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A Four Year Review: Feedback Requested
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TerryE
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 5:09 pm    Post subject: A Four Year Review: Feedback Requested Reply with quote

What with all of our discussions on removing SPAM, one of the things that I also thought about was the the state of the MySql database that contains our forum knowledgebase. Here are some stats:
  • The first post was on Dec 11, 2002 by Draude
  • There have been 50,752 topics raised with 197,156 posts to those topics
  • That's an average of 35 topic and 134 posts per day in the 4 years that the forum has been active
  • 7,803 topics (15%) have been unanswered, or to put it more postively 85% have received at least one answer (see note below).
  • We have 39,642 registered users
  • However 15,311 users have no posts. Given that a lot have interesting web addresses, I assume that most are SPAM users where the SPAM topic has been deleted. If these are deleted messages then the no answer ratio rises to 22%.
  • 9,761 users have only one post. A reasonable percentage of these are unanswered.
  • The top 25 posters have generated 25% of all posts, the top 350 posters 50% of all posts.
What this tells me is some interesting patterns:
  • The forum is healthy
  • The population seems to be split into four broad communities:
    • There is a small community (probably less than 50 active) who do most responses, and they often chat amongst themselves. These come and go (eg. goers: DannyB and Draude; comers: me)
    • Spammers
    • Those that are guests only and search for advice and guidance. I notice that when I log on there are typically 50-100 guests active and <5 logged on users.
    • The vaste majority of users have one or two specific queries. They create and account; ask their Q; maybe track their responses and then never come back. [I've done the same on other BBs]
  • We should think about how we serve this last community better. I am a bit concerned about that 20 or % of unanswered Qs. The problem is that sometimes the innocent can ask some REALLY dumb Qs or ask a Q that must have been asked a dozen times before. I would appreciate thoughts on this.
  • I also think we could do with trashing all accounts older than 6 moths with no posts and all accounts with no posts and a web address. This is a simple SQL query.
Another thing that strikes me is that we should have a BEFORE YOU POST sticky in every forum (or link on the posting form) which explains in simple terms how to search the forums to avoid needing to ask a Q and how to ask a sensible Q which has a good chance of being answered if you can't find the info you require.

If Draude would make available the database (in copy format) it might be worth mining it to find the top 200 or so most referenced topics and reference then in a forum FAQ which could be appended to the above sticky.

Thoughts?
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PromptJock
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 5:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent ideas, especially the "disuser 'unused/inactive' accounts greater than 6 months old" (I personally think it should be three Smile ).

Regarding de-SPAMming the fora: the established SPAMmers have well-defined usernames and their "missives" are generally identical in their content, as well as their subject lines. IOW, there are a number of title and message keywords that can be gleaned from the "established" SPAMs that can easily be incorporated into a filtering bot which can search and auto-delete them every day (if not intercept them outright).

As for FAQ'ing: an excellent idea! a downloadable OOo or PDF document could be created for each "major" topic/question (i.e. labels, templates, databases) for the FAQ'er to peruse on his/her own time. These could be accessed by a "Table of Contents" or "Subject" page with the appropriate pointers/links/etc.

Finally, create a "Guest" account for those simply trying to get answers. The "guests" would only have READ-ONLY privileges to the FAQ area and main message base. If, only after they've "exhausted their searching", they can't find the answer(s) they're looking for, should they consider creating an account where they can post questions.

Those are my ideas. Smile
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Kaaredyret
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I proposed a FAQ here several times; optimally the FAQ could be build on a WIKI (wiki.openoffice.org) where our users could improve the FAQ.
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AndrewZ
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 6:31 pm    Post subject: Re: A Four Year Review: Feedback Requested Reply with quote

TerryE wrote:
]The vaste majority of users have one or two specific queries. They create and account; ask their Q; maybe track their responses and then never come back. [I've done the same on other BBs][/list][*] We should think about how we serve this last community better. I am a bit concerned about that 20 or % of unanswered Qs. The problem is that sometimes the innocent can ask some REALLY dumb Qs or ask a Q that must have been asked a dozen times before.


Tracking responses this way doesn't work, and here are two examples.
1. The reply asks for more information
2. The reply offers a non-helpful response

IIRC, on LinuxQuestions.org they are big on answering all questions, but I don't visit that forum hardly ever because the responses are often a poor, useless quality. On the other hand, I noticed that on (one incarnation of) the WxWidgets forum, they had a system for specifically marking a question as resolved or unresolved.

Quote:
I also think we coul do with trashing all accounts older than 6 moths with no posts and all accounts with no posts and a web address.


