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Maybe wearing another person’s shoes for awhile can also help us to view a situation from another perspective. I couldn’t help to remember a great blog I read here on SDN quite sometime ago. I’ve included the URL above. It was entitled Ethics and Fair Treatment. It was so good that I wish Mr. Cmehil would post one just like it every couple of years.

Since January I have noticed a forum topic inside the ‘Test and Playground Forum’, it is called ‘The Hall of Testing, Wall of Playing and Fear of Searching awards’. Here, the names of those who are the top offenders in forums are listed. It appears that these names also have the potential to be linked to their employers as well.  So, I ask, WHY?

Isn’t this unprofessional sarcasm? Tell me how this adds a positive perspective to SAP’s Forums. Is it really necessary to make this public? Or, is this something that the administrators can keep between them elves in an effort to keep SCN running smoothly?  Maybe it is a scare tactic so that others will not abuse the system….kind of archaic isn’t it?  It is even hard to believe that any leadership at SCN has failed to see the negativity and unconstructiveness of this practice.

I myself have been slapped on the wrists for not putting enough effort into many of my posts. And, I have to agree with some of those corrections, but some I do not. It almost becomes discriminatory when one members post is moved to a forum that is not even related to their question, and another’s is not. OK, so a moderator judges one post as good, and another as bad. To me, this is antiquated thinking. At least put the bad posts in the same category so they can be seen. Again, is this punishment?

There must be a better, more modern, way to handle individuals who abuse SCN. Maybe they do not know any other way. SAP is a leader, but, to me, this shows poor direction. Also, may I suggest that if posts are in question then the decision, which many times may be based on one’s own anticipated thinking, should be made by more than one individual. And, please, at least move questions deemed as incomplete to a category within the topic.

Myself, I do not use the forums as I use to because I see this very negative attitude coming from some moderators. If I had hours to research a question before I post it, then I wouldn’t need to post it. However, I still get stuck on many issues that this seemingly recent strictness of the forums has blocked me from reaching out for help. OK, my efforts to avoid embarrassment while using the forums will continue….almost afraid to ask a question. But I remember something I heard once, “The only dumb question is the one not asked”. But, this does not seem to be motto any longer in the forums.

Oh, one last thing about points. Myself, they are not that important to me, I’d rather just get an answer.

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  1. Tom Cenens
    Hello Tom

    I had to search the forum as I couldn’t directly find it so here is the url:
    The Hall of Testing, Wall of Playing and Fear of Searching awards

    It is a lot of work to keep people from gaming any system that is put in place. I don’t neccesarily agree on putting them on a wall of shame but then again I doubt “Nick Thedick” is a real name.

    The SCN moderators are volenteers, they don’t get payed to moderate the forums. I hope you can also place yourself in their shoes.

    I get a lot of value out of SCN and I care about SCN. I have no problems finding help on the forums and I try to be as complete as I can when I describe an issue.

    I realize that other community members who help me out are giving a gift, creating art by helping me out and I appreciate that.

    It would have been nice to have some real examples, some facts that could lead to a discussion.

    I do prefer a system where community members get limited possibilities if they don’t use their real name.

    Kind regards

    Tom

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    1. Tom Matys Post author
      OK Tom, I will take your suggestion and try to wear the shoes of the moderators. I did not know they were volunteers, cheers to them, but still, this does not change my sense of things.

         Thanks for your reply.

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      1. Tom Cenens
        Hello Tom

        As you can see from the comments of the SCN team and community members, we really care about SCN and feedback is important.

        It is always hard to form an opinion or speak up without having certain information. I blog and sometimes I address pain points that I see in SAP products while SAP is actually addressing that pain point behind closed doors (thus not mentioned publically).

        When I see pain points in products I do blog about them. I do love it when SAP then answers that the pain point is being handled much like what you are seeing in the comments of your blog post now 🙂

        I saw this is your second blog, you are very much welcome to keep on blogging and addressing concerns. Once you get connected to some persons you will find SCN to be very supportive.

