Proposed solution for "status" (aka "problem solved") indicator
Notwithstanding Jeremy's recent post, I'd like to propose a solution to the problem of how to handle a status field.
First, a few objectives:
I. It should be easy and inviting for the Thread-Starter ("T-S") to update the status.
(T-S = OP = Original Poster)
II. The status should help indicate both (a) whether the T-S is still ACTIVELY looking for an answer, and (b) how useful this thread might be for other people.
III. The status should be effected by the T-S's attentiveness to or neglect of the question.
Any more? Oh... IV. it should be reasonably easy to implement and understand :-)
Just one status field to do all that? I don't think so. I'm seeing a more intricate (and elegant) solution, where the status field plays a role alongside other information. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
First, what statuses should exist? I think the following five essentially cover the bases:
"Mostly Resolved - I'm content to move on with my life"
"Partially Resolved, but I'm still working on this issue"
"Never completely resolved, but no longer relevant"
Yeah, that's all well and good, but what about when the T-S neglects the thread s/he started?
Rather than rely solely on (often neglectful) thread-starters, let's put some easily-collectible information to use:
- When was the last time the T-S reviewed the question?
- Have any potential answers been posted since the T-S last reviewed the question?
So, "Joe User" posts a question on LQ. Let's assume he gives it a Wholly Unresolved status, as will often be the case. Then, "Mike" responds to the question. Mike's response could be any of the following:
- A partial or complete answer
- A request for more information, in an effort to work towards a solution
- A similar complaint - "I'm having this problem too!"
- A truly useless and inapplicable answer, or other mindless drivel
Under the current system, these all have the same effect -- they reduce visibility of the post, as it no longer has the coveted "0 replies". That's appropriate for the former two, but the latter two undermine Joe's request for help.
Rolling up my sleeves here...
- When Joe views Mike's response (assuming he is logged in) he is invited to reevaluate the thread status. If he does not, the thread can be marked "neglected by thread starter" or something, and lose visibility. It could also be marked as neglected if he simply does not view the thread for a week or whatever.
- And if this is really a burning issue for Joe, let him hit a button every day (or hour, whatever) to review the thread status, even if there have been no new replies. Whenever he hits that "completely unresolved" button, it'll give the issue a priority boost. (Not cumulative; just reflective of the recentness of his review.)
Here's another field that could be tremendously useful for askers and answerers alike: how much time have you spent working on this issue? (radio button...)
5 mins, 15 mins, 30 mins, an hour or so, 3 hours, 6 hours, 10 hours...
"I've been pulling my hair out over this issue for so long that I am now bald..."
Okay, so that's a lot of ideas I've proposed. How to integrate them? I'd like to propose a "priority" field. Let's talk databases...
I've never investigated the inner workings of vBulletin, but I imagine it's powered by a relational database. There ought to be a table for threads, a table for posts, and some relationships (among other things! But my discussion only really touches on those.)
The new fields I've proposed - "status", "last review", "time invested", and "priority" should all be fields in the thread table. Of additional relevance is the datetime of last post--clearly already implemented, as evidenced by viewing any forum.
How to calculate priority? (Assumably it's some kind of number, maybe 1-100, who knows.) Without stating a formal algorithm, I'll simply suggest that it should involve the following:
- Question status (where "Wholly Unresolved" gets highest priority)
- Recent review by the T-S will boost priority
- The existence of recent posts unreviewed by the T-S will sink priority
- lots of time invested will boost priority
(( God, this would be so easy with AngelBase... ten lines of code could define the priority algorithm, and the field would be automatically recalculated whenever needed. Alas, we're stuck with relational and object databases for now. ))
So, how to make this information available?
Similar to the links for "0 replies", there could be a link for "high priority questions" -- perhaps it would simply do a different sort, rather than any filtering. The priority could also be displayed in regular forum views... or not.
Looking back at the objectives I stated in the beginning, I'm satisfied with (I), (II a), (III). I'm mostly satisfied with (IV) - I think the system is reasonable to implement, and even if people don't totally understand how priority is calculated, I think it will be easy to design a friendly, intuitive UI for these features that will integrate well into what already exists.
As for (II b) (how useful might this thread be for others?) One of my original ideas was to have a field that indicates how much of the solution of a problem is contained within this LQ thread (vs. how much did the person figure out on their own and find elsewhere) -- assuming the question is resolved. I've usually tried to come back to LQ and share the solutions to the questions I've posed, when they were not adequately addressed on LQ -- but not very many people will do that. Anyway, I threw out this idea, because I don't think anyone would do it, just the way nobody gives ratings.
Alright, this is an awfully long post. Hopefully the replies will not be this long :-) but let's talk about it!!! I think this is plausible, and that it could be really, really good for LQ, in terms of serving the community most effectively.
I'd like to close with a BIG Thanks to Jeremy for doing such an awesome job with LQ. We can be quick to point out flaws and make suggestions, but even after all I've said here... LQ is still clearly an invaluable resource. I'm so glad that it works as well as it does. Thanks, man.
