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I’ve been seeing a lot more moderator activity recently, at least in the places I follow. This is hopefully going to make a big difference to the quality of the content posted here, and I’ve very grateful to the people who are putting in the time to do this. Thanks guys and gals!

But, I have noticed that where discussions have been posted inappropriately, either in the wrong place or without enough, or any, prior research (i.e. “please do my job for me” questions) that the discussion is being locked to prevent further comments or replies. I’m not sure I like that. We should absolutely be helping people to understand better how the system works, and how to use it as intended. However, I think we should also try to be accommodating to people who are new here and are just learning how the community works. There have been a couple of times I’ve completely agreed with the moderator’s comment to go and research the matter further before posting, but actually I knew the answer and wanted to help out anyway. And where I’ve beaten the moderator to it I’ve said “You should really have tried searching first – here’s what you might have found (link). If you still have questions after reading this, get back to me.” Or words to that effect. That just seems more welcoming and “community like” to me.

I know people are still working on moderator policy, people who know this stuff better than I do, and I don’t want to interfere. What do others think?

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  1. Harish Krishnan

    I am sorry Steve, in the forums I frequent, there is a pethora of such questions. People just extract detailed statements from their clients requirements documents and post them. simply asking – please help me with this. in many cases they also omit the “please”. In lots of cases, they don’t even take the trouble of framing their questions properly, so that someone can try and understand their problem before helping them.

    I too am all for being accomodating and welcoming, but I would a) like to see some evidence that the person has tried to solve his own problem first b) it is, in fact a problem – in many cases, they are simply loooking for some information which a google search could have easily provided – and there are people who are awarded points for merely doingt eh google search on behalf of the posters.

    There are some people who themselves do not undertand or know anything about the problem posted, but are quite happy to google and post links anyway.

    I guess the lesser evil is of locking such posts at the outset rather than adding to the clutter already rampant in the forums.

    (These are my views entirely and not necessarily the only correct view possible.)

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    1. Steve Rumsby Post author

      I agree with you completely about the nature of these posts. Locking them doesn’t seem to do much to reduce clutter, though. Extra comments on an existing post won’t be seen by most people. If you want to reduce the clutter, maybe delete the post entirely? What we really need is a mechanism for ensuring such posts don’t happen in the first place. Maybe a moderator comment and a lock achieves that? I’m not sure.

      I don’t have an answer here. I was just prevented from helping somebody and it didn’t feel right.

      I also agree about people gaming the points system by googling the questions and posting answers with no understanding. That, unfortunately, will happen when there is any kind of points/reward system. I wish we didn’t need one. I’m actually not sure we do, but that’s a different discussion. I know there are discussions ongoing about the points/reward system. I’ll be very interested to see the results of those discussions.

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      1. Kesavadas Thekkillath

        The forum rules & regulations are applicable to every one. No matter its a newbie or an experienced person. Its their duty to read it first before asking or answering their first question.

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        1. Steve Rumsby Post author

          That is true. How you make people aware of it, and enforce it, is what I’m concerned with. Zero tolerance is the perfect way to discourage people from posting. They’ll make one mistake and never come back. Communities need to be welcoming to new members and tolerant during their learning curve. On the other hand, too much tolerance leave you open to abuse. This isn’t easy stuff with a community as big as the SCN. However we approach it will be a compromise.

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          1. Harish Krishnan

            I think the best approach that would work is take away the whole points thing from forums. By all means award points when people write blogs, devleop wikis and any other way in which they enrich the community with original thought.. but let us not give any points for merely asnwering questions raised by others.  This measure in itself would go a long way in eliminating clutter,

            But I guess this is just a pipe dream.

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            1. Steve Rumsby Post author

              I do wonder what SCN would be like without a points system. I’ve been involved in many online communities where people have been more than willing to help others without any need for a rewards system. Would SCN work if the points system was taken away completely? I’d like to think it would, but honestly I have no idea! Why do people contribute here? I guess there are lots of different answers. If “earning points” is the motivation people need to share their knowledge, then that’s a good thing I guess.

