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Those who contribute to or watch the portal area in SCN will probably recognise my name. I have been known to blog a bit and until recently I was one of the top points earners in the portal forums.

For the first 6 months of this year I was travelling a fair bit for work, and in the evening I would spend some of my time replying to forum posts. The travelling is now not as frequent and I am spending less time in  SDN. Even after I stopped contributing, I’d still occasionally look at the recent posts to see if there were any ‘interesting’ ones to answer, but disappointingly they were few and far between. It seems most people posting won’t spend a few(?) minutes searching before posting.

People like myself were actually unintentionally promoting this behaviour! Rapidly answered questions leads to people posting without thinking/searching.

My proposal is to lock new postings for a month. Open threads can still be replied to and moderators can  still post if they are sent a post.

What will the reaction be? Hopefully people will start searching! The help.sap.com pages are a lot better than a lot of people realise. The portal wiki pages are also a good source of content.

There will probably be extra chatter in the non-portal forums as people try to bypass the embargo, so those forum moderators may need to be extra diligent….

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22 Comments

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    1. Paul Tomlinson
      Or the other more common issue is that the answer’ers do not read the question properly…. or maybe that is just the awkward questions I ask? 🙂
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  1. Witalij Rudnicki
    … that before your question is posted, SDN makes search thru already posted content based on key words from new post! Then one who is posting has a list of content to review, and only once they press button like “I still cannot get answer” then the new question appears on the forum. This feature itself would greatly reduce repeats.

    Regards,
    -Vitaliy

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  2. Matthew Harding
    Hi Michael,

    I agree there are a lot of people that just post and don’t search and this is driven by the behaviour that great answers can be quickly provided without searching.  This is obviously bad and all your fault for answering questions so well 😉

    That said, part of the behaviour has been driven by the lack of a good search tool within SDN.  i.e. Default to looking only at forums posted within the last 90 days, wiki links that no longer work, etc.  This has been vastly improved now but was a problem previously.

    Locking it down for a month is a little extreme and may be an option for ABAP forums, but current Portal knowledge is still very limited (for example, you can practically count the number of good portal people in Australia on your fingers).

    My take on things is that SAP should do a marketing campaign on the new search functionality
    and maybe, as previously said, introduce an OSS style create message functionality that leverages search.

    Apart from that, with so many people learning Portal for the first time, maybe we could introduce a beginner’s forum verses an advanced forum, and you have to earn the right to get access to the advanced forum??? 

    Then again, maybe we should just lock the forum down for a month…

    No easy fix really.

    Cheers,
    Matt

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  3. Gareth Ellem
    Hi Michael,

    Great idea, and while we’re at it – the same for the Workflow and Netweaver forum as well.  In a world where I was thinking we should be striving for greater professionalism, it appears there are also those hoping for less.

    It seems the days when you’d open a forum and think “Wow, thats an interesting question” are gone – replaced by opening a forum and seeing page after page of How do I get by without any effort. 

    Cheers

    Gareth

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  4. Julius von dem Bussche
    Hi Michael,

    Similar discussions around a “Did not read the documentation” forum are here: Basic information in forums

    Any mod could move such questions into the RTFM forum. The move alone should be a sufficient answer and I would certainly make use of it.

    This would help the really interesting questions to be more visible in the “Expert Forums”.

    Cheers,
    Julius

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  5. Anonymous
    I thought I was the only one that sees this decay of SDN forum taking place, but hooray for Michael as I fully agree on your statement!

    In addition I see that “question askers” are not happy with links to help.sap.com anymore but keep on begging for “full writen step-by-step instructions and manuals” and are to lazy to click on the url to help.sap.com and read+investigate themselves

    Hopefully this will get better again in time, but my feeling is that it will only get worse…

    Cheers,

    Benjamin Houttuin

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  6. Brad Landry
    Hi,

    I stopped replying in the forums for the same reason.

    I totally agree with you.

    Most of the time it’s :

    “Give me a complete guide”

    then followed by thousands of :

    “Please send it to my email too!”

    I don’t reply anymore, because some even sent me emails with questions.

    Brad

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  7. Henning Strand
    I have also seen this trend as a problem, and we are not alone. All forums have this issue.

    The question is how do we fix this?

    I would not suggest a negative slap on the hand approach as there are numerous new users finding their way to the forum every day. These will definitely not be attracted to using a locked forum (forums = communication).

    Also my thoughts are that the forum search engine is bad. I spend quite a lot of my time trying to find earlier posts, give up, then posting my own only to get replies with links to earlier relevant threads I did not find.

    So to the positive helpful variant of solving this problem: Yesterday I was visiting another forum where I started writing a post when a previously hidden part of the page suddenly expanded showing a list of threads relevant to the text I was writing. I was then able to browse through these before submitting my own.

    Smart, value add, great user friendlyness, positive!

    It’s like on a company’s web page: If the company sees that people are interacting with their web site in a way they don’t like or didn’t mean to, should they hold their users responsible or try to find new ways of designing their web pages? I know what I think.

    Btw the forum was at http://www.wattflyer.com (electric model flying) powered by vBulletin. From their web site: “Notice: When you enter a thread title the system will search for similar threads which have already been posted. That should help you to find answers.”

    Regards
    Henning Strand

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    1. Tobias Hofmann
      Hi,

      giving keywords or tags is a good idea, but only works if the person also is doing some searching. That is our current problem: people don’t know how to search (and you can’t make it easier than Google … how do these people actually do their work?).