Just a couple of points/comments, that I hope will add rather than detract from the parent poat:
As far as I can see, and I must admit that I visit LQ a lot less now that I do not receive the daily "0 replies" email, the new thread rating system is hardly ever used. Whilst I am the first to admit that I have absolutely zero knowledge on how vBulletin functions would it be possible to use the 'rating' status for each and every thread to visually depict what demerson3 has proposed? Perhaps changing the rating 5 stars to a status 5 question marks ????? Whilst I don't immediately see a direct translation from demerson3's proposal, perhaps a gradually decreasing number of ?'s from a '0 reply' status of ????? down to 1 or zero ?'s for a derelict question. The T-S could add, somehow, disappearing ?'s by an action similar to the 'bump'.
This may require some sort of search-ability based on the number of ?'s a thread has - obviously a ????? search would render all '0 reply' threads - and therefore partially replace this function.
The other thought that I have on the matter is:
Given the great diversity of distros covered in seperate forums it is quite possible that someone's distro specific question has been partially or fully answered in another distro's forum. As a rule if I want information on reconfiguring my Suse10 kernel and to see other peoples' .config settings for amd64 processors I usually start looking in the debian and gentoo forums here on LQ and get back-referenced to specific debian and gentoo forums elsewhere. It seems to me that debian and gentoo users are fearless, more geeky (knowledgable) and/or smarter than I. But it seems apparent that Suse users don't generally hack their kernels - it would probably screw up their YOU update system under YAST - but it really bugs me that even if I try to stop and/or disable 'microcode' in "System Services (Runlevel)" it always restarts itself - perhaps it is in initrd not just in init.d. Oh well.
So if one of you Gurus can think of a way of enabling potential question posers, prior to posting their question, to somehow avoid cross/double posting of the exact same question with respect to a different distro. As an example, it seems that 'sound not working' is a newbie problem across the Board, and while I appreciate that different sound cards and motherboards will to some extent be the culprit - I don't see a way of avoiding the posting of similar problems across every distro forum. Laptop wireless cards seem to be another area where a distro specific solution is sought and rarely found unless some guru has exactly the same chipset/setup etc., see the offending question and deigns to answer it.
Whilst I love to answer to '0 replies' email questions, I refrain from doing so if I don't have the exactly similar equipment and distro and version, simply because the thread would lose its '0 reply' status. This also, currently, brings up the question [how appropriate on LQ] of whether or not to respond to a '0 reply' thread by asking for more info - thereby killing the '0 reply' status - only to find that the poster is trying to mix old with new. It has taken me 6 months to get 3D graphics on suse10 x86-64 on the ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 128MB on my Ferrari 3400 laptop - it was just a case of waiting for ATI to produce the software to allow me to be able to compile my own fglrx rpm for my current kernel and whoop-de-doo I can play Tuxracer (badly!). Not only that but I have gotten UltraEdit32 to run under wine (or should that be Chianti on my Ferrari!)
I'm not sure whether you were suggesting it, but I see the rating system and the "priority" system (as I've proposed it) as really being separate issues. High-priority posts should attract attention from linux veterans who can help solve tough issues. Posts with high ratings, on the other hand, should act as good resources for people looking for information.
Since the rating system is essentially unused, perhaps that real estate on the forum view could be used for a priority indicator as you've suggested.
Cross-posting is an abuse that will remain difficult to deal with! I could try to think up solutions, but let's leave that for another thread.
The issue of reluctancy to reply to a 0-reply thread is one that I have also encountered. When replying to a thread, perhaps the person posting should be invited to specify whether their reply is an answer, a request for more info, a related question or "me too", or a whimsical suggestion. It's another dimension of complexity to add to the equation, but it could definitely be useful and usable.
As for the "resolved" type fuctionality here on this site, we've tried it before, no one ever used it.
And as for priority type threads, no thread is above any other thread. All threads carry the same priority, this is not paid support, it's a free open community where anyone can come ask or answer questions, nothing should be made a priority at any time.
Additionally, threads which have received recent replies are more visible in a forum. The forums are not sorted by thread start date -- they are sorted by date of most recent reply. Threads which are already receiving lots of attention receive additional priority, because they are more visible to the community.
trickykid, I believe I understand your concerns, and I believe my original proposition already took into account the important things you noted. It really sucks to spend a long time explaining something, only to receive a response from someone who did not take the time to read and understand the issue. (Here's another example of that frustration)
So I'd like to invite you to READ my proposition, and to try and understand it (and if you don't, then ask questions) before dismissing it. I'd like to work together to improve LQ so that it can be a better environment for a free and open support community.
Perhaps you are having a negative reaction to my use of the word "priority". Can someone think of a better term that describes the field? "Most challenging"?
I think it'd be great if the real gurus (in any specific area) could look for the "most challening questions"... rather than spending their time telling someone for the hundredth time how to mount vfat using /etc/fstab, just because it happens to be the most recent post with 0 replies. Just as there currently exists a link to threads with 0 replies, there could also be a link to the most challenging questions.
I'd like to jump in on a comment made in this thread- that zeroreplies should not be answered unless you have the exact distro/hardware of the OP- because then it would drop of the zero reply list.