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              1. Harish Krishnan

                Hi,

                ideally there should be no need to motivate people to share knowledge. But,as we don’t live in an ideal world, motivation in itself is not a bad thing. However, what has happened is gaining points has become the main end – therefore we see people rushing in to post answers to all sorts of questions, in several cases, they post wrong asnwers, even dangerous answers. and this is the problem. If there were no points, maybe only people truly interested in sharing knowledge would do so. Many people wouldn’t waste time googling key words in questions and posting asnwers or links. productivity everywhere goes up, and scn becomes less cluttered, leaving truly motivated people to guide beginners to the best of their ability. folks who post inane basic questions go away after being ignored enough times, or hopefully stay back, learm and ask better questions. Honestly, I too don’t know the best way, hope someone does.

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                1. Harish Krishnan

                  1 Example of clutter

                  http://scn.sap.com/thread/3183355

                  The OP has posted a reasonable question, not necessarily what can be called “basic”.

                  2 people have given a reasonable answer with slight variations in their thought processes.

                  One person has totally misunderstood the question and given a wrong answer.

                  A third person, has rehashed the first two responses, , added some additional information, not directly related to the question as well, and posted the same thing twice – probably a glitch in his browser, to be fair, but still did not add much to the first two answers.

                  And finally one person posted the ubiquitous link.

                  The first two responses were ample to consider this question answered. Now if the same thing happens to an extremely basic question like, “please tell me how to create employee data in HR”, then I would consider it justified to lock that question.

                  To be fair to moderators, many of them act upon abuse reports received from community members, and not many just lock posts on their own initiative. I for one, have even stoppped reporting abuse, as it is too hard to stem the tide. The new sdn has further sapped my resolve to help keep the forum clutter free as everything takes so much more time, it is not so easy any more to see the results of your abuse report, getting a bit tired of  seeing the “horizontal barbershop pole loading”.

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                  1. Steve Rumsby Post author

                    I can’t see how moderator action would help here at all, unless moderators review everything before it is posted, which is clearly not practical. Any online forum/community system of this size is going to get its share of people posting unhelpful answers, and anyone asking questions needs to be prepared to deal with wrong answers as well as right ones. Feedback from the original poster would go a long way to making this content useful for reference in the future.

                    Just like we don’t want to discourage people from asking questions or posting blogs, nor do we want to discourage people from trying to help. Answering other people’s questions is a great way to learn. Even if that means just referring the question to Google sometimes. I don’t see that as a bad thing in itself, so long as the answer posted is relevant, which of course requires some understanding. Of course, if Google or SDN search already knows the answer maybe the OP should have done that first 😐

                    I think we both want the same thing – an SDN where people post sensible questions and content and get sensible answers and comments. We’re just approaching that clearly desirable goal from different directions and we need to find the appropriate place to meet in the middle…

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                    1. Harish Krishnan

                      Steve Rumsby wrote:

                      ……

                      I think we both want the same thing – an SDN where people post sensible questions and content and get sensible answers and comments. We’re just approaching that clearly desirable goal from different directions and we need to find the appropriate place to meet in the middle…

                      rem acu tetigisti.

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  2. Tom Van Doorslaer

    Hi Steve,

    I definitely think that constructive, yet stringent feedback is better than saying “You’ve been a bad boy” *Lock*

    Is there a solution to prevent this from happening? No

    It’s about user education and mentality. Some people just don’t have the mentality of doing research, posting proper questions (or answers) and sharing actual knowledge rather than raw data.

    It’s impossible for moderators to change this behaviour with people. It has to come from within the users themselves.

    Neither can we shut these people out. The goal of SCN should not be “become an elite community”. No, the goal is “share knowledge and help others”.

