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Author Topic: Why do we go out of our way to be unhelpful in forums?  (Read 4902 times)
superboyac
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« on: September 28, 2010, 12:22:29 PM »

I already know this is going to start a fire, but I need to get it off my chest.  This is my favorite forum, so I won't do this anywhere.  This is partly to just have fun and provoke you guys into an interesting discussion, and partly to try to understand the situation.

OK...as google continues to fail me in my research, I continually have to turn to my trusted forums to find information.  I am disturbed by the trend of answers that I continue to see.  A lot of the time when someone asks a question, the answer given usually boils down to (more or less):
"Just google it"

Now, a lot of people don't say that literally, but that's essentially the meat of their answers.  For example, someone will ask a question about software, and someone will respond with a link to the developer's site and maybe even regurgitate some information found on the website.  To me, this usually indicates that the responder hasn't actually used the software, but just read the website and thought it would be helpful to post the information.  The intent is fine, but it's not really helpful.  I mean, we all know how to google, we all know how to read.  That's not the point.  What is it that YOU know that is not generic information available on product websites?  I mean, really?

Often times, people will also give a link to somewhere that may contain an answer.  That link may be to a forum thread, an article, etc.  But, if you truly want to be helpful, why not past the actual sentences that are helpful into the thread yourself in a quote or something?  By just posting the link, you are making the other person go through the work sifting through all the threads, posts, paragraphs to find the relevant info.  If you indeed saw the information, why not be a good person and post it for the person?

The answer (in my opinion) is that people who do that don't really know the answer.  The THINK the answer may be in that forum or article, but they probably haven't really read it.  it's like a guess.  Which is bad, because now you are sending the poor guy to read a bunch of stuff that may not lead to anything.  I just don't get that.  At the very least, say in the post that "this MAY have something for you, but I'm not sure."  But I think people are afraid to say "I don't know".

Anyway, just venting a little.  I'm sure you guys have noticed in a lot of the threads I've started recently a little more surly sentences and stuff.  For recommendations, I usually explicitly state that I want to hear of YOUR personal experiences and opinions with things you have actually used.  That is valuable to me.  Sending me around to read third-party reviews and such is rarely helpful at all.  I have no trust in the reviews that are out there usually.  i don't know those people!  Most of the time, people who write reviews just write based on first glance impressions.  It's not like they have used the stuff for a while and are posting their reactions.  No.  They usually just open a box, play around for a few minutes, and write a "review".  It's useless.  Same goes for a lot of software reviews.  They install, click around for a minute, then write a review regurgitating the same info listed on the website.  Nothing substantial at all.  Again, useless.

Why do we do this to each other?

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Bamse
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« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2010, 12:32:29 PM »

Well you must also remember that many times those who answer have seen same question before and know solution is not to post a page of thoughts smiley Depend on content of course but not always a good idea to personalize computer stuff. Facts + experience is good. Also many who request solution are not that keen on doing much work them self - which is why they post to begin with! They don't say it out loud but they are not interested in other answers than those which suits them. They are as easy to observe as "just google it" group smiley
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Josh
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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2010, 12:38:51 PM »

READ THE FAQ NOOB!!!!! Wink
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2010, 12:55:12 PM »

I'm probably guilty of what superboyac describes. The truth is though I just naturally tend to give the answers that I like to receive, i.e. short and sweet.

I guess I find a forum like this invaluable for pointing you to that little gem of an app which you might not find in a Google search, the software you'll only come across through word of mouth. Beyond that the tech specs for the application tend to be of most interest to me.
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« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2010, 01:43:14 PM »

OK OK, just Bing it! Wink
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cranioscopical
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« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2010, 02:27:25 PM »

I'm not sure we do go out of our way, for some of us it's just second nature.  Grin

Quote from: superboyac
For example, someone will ask a question about software, and someone will respond with a link to the developer's site and maybe even regurgitate some information found on the website. To me, this usually indicates that the responder hasn't actually used the software, but just read the website and thought it would be helpful to post the information.
I believe that's a flawed assumption.

