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4.0 - Q&A Forums

One of the most distinctive uses for a forum is that of a 'knowledge community', where users visit in order to get help with a problem or question. Our own Pre-sales forum uses this model, but we also have many customers who run forums that are almost exclusively knowledge-based (such as Roxio and Evernote).

IP.Board 3.x introduced the concept of a "Best Answer" flag, allowing topic creators and staff the ability to highlight the reply to a topic that they deem best answers the question. This shows a snippet of the post in green at the top of the topic. Many sites now use this feature, but for IPS4 we wanted to expand the functionality offered for these types of forums.

Question & Answer Forums

Forums in IPS4 will enable you to set a forum as a "Q&A Forum". This adjusts the forum to be specifically designed for knowledge sharing. Instead of topics and posts, it has questions and answers.

On the forum index, the forum will be shown as a Q&A forum with its forum icon (unless you've set a custom forum icon for that forum):



Forum View

When you enter the forum, instead of the normal topic listing, you see a list of questions:



You'll see here that questions that have a best answer are indicated with a green checkbox. You'll also notice that one of the stats on the right hand side is 'votes'. In Q&A forums, questions can be voted up or down by users, in order to give them more visibility. More popular questions will bubble to the top (depending on the age of the question). You can of course still order by more traditional methods, if you wish.

Popular questions from the past 30 days are also highlighted at the top of the forum, providing an up-to-date 'knowledgebase' that other users can see. Using our own presales forum as an example, if someone asked a question about an important feature and it was voted highly, other users visiting the forum would see it right at the top, which is great for content visibility and helping users get the answers they're looking for with minimal fuss.

Question View

Clicking into a question shows an adjusted topic view:



The question (i.e. the first post) is shown at the top of the page on all pages, with answers listed below. You'll see that replies can also be voted up and down - in fact, this determines the order in which answers are shown inside the question. Popular answers, as determined by the community, will appear at the top, with worse or incorrect answers being pushed down. This is great for quickly finding the best information for the question at hand; in IP.Board 3.x, all too often a high-quality answer will appear in the middle of a topic and unfortunately go unnoticed by the topic creator or others looking for an answer. You can still sort answers by date, if you prefer.

In the screenshot above you can also see the first post is marked as the best answer. "Best Answer" always appears at the top, regardless of its vote count.

Question/answer ratings are separate from reputation, so you can of course still "Like" posts even if you don't think they're a good answer to the question.

Conclusion

So that's the new Q&A feature for IP.Board. We think it'll a big step forward for knowledge-driven communities using IP.Board, or even individual forums in other communities (like our pre-sales forum), helping users find answers to their questions more efficiently, and ultimately making your communities more useful.


As always, screenshots are from pre-release software and are subject to change before release.

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Is the vote-based sorting at all affected by age, or purely vote count and answered status? (IE: If a question gets 50 votes more than anything else and never gets answered, will it be at the top forever?)

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Stackoverflow is good though because you can still reply to an answer with a regular comment (that appears threaded underneath the answer).  This allows for discussion about individual answers without polluting the thread with discussion.

 

Any plans for something like that?

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Oh this is really cool.

 

So let's say we have a "FAQ" forum for members to give instructions on how to use the forum and its features(for the new members)....this seems like it would be really great "tutorial" kind of forum

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Nothing about posting permissions per group members. I think it would be very useful a setting that would allow members to only reply to question/topics that they have created, but still allow them to see other question/topics in that same forum and these restrictions to apply only in a specific subforum (section), not the entire forum.

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My all forums use Best answer feature and I always wanted to give look of my Board Index and Topics like Questions/Answers instead of Discussions. Appreciate this feature very much for my knowledge-driven community. These days more and more communities are adopting Questions/Answers format instead of Discussions.

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Can more than one forum use the Q&A feature? I have a consumer/DIY category of forums for different types of flooring - one for carpet, one for hardwood, etc. This feature might be good used in each of those forums, leaving the other categories and forums as regular forums.

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I hope one blog entry per month isnt the new interval. Really need more of this cool stuff! ;)

Really appreciate this feature - guess half of my (sub)forums would make really cool q&a ares....

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As I believe Best Answer won't have a specific blog entry, I'll ask here: will best answer shows the whole post content as it happens on 3.4.X?

 

Yes, but it's not so out of place. See the 3rd screenshot in the blog entry :)

 

 

Nothing about posting permissions per group members. I think it would be very useful a setting that would allow members to only reply to question/topics that they have created, but still allow them to see other question/topics in that same forum and these restrictions to apply only in a specific subforum (section), not the entire forum.

 

You can set it so users can see only questions they asked - but not see all and only reply to questions they asked.

 

Can more than one forum use the Q&A feature? I have a consumer/DIY category of forums for different types of flooring - one for carpet, one for hardwood, etc. This feature might be good used in each of those forums, leaving the other categories and forums as regular forums.

 

Absolutely :)

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I actually prefer the best answer below the first post myself. It's not logical for users to read an answer before they have read the question. The question gives context that is needed to understand the answer. If you don't need to read the question then the best answer is just a scroll away.

 

Very nice blog and it's great to see IPS4 shaping up. It looks very swish!

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Actually this is better than it is now. The only doubt here is if the BA will always appear after the first post or in its original place.

EDIT: I guess it is there:

 

In the screenshot above you can also see the first post is marked as the best answer. "Best Answer" always appears at the top, regardless of its vote count.

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Very cool feature! I've been waiting for it for a long time :)

Will it be possible to set Q&A forum as index page? I want to use my site as QA forum only (I mean as stackoverflow-way).

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Stackoverflow and Quora provide excellent examples of how to do Q&A the right way and their model is proven.   Without comments on answers this is not much better than a forum.

 

This is a GREAT start but this approach is more of a forum hack.   I had my forum hacked for a bit to work exactly like this and hosed it after a few weeks..  It's confusing because sometimes you NEED clarifying discussion and that cannot happen here (especially if the answer sort order is dependent on number of upvotes then clarifying discussion will be out of sequence).   Sometimes the question is vague, or an answer is GOOD but not great or is incomplete and needs discussion as well.

 

Hopefully you can add in at least the ability to give some one-liner comments or something in response to any answer that can be collapsed by default.

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