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Author Topic: how to improve DC's usability: the stackOverflow model  (Read 9076 times)
urlwolf
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« on: April 30, 2009, 08:50:24 AM »


stackOverflow.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWHfY_lvKIQ

  • Voting to push the best answer to the top and not having to read a monster thread
  • Tagging
  • Ignore tags: if I don't want to read about php, I put it in my ignore list
  • markdown instead of bbedit (syntax highlighting for code)
  • You can edit other's answers if they are incomplete (like a wiki)
  • There's a points system for reputation that seems to be addictive
  • Badges, Karma
  • You can earn Karma not only answering questions, but asking interesting ones that get voted up
  • You can burn your Karma, and this prevents you from doing some answers
  • You can merge different answers into one comprehensive one, and this would give you Karma. No obsessions about ownership (nice property of wikis)
  • etc
If you have used it, you probably agree that it's highly usable compared to any forum software, mailing list, group, or wiki.
DC has the advantage that there's actual money changing hands, not only Karma. I wonder how much mileage one could get out of it. The regulars know each other's reputation, but not newcomers.
DC could simply display the DC credits each member has earned as a 'badge' of how useful he is on the community.

Also, having tags would help listing the expertise we have here (which is considerable, but not obvious).

So here's the idea: let's get something more like stackOverflow than a forum.
What do you think?

I could start a poll with features that are most important for you guys.

Is this something you'd like to see?
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40hz
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« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2009, 10:33:12 AM »

Hmmmm....





I think it's an interesting approach for a Q&A or support site. But the DoCo forums cover a lot more ground than just that. IMHO, many of the discussions surrounding the questions are more interesting and valuable than are the answers to the original questions themselves.

DoCo's forums are particularly interesting to me because I get to read what a lot of bright and technically astute people are thinking as opposed to just what they know. There's a process of dialog here that I don't think you'll find in too many places. It's that dialog - and sense of community - that keeps me coming back. I don't think that something like the stackOverflow model gives you that. It's geared for Q&A's rather than the give and take of dialog.

stackOverflow has a certain vibe of its own. It's better adapted to people that want to just go in, get an answer, and then get out.

It also strikes me as being somewhat more... competitive, if that's the right word? From looking at some of the responses at stackOverflow, I get the distinct impression there's a tendency on the part of many of the participants to get in "Fast & First" with an answer. You won't find many long thoughtful posts like we get from some of the regulars at DoCo.

So from my perspective, DonationCoder and stackOverflow are two websites with fundamentally different goals and audiences. In a way, stackOverflow is a subset of what DoCo is about. DoCo is geared towards building a community. stackOverflow is a switchboard.

I think the stackOverflow approach might be ok in something like a "quick answers" section. But not as a general replacement for the present forum setup. I'd probably even consider going with a Wiki model before I did that.

Just my 2ΒΆ smiley

« Last Edit: April 30, 2009, 11:37:34 AM by 40hz » Logged

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Gothi[c]
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« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2009, 11:01:01 AM »

I don't think I like the idea of karma and voting or anything that creates 'elitism' or divides members in any way.
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urlwolf
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« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2009, 11:19:48 AM »

Sorry abt link, try this one:
http://joelonsoftware.com/items/2009/04/29.html

I'm not sure Karma is the driving force of stackOverflow. I never check there or anywhere else (slashdot?) the karma of the commenter.
What I'm saying is that their CMS seems to solve very well some common problems of mailing lists, wikis, and forums, and some design decisions are very good.
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40hz
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« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2009, 11:46:53 AM »

I don't think I like the idea of karma and voting or anything that creates 'elitism' or divides members in any way.

Agree. Thmbsup

Rankings tend to diminish overall participation - and intimidate newcomers.

Some of our most interesting participants are self-declared 'neophytes' who are the first to admit they don't know everything they'd like to know about a topic. Oddly enough, that same humility is demonstrated by those DoCo members who just might. Grin

 Cool
« Last Edit: April 30, 2009, 11:50:20 AM by 40hz » Logged

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nosh
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« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2009, 02:08:20 PM »

I don't think I like the idea of karma and voting or anything that creates 'elitism' or divides members in any way.

That coming from a DC Server Admin Charter Honorary Member!  Grin
j/k  tongue

I'm not in favour of elitism either but if there were to be some, I'd rather it be based on cerebral contributions rather than monetary ones. *ducks*



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housetier
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« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2009, 02:43:01 PM »

I would like to see support for markdown or textile markup languages. I find both of them particularly easy to use, unlike bbcode. Also, I use textile on my website and it has served me well.

The ignore feature is underway, but its different from stackoverflow's one.