        Hopefully these comments can help you form another view on things and perhaps even pursuade you to be active on SCN.

        I wrote some blogs on where and how to find information and troubleshooting perhaps they can help you to find information more quickly:
        How to find valuable information on the internet
        The art of troubleshooting

        Kind regards

        Tom

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        1. Tom Matys Post author
          Tom, I will use these links. Thanks! Just for some general information, while I blogged this publicly, I did not mention direct names because I want to respect those in charge, even though I disagree. And, I did file a complaint once, that was addressed, abruptly in my opinion, in an effort to get my point across. Thanks, Tom
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  2. Julius von dem Bussche
    Well, you have to break a lot of rules and repeatedly ignore moderator requests to get onto that list.

    There are no employers listed, just gmail account type users who think they are invisible…

    The test & playground forum “supports” the repeated asking of very basic questions without any investment in training or trying to search.

    For those who wish to by warned about the “track record” of such users, they can centrally use this sticky thread before taking bait.

    As I already said, it takes a lot to get onto it….

    Cheers,
    Julius

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    1. Julius von dem Bussche
      Also note that this is for some rather extreme offenses and most of their posts have been deleted.

      Perhaps we should leave them to avoid confusion, but the plaintiffs might not agree.

      At the time and currently, this it used in the absence of an FAQ (or DIY) forum, which we dont have 🙁

      Thanks for the blog. Constructive criticism and support is always welcome!

      Cheers,
      Julius

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  3. Marilyn Pratt
    Hi Tom,
    As someone who has been around this community pretty much from inception and having worn the shoes of those “a tiny bit reticent to post a blog” (see my first blog ever for reference), I know that it takes a good deal of courage to share opinons that mightn’t be popular.
    Since Craig C. wrote that blog back in 2005 the forums have grown tremendously.  Way back when, we were a small handful of moderators and guidelines were “fairly simple”.  We’ve expanded tremendously since then and at present there are about 700 moderators active in over 200 forums, tens of blog catergories and dozens of wiki space moderation activities.
    Keeping “the peace”, making sure that quality, usefulness, productive environment and positve atmosphere is maintained becomes even more of a challenge for this core of volunteers.  To that end we have developed a Moderator Council which has recently kicked off.
    I’m sure that working to create a governance model that both encourages participation AND  maintains quality will be the core mandate of this moderator council and I’m further certain that your contents here, and your comments will provide valuable food for thought as we move forward to be responsible, ethical and intelligent in the way we work with moderators and participants.
    Thank you for your directness and candor.
    Thank you for sounding a warning around a “dunce cap mentality”.
    Thank you also for standing for a moment in the shoes of the volunteers here whose primary aim is to “improve the experience” of the participants.  And who feel as passionately as you do about that goal.  Reaching it will include trials and errors but it is heartening to see how many of the moderators express interest in the process of continuing improvement and are open to critique and dialogue.
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    1. Tom Matys Post author
      The purpose of my post was not to be on a witch hunt or to embarrass anybody. Anybody who felt as I did about these recent forum issues recently would have done exactly the same as I. I really, if anything at all, just wanted to raise some awareness about how we should respect each other. Thank-You for listening. Tom
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  4. Jeanne Carboni
    Hi Tom,

    I’ll probably get some backlash for the title, but I think that it’s appropriate.  The moderators of the community are volunteers, and many of them do the moderation tasks late at night to avoid conflict with their jobs, their families, and whatever other responsibilities they have.  I believe their motivation is community care.

    As lead of the Collaboration team for the past 5 months, one of the things that I’ve found is that my team, as well as the moderators, spend a lot of time combating issues of plagiarism, points gaming, and poor quality.  In fact, it’s such a time burner that we’ve initiated formal programs this year to improve the situation.  While I don’t agree in having a “hall of shame” type of environment, I do believe we should try to improve the quality through incentives, training and coaching.  When necessary (e.g. copy write violation) we delete users and notify their employers.  However, some of the users do not provide their real information.

