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 Post subject: Suggestion: Add a new forum rule for "Common Questions"
PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:14 am 
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Hi everyone,

I've never really been much of an active poster on the forums, but about 6 months ago I was an active reader (as much as the term 'active' could apply, what with there being only a few threads a day). Since then I've had less free time due to Uni and other stuff, but I'm getting more time recently and as I've started to come back, I've noticed that a lot of posts, while not asking the same questions, ask similar questions, and they tend to get the same response from the senior members on here.

I'm sure most of the senior readers themselves have noticed this before, and I'm stating the obvious, but it's news to me, and it got me thinking about how I could help inform posters, especially ones newer to the forum, that the questions they're posting, while not the same as others, follow a similar line of reasoning, and ultimately, get similar answers from the senior members. So I thought it might be a nice idea to trial a new rule for the forums, or at least, an addendum to rule 1: "Please consider carefully before posting about any topic in the FAQ, as these are already covered in great depth in many other threads.", enforceable by the moderators similarly to a rule about spamming or misconduct.

It sounds a bit radical, because it kind of is, but based on the tone of many replies on recent questions, simple questions often just gather simple responses along the lines of "Please research <topic x> more and come back when you encounter a non-trivial problem." or "Please include more relevant information about your problem." or "You lack a fundamental understanding of the nature of an operating system / you've assumed something is available to an OS writer when it's not." It appears like it's annoying the frequenters of the forums, who put their time and effort into helping others, and often receive flak for providing simple answers to simple questions, just because the answer isn't what the poster wanted to hear.

Of course, the major problem with this is that while many problems get simple answers, there's not really many good catch-all questions. Beyond a few simple questions like "Where do I learn <X programming language>?" and "Where can I find documentation about <X generic topic which is well documented>?", a lot of questions only reveal themselves to be trivial because the answer is more about the poster themselves than the question being asked. I'm struggling to come up with a good way to prevent some these posts from appearing without giving help to those who are genuinely looking after putting in worthwhile time and effort.

Another thing to note about the forums is that many, many, MANY, posters (especially, but not limited to, new members) seem to have either not read the forum rules, or have read them but decided not to follow them because they don't apply in their particular case (personal circumstances hold a strong bias over interpretation of the rules). I'm not blaming the moderators for this, because it's in no way their fault, and of course, the blame rests solely on the poster to ensure their post is up to scratch, but it would be good if everybody could do their part and report posts which blatantly violate the rules, especially rule 4, "Please try to post smart questions." It helps the moderators do their jobs. I'm also putting my faith in the other members and assuming that most of them don't realise that their posts are uninteresting or repetitive, and that if they did know, they would probably decide to spend just a little bit more time doing some looking around and figuring out before posting. I figure most reasonably patient people will see that if their post got removed for asking a question in an unhelpful way, they would react with "Hmm, maybe I should go do a little bit more reading and come back." instead of "Oh man, I got reported, I guess this forum just doesn't like new people."

I don't want people to treat this the wrong way either, and I don't want people to think "every question should only ever be answered once, and people should look harder.", because that's certainly not the case. Having a familiar question come up every now and then helps to stimulate new discussion on a topic which may have previously been explored fully. The world of information technology changes so rapidly that even in a year or two, the simplest questions can get different responses. Additionally, providing tailored responses to questions can help individuals learn a difficult concept in a way which is intuitive to them. I'm just concerned with the frequency of posts which tread on very familiar territory, sometimes it seemed to be that every week the same questions would come up.

What are your thoughts? Is the problem really a problem, is my new rule suggestion crazy and infeasible, and what do you think can happen. As always, pretty much everything I write is my personal interpretation of things, and so I'm putting the disclaimer that it's probably not the exact reality of the situation, and you should take it with a grain of salt. And sorry for the wall of text, it's how I tend to write, hopefully it doesn't put too many people off.

In short, as well as "Don't post answered questions", "Don't post questions which can be trivially answered." and also, if you see posts which violate quality rules, report them and provide a friendly message about which rule they're violating. It might help improve the quality of the forums a little.

- Mikumiku747


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 Post subject: Re: Suggestion: Add a new forum rule for "Common Questions"
PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 10:11 am 
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This discussion comes up fairly often.

Just adding another Rule probably isn't going to make much of a difference. I consider new forum posters to be "visitors", and I don't expect them to strictly adhere to the rules, just like I don't expect kids visiting my house to necessarily adhere to the same rules that my kids are expected to adhere to.

And I don't think that "punishing" new posters is the way to go, either. They'll just stop asking questions altogether, and maybe never come back to the site.

