24

Not trying to be a debbie downer but I'm seeing a flood of highly environment-specific, low quality questions recently - often not even specific to Salesforce or ExactTarget. A few examples:

This is a Q&A site, and we have a community culture of helping people "level up" as developers. Well-considered questions often receive multiple answers with different approaches to any given problem.

My concern lies with posting a wall of code and leaning on the community to find bugs, with no attempt to debug their own code. Such one-offs offer zero value to this knowledge base for future readership.

Even worse, the questions I see within this trend are often followed by a pattern of:

  • failure to revisit the question at all,
  • failure to award votes to members who do answer,
  • failure to engage in commentary with members attempting to reproduce the problem,
  • occasionally "thanks anyway, I got it myself" self-answers like this after others have answered,

This is not unique to any one user or any one topic, and I do think part of the problem is our response as a community. Instead of scrambling for votes, we should warmly encourage posters to get their "house in order" first. Readability and reproducibility encourages more portable answers, too.

Are my expectations out of kilter? Are there any magic bullets to be had here?

14

I just tweeted something similar before I saw this post, that as a community I haven't seen (myself included at times) the level of patience and promotion of excellence that I often see on sites like stack overflow. Far too often I've seen great answers get posted after a question has an accepted answer and never get upvotes!

That kind of rush to the finish and then putting the question to the side is really hurting us. By reacting like this we get highly localized answers that while they answer the question are generally not useful to others in the future.

Beyond giving more attention and love to questions that might nurture re-useable answers we really need to vote down more as a community. Every question you linked shouldn't, in my mind, been answers by the community, but rather should have been flagged, downvoted, and had comments left on how to re-form the question into something more useful.

Remembering that most users came from forum environments we really should put more empahsis on editing of other users answers to improve them - far too often I see comments left instead - often in threads that get out of order since they're all responding to each other in a forum style.

In short: those of use who want to really see this site thrive as a source of useful information need to be much more vocal about votes, both up on hidden gems, and down on low effort posts.

Maybe we can try editing these low quality, highly localized posts into a more generic version of themselves? While this might initially rub the asker the wrong way it helps the overall heath of the community, and those who want to continue to participate will quickly realize that they'll need to post questions much more like what they see theirs being edited into.

  • 3
    Nice insight. Ultimately we want all members (new and old) to "own" the quality of the site's content. I suppose a long and bumpy road :-) – bigassforce Feb 24 '14 at 19:16
  • 3
    I agree. Maybe in the hopes of gaining more and more members, we've gone soft on the aspects that make the stackexchange format great. – Samuel De Rycke Feb 24 '14 at 19:39
  • +1 on the editing... Comments are used way too much for things that should be edits or even answers. – Matt Lacey Feb 25 '14 at 5:05
  • 4
    I'm rather uncomfortable with the statement "those who want to continue to participate will quickly realize that they'll need to post questions much more like what they see theirs being edited into". This smacks that we only want people who think exactly like the experienced users of this site. – Bob Buzzard Feb 25 '14 at 9:16
  • 1
    @BobBuzzard I meant that over the long haul, certainly not an immediate expectation. In other words: users will either adapt to the stackexchange format and try and make their questions more generic, or they won't and they'll keep getting flagged and downvoted until they get discouraged. I'm certainly not proposing we chase them off the site with pitchforks and torches on their first question not being perfect. – ca_peterson Feb 25 '14 at 18:00
  • What is the appropriate response when a question has received multiple answers which are technically correct but those answers are of very low quality and are unlikely to increase the understanding of the individual who asked the question (or future readers)? I hesitate to down-vote an accurate, minimalist, answer but I rarely see the minimalist drive-by-shooting style answers improved later. It seems that my hesitation stems from voting up/down "correct" vs "quality" answers. – Mark Pond Apr 29 '14 at 22:38
14

Every anonymous online community I've ever been part of has had an inverse relationship of number of participants to quality of community; that is to say, I've never seen an exception to the rule that as an anonymous online community grows, the quality of engagement and participation declines.

I don't think SE can be an exception, but I think the best we can hope for is to reduce the rate of deterioration. IMO we're certainly well below the par set by quite a few of the other SE communities. Personally, I have spent less time here answering questions over the past few months because I get tired of reading through 9 inappropriate/lazy questions to get to the 1 interesting/well-written one.