When asking for information, perhaps you need to define your terms with even greater clarity.
Frequently, I've found references to various sites to be helpful when seeking information, even if those who posted the links haven't used the software.
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Chris
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« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2010, 02:47:10 PM »

i look at it from the opposite side of the schoolyard.

one of the reasons i so seldom participate in forum discussions is because of the number of times i tried to be helpful but got my face handed back to me. usually it was because my posting wasn't *exactly* what the querent was looking for.

altogether too much "me! Me!! ME!!!" for my comfort level. hence i tend to be a chronic lurker in most places i visit. 

i see less of it happening at this website. but it's not completely absent. :-(  
« Last Edit: September 28, 2010, 02:49:15 PM by Gwen7 » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2010, 03:10:00 PM »

I LOVE IT when people reply to requests for information with pointers to further information on the topic plus tangentially related information. The reason is that from time to time I come across information that I probably would never have found in my own google search - maybe because I didn't phrase the search terms well enough or didn't bother paging through to the 680th result.
I agree that a comprehensive review of a product by an experienced user which covers exactly the ground you want to know about is great. However, I'm more than happy to sift through a dozen or so pointers which might (or might not) address YOUR particular needs -because one of them may be really helpful to ME.
This, I think, is where the value of a forum to the community is not the same as the value of the forum to an individual in that community. An individual may seek very detailed advice on specific techniques for catching a rare species of fish. There may be a deluge of replies about catching related species and perhaps even some pointers to sites promoting new and unusual fish finders. Some of these replies will be extremely helpful to half a dozen lurkers in the forum who seldom post but visit daily because of the amazing helpfulness and friendliness of the forum. I do appreciate, though, it could be a bit frustrating for the original questioner. I think there is always going to be a bit of tension between the value to the individual and the value to the community. Perhaps flagging the post with a MAYBE USEFUL comment near the beginning would allow folk to skim past those posts if they wish.
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superboyac
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« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2010, 04:18:51 PM »

Well, I probably shouldn't come off sounding too holier-than-thou myself.  I've noticed I've been a little more irritable about this lately, I don't know why.  Probably related to work or something.  I could probably stand to be a little more patient and not so high strung about it.

I think I started getting all pissy about it when I realized how useless Google was becoming.  I felt like this great information highway has degenerated to just a bunch of useless words and images.  Forums like this are like my last resort.  if I get nothing from here, what do I have left?  Wikipedia?

I almost want to start an ultra-efficient, no-nonsense website for just accurate information.  Real answers to real questions.  To side-discussion, no nonsense solutions.  No kind of, sort of.  No fun stuff, no ads, nothing long-winded.  Not a place to hang out or anything like that.  Just answers.  whatever.  Just the idea is pretty impractical.  Ha.
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« Reply #9 on: September 28, 2010, 04:31:14 PM »

I think Bamse is onto something with this:
Quote
Well you must also remember that many times those who answer have seen same question before

If you see a snippy reply from someone telling to "google it" or something similar, chances are that the person who wrote that takes very seriously their obligation to help people find answers to questions when people are really stuck.  So when they see someone asking a question that they feel could have been answered by the person themself if they only bothered to search, they may feel a little like an emergency room doctor dealing with someone at the front of the line complaining about a splinter -- wanting you to move along and come back when you really need help.
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superboyac
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« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2010, 05:12:45 PM »

I think Bamse is onto something with this:
Quote
Well you must also remember that many times those who answer have seen same question before

If you see a snippy reply from someone telling to "google it" or something similar, chances are that the person who wrote that takes very seriously their obligation to help people find answers to questions when people are really stuck.  So when they see someone asking a question that they feel could have been answered by the person themself if they only bothered to search, they may feel a little like an emergency room doctor dealing with someone at the front of the line complaining about a splinter -- wanting you to move along and come back when you really need help.
That's definitely the category I fit in!!  I know I'm a little bit of a prima donna sometimes.  I do like to start threads.  But even this is a big grey area.  I have no problem googling stuff and researching on my own.  But google is currently like trying to find the needle in the haystack.  And most forums' searching abilities are so painfully horrible, it makes you not want to use it.  Man, I still remember trying to find stuff in the foobar forum...that was a nightmare.  I know I've repeated this a lot, but the reason why I use this forum so much is primarily because the forum design is so intuitive, effective, and dare I say...Apple-like!  I mean, i love the people here and they are probably the nicest group I've ever encountered online, but it's the forum design that really keeps me here.

But yeah, my flaw is definitely the negative Nancy, squeaky wheel type.  I think I'm pretty good with offering help when I can, but I do complain quite a bit.  I know that.  I can't help it.  Everyone who knows me knows that I'm a highly irritable guy.  I'm getting better at keeping it in check, especially at work.  But sometimes...sometimes I just need a break!