I am absolutely against showing members' credit amount or karma level. I wish we wouldn't show post count either.
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40hz
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« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2009, 02:53:19 PM »

I wish we wouldn't show post count either.

+1  Cool

I think DonationCoder's forums are about as egalitarian and respectful of differing opinions as is humanly possible.

Even the occasional snit or mini-flame is exceptionally tame by any standard you'd care to apply.

Personally, I've always been impressed by the complete absence of anybody throwing their: professional experience, years with DoCo, financial contributions, age, employment status, school affiliations, college degrees, number of posts, membership status, evenings out with The Stones, or just about anything else in anyone's face when they're posting on the forums.

And AFAIK it's because there is a great deal of mutual respect and not because our Moderators  Kiss are busy stomping on the snapdogs and dead-catters.

Where else on the web have you ever found that to be the case?

What a cool bunch of people you all are! smiley


<edit - Woops! - added the part that got cut off the first time I posted. Sorry!>


« Last Edit: April 30, 2009, 03:13:28 PM by 40hz » Logged

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Gothi[c]
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« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2009, 02:58:37 PM »

I wish we wouldn't show post count either.
+2
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rgdot
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« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2009, 04:13:41 PM »


+3

Done it in our (me and friends) soccer forum a long time ago, a popular move.
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f0dder
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« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2009, 04:51:04 PM »

I don't think I like the idea of karma and voting or anything that creates 'elitism' or divides members in any way.
I think it works kinda OK on Stack Overflow, although it does mean there's a tendency for people to try and be first with answers, to get upvotes, and then gradually edit more details in later. On DC, the tendency is for people to write some decent posts from the start.

I don't really see much (if any) of the SO ideas fitting in with DC, the sites are completely different models. It wouldn't make sense to "push topics to top" since our forums here are discussion-focused rather than answer-focused.

And I don't see a need to hide the post count, since people don't obsess over that here. I wouldn't care if it disappeared, though.
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- carpe noctem
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« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2009, 05:12:07 PM »

There are a lot of very cool elements of StackOverflow.  Many of these have to do with increasing and moderating user reputation and authority and as has been pointed out by others, that probably isn't appropriate for a site like ours which is more like an open equal discussion where everyone is considered equal.

we are a discussion forum here, not a q&a site where there is an assumption of best, definitive answers that need to be found and voted on.

there is a really interesting double-edged sword aspect to having so many features that make participation like a game -- which some social sites have used to great effect.  on one hand it seems to really get some people participating (i.e. "playing") trying to increase their karma, etc.  And if the points and features are structured well, it can motivate constructive participating.  but it does have a dark side i think, in that people are encourage to become sort of like mercenaries for their points, something that almost everyone on DC has voiced objection to.  the consensus here seems to be we prefer to keep everyone on equal footing and help each other for the pleasure of doing so, without involving karma type stuff.

there are other features that are definitely work looking at (the wiki-like features, etc.)

now the issue of post counts.. i guess i still feel like its a useful and harmless metric, and i find it useful.

the people who want to get rid of it -- what is the motivation for removing it?  is it because having a post count serves as a kind of score that one is afraid will motivate people to post more? or will intimidate others?

i find it useful because it gives one some very rough estimate of how familiar someone is with the forum.  i think it helps mostly with new posters.  when someone posts their first or second post, people are probably a little more willing to cut them some slack and be more gentle, since we can assume they aren't as familiar with the site and are etiquette.  and when someone replies to a new poster with a high post count, the new visitor can be relatively certain that the replier understands the ways and spirit of DC.

it's not a perfect metric, but it seems pretty harmless.
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40hz
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« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2009, 09:06:06 PM »

when someone posts their first or second post, people are probably a little more willing to cut them some slack and be more gentle, since we can assume they aren't as familiar with the site and are etiquette.

An excellent point. Although I hadn't thought of it that way before, it is true that I find myself doing exactly what Mouser said for exactly that reason. I guess I'll have to retract my +1 now that I'm looking at it from his perspective.

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1NR1
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« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2009, 10:46:18 PM »

As a new poster, thanks for the slack. From my perspective the amount of articles someone has written does not make or break an answer.  What does, are the comments "beneath" that say something to the affect; "So and so has a good answer."  Or, "XYX explained it well", no matter if they have a 100 or a 1000 under their name. When there are several of these kind of references, well, I have to think the talent at this site is spot on getting it right. 

Works the other way also.  Opposing ideas maybe mean to me a little more research here or there.  Thanks

NR

(OK, how do you get that witty repartee to show up here at the end...)
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cranioscopical
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« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2009, 10:59:56 PM »

(OK, how do you get that witty repartee to show up here at the end...)