    Here are topics that are being worked on now:
    – Moderator Council – Run by Gali Kling-Schneider, this group of 6 moderators had volunteered to be a governance body for moderators in 2011.  They meet once per quarter to make decisions around topics / issues related to moderation.  They are also working on a new “Moderator Rules of Engagement” to clarify more the roles and responsibilities of moderators, and to provide more consistency across the ~700 moderators.
    – Recognition:  Laure Cetin is running a program to determine better ways to recognize good contributions.  She is working with a group of moderators to generate ideas and implement many of them.  So far, discussions included the idea of making users identify themselves to participate, including mandatory employer information.  They are also talking about ratings for content that come from the general community to determine the value of contributions.

    Partner Program – Often times, SAP partners push the objective of getting the most points to their employees.  There seems to be a perception that the company with the most points will win the SAP Pinnacle award, but that is not the case.  We will build and deliver training to our partners to emphasize the importance of quality in addition to quantity. 

    Intellectual Property Training – All members of my team will be trained in late April and May on how to handle copy write infringement.  We will share a similar training with our moderators.

    So I understand your dislike of the negative posts, and I don’t like them either.  But my approach is to reduce the number of offenders so that moderators don’t have to get to the point of “flaming” users.

    Best Jeanne

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    1. Julius von dem Bussche
      Thanks Jeanne and Marilyn!

      “Moderator Madness” (particularly for ABAP General) is okay if the rest of your comment is read for the context.

      Moderators have achieved a lot of quality improvements on SCN forums in the past years, and it is only a very small handfull of repeat-offenders who still stick around. The others have since found help.sap.com and the F1 key…  🙂

      We need a way to handle this on the one side and warn people about these clowns (please believe me that the list is very selective).

      On the other hand, the general “I just dont get it” question is perfectly okay and I also have these moments (almost daily – today was not an exception). I resisted the temptation to post a question and did a simple google search (together with my new colleague who is better equiped to understand the answers than I am!).

      That is why we need an FAQ and DIY “zone” which do not flood the “professional forums” but are still fun for those who want to practice answering without any discussion value and we all use them when we cannot remember some obscure and possibly undocumented syntax, or a basic one.

      People who post such question (the latter case, just to check or jump start an understanding…) should not be associated with repeat offenders.

      I suspect that is Tom’s concern here, so we need an FAQ forum.

      Alone being moved there as thread sends an automatic email, so that should lead the person to the search and a small eureka moment…  🙂

      Please consider giving the mods an FAQ forum without strict intervention required. This will solve a lot of problems…

      Cheers,
      Julius

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      1. Tom Matys Post author
        Julius, Can ABAP questions, when deemed not qualified, be moved to a non-points sub topic under ABAP? I am not sure why this would be difficult to do? Instead, they are moved to a, well at least what it feels like, a land far far away, where no one that could possibly have the answer will see it.

        And, I have to respectfully disagree when you say the ‘hall of shame’ list is selective, and it is difficult to be added to it. Because it still brings a sense of negativity and un-professionalism to SCN.

        And Sir, the fact that you refer to some as ‘clowns’ does not sit right with me. How do you tell the difference between the ‘clowns’ and other serious SCN members who may think they have given there best effort in posting a question, when in fact they may just not realize that theie efforts were insufficient?

        This is also why I mentioned having a fair system where at least two or three moderators evaluate a question before it gets thrown into the playground? 

        If we understand diversity, then we understand the differences between individuals. What one may think is simple or foolish, another may deem as complicated and difficult. This is what makes the world go round.
        Respectfully, Tom

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        1. Julius von dem Bussche
          Hi Tom,

          Yes, I agree with you and the other general opinion here that a dedicated forum for it is needed.

          You are also correct: I should have said and did actually mean “behaving like clowns” and not call people themselves clowns.

