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"Accepted/Assisted Answer" Feature

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I love the system wxWidgets uses for it's forums (http://wxforum.shadonet.com/). The author of every thread (and mods) are allowed to mark a reply to a thread as an "Accepted Answer" or an "Assisting Answer". This could be integrated into the rating system: i.e. if your post is marked as an accepted answer, you get +2 points (or something similar). When a reply has been marked "Accepted Answer", the entire thread has a green check mark placed next to it. This is perhaps the most useful feature of this system. It prevents people from taking time to anwer a thread that has already been answered by someone. It also will help when people search the forums, to find answers to their current problems that have been experienced before.

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This idea comes up every few months in one form or another. Some choice remarks from previous discussions:

Quote:
Original post by Michalson
The whole notion of OP's marking threads as "Solved" or "Answered" hinges on the false assumption that the forums exist as personal service, with individual threads existing for a person to demand their question answered or problem solved, and a collection of slaves coming to their beck and call. Threads are meant to serve more then just the original poster; they are supposed to serve to whole community. Just because the OP’s question has been answered doesn’t mean the thread should ended (and marking threads as “solved” is really one step short of closing them). Other people may have an interest and be looking to expand on the topic.


Quote:
Original post by Fruny
.... Furthermore, the original poster is not always qualified to even know whether his question has been accurately answered. It is still way too often that newbies mislead other newbies with authoritative-sounding, yet incomplete or incorrect answers - just take, for examples threads of the "what's a good XYZ book", with every beginner quickly posting his favourite book - often the only book he has read on the topic.


Quote:
Original post by SiCrane
.... For example, often a poster will respond with an idea that will cover up the symptom of a problem without actually addressing the underlying issue (like declaring a global in a header as static instead of properly externing the variable). In that case, if the the OP finalizes the thread then people may not pop their heads in and say what a bad idea that declaring the variable static is.

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Quote:
Original post by SiCrane
This idea comes up every few months in one form or another.


Interesting. I don't frequent this section of the forum, so I've never stumbled upon any such requests :)

Just to give my opinion (which is most likely totally inconsequential) on the matter:

Quote:
Original post by Michalson
The whole notion of OP's marking threads as "Solved" or "Answered" hinges on the false assumption that the forums exist as personal service, with individual threads existing for a person to demand their question answered or problem solved, and a collection of slaves coming to their beck and call. Threads are meant to serve more then just the original poster; they are supposed to serve to whole community. Just because the OP’s question has been answered doesn’t mean the thread should ended (and marking threads as “solved” is really one step short of closing them). Other people may have an interest and be looking to expand on the topic.


I completely disagree. The main reason for existance of the "technical side" forums is to solve problems. If there were no problems to be solved, they wouldn't exist. People who answer a post are hardly slaves - they are posting of their own free will to help other people. Threads /are/ serving the community by being open to the community - they do not become 'unreadable' once solved - but threads are created /because of/ the individual and their individual problems. Other people are still free to expand on the topic, and Mods are still free to mark posts as "Assisting Answers", or "Accepted Answers" for that matter.

Quote:
Original post by Fruny
.... Furthermore, the original poster is not always qualified to even know whether his question has been accurately answered. It is still way too often that newbies mislead other newbies with authoritative-sounding, yet incomplete or incorrect answers - just take, for examples threads of the "what's a good XYZ book", with every beginner quickly posting his favourite book - often the only book he has read on the topic.


This contains some truth, but as pointed out above, other people are still free to contribute even after a thread has been marked "Accepted". Mods are free to remove a completely wrong answer that has been Accepted. In the current state of the forums, even without this concept being implemented, newbies are /just as likely/ to accept incorrect answers. This is compounded in the current state, as people who search and stumble upon the old thread will possibly accept this incorrect answer. With an "Accepted Answer" system, a mod would come in, see that an incorrect answer has been Accepted, un-Accept it, and mark the correct answer as Accepted (or post it himself). Even if no reply is marked as Accepted, we are in the same situation as the right now. So: worst case scenario is still the same, while best case scenario is much better. I see no downside in that.

Quote:
Original post by SiCrane
.... For example, often a poster will respond with an idea that will cover up the symptom of a problem without actually addressing the underlying issue (like declaring a global in a header as static instead of properly externing the variable). In that case, if the the OP finalizes the thread then people may not pop their heads in and say what a bad idea that declaring the variable static is.


This is the most valid of all the points, and it has some similarities to the 2nd point - incomplete or incorrect answers. It is true that when I see a thread marked "Solved" on forums with this system, I typically avoid reading it. I would suggest, however, that this can be rectified by the mods (see next paragraph).