Please do. The spammers are getting SEO credit.
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Curtz
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kaaredyret wrote:
I proposed a FAQ here several times; optimally the FAQ could be build on a WIKI (wiki.openoffice.org) where our users could improve the FAQ.


This is a great idea!
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Hagar Delest
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 12:00 am    Post subject: Re: A Four Year Review: Feedback Requested Reply with quote

TerryE wrote:
I also think we could do with trashing all accounts older than 6 moths with no posts and all accounts with no posts and a web address.
+1.
TerryE wrote:
Another thing that strikes me is that we should have a BEFORE YOU POST sticky in every forum (or link on the posting form) which explains in simple terms how to search the forums to avoid needing to ask a Q and how to ask a sensible Q which has a good chance of being answered if you can't find the info you require.

This is an old topic : Search reminder in posting window.
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noranthon
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 12:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TerryE wrote:
we should have a BEFORE YOU POST sticky in every forum (or link on the posting form) which explains in simple terms how to search the forums

There is such a sticky in the Code Snippets forum and it is ignored with almost religious regularity. I think something in the posting form is the better procedure.

LinuxQuestions has a search button which uses the subject matter of the question to search. It typically provides a handful of relevant results.

TerryE wrote:
we could do with trashing all accounts older than 6 moths with no posts and all accounts with no posts and a web address

How about sending an email requesting "re-activation" of the account first? Subject to that, I agree with a tighter period - even 2 months.

On FAQs, I agree with using the Wiki and, perhaps, providing links to OOo FAQs and other documentation.
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TerryE
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 2:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Re:
Hagar de l'Est wrote:
This is an old topic : Search reminder in posting window.
and a closing comment here:
noranthon wrote:
Is there any point to a thread like this, other than enabling humble users to get a few things off their chests? Don't the people who decide such things live in a galaxy far away?

9point9 and I could easily develop this mod and test it on his test site. The real issue a familiar one: how to get Draude to spend 15 mins supporting us here.

noranthon wrote:
How about sending an email requesting "re-activation" of the account first? Subject to that, I agree with a tighter period - even 2 months.

Hummm. The table phpbb_users has a date-stamp element user_lastvisit, so it would be easy to filter on users with no posts who haven't visited the site in X months.. The cull is a simple delete, though I would need to do some checks to retain referential integrity. Email confirmation could be done but involves some programming of the BB installation -- probably forcing the inactive users into account validation state and sending them a variant of the normal confirmation email "Your account has been inactive for X months ...", but we also have the same point as before, except that this one wouldn't be 15 mins of Draude's time..

Kaaredyret wrote:
I proposed a FAQ here several times; optimally the FAQ could be build on a WIKI (wiki.openoffice.org) where our users could improve the FAQ.

I feel that the ActiveState Perl FAQ is a pretty good benchmark. Developing this sort of FAQ does take effort. The problem that I find with Wiki paradigm is that you really need to think about the taxonomy and make sure that your keying is good otherwise its pretty difficult to find what you are looking for. Yet to make this happen we would stil need some form of project to analyse the forums to pick out common themes and then migrate the content to the Wiki.
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Kaaredyret
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 7:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TerryE wrote:
Yet to make this happen we would stil need some form of project to analyse the forums to pick out common themes and then migrate the content to the Wiki.


Not really. I have been here for years and could easily pick some themes about Writer. Others must have the same knowledge about Calc, etc. Other FAQ's could be written from scratch. It doesn't take long.

A WIKI should be for everyone here. Too many projects rely on a small group that suddenly gets kid, a new kid, gets married, gets tired... People here are motivated and I cant imagine that they wouldn't help.

The biggest problem I saw in the open source world was projects depending on the work of a small group of people.
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acknak
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey nice work Terry!

I agree with culling inactive accounts. Personally, I would choose the longer time (6 mo) and minimize administration (no confirmation or programming, just whack 'em). Add to the site policy that inactive accounts will be removed without notice, and just delete 'em occasionally. It's basically housecleaning, right? Not something to make a project out of.

As far as the FAQ, I see this as a two-sided coin. A good FAQ would be a nice resource. Somehow the official ones aren't effective, although I'm not sure why. I think we ought to have an idea where the problems are before we repeat the same mistakes.

Even a top-notch FAQ won't be used unless we agree to send people there (to their answer, not to a search), instead of answering first. I admit it's often easier to just answer an FAQ than it is to explain to someone how to look it up. However, then they never learn to look it up for themselves.
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skywriteing
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 1:48 pm    Post subject: Suggestion Reply with quote

Being in the last group, I'd recommend that the top 10 questions get appended with discussion. The more "natural language " accompanies a solution the easier it will be to find.