    In that sense, your remark is bang on. Just locking and blocking is not going to help. Constructive feedback is in order and will help educating, but it won’t be the magic solution either, and may make the moderator’s task a lot harder.

    Moderating communities is a very difficult balancing act. I’ve been a mod on some smaller communities and that was difficult enough already, let alone with a small country like SCN.

    An idea that just crossed my mind.

    I picked up golf classes and was rather surprised that you need to succeed at multiple exams and classes before you’re allowed on the field. Suppose you introduce a quick guide on “Rules on SCN” and have people take an exam with some Multiple Choice questions, randomly picked from an extensive list.

    It would discourage the lazy copy-pasters and ensure that the ones that ask a question at least have taken the time to think about the rules of engagement.

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  3. Mike Kerrigan

    I don’t like the locking of threads and also by doing it I think the moderators are making a rod for their own backs.  All discussions should be left alone and it should be up to the users to decide whether or not to respond.  If they think what is being asked is lazy or inappropriate then they can choose not to answer.  To a certain extent I think the moderators have the attitude of “well I know the answer to that so therefore it’s a lazy question”.  It’s not up to the moderators to decide whether a question is lazy or not – it should be left to the members of the community.  It should be left to the individual to choose if they are prepared to answer a question.

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    1. Steve Rumsby Post author

      This would be my preference but it doesn’t do a lot to discourage serial abusers. Is that a problem? I don’t see it as a big problem. Ignoring the inappropriate posts doesn’t take a lot of effort, in my opinion. But that’s just me. I know there other people with exactly the opposite opinion. I’d just like to be able to help people if I feel the urge, and not have that choice taken from me.

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  4. Thomas Zloch

    Thanks for bringing this up, it can’t hurt to discuss the right approach from time to time.

    My reply is from the point of view of an SDN/SCN user since 2003, and moderator since 2010.

    Having to lock many discussions is not optimal. What are the alternatives?

    • deletion? might be too harsh, not transparent, no educational effect, might be perceived as too much censorship
    • let everything go without intervention? doesn’t work, too many irresponsible inhabitants, this was the state until 2008 until stricter moderation was enforced, we had FAQs, redundance, points hunting, mass copy/pastes and link farms all over the place, the forums were almost unusable
    • move content to a separate, points-free area? we used the former “Test & Playground” forum as a workaround for this with some success. Now after the migration there is no equivalent, but we have an “apprentice center” and “beginners’ space” concept in the works that will be in pilot phase soon, hopefully
    • require moderator approval for posts by new members or at least known, repeat offenders? I would like that too, but the technical feasibilty and buy-in of SCN administration is uncertain
    • what are your ideas?

    I repeat my usual disclaimer: I have no problem with newbies. I am a newbie in most areas. However I have a problem with people lacking politeness and professionalism, with people misusing the community for spec dumps,  requirements outsourcing and for conveniently unloading their own work, and also with people who seek to accumulate points at all costs, probably motivated by KPIs, SCN-points-based promotions, personal rivalry, vanity, whatever.

    Thomas

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    1. Steve Rumsby Post author

      What are my ideas? Good question. This is hard, and I’m not sure I’m smart enough to have a suggestion that others haven’t already considered. That said, I had an idea a few days ago that I posted in the comments thread on another blog and I’ll reproduce it here because I guess most people didn’t see it…

      What if, rather than earning points, posting discussions/questions, blogs etc. cost points? Start everyone with, say, 20 points. Posting a blog costs 10 points. When people like or rate it you get points back, if they don’t you don’t. You then get two chances to post something worthwhile before your points run out. Discussions might cost fewer points (5?). Posting personal blogs, or discussions in a “sandpit” area costs nothing.

      This gives new people a chance to experiment and make a few mistakes, and stops the serial abusers because if they are ignored they’ll soon not be able to post. But people who post interesting or valuable content will continue to be able to post. This will only work, though, if enough people get into the habit of liking or rating content.