I also tend to make a mountain out of a mole hill.  Just yesterday, i was ranting about how the perfect htpc remote control doesn't exist.  The best air-mouse right now is the Logitech MX Air.  As a mouse, it's pretty awesome.  But it doesn't have a directional pad.  And those remotes that have directional pads (like the Logitech harmony universal remotes) don't have good mouse features.  You need both!  That's why I thought the wii remote for a pc would be perfect.  however, I highly doubt the mouse part works as well as the MX Air.  So if anyone wants to manufacture this, you'd be a millionaire!!  Or not...sometimes, I'm the only one that cares about these things...
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Gwen7
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« Reply #11 on: September 28, 2010, 05:37:06 PM »

@superboyac

re: ultra-efficient no-nonsense website for just accurate information

try www.quora.com

(hope you don't mind the 'weblink' answer.  ;-))

p.s.  despite the "prima donna," or whatever else you may call yourself, I will continue to think of you as a very nice person. i'm sure many others also think the same.     
« Last Edit: September 28, 2010, 05:44:00 PM by Gwen7 » Logged
superboyac
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« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2010, 05:48:23 PM »

@superboyac

re: ultra-efficient no-nonsense website for just accurate information

try www.quora.com

(hope you don't mind the 'weblink' answer.  ;-))

p.s.  despite the "prima donna," or whatever else you may call yourself, I will continue to think of you as a very nice person. i'm sure many others also think the same.     
nice!  I'll have to check that out.  Thanks for the kind words!
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Renegade
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« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2010, 05:55:36 PM »

Most of the time, people who write reviews just write based on first glance impressions.  It's not like they have used the stuff for a while and are posting their reactions.  No.  They usually just open a box, play around for a few minutes, and write a "review".  It's useless.  Same goes for a lot of software reviews.  They install, click around for a minute, then write a review regurgitating the same info listed on the website.  Nothing substantial at all.  Again, useless.

That's a pet peeve of mine. It's rampant in consumer electronics.

There are some good sites that are trustworthy though. DPReview. Tom's Hardware. Ken Rockwell. etc. etc. They really put stuff through the paces. However, you need to read more than 1 review to understand where they are coming from. e.g. Ken Rockwell can be hyper-critical at times, so you need to know that.

If you're not turning up decent results, often times you're just looking in the wrong places. There are times though that the information just is NOT out there. At all. Sometimes you need to be indirect in your searching.

Here's an example... I'm currently doing iPhone development with MonoTouch. It is pretty new and the developer community isn't very large, so there isn't a huge amount of resources like there is for general C# development. As such, I can't find answers to problems at all. e.g. I spent more than a day farting around with bugs that are literally trivial to solve if you have 1 tiny piece of information... BUT... I can search for information in Objective-C and Xcode. There are some significant differences, but if I'm able to fill in enough blanks there, then my searches for information in Objective-C are good enough, albeit time-consuming.

For a concrete example, I was having problems getting information from an MPMediaItem because there wasn't sufficient information on it available, and the Objective-C examples weren't helping much until I filled in some blanks and experimented. Details here on MPMediaItem in MonoTouch. It's simple enough once I filled in a blank.

For a different software example, if you need information on ACME Archiver and can't find it, then maybe information on WinZip or WinRar might fill in enough of the blanks.

Anyways, just one search strategy that I've had some degree of success with.

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« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2010, 06:27:16 PM »

I am with Superboy on this one.  95% of the time I have already google my question that I am posting here.  I also will look for synonym because as we all know, the success of your search depends on the words you use. 

About a year ago, I posted a question on a well known "help forum" site and literally was blasted away because I wasn't a tech.  Well I am a tech for a small public school district.  And this information was also posted on the "about me" page.   

I have found the DC forum to be the most courteous one that I have ever lurked on.  Oh sure, there are a few occasional blasts here and there but I can live with that.  which is why i keep coming back!

Thanks for being courteous and  gentle with me!  I know that my posts are sometimes not very informative or well thought out but unfortunately, that is the way my brain thinks.  Sad smiley
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Renegade
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« Reply #15 on: September 28, 2010, 10:38:05 PM »

One thing I like is ANY answer is better than NO answer. Usually I just want a starting point, and not a complete answer. If I get that start, then I'm usually good to go.
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mrainey
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« Reply #16 on: September 29, 2010, 05:14:58 AM »

Quote
I also tend to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

Agreed.  And many of us don't have the time to spend on molehills, especially when the subject is so often something along the lines of "Why does EVERYTHING SUCK?"   smiley

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« Reply #17 on: September 29, 2010, 10:16:55 AM »

@superboyac: Your question is a loaded question - full of assumption - and thus may provoke a random/irrational response.