This view is flawed, sorry.
A thread that is active (kicking?) stays at the top of the board- inactive ones sink to the bottom. This is why the zero-reply stuff was introduced, to allow sinking threads to get noticed. However, if you can respond to the question with a good shot at the answer, you are keeping the thread alive and at the top of the board- maybe someone else will notice it and jump in and with everyone suggesting this and that, the solution will be reached.
Therefore- if you have a decent idea of what the answer might be, then answer it. If it is a bizzare distro/hardware reliant problem, then leave it alone. But answer it if you can- that is why the zero-reply drive came into existence!
I'd like to point out the fatal design flaw that has (in my opinion) caused these systems to fail in the past:
A thread will keep its status of "unresolved" even when the thread-starter does nothing.
This ultimately causes an enormous pileup of issues marked "unresolved", though they are actually resolved or being attended to. The flag loses its significance and the system becomes useless. The system is highly susceptible to neglect on the part of the thread-starter.
I'll quote myself...
Joe posts a new thread, and marks it "unresolved". It gets a "priority" of, say, 50.
Mike replies to the thread. Immediately, the priority goes down... say, to 10.
If Joe doesn't revisit and re-evaluate the thread, over several weeks the priority slowly sinks down to 1 as a reflection of his neglect.
However, suppose Joe does come back to see the thread. He can easily mark it as resolved, which will cause the priority to go down to 0.
But suppose Joe feels his question is still completely unresolved... and suppose it's very important to him. He will have to take two steps: 1. write a new reply, and 2. re-mark the thread as "unresolved". Then, the thread will go up in priority again.
There are other factors to consider as well (will Mike continue to help him with this issue, absolving the need for high visibility within the larger community?) ... but let's get the basics down first.
Does this make sense now?
P.S. titanium_geek: the threads that fall through the cracks are those that get one or more incompetent replies. If you check out this thread, you'll see what I mean. I ultimately solved the problem by myself and posted the answer back to the thread I started... but most people won't do that.
My 2 cents - Yes, your explanation makes sense, but it doesn't change the reality that very, very few people maintain their own threads. Regardless of whether the thread status is a string ("Unresolved") or a numeric value, experience has proven that only a miniscule number of people actively manage their own threads, and thus over time virtually all threads will gravitate towards one single status, namely "unresolved" or "unanswered" or "abandonded" or whatever term is used to indicate that the OP has left the building and won't be coming back.
Don't get me wrong, I think that your suggestion itself is excellent, but the limiting factor here is just that the success of these proposals depend entirely on the OP maintaining their threads. Sadly, and as you stated yourself, people typically don't do that, and furthermore, while thinking things over it occurs to me that giving a thread a particular status can unfairly create bias. What I mean here is simply that for any given problem, there could be a variety of causes, and different people will respond with different suggestions on how to fix it. Now, even if the suggestions didn't solve the problem for the OP, they might still be useful to other people, and thus the information in that thread is helpful and does have value. If however the OP more or less marks the thread as being unresolved, then they basically are announcing that "the responses in this thread so far are useless". That's a very negative message, and even if the OP's problem remains open, those responses might be the perfect solution to a similar problem for someone else (who BTW would probably be driven away from the thread because of its status) I don't see how that would be helpful either for the LQ membership or for LQ as a Linux information resource.
Overall, I think that if there were an effective way to accurately indicate the status of a thread, jerermy would have implemented it already. This issue has been kicked around pretty much continuously for as long as I've been an LQ'er, and unfortunately it seems that the unavoidable road-block is just that it doesn't look like there's a practical way to make this workable. Again, strictly my own 2 cents.
Personally, I still think the best possible way to handle the "resolved/unresolved" issue is for the OP to simply post back with a simple Thank You for suggstions that worked, or to bump their thread if they continue to have followup questions.
RE- threads that fall through the cracks:
I'm not suggesting you post incompetently- but if you can post well, do it, even though you don't have the exact distro/hardware of the OP.
Let me show you two scenarios- italics is what people are thinking, bold is text they write (and post, obviously) and underline denotes usernames. Regular text is my commentary.
Jane How do I start X?
Simon Try turning the key in the ignition.
Jane What a stupid answer, maybe somebody else will help me so I'll wait.
The thread is ignored and sinks into oblivion, with Jane not getting the help she needs.
Bill I don't understand this loop *example example*
George Did you try the ...
Bill No, tried that, it gave me this error message...
Fred How about this? ...
Bill Great! that was it. thanks. what a helpful community!
The thread is answered, because Bill was paying attention to his thread, "bumping" it, not by posting the word "bump" but by elaborating his question in subsequent threads.
In the spirit of my suggestion... I'll say thanks: I guess I'll bump my threads more when they're not getting attention.
Just remember- don't just say: "bump" as it's annoying and won't get you any help. What bump means is: perhaps your original post didn't have enough info to help someone solve the question. Elaborate more, add information. However, if there are no replies at all, don't bump yourself, the system will do it for you.
This should interest members who were looking for this feature.
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