues organization to offer.
If you have a well organized self-helping Topic function, then you can just point them to a Group of self-help material.

On the other hand, or in conjunction to the above, busy experienced helpers can be suggested to not respond so quickly to simple duplicate issues, letting some ground to not-so-experienced but willing-full users help on those, since they should already know how to find simple existing answers to common repeating problems and gain more experience, towards a more improved self-level.

Mostly similar opinion to this


#10

General point:

Ideas which are impossible to implement almost always sound good - up until you want to implement them. :wink:

When suggesting something can people also try to keep in mind whether it’s possible, how much effort it would take, and who would be implementing it?


#11

I think above is a good idea.

I think the help vampire syndrome is far more annoying than an individual asking an oft repeated question (personally).

I made a suggestion a while back, but I have no idea if discourse allows this. Limit the number of posts a new user can make per day and weekly for the newbies to the forum. This is done with uploading pics to limit spamming after sign up. Why not the same with thread creation. This would allow new users to be able to get help if they legitimately need to create threads to resolve difficult problems. While at the same time not allowing new users to run rampant posting trivial questions constantly.

I have no Idea if that’s doable, but I love the idea of limiting the machine gun trivial thread starters.


#12

I have personally written a lot about the importance of slowly improving Tutorials organization bit-by-bit, before being in a real need of them so badly. And also explained how can this be done with the minimum effort for contributors, with each doing what is more fit.

Now that we need it, it is not there. What else can I do?
I am also of this philosophy

:wink:


#13
To get us started:

    How hard should we be?
    Are we already hard enough?
    Do we need a “FAQ” post which we can link to when closing a thread?

Not too hard. Manjaro is a growing community for many reasons, but one is it’s kindness. I understand that for users, moderators and other people who have been for years on this forum, it must be a real pain in the #ss always getting the same questions.

But I remember one of my first questions. As a real noob I’ve searched the forum for some answers but didn’t find them. They were there, but with my little knowledge I couldn’t find them. So in that case I think we/you shouldn’t be too hard.

And… the point is, I’ve been helped out in a friendly way and that made me stay with Manjaro.

And a FAQ for new users (with registration) is definitely a good option.


#14

This is life at being on the top. Really. But this is a very friendly forum. Maybe this is why so many have migrated to Manjaro. If at all possible what I would do is, prohibit new users from posting until they meet these 2 criteria:

  1. they must perform a search
  2. they must read at least one of the search results

Not until they fulfill the requirements can they open a topic.


#15

I don’t think we always understand how hard it is to search for some of these things.

  1. If you know very little about Linux it is hard to understand if solutions apply to you and trying random commands someone put in a thread because they had a problem that appears similar on the surface is likely to lead to an even bigger problem.
  2. It is very hard to search for certain things. Especially as the post volume increases. There are tons of common words. I often to struggle to find posts that I remember from the last few weeks because there are often a huge number of results. This when I already know what I am looking and I know it exists.

I actually think we are already too hard on new users sometimes.

EDIT: As a side note, I am not used to my new avatar yet and I keep reading my own posts thinking, “Damn, that guy said the same thing I did”


#16

There should be some will and effort shown. Definitely.


#17

OT

I’m not so much about names as pictures.
Therefore it would be good if these here should not be changed so often :smiley:


#18

The biggest contributors on this forum have the (online) patience of Job. I’m more of a lurker, answer if I can; maybe I’ll even stir the pot some when I get more Manjaro time under my belt. Even so, I get annoyed as heck from the “same thing, different day” posts.

While I’m sure no one wants to go back to the “RTFM and grab a clue while you’re at it, a**hole” days, something should/needs be done. The effort involved in preparing/editing FAQ’s and wikis is considerable, and those that would (or do) undertake that chore are commendable. BUT what good is that effort if no one bothers to take the first steps to help themselves?

Sure, my (and other folks’) google-fu sometimes results in a “divide by zero” error, but I sure don’t want to be “that guy” asking asked-and-answered questions.

What about something like this:

If the mods deem a question asked-and-answered multiple times, pop the user with a “RTFM” badge that stays active for maybe a week after the first time, then longer periods on additional offending posts. After so many, just cut them off. Harsh? Sure, but I’ll bet you that no matter what distro they try, it’ll be same-old, same-old.


#19

Let’s explore mechanisms so that we don’t have to go the Arch way.

  1. I think it is important that we don’t lose sight of the individual users. Generosity should be extended to new forumites and linux users to the point that they have demonstrated that they don’t learn. One ‘solution’ will not fit all users. We should allow for the most inexperienced users to learn bit by bit and not dump everything on them all at once. So different degrees of hand-holding are appropriate for different users. (Or again, some users being more advanced should be held to higher standards.) Just a precautionary warning to bear in mind with any change.

  2. One phenomena I have noticed being highly connected to multiple posts asking the same question repetitively is when commonish problems get triggered by Stable updates without them being commented in the ‘known issues and solutions’ wikipost of the announcements thread. If someone(s) knowledgeable were to maintain these posts with updated content from the current thread (and the testing/unstable threads leading to it) the number of posts would be reduced and it would also give an immediate place to link to (as well as encouraging the reading/use of these threads). Encouraging experienced users to paste/edit solutions there is something the Manjaro team could do without much effort.

  3. Other long-standing recurring issues (keyrings, update problems, etc.) could use a FAQ (editable by users of a certain level?) - which in turn could be, at least mainly, a set of links to tutorials. This could be placed in a prominent place such as pinned on the newbie board. Again quick to link to with a kinder or more harsh comment as appropriate.

Just some thoughts. The most important thing is not to lose the friendliness of the Manjaro community. If we do that the trolls have won. :wink:


#20
  • I would like to mention that there should be some solidarity when someone tells to search the forum and another user proposes a complete solution in the immediately following post.
  • Another point that I wouldn’t like to sanction very new users. It should be reserved to notorious help vampires.
    • For new users a hint to use the search function next time should be enough.