      Does this sound at all sensible? Workable? Or just too radical:-) If it is a crazy idea, do please say so!

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      1. Thomas Zloch

        Not crazy, I have also thought about some points reduction scheme, but this probably hits technical limits and will also be rebuked by the SCN owners, who are very much into the whole points system and have expressed several times that it is here to stay.

        I think for helpful people like you that are not points-motivated, such a points-free beginners’ space would be the right thing. You could dive in and help people in need, while the “main” areas are kept free of the most basic and FAQ stuff, so experts (let’s not forget them among all the caring for newbies) must not wade through the redundance when searching for specific information.

        Thomas

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        1. Mike Kerrigan

          Not quite sure why the SCN owners are so keen on the points system.  I don’t see what purpose it serves other than to give some people an ego boost.  If the points system went away then I’m certain that the quality of the contributions would increase.

          If people still post questions like “please tell me how SD works” then it would most likely be ignored – the moderators could then delete these if they remain unanswered after a certain period of time.

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  5. Jelena Perfiljeva

    If you ask me, we aren’t locking enough and the locked posts should be deleted (e.g. after N days). In the heavy-traffic forums like ABAP General I have yet to see a locked post where I would disagree with the moderators. There is always an explanation added why the post was locked. If someone gets “scared away” by this – well, tough luck.

    Actually in other, less “warm and fuzzy” forums the basic/lazy posts are likely just to get a reply like ‘RTFM’ and ‘have you been banned on Google?’ before being locked. I don’t really advocate this, but, unfortunatelly, we get many posts on SDN that, frankly, don’t deserve any better (“Hi gurus im new here can u tell me about sap sd”).

    As Thomas said, we are all newbies in something. When I try to write a program in another language, for example, I first reach to my colleagues/friends and do some Google search before even considering going to MSDN or other sites with my questions. And, if I do, I’ll make sure to write a very specific question and note what I’ve already tried. This is just a professional courtesy.

    Being a newbie is not an excuse for not using your own brain and not doing your own work. Newbies are very welcome on SCN, but ignorance and lack of professional courtesy is not. I would actually suggest to be more strict against the “spec dumping” and go as far as actually banning the serial offenders from SCN.

    It’s quite reasonable to expect some basic skills from the professional site users, I believe. There are also forum rules that apply to everyone. We won’t be not doing anyone service by being more tolerant to the users who lack even basic skills and are unable to follow the rules.

    Personally I’m not really in favor of making it more complex to post the questions because that kind of smells of an “elite club”. The system we already have works just fine, I think. And on the New SCN if you managed to find how to post a question in the right forum – that’s enough for a quest. 🙂

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      1. Steve Rumsby Post author

        Yes, we absolutely want to avoid that sort of thing. Note though that the problem here isn’t the original question, which was certainly basic and shouldn’t have been posted. The correct response to such a question would be to ignore it, but people didn’t because of the points – “reward points if useful” said each answer. I did always hate reading that in the answer to a forum post.

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          1. Tom Van Doorslaer

            I believe there definitely was in the past. Not sure if the wordfilter got migrated though.

            In the past it got automatically removed.

            would be funny to see it replaced though instead of removed.

            By something like :

            “I just post standard documentation here because I’m a pointhunter. Please give me some attention”

            But then a little more humouristicly.

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          2. Jelena Perfiljeva

            Yes, there used to be a word filter, which made threads in ABAP regarding sending emails from SAP rather difficult (someone decided to “ban” the word “email”). Also “point” was not allowed, even in an innocent context, like “my point is …”. Not a very usefull feature.

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  6. Benny Schaich-Lebek

    Lot’s of nice ideas. But keep in mind: It needs to be implemented. And that is the maker of the software, not SCN.

    Currently we cannot get around that anybody may post whatever they want and the consequence is locking of wrong posting, as everything else is too much work.

    I’d like to see something like for beginners forum questions only or so, but even this is technically not available yet.

    Regards,

    Benny

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