Trying to be rational: My experience of the DC forum is that most respondents/commenters seem to be pretty helpful  - or as helpful as they are able.

What you probably inevitably find in forums though is "forum fatigue" from responding to the same old questions or variations of the same, time and time again. Then the respondent probably tries to be as brief as possible. It could all seem rather dull and boring after several repetitions.
For example, I found this happening to me when I volunteered myself for ardvark, so I had "standard answers" at the ready for the repetitive questions. Realising that I was probably wasting my time, I eventually made a decision to stop making any response at all. The most productive and consistent thing to do for a repetitive process is to automate it. "Googling" a question would seem to do that quite well.

@mrainey:
Quote
"Why does EVERYTHING SUCK?"
At the risk of being repetitious, I thought it had been conclusively established a while back elsewhere in this forum -
e.g., http://www.donationcoder....22523.msg202946#msg202946
- that the most effective method for improving the DC forum's feel-good factor and avoiding things sucking was to plaster animated pictures of Angelina Jolie in scant or zero attire all over the place.
 tongue
« Last Edit: September 29, 2010, 10:18:55 AM by IainB » Logged
superboyac
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« Reply #18 on: September 29, 2010, 10:45:44 AM »

@superboyac:[/b] Your question is a loaded question - full of assumption - and thus may provoke a random/irrational response.
I know.  I did it on purpose.  I like to provoke people occasionally...er...often.

As far as forum fatigue goes, that's also a gray area.  If it was easy to search for things and find the answer without having to find the needle int he haystack, then sure, I agree.  But it's not like that.  If it's not a forum you are registered, you will often have to first register to search.  That alone, makes me want to just come here and ask.  Also, even if the search is available, if its interface is klunky and the results are hard to sift through, same thing.  Just because you have the ability search doesn't mean it's helpful.

And you know what I'm realizing from all of this?  It's just me.  I shouldn't subject others to my moodiness about this stuff (especially lately).  Maybe I'm just over-sensitive to this subject.  So I shouldn't be a dick and be impatient right off the bat.  It's pretty bad! Grin Sometimes, I feel like I'm being impatient before anything even happens, because I'm just predicting what's coming in my head.  That's no good!

Anyway, you guys are the best.

Unrelated:
I just had a talk with one of my coworkers, who knows how to program.  Man, he has some really cool stuff going on.  I was talking to him about backing things up and file synchronizing and all that.  The guy has written his own program to backup his stuff.  It's amazing.  The database keeps track of the files, but it also knows if another person has that file, and if so, then it doesn't need to be backed up.  Just all sorts of cool stuff.
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mouser
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« Reply #19 on: September 29, 2010, 10:46:27 AM »

Tell him to come by and participate in our NANY event!
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superboyac
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« Reply #20 on: September 29, 2010, 10:49:18 AM »

Tell him to come by and participate in our NANY event!
I know, I'll try.  He seemed to be hesitant about something.  I couldn't get a read on it.  I totally want to check it out though.  I'll see what I can do.
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« Reply #21 on: October 01, 2010, 09:06:34 PM »

... avoiding things sucking was to plaster animated pictures of Angelina Jolie in scant or zero attire all over the place.

Please no! I can't stand that woman!
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IainB
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« Reply #22 on: October 01, 2010, 10:07:34 PM »

@Deozaan:
Quote
Please no! I can't stand that woman!
She's a woman? Wow. I had no idea. I thought it was all plastic surgery on a bloke.
Ah well, yet another illusion shattered.
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« Reply #23 on: October 01, 2010, 11:08:58 PM »

Please no! I can't stand that woman!

Just for you:


@superboyac:
I have a better question: Why don't people who ask questions in forums provide enough information for a helpful response?

(Instead of having to play '20 Questions' almost all the time.)
« Last Edit: October 02, 2010, 10:05:07 PM by 4wd » Logged

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« Reply #24 on: October 02, 2010, 04:26:38 PM »

Ah....the goddess that is Salma Hayek in 'From Dusk Till Dawn'.

If I could only wet my tongue like Quentin Tarantino did...that waitress would get a major tip from me!
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