Somebody should explain the question, flesh it out a bit and elaborate on the answer. This will make the solution much more searchable for visitors.

For example, my question is about inserting Carriage returns. I can't find any discussion on how to search and replace or insert control codes such as LF or CR. It must be in here somewhere.

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foxcole
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2006 11:16 pm    Post subject: Re: Suggestion Reply with quote

skywriteing wrote:
Somebody should explain the question, flesh it out a bit and elaborate on the answer. This will make the solution much more searchable for visitors.

For example, my question is about inserting Carriage returns. I can't find any discussion on how to search and replace or insert control codes such as LF or CR. It must be in here somewhere.

FAQs and searches are only as good as they are easy to use.

Part of the problem with finding archived information is the poor quality of the search tools. The technology in phpBB-hosted forums seems to be at least a decade old, so users find them difficult to use effectively. If I put in two or three words that I know for a fact are in an old post of mine, chances are I won't find the post, but if I pick just one When keyword my success rate increases. (Gee, it would be nice to have "my posts" as a search category!)

I think the forum service provider needs to pay serious attention to this---it's a real problem especially for less tenacious users than me, or for the more technically challenged.

When forum members do not benefit from trying to use the search, they probably just don't use it---it's easier to ask someone and at least get a link to a related thread. A more friendly tool may eventually reduce the number of questions that appear to have obviously not been researched first.

People have the same resistance to most FAQs these days... because so many self-help sites shunt users into an FAQ list that's meaningless to them or to their specific problem. Users might not know how to find their problem, let alone an answer, in all those bundles of categories and long blue text links. (Categories are a special problem, because the user's idea of an appropriate category quite often is nothing like the FAQ designers' idea of one.) The other problem with FAQs is that they often make it difficult to break out and get some human help when they don't meet the user's needs... the assumption being, I suppose, that the more time a user spends in the FAQs the more likely he is to find a good-enough answer.

Please note that I'm not saying I think FAQs are a bad idea---not at all! Putting the most frequently asked questions in an easily accessible location makes perfect sense, as does expecting users to look there before posting a question. I'm just saying that some care might need to go into the design so people will actually want to use and benefit from them... otherwise there's little point in doing it...
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Hagar Delest
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2006 11:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Suggestion Reply with quote

foxcole wrote:
it would be nice to have "my posts" as a search category!

You can use the Search for Author field together with the other fields and put your name. It works fine, I do it quite often for me (I use Hagar*, so no big deal).

I've noticed that FAQs have no great success, especially for new users because it is seen as a long list of standard questions and they fear to be lost (I don't like FAQs neither, too much like a manual but I know it's just psychologic, weird, isn't it?). Quicker to post the question directly.

But I've also noticed that tutos posted as stickies are rather efficient for most frequent questions. This is perhaps an interesting trick to avoid recurrent questions.
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hol.sten
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2006 12:08 am    Post subject: Re: Suggestion Reply with quote

Hagar de l'Est wrote:
foxcole wrote:
it would be nice to have "my posts" as a search category!

You can use the Search for Author field together with the other fields and put your name. It works fine, I do it quite often for me (I use Hagar*, so no big deal).

I can confirm this. I'm using it myself and it works like a charm! WIthout the Search for Author I too would get lost a lot searching posts that are in this forum for sure.

Hagar de l'Est wrote:
I've noticed that FAQs have no great success, especially for new users because it is seen as a long list of standard questions and they fear to be lost (I don't like FAQs neither, too much like a manual but I know it's just psychologic, weird, isn't it?). Quicker to post the question directly.

Full ACK! In my opinion the only advantage a FAQ might have is that people who answer posts can refer quickly to the relevant FAQ. But even a very good FAQ will not reduce the same questions again and again.

Hagar de l'Est wrote:
But I've also noticed that tutos posted as stickies are rather efficient for most frequent questions. This is perhaps an interesting trick to avoid recurrent questions.

But this has limits too. If you have for example 10 or so sticky posts in a subforum, they wouldn't been read instead of posting a new questions.

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Hagar Delest
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 22, 2006 12:16 am    Post subject: Re: Suggestion Reply with quote

hol.sten wrote:
Hagar de l'Est wrote:
But I've also noticed that tutos posted as stickies are rather efficient for most frequent questions. This is perhaps an interesting trick to avoid recurrent questions.

But this has limits too. If you have for example 10 or so sticky posts in a subforum, they wouldn't been read instead of posting a new questions.

Yes, that's why this is only a trick and stickies number has to be very limited to avoid reproducing... a FAQ !
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