          Enjoy the weekend,
          Julius

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        2. Matthew Billingham
          >You don’t have to be mad to be a moderator. But it helps. 😉

          “This is also why I mentioned having a fair system where at least two or three moderators evaluate a question before it gets thrown into the playground? “

          It’s a nice idea, but with the sheer volume of posting, it just wouldn’t work. We have to strike a balance between fairness and the moderators being able to do their job. If all my decisions had to be ratified by another mod or two, nothing would ever get done.

          Where there are borderline cases, we do discuss it with each other. And if there is a real objection, then you can, for example, send me an email – or post in the coffee corner. For my part, at least, I’m always open to dialogue.

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    2. Tom Matys Post author
      Jeanne, This is very informative and satisfying to read. Thanks for your hard work. Really, I had no idea of the magnitude of efforts that are being put into the forums. Thanks for taking the time to explain these things to me, and my lack of knowledge based on your plans. Tom
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  5. Matthew Billingham
    I’d just like to point out that inconsistencies in treatment have a couple of likely causes.

    1. ABAP General receives hundreds of new posts a day. It’s pretty certain that some posts won’t be read by a moderator.

    2. Different moderators with different styles operate at different times in the forum.

    I don’t think the fault is the moderators (well, I would say that, wouldn’t I). I don’t think the fault is the moderation system. I think the fault lies with the fact that between deleting and rejecting, we don’t have a satisfactory action. T&P is a step towards that. Personally, I’d like to see a “Beginners’ Corner” in each subject area. That way, basic and newbie questions can be asked and answered, but the point hunting stops.

    matt

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    1. Tom Matys Post author
      Thank-You Matt for this feedback. I find your 2 reasons for inconsistencies interesting. I have posted several in a row that were almost immediately moved to the “Test and Playground Forum”. I did admit, I plead guilty on some of those occasions. But not all. The fact that several posts in a row are moved to a forum that is not related to my questions is just downright insulting. Also, it could give an SCN member the feeling of being earmarked, and not given fair consideration or treatment when posting a question.  I will keep your reply in mind.  Tom 
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      1. Matthew Billingham
        If someone posts something on the borderline, and they’ve never attracted my attention before, then I’ll probably give them the benefit of the doubt. If I’ve already had to take action on a number of their posts, then I won’t. Also, if someone attracts my attention a number of times, that signals to me “potential problem”. So I’m more likely to monitor them, to see if they stray again.

        Please note, I’m talking generalities here – I’ve no idea if I’ve ever moderated anything you posted. My experience has been that there is a significant minority of posters who simply ignore moderator action. Or follow it for a while, then revert to bad habits. Because I’m already monitoring them rather more intensively than other forum members, if they become a problem, they can be dealt with quickly before they cause harm.

        So, yes, you probably were being singled out. But not out of any personal animosity or unfairness. Simply because you drew moderator attention. I will say, that drawing moderator attention by writing this blog, for example, certainly will NOT result in a witch hunt on your posts in the forum!

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      2. Rob Burbank
        “The fact that several posts in a row are moved to a forum that is not related to my questions is just downright insulting.”

        Yes I agree; however, the available options are to delete the post entirely or lock it. Both of these options give the original poster much less recourse in case he/she disagrees.

        Moving the post to a separate reduced points forum leaves the question open for reponses (and if you look around there, you’ll see that many do get further answeers). And if you disagree you can let the moderator know immediately.

        It would be better if we had separate sub-forums attached to the main forums to handle this. I am hopeful that this will be done.

        Rob

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        1. Marilyn Pratt
          Perhaps with the migration to Jive, we might re-examine sub-forums in community spaces for certain topics.  In light of all this contentiousness around encouraging and discouraging types of participation, it might be smart to devise newbie corners where the atmosphere is more welcoming to newbie postings on a particular topic.
          Definitely something to think about and improve going forward.
          Great that this blog raises the issue of “fair treatment”.  Would love to see Tom more active in our moderator conversations!
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          1. Ethan Jewett
            Hi Marilyn,

            I think this would be great. My theory is that right now there is a lot of confusion among beginners around where to post questions and what questions are appropriate. Even if a beginner wishes to abide by the community mores against posting basic questions, that person isn’t in a very good position to make the determination about which sorts of questions are basic.