The playbook for slowing the inevitable decline is encouraging new members to improve their poor questions, describing to them what the problems are in their bad answers/questions, encouraging people to use their real names, discouraging flame wars and non-constructive replies, and generally being vigilant moderators and senior community members. There isn't much more we can do beyond that -- if we are not successful at "converting" newbies to well-adjusted productive community members, the site will go south fast.

A community like SFSE that is primarily populated by consultants and vendors who simply have a job to do, and are under extreme time pressures and are just trying to solve a technical problem or two, is inherently going to have a tougher time at creating a real community than, say, the gaming or cooking sites which have a much higher level of passion, pride, and ownership. Even SO itself isn't a fully fair comparison to me, because it also is populated with many more enthusiasts and hobbyists than SFSE. So it's probably unfair to us to set our bar quite that high; but we certainly can aim to try to keep the quality of questions and answers as close to what it has been here historically.

  • 5
    Couldn't agree more. This is the part of the price that is paid for success. The quality of community type sites is always higher at the start when the traffic is light and the enthusiasts are the main users. – Bob Buzzard Feb 25 '14 at 8:36
11

Don't be afraid to edit! Users are granted edit permissions so that they can help maintain the quality of the content on the site; if you can't edit, then flag.

Flagging, editing and generally being 'fair' seems like the way to go. As @ca_peterson says, people often rush to add an answer to a question even when the question doesn't really belong on the site. It's pretty tough to find the line between being overly harsh to new users and being too lax on the quality side, but I think in the interest of maintaining the quality of the site people really need to consider whether a question is legitimate before going for the easy points.

One issue I find in particular is that some questions do get flagged as being of low quality, and often I don't want to close a question without giving the OP a chance to rectify things so I leave a comment; but then I don't ever remember to go back to the question unless it's flagged again. I'll try to maintain a list of questions to revisit going forward.

I've just closed a couple of these (and some others belonging to the same user) as they'd been flagged (today) and when I reviewed there'd been no response from the asker after comments had been left 10 days ago.

Given the localised nature of some of the questions I deemed that to be enough time for them to be discarded since they weren't likely to be of much use to others in their current stage.

  • 2
    +1 !!! Best tool we have: Edit button + Flag button – Saariko Feb 25 '14 at 8:51
  • 2
    over-mini-modding (as non mod) can also make you feel like an ass**** though. I find it not always easy to balance. – Samuel De Rycke Feb 25 '14 at 10:17
  • 1
    It definitely does... it's actually worse as a mod... We can't chip in a close flag and hope 3 others do the same (to get a consensus), if we hit close, it closes! – Matt Lacey Feb 25 '14 at 11:21
9

This is what happens when sites become popular - quality declines, in a large part due to sheer volume of users and posts, and even the most dedicated moderators find it difficult to do anything to stem the tide.

That said, I came to SFSE for the same reason I've been active on the discussion boards for years - to try to help people who are struggling with Salesforce development. I didn't come here to act as a gatekeeper and ensure that only good questions get answered, or because I wanted to defend Stack Exchange against lazy posters.

I understand what the other answers are saying from the quality point of view, but I'd find it quite hard if I knew the answer not to post it, regardless of how well written I considered the question to be. I would have thought it was possible to answer poorly written questions and educate the poster about how to ask better questions in the future rather than an either/or.

If new posters are discouraged through their questions being quickly voted down/closed because they aren't up to standard (a standard that they probably weren't aware of in the first place), then SFSE will remain a niche site for experienced Salesforce developers to help each other with complex coding problems. Even worse, it will gain a reputation that only the elite are welcome.

  • 1
    Agreed. My gruff answer takes for granted that it's built on top of the type of community support to constantly improve that you're talking about. It's only if we're constantly trying to educate new users (commenting explaining why there are issues, and how to fix before or alongside a downvote/flag) that an answer like mine becomes remotely viable. – ca_peterson Feb 25 '14 at 18:03
  • Agree with you Bob. Had you not helped me learn to use this site when I first joined, I doubt I'd still be here. The downvoting can be very intimidating to a newbie. IMO, educating someone in a friendly manner on how this site works as part of a response is the way to build community. – crmprogdev Mar 5 '14 at 8:42
7

Agreed. There used to be a 'too localized' flag, for questions that were very specific to the user's circumstance, but that was dropped for lack of use. I agree, we want to 'level up' new developers, without encouraging the 'do my homework for me plz' type questions.

