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Question & Answer Forum Thoughts


esquire
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I wanted to share some thoughts on the new Best Answer forum before I leave on my little vacation and focus my efforts elsewhere. I am sure that a great deal of thought, effort and planning went into the QA forums so I'll say that I appreciate the IPS effort. At this point I'm having difficulty in understanding and using them since, IMHO, they don't follow commonly accepted conventions or what I feel is logic in presentation. It's possible that maybe I'm missing settings, options or other variables aka "user error" so I apologize in advance if this is the case. I'm hoping that IPS or other members can weigh in.

(1) Incomprehensible format

Look at this topic on DMCA Law and its application to websites globally. In most of these "stack exchange" type conversations, follow up comments stay with the quote so they make sense. The goal is to create little subthreads on legitimate/notable answers and threaded comments for that specific response. For example, I say that the President is a lousy basketball player and 3 comments follow that as a subheading,. Another person says he's a great basketball player and then 6 subcomments follow that. It's like a bullet point list -- and that is the way it appears visually too and which isn't reflect in IPS 4. 

  1. Pres is a lousy ball player
    1. comment 1
    2. comm 2
  2. Pres is a great ball player
    1. comm 1
    2. comm 2
    3. comm 3

The up down throws all responses in on bucket and you can have quotes on top that relate to responses at the bottom. This is incomprehensible. This is because even subcomments are as important as the notable comments. It's just one bag of up/down. Look at that topic I posted -- the top rated (not Best Answer) quotes a response at the bottom. Impossible to read. Imagine if this is a 10, 20, 30 comment topic. Total chaos. I don't know how to say this but even VB 5 gets the commenting function and visual presentation correct.

  • comm 3 topic 2
  • Pres is a great ball player
  • comm 2 topic 1
  • comm 2 topic 2
  • Pres is a lousy ballplayer
  • comm 3 topic 2

(2) Incomprehensible Mix of Post Reward System

There is a like button and up/down. People are usually presented with one or the other, not both. Look at the same topic. The worst rated post is the most liked. And if I'm presenting this to users, which one do they choose? What if they Like a post but don't up down? What if they do the opposite? What if they do both? Nobody knows and unfortunately IPS seems to make this irrelevant too as per below.

(3) Incomprehensible Reward/Reputation System

Let us take another example topic on the value of off page SEO. Anyone who has ever used an experts system like QA knows that rewards and showing your expertise is the major driver of these types of systems. It's understandable and obvious. But the Up/Down doesn't seem to reward anyone at all, just push a post up or down, making things just a big mess. If one user has 2 best answers and 400 up posts and another has 4 best answers and 4 up posts, the member with the 4 best answers is superior ranked because Up/Down does nothing but push posts up down, not count for anything.

So, let's get to "reputation." What is that? It doesn't mean what you think it means. I would think that Best Answers and Up Posts determine reputation. After all, that relates to quality of what people say. But it is just a like counter. AFAIK, I don't see how BA in any way increases Reputation either. It's just yet another metric. So, if we take an example, the guy who gets a Best Answer gets no reputation points but if you like an irrelevant post, that will generate tons of "Reputation." Now the user who wrote a witty remark has an even higher reputation than the person who gave a Best Answer and anyone voted "Up" in another topic. In the topic I just posted on my starter site, the user (lawyer) with the witty remark who doesn't provide any really solid advice to answer the question now has a higher reputation than even the person giving the Best Answer on the topic.

(4) No Rewards System

Anyone who has used this type of a system knows that Reputation creates levels and awards. Without them and without any clear understanding what is going on, none of this works. Unless IPS creates a regimented points system, the ability to assign points for each type of good/bad answer, and the ability to generate clear awards for Reputation, there isn't an way to recognize a true "expert" and thus the incentive of being a thought and community leader is lost.... to "Content Count." That's the metric that has been decided as most important in IPS 4 for user levels AFAIK. And "Reputation" is just a Like contest having nothing to do with the quality of answers nor does it factor into the awards system or raising levels AFAIK either. IMHO, it's the antithesis of what I want my QA experts site to be about - quality over quantity (which can include images, events, etc.)

 

Thoughts on Recommendations

There is a lot under the hood and as I said, I may be completely missing a lot of the logic and options that IPS has put into this particular feature - so my apologies in advance. IMHO, expert forums like Stack Exchange are a whole other animal than discussion forums and I think threaded responses may completely change the way this system is structured. I don't know.

I'd include an option for a site owner to scrap the whole up down movement of posts entirely - linear thread only. If I'd keep the up/down, I'd use a Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down system in QA forums and have an option to remove Likes so as to distinguish a Like (of anything) versus an agree/like of a response in an Expert forum. In the alternative if that is too much, I'd remove all Up/Down and just keep the like system and use that as reputation, with Best Answers generating an admin value of the number of "points" of Reputation. I don't see any way of making the Reputation system work with IPS creating an admin set point system to distinguish BAs from Likes and make an awards system reflective of Reputation and NOT of Content Count.

Right now I don't know how to use this type of forum and system as a whole but perhaps others with more experience with IPS 4 and the good IPS folks can help lend some guidance. That's where I'm at and thought I'd share my impression, no more no less.

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I thinks these recommendations (Q&A improvements) must be put in IPS4 Feature Plan...

​I would hope that, if there is consideration for any of this, a decision would be proposed here at earliest time to see what feedback might yield.

There may be a lot of lifting that needs to be done given the current approach that still confuses me, such as now created threaded answers. I'd love to know what is possible and soon. I'd be happy with a flat forum as it is now (removal of Up/Down posts). I'd like Best Answer and Thumbs Up/Down to function as Reputation. Likes can be its own metric. Use of Thumbs Up/Down or Like is optional. While I think an award system is certainly necessary, I'd even put that as phase 2 if I could get "top reputation" and "top likes" as a widget. It's easy to understand, communities will still flock to the leaderboard and even some plugin to create a user title based upon Reputation or Likes seems conceptually capable of being done reasonably quickly. Anyway... looking forward to great things here and am confident they will come. Thanks for reading and considering what I wrote.

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