The only real downside I see from the whole system is that it creates slightly more responsibility for the mods and other members of the community. This is brought about by the 2nd/3rd points above. Accepting wrong answers is not good. This can be spread out to all members of the community, though, by simply placing some link on all Accepted Answers (similar to "Report this Post to a Moderator") which will call on a mod to check the answer's validity. Possibly create some point incentive, so that the responsibility doesn't lie squarely on the Mod. This way, members of the community are encouraged to visit Solved threads to verify them.

Another thing to note, about the above forum I linked, it seems that only about 20% of the posts get marked as Solved. Just like many users currently forget to rate++ people for helping them, it would be interesting to see how many users at Gamedev utilize a system such as this.

Conclusion: The main reason I brought this up was due to some recent experiences. Performing searches on forums that utilize this system (wxWidgets, Google Answers, etc) vs forums that do not (Gamedev, etc), I have found the first system to be much more conducive to solving a given problem I might face. I see subjects with a similar problem that I am facing, I click on one that is solved, I go right to the accepted answer, and my problem is fixed. Afterall, the purpose of a forum seems to be a place for discussion - and in the case of the Technical Forum, a place to solve problems. A system like this would seem to push in this direction; at least in Big O, it would not make the system any worse (not suggesting it is currently bad! heh).

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Quote:
Original post by Doggan
This contains some truth, but as pointed out above, other people are still free to contribute even after a thread has been marked "Accepted".

There are two reasons for such a system: (1) to save time answering a thread that's already been answered and (2) to help filter pointless threads when searching. The above statement completely discounts the first point...for misinformation to be corrected, solved threads have to be read anyhow, so no time has been saved.

The second option is foolish...unless you are searching for trivial problems, you *want* to read more than just one thread on the subject, and more than one post in the thread. Just because a thread isn't marked complete doesn't mean there's no useful information.
Quote:
Original post by Doggan
Mods are free to remove a completely wrong answer that has been Accepted.

Or they can just post a reply saying "You're wrong, this is right". Same affect, except that non-mods can do it too. Frankly, any system that makes Zahlman less useful than, say, SiCrane [No offense [grin]], is a bad one.

CM

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Quote:
Original post by Doggan
Other people are still free to expand on the topic
The problem is that they wouldn't. If you look at the forum page and you see a bunch of topics, the majority of which have 'solved' icons next to them and two or three of which don't, which ones are you going to focus on? This is exactly what I've seen at the MSDN forums - the 'this post has been successfully answered' flag is effectively a death knell for a thread. The threads that attract the most replies - and, usually, the greatest amount of collective knowledge as a result - tend to be the ones that don't get solved for ages.

Quote:

Mods are free to remove a completely wrong answer that has been Accepted.
The problem is that the Mods aren't omniscient. Hell, when I took on the Graphics forum back in the day, I really didn't know very much about graphics - and I didn't need to, because the job of a moderator is to shunt information around without necessarily knowing about it in-depth. One can moderate flamewars and move threads without knowing the exact timing details of a vertex cache [smile]

Quote:
In the current state of the forums, even without this concept being implemented, newbies are /just as likely/ to accept incorrect answers. This is compounded in the current state, as people who search and stumble upon the old thread will possibly accept this incorrect answer.
Except that currently, with everyone assuming that every thread is 'unsolved' and jumping in to give their solution accordingly, the chances that the correct answer has appeared by the end of the thread is increased.

Quote:
So: worst case scenario is still the same, while best case scenario is much better. I see no downside in that.
As noted, the worst case is actually that a wrong answer is marked as correct and the moderator does not unmark it. I'd consider this to be much worse than the current situation in which people are required to evaluate the correctness of an answer for themselves.

Quote:
The only real downside I see from the whole system is that it creates slightly more responsibility for the mods and other members of the community.
I think "slightly" would be an understatement.

Quote:
This is brought about by the 2nd/3rd points above. Accepting wrong answers is not good. This can be spread out to all members of the community, though, by simply placing some link on all Accepted Answers (similar to "Report this Post to a Moderator") which will call on a mod to check the answer's validity. Possibly create some point incentive, so that the responsibility doesn't lie squarely on the Mod. This way, members of the community are encouraged to visit Solved threads to verify them.
That sounds more useful.. but then again, how much time would mods spend reviewing answers flagged up by people who are simply too unfamiliar with the material to know that it is in fact correct?

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Very valid points. I concede ;) I conclude that this is a system better suited to a more 'focused' forum - i.e. with the wxWidgets example, "use this widget instead of that". A system such as this is detrimental for facilitating discussion on a more subjective topic.

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