This site is, I maintain, one of the greatest sites on the internet, period. Everyone here volunteers their time to help others and update the wiki so that future visitors can take advantage of the information. No one is expected to update the wiki, or read the forum posts, or answer questions regardless of their difficulty level. And no one is punished for not following the rules, except in extreme cases, which is probably the way it should be.

I would recommend just ignoring any posts that you don't think are worth your time and/or effort. Personally, I like helping out the new guys, because I feel like I owe it to the site for all of the help that I got when I was starting out. I don't really understand why someone would spend time writing a post explaining why a question was stupid, or why it wasn't following the rules, rather than just spending that time answering the question, but I don't think that it's a problem that necessarily needs to be "solved" through administrative action.

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 Post subject: Re: Suggestion: Add a new forum rule for "Common Questions"
PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 10:46 am 
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It might help to make the forum rules easier to find, they should be somewhere on the index page, or at least be somewhere at the top on the "About this site" board.
To be honest, I didn't know there were forum rules until now, and I had to search the wiki just to find a link to them...

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 Post subject: Re: Suggestion: Add a new forum rule for "Common Questions"
PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 2:37 pm 
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sleephacker wrote:
It might help to make the forum rules easier to find, they should be somewhere on the index page, or at least be somewhere at the top on the "About this site" board.
To be honest, I didn't know there were forum rules until now, and I had to search the wiki just to find a link to them...


This is a permanent post at the top of the "OS Development" forum. This is by far the most heavily trafficked forum. Now we could increase visibility by adding it to all forums. But that will not make anyone click on it. Or read it. Or follow it.

Mikumiku747 wrote:
In short, ....


In short, you are asking how to change behavior. It's difficult to do. And, it is by far easier to do with positive reinforcement than negative attention. However, the thought of adding, "Thank you for the properly formed well thought out question," to every post that is up to snuff bothers me even more.

I'm likely going to get flamed for this, but I'm going to say it anyway. Ultimately, what this boils down to is not wanting to do the work (call it laziness; call it the need for instant gratification; call it not being taught how to think). I, however, see questions where I have not put in the work (apart from the occasional, "Am I reading this correctly?"post) a mark against my own integrity -- not to say I have not had my fair share of stupid questions, but I take the stupid question personally, not the direct responses. I'm probably somewhat unique in this regard and likely due to my generation. I wish I could recall the number of times I have been banging my head against the wall trying to figure out an issue and just the act of formulating the intelligent question the solution comes to me. It happened again just this week.

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 Post subject: Re: Suggestion: Add a new forum rule for "Common Questions"
PostPosted: Fri Apr 28, 2017 3:45 pm 
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eryjus wrote:
I wish I could recall the number of times I have been banging my head against the wall trying to figure out an issue and just the act of formulating the intelligent question the solution comes to me. It happened again just this week.

Ditto.

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 Post subject: Re: Suggestion: Add a new forum rule for "Common Questions"
PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 12:43 am 
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SpyderTL wrote:
eryjus wrote:
I wish I could recall the number of times I have been banging my head against the wall trying to figure out an issue and just the act of formulating the intelligent question the solution comes to me. It happened again just this week.

Ditto.


Yeah, this was probably the thing I was going for mostly. I had this happen to me a lot, probably 3 or 4 times a week when I was putting lots of time into my kernel projects, and I was really just hoping that I could help other people have that experience, but I guess it's hard to gauge whether that's happening or not, seeing as, obviously, a post never gets made if that happens.

SpyderTL, in regards the idea of 'visitors', you make a really good point, I failed to realise a lot of traffic is visitors, and in that regard, you're right, it's probably unreasonable to expect everyone who comes here, even to ask a single question, to have read all the required rules in extreme detail (while "How to ask smart questions" is a nice doc, it is really long.) So yeah, it's probably best for me to just suck it up and stop complaining because a couple people aren't posting the way I like. And now I've just realised that this post is kind of the meta problem I was just describing... doh! Thanks for taking the time to answer me anyway. :)

- Mikumiku747


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 Post subject: Re: Suggestion: Add a new forum rule for "Common Questions"
PostPosted: Sat Apr 29, 2017 11:13 am 
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The kind of people who post the kind of questions that a rule like this is targeting are also the kind of people who don't read or follow the rules.

TL;DR: This is a waste of time.

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 Post subject: Re: Suggestion: Add a new forum rule for "Common Questions"
PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2017 8:12 am 
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onlyonemac wrote:
The kind of people who post the kind of questions that a rule like this is targeting are also the kind of people who don't read or follow the rules.


Indeed, the recent experience in this forum is that telling some newcomers the rules in replies often causes them to lash out with indignation, or else is completely ignored despite repeated warnings. Or both.

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