            If there were a “beginner questions” forum in topic, then this would be a lot more clear and moderators could also move questions to this forum without a second thought since moving the question to the correct and topically relevant forum wouldn’t really penalize the person who posted the question.

            It seems like this would be the best of both worlds.

            Ethan

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          2. Tom Matys
            Thanks for inviting me into your discussions Marilyn. If it can help to improve the forum practices in any way, I’d be glad to participate as a forum member of SDN…just to share my thoughts, ideas, and suggestions. I will volunteer any way I can. By the way, I listened to your suggestion and submitted some thoughts to ‘Idea Place’ here… https://ideas.sap.com/ideas/3219 . Since posting this blog, each response has educated me, and also encouraged me to look at other parts of the SCN website. This has been a positive experience for me.

            Some issues that I, and am sure many others experience, who use SCN, especially, working in any IT corporate world, or any IT environment, is time management. Normally, I wouldn’t have the time to dig into many of these things in a normal 8-9 hour day, but as I’ve learned, we have to give up some of our personal time if we want to keep learning, and be good at what we do. So I have spent some time this weekend browsing parts of SCN I have never used. I think idea place is excellent concept, and joined Code Exchange as well. Let me know how I can help SCN at any time. Thanks to all!

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    2. Matthew Billingham
      By the way – just to clarify one thing. The phrase “Great Rant”, is intended as a compliment to the author, for having successfully conveyed strong opinion, maybe going against the grade, in an eloquent manner, inducing a lively conversation.
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  6. Ethan Jewett
    I was nodding along with this blog (and it’s a good blog!) until I got to one line: “If I had hours to research a question before I post it, then I wouldn’t need to post it.”

    As someone who regularly answers questions on the forums, I see this attitude a lot and it really kills me. I’d bet that it explains most of the problems you’ve had on the forums. Maybe try to think about with the other set of shoes on: the shoes of those who answer questions.

    If someone is asking questions without putting a decent amount of effort (not hours, but at least one hour) into first finding an answer themselves, what does that say about their respect for the time of those who try to answer questions? To me, clearly that the time of those who answer on the forums is not worth as much as the time of those who ask.

    Myself, if I now see a question where it appears that there was little effort into finding an answer before asking on the forum, I either ignore it or use the abuse button to report it to moderators. The Rules of Engagement now have a link to a great blog by Rob Burbank about asking good questions: Asking Good Questions in the SCN Discussion Spaces will help you get Good Answers

    The methods discussed in that blog don’t take hours, but they do take time. In my opinion, as both an asker and an answerer, it’s worth taking the time to research, frame a question, and explain clearly the ways one has already tried to find an answer, in order to help others answer the question and show respect for their time.

    The moderators are trying to strike a delicate balance between those who want their questions answers and those volunteering their time to answer. As in the case of this public “dunce” list, I think they sometimes go too far, but with only one exception, I’ve never seen a post modified, moved, or deleted in a way that I didn’t feel was justified and professional.

    Cheers,
    Ethan

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  7. Tobias Hofmann
    Hi,
    what’s missing IMO is a guidance for new joiners or people that only post from time to time a question in the forum. Before your question makes it to the forum, a wizard asks basic questions about the content for categorization and than presents some search results (Google, SAP Help, SCN) related to your question. If the poster believes that his question isn’t answered by the results, let him post the question. If the question still is very easy to answer, it can be moved to another (sub-)forum (and teach the wizard new answers).

    And about the moderators: consider for one second that you would have posted a question that can be solved by investing 15 minutes into searching (Google, SAP Help, SCN), and the answers you’d have received have been: simple links, references to other threads, copy & pasted text from SAP Help, the same link 5 times from 5 different users, etc.
    Your blog would have been about how great SCN is and how much it helps in answering questions or about the low quality of the answers and that SAP / SCN have to improve the overall quality?

    br, Tobias

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