Go to "My Profile" at the top of the page.

Once there...
On the left, look for and select "Modify Profile/Forum Profile Information"
Then...
Go down and modify the box that says "Signature"
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Chris
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« Reply #15 on: April 30, 2009, 11:04:52 PM »

Then maybe instead of a post count, there should just be a "new user" tag added under certain conditions. (e.g., if post count is less than 5 and user registered less than 1 month ago).
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40hz
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« Reply #16 on: April 30, 2009, 11:17:21 PM »

Then maybe instead of a post count, there should just be a "new user" tag added under certain conditions. (e.g., if post count is less than 5 and user registered less than 1 month ago).

Alternatively, how about doing the "AMEX thing": Member since mm/yy Grin

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« Reply #17 on: April 30, 2009, 11:25:55 PM »

Alternatively, how about doing the "AMEX thing": Member since mm/yy Grin

Or we could be subtle and create a baby badge --->
 Grin
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cranioscopical
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« Reply #18 on: May 01, 2009, 01:23:45 AM »

there should just be a "new user" tag added

It might be easy for some to be inhibited with that tag hung around their necks.
I submit that "New user" could be inferred as deprecatory whereas post count is non-judgmental.




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Chris
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« Reply #19 on: May 01, 2009, 02:04:34 AM »

Quote
I submit that "New user" could be inferred as deprecatory whereas post count is non-judgmental.

I think they both could be interpreted as either, depending on who is doing the interpreting. smiley
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cranioscopical
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« Reply #20 on: May 01, 2009, 08:00:55 AM »

Quote
I submit that "New user" could be inferred as deprecatory whereas post count is non-judgmental.

I think they both could be interpreted as either, depending on who is doing the interpreting. smiley

In that case -- and I don't dispute it -- do you think, perhaps, that changing from one to the other offers little advantage?
Showing the count could be made an option for individual users, I presume.
Some people seem to like it and others not.

Speaking purely personally, I find the count mildly interesting and informative.
To me it's not always a high number of postings that catches the eye. Sometimes, a comment from a long-time member whose posts are few somehow adds weight to the matter.

 

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Chris
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« Reply #21 on: May 01, 2009, 08:37:05 AM »

Speaking purely personally, I find the count mildly interesting and informative.
To me it's not always a high number of postings that catches the eye. Sometimes, a comment from a long-time member whose posts are few somehow adds weight to the matter.
that's a good point.
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urlwolf
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« Reply #22 on: May 01, 2009, 10:52:38 AM »

We are sidetracked on whether points alone or some complex feedback measure is better (i.e., huge variety of badges in SO; complex way of getting and losing karma).

There's something more crucial.

I've been thinking about this for a while.
It's the distinction between fact and opinion.
On the web, it'd be mighty useful to be able to tell them apart. And assign a credibilty value to *anything*. Otherwise, we are at risk of being manipulated.

Back on topic of So vs. DC...

When you have fact-like info, I think SO interface is better.
Example: "how do i change font size in eclipse?"
This can be easily tested to see if it works.

Now we all know and love that not all the content here is facts, but opinions. Same on stackOverflow! and it was designed for factual stuff.
Example: "what is the best [foo]?"

Here we are in opinion territory.

Q1: Can humans distinguish between fact and opinion easily? Do they? My gut feeling if that we take advice -even for big decisions- on things that have very little relation to facts or empirical evidence _most of the time_.
Q2: Could machines be trained to make this distinction?
Q3: How about a mix of human and machine?
Q4: Could this be done at web scale?
Q5: Would the system be trustable and reliable enough to have reference value? i.e., can it be gamed? Example: Running shoes. There's a XX billion industry on top of them. However, nobody has shown any effect of expensive shoes getting less injuries to people.

What I'm thinking is really not practical because the marketing depts of the world, who implicitly run the media smiley would tag together and stop this system from being successful.

Game1: next time you see a sentence that is likely to influence your behavior, ask yourself: "How do I know what this is saying is true?".

Game2: Try to assign a trust value to each sentence on any random paragraph. Prepare to be amazed.
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mahesh2k
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« Reply #23 on: May 01, 2009, 04:49:45 PM »

I don't like the model of SOF for DC. As you can see some members write excellent posts on DC(superboyac,app,40hz, and many others) . OK, Sometimes we even sidetracked from topic and can find good advice in that diversion as well. SOF model is perfect for programming related communities. But DC covering many others topics as well that will not justify SOF model at all.
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mouser
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« Reply #24 on: May 03, 2009, 06:53:03 AM »

Thanks for info about the Spolsky video talk -- looking forward to watching it.
Another direct link for those interested:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWHfY_lvKIQ
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