      To force people to do a search, maybe when creating the question, the user has to give some tags (>=3) and automatically he will be presented with a corresponding post/wiki/article (up to 5). This way, he’ll at least be presented with some search results and hopefully read them. To post the message, he’ll need to mark/check the results. If he still posted a dummy question, the moderator should delete the question and redirect him to the wiki/article/post.

      This should be mandatory for new users (the first, let’s say, 50 post in a forum).

      br,
      Tobias

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  8. Julius von dem Bussche
    Or just deactivate the Points System for a month on SDN (already successfully tested about 18 months ago) and punish meaningless fast response time in the KPI on SMP.

    That’l shut’m up… 🙂

    Cheers,
    Julius

    ps: But seriously, please take a look at my below comment about an RTFM forum to move such threads to instead of deleting or moderating them.

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    1. Michael Nicholls Post author
      Hi Julius
      Sorry, I forgot to reply to that one…
      The problem with such a forum is that it requires someone to move the posts there. I’m assuming you want this to be a moderator activity, but maybe we can make it a function of any community member. That would make things interesting!
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      1. Julius von dem Bussche
        Yep, as a lot of thread could be moved there, I think that a one-click button to move it in one go to the RTFM forum would be very usefull, and this could be extended beyond the moderator group to make it even faster.

        Should solve more than half the problems IMO.

        Cheers,
        Julius

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  9. Jim Nicholson
    Just a thought…

    Why not allow moderators to put either a visual indicator for interesting questions or even an indicator that extra points will be awarded for the answer.

    Then experienced contributors could look out for interesting questions that way and ignore the trivia. I would guess that these would also be the questions that make into the “Articles, Blogs, and Popular Forum Threads” boxes on the frontpage.

    Cheers

    Jim

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  10. Tobias Hofmann
    Why punish all when it’s the fault of some “I don’t need to read the manual” people?

    If you block the forum, people with real questions won’t be able to get help. The SDN is a good place to find information.

    Yes, the forum is polluted with stupid questions that were already answered. But it’s not my fault that others don’t know how to access the PAM or to analyze an error (is it really so hard to read and understand the default.trc file?). So why should I be punished in asking a question about a serious problem?

    The forum is moderated. It’s the job of the moderator to keep the forum clean. Some questions are occuring every day:
    – logoff: customization, doesn’t work, etc.
    – IE 7/8 support
    – where are the logs
    – how to transport
    – […]

    All of these questions were already answered, there exists a WIKI page about the topic, SAP Help + SDN article, etc.
    If the user doesn’t know how to search or is too lazy, the moderator should ban the question and redirect the user to the appropriate (answered) forum post/help/wiki/article. Dummy questions would be banned and the quality of the forum would be leveraged.

    br,
    Tobias

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    1. Michael Nicholls Post author
      Yes, Tobias, it is a little harsh. When you say that it is the job of the modeartor to keep the forum clean, I agree, but it is not their job alone. They need the assistance of the other forum members.

      How about this for an idea? People reporting abuse postings get 2 points if they are valid. This way the members have an incentive to report abuses. They help police the content. The moderators just need to process the abuses.

      In line with this, maybe a member who has more than a certain number of abuses should be locked out for a while.

      Cheers

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      1. Julius von dem Bussche
        Good ideas and I can understand Tobias’ point as well  -it should only address the small group of misusers / repeat-misunderstanders who are a big problem for some people.

        A catch with the 2 points for a valid Abuse Report is that like a “whistle blower” it should guarantee anonymity to the forum if the person wishes to contact the moderators discretely, but the 2 points in the additional category would make it traceable and even navigable.

        Extenting a “move to the ‘Well documented and searchable’ forum” button to moderators, top contributors and other folks who use the forums responsibly and care about the quality of the content is the best idea I have seen so far.

        Even Guestification doesn’t work in some cases and RTFM is a bit harsh as well, even if correct.

        Cheers,
        Julius

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        1. Tobias Hofmann
          Hi,

          I’m against the idea of giving 2 pts for reporting an abuse:
          1. I doubt that this will increase the quality of the forum
          2. It’s hard to define what some people think of a dummy question. This really depends on the knowledge of a person. Coding your own JAAS logon module is anther thing than: Changing the branding image.
          3. Point abuse: if the moderator get’s for every question postetd 20 abuse reports, because the user want 2pts … As Michael said, the moderators don’t work jsut for the forum.

          Increasing the quality is something that has to come from the community. In a perfect world, the community would take care of this (everybody can delete / repost a question, etc). But this simply won’t work.

          What about co-moderators that get nominated by
          a) the current moderator(s), based on the experience made with the user
          b) points gained in the forum (dangerous)
          c) voted  by the members
          In this way, the actual work would be distributed to several persons. Each person can mark/delete a question and redirect the user to an apropriate article/wiki/etc. Even if the article/wiki/etc isn’t 100%, this way, we would be driven to enhance the quality of this area too.

          br,
          Tobias

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  11. jim runkle
    Better search engine would be best solution followed by delaying responses for three days.
    A combo of the above would be a boon to all of us.
    Certainly deleting everything with a dead link would be nice.
    Finally, I’m all for RTFM when it comes to users, but when it’s me that is having a problem and I’m lost … well, I waffle.
    Best!
    Jim
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