Flagging a post with 'other (needs moderator attention)' is one mechanism for 'wall of code' questions', with a comment encouraging the poster to try to narrow down the problem.

Not sure there's a magic bullet, but perhaps we can find a balance with some discussion here...

  • 1
    Is it possible to have that option re-added? I know for sure I'll be using it. – ca_peterson Feb 24 '14 at 19:08
  • Not as far as I know - establishing what is on and off-topic is a community-specific activity, and 'too localized' is a flavor of 'off-topic'. – metadaddy Feb 24 '14 at 19:44
5

Years ago when I asked first question on Stackoverflow, I don't think I double checked for answer or to accept it. As far as I go, I found site to be a bit difficult to understand(blame on forum background).

At-least some of the new users must be doing same thing that I did.

Solution would be

  1. Improvement in the way a new user is educated about how this site works.(few bullet points, show them more often- during registration & each time question is asked)

  2. More use of comments(along with votes) - If you up/down vote a question/answer, user will never know what that vote was for? So we can leave comments(even on 'low quality' questions) for anything & everything.

  3. Encourage users to accept the answer, again using comments.

  4. Rush to answer first is there on every SO site. Voting up can be used to encourage more detailed answer. I personally believe that - Fastest Gun in the West Problem can be solved by creating one more privilate(GURU - requires rep 10K+). User with such rep can go through questions asked x days ago. Because after x days the rush for answer is long done, question has been attempted by people around time zones. If GURU upvotes an answer - that adds repo twice of 'accepting as an answer'.

  • I would love to downvote questions that are poorly framed (and would comment why) but fear that other SFSE Pros might find me a 'debbie downer' and thus never respond to my own future OPs because they have more patience with poorly-framed or wall-of-code OPs than I do – cropredy Mar 6 '14 at 17:10
4

I have to take issue with your "scrambling for votes" comment. As you've noted in the patterns you've observed, the members you speak of frequently 1.) don't revisit their question at all, and 2.) don't award votes to members who do answer.

Similarly, I've noticed a trend where members who do take the time to answer these posts, don't find them valuable enough to award points to the person who asked the question. Isn't there something of a double-standard involved here when someone deems a question worthy of their time to respond to it, yet doesn't award points to the person who asked it? Where is the quid pro quo?

If we want to encourage members to vote up questions and answers, doesn't that require US to also do the same, especially if WE take the time to respond to a post?? That certainly seems logical to me.

I know this has been discussed before, but I felt it was worth mentioning again. Like some of the others, I've not been spending a lot of time here of late; in my case, mostly because of lack of free time. When I do, I've been making a point of awarding points to the questions and answers I read that I feel add value to the site.

More importantly, I ALWAYS give a point to any question I respond to, including those I comment on asking for more information as well. If it was worth my time, it was worth a point to the member.

2

I'm one of the SFSE member who uses the forum to

  • Help others where I know the answer having faced the same problem myself (hence giving back)
  • Learn new solutions / approaches to problems I may have faced or might face in the future

I have admit that because SFDC itself has grown more complex with more elements (Salesforce1, Salesforce1 Mobile, ExactTarget, REST) combined with a greater interplay between SFDC technologies and other highly useful technologies like jQuery, that I can sometimes sympathize with posters being lost or bewildered and hence posting half-baked.

I think the S/N ratio may have deteriorated partly because of the breadth of SFDC sub-topics where help is sought AND the less appealing UI for the SFDC Developer Boards perhaps causing users to seek out SFSE.

Suggestions:

  1. In the Community Bulletin box to the right; can there be a sticky - 'How to Write a Good Post' with links to well-written posts from the past?
  2. More gentle, yet pointed admonitions from responders in Comments about how the post could be simplified and reduced to its essentials before the forum responds (and such admonition is honored by other potential respondents until fulfilled). I know that I'm anxious when I post a question myself for fear of having one of the pros admonish me. This forces me to think hard about whether I've tried every avenue for solving a problem and whether I've simplified the issue to a point where it is digestible for others to help.

Example admonitions:

  • We're happy to help but you'll need to simplify your issue by removing unnecessary domain-specific details from your code sample
  • We're happy to help but could you please reword your problem statement to its essence using clear, declarative sentences?
  • This looks like an issue amenable to the use of system.debug statements - have you tried those?
  • 1
    Those phrasing are exemplary - thanks for sharing – bigassforce Mar 6 '14 at 17:59

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .