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|Improving the Quality of Threads|
How can we do this?
In some of the forums at WebmasterWorld we get a lot of 'sticky mail me' posts and 'test pages' or demos.
For me, these can really bring the quality of a thread down.
I'm interested in knowing what other members think about these issues and what we might do to improve the quality of our posts both in general and with regard to the specific issues listed below:
Sticky Me Posts
The point (or one of) WebmasterWorld is to provide news and discussion for the advanced webmaster. When we take a thread into sticky mail, whether it be to swap a url and bypass the url policies or just to talk more privately the thread suffers.
At best, it just gives the impression that other members are not invited. At worst, if the conversation comes back to the thread after urls have been exchanged other members coming later to the discussion have little or no idea of what the thread is about.
Test Pages and Demos
As I'm lucky enough to have scored a 'mod spot' here at WebmasterWorld I spend a fair bit of time each week explaining why I think these types of links damage posts.
If we put the whole issue of spam to one side for a moment, I'll give you my personal take on it:
Whereas a demonstration of a coding problem (or anything else) often helps the guy with the problem, the question we have to ask is: "How useful will this thread be in 2wks"?
Test pages, demos and other urls change. Especially if the problem is resolved. This leaves us with a thread that relies upon a non-existent or altered link which effectivly renders it useless for members coming into the discussion at a later date.
So, what can we do?
Well, that's my pet peeves done with ;) so, what can we do? - Are there any other issues that need to be addressed?
Would appreciate you thoughts....
Yeah, we've had some threads which were more Monty Python than anything else, with every second post being "Erm, can I have a sticky too?", and "Yeah, me too, please!"
Yikes, I always wonder what I would think if I found WebmasterWorld through such a thread on a SE....
If the word 'sticky' shows up in any thread now > lock the individual out for 1 full week until everyone has the idea ;)
This is a tough one man, how are people going to get the picture? Seems to me that it needs to happen when people register...Nobody reads the rules, they just want an answer- the rules must be stressed to them at that point > No URL's and no sticky during discussion. Maybe there could be certain consequences when it happens, something small just to reinfornce what's going on.
Webmasterworld on lock down.
|brotherhood of LAN|
>any other issues
just for people to not get too shy with using a link. If you're referencing someone elses work I like to see a link, or if you are making a statement and need to back it up with someone elses or your own write ups on the subject.
It's one thing being aware of OT/unuseful links, but another to just let threads sit there with people who are little more than a nickname claiming to know something on the subject. Not meaning to be derogatory by that statement, but some people talk a good game but don't actually know the game itself sorta thing ;)
A good link can speak a 1000 words I guess.
I'm not sure if this would be feasible, due to the eventual size of the folder(s), but what about creating a section of WebmasterWorld strictly for examples of problems?
The files uploaded would have to be either jpegs, gifs or pngs - perhaps with a size limit (100k per image) so folks don't throw up anything too huge. It would give folks a chance to show the exact problem they're having with their site/page, which is sometimes difficult to describe.
The files could be Read-Only - meaning no one could overwrite or change the image file once posted (other than Mods and Admins). That way there would be a record of the files for future thread use.
For example, I've got a css problem I'm working on that I really can't figure out how to describe properly to anyone without showing folks what it looks like, at least in static form. A screen capture would go a long way in helping me illustrate exactly what the problem is and where I want to take the design. But I can't post a url to show it to anyone here, so I'm forced to look for help elsewhere.
Snippets of code are nice, but in some cases, you're talking about some awfully long snippets to give a good idea of how the site currently appears. This can be particulary confusing when there are quite a few layers involved, and possibly misplaced, as well.
Yes. There's every likelihood in the world that spammers will try to take advantage of such a system. But if strict penalties are established for such a system (3 strikes you're out and termination of posting privileges to the folder), that might resolve some of those problems. Plus, I'm guessing most spammers want the link to their own sites for PR, not an image on WebmasterWorld.
There are other advantage to allowing images to be posted as well:
1. For newbies, it many cases, it's a lot easier for them to understand what's being discussed if they've got a visual they can relate to, rather than a bunch of code they don't understand.
2. Many designers are also very visually oriented and it would be helpful for them to see the actual problem as it exists.
3. For folks where English is not their native language, a visual representation of the problem would help resolve any misunderstandings due to translations errors.
4. It would also cut down on folks complaining about the no urls policy. The only urls posted would be internal to WebmasterWorld.
Like I said, I don't know if something like this would be feasible, but thought it was at least worth a mention.
[edited by: Syren_Song at 7:33 pm (utc) on April 29, 2003]
|Yikes, I always wonder what I would think if I found WebmasterWorld through such a thread on a SE.... |
I have a nagging feeling that I actually did that some time back. Only found the site a couple of months ago ;)
Here's another point:
Good Titles and Descriptions
C'mon, we're all webmasters in one form or another, some of our titles could do with a bit of work ;)
Getting Links for Affiliate Sites
What are the best ways to develop links for affiliates
Newbie needs assistance!
hehehehe, no offence intended to anyone who might have done that while I've been writing! ;)
Seriously though, it don't take much thought to see the benefits of the first over the second right?
In my opinion, and that is all it is, you need to be real careful. You don’t want to pull an AltaVista an alienate anyone. Don’t get ‘talk a good game’ confused with someone’s opinion when that opinion may be based on that persons experience regardless of how small or large that experience is. If voices can’t be heard or expressed, in the long term, it will make this community less useful to all. Sometimes out of bad ideas, someone will get a real good one. That is what happens with the free exchange of ideas. Some large corporations spend 100’s of 1000’s of dollars trying to promote ideas, good or bad.
I do think the link thing is a little too strict. This community should be about learning and teaching at least. Not being able to leave a link to University sites that have good free resources I think is a mistake. Same holds true for .gov sites. No one is trying to promote these sites, they are just trying to share information. Some sites like MS, have an entire KB of answers that should be allowed so that not one but many can learn from any given question. I’m not saying the above has happen, I’m just saying it shouldn’t.
What I have started doing is, when I want to give a reference, I go to the site I want to link for the reference, get a ‘key phrase’ off that page, go to google and make sure that the search will produce the desired results, and tell someone to do a search on google for the ‘key phrase’ with quotes, so that they can find it. This would also eliminate dead links.
As far as ‘check my code’ if you get into that loop, you’ll never get out and will have nothing but dead links.
[quote]we've had some threads which were more Monty Python[quote]
Wasn’t there a Monty Python thread? I didn’t look at it, but make sure you don’t stop people from having fun. Having fun will make them want to come back and tell their friends. While for a lot of us, this is the way we feed ourselves, there are a bunch of ppl that still live at home and visit here. And someone that is naive today, may not be tomorrow. Maybe a new topic, ‘Having Fun’ where the ‘Monty Python’ and the ‘What’s Lurking In Your Keyboard’ threads could live. This way everyone will know where to post items that are more fun related than web intense? And if someone doesn’t want to look at that topic, they don’t have to. Kind of like what I do when a politician comes on a news channel. I flip the channel.
|Many designers are also very visually oriented and it would be helpful for them to see the actual problem as it exists. |
I think that this comes down to re-thinking then rephrasing the question so that it becomes one that benefits the many and not the one.
For instance, a problem with CSS fonts that aren't working in a Mac browser (or any CSS problem for that matter) doesn't need an accompanying url, yet it's commonplace to have people submit their urls.
Instead of "Here, take a look at this..." people should be encouraged to rephrase their question to, "I am doing this, and the symptoms of my problem are..." then you have a post that will be of aid to many people.
Unfortunately, until these ground rules are shoved in a newbies face at the time of registration, we're going to have to keep seeing this kind of behavior.
As far as the sticky thing, I agree. It encourages site reviews and degrades the usefulness of the discussion.
Disclosure: I confess to a while back having stickied a resource to someone, and perhaps I should have done it privately instead of posting that I was stickying it.
Oh brother... my ears are turning red.
>University sites that have good free resources
Can't post a link? - Of course you can! It's never been NO urls at all! ;)
Check the TOS again, we post links all the time, 'swhats the webs all about right?
Why do I only discover great websites just as they hit critical mass and start to become a victim of their own success? :(
As communities grow they begin to reflect all the generic problems of society within them.
Webmasterworld will be no different.
Look at how Slashdot has evolved to cope under an overwhelming number of Trolls. Slashdot should be used as an example to anybody wishing to develop a large online community over and above the scale at which a limited number of moderators can maintain control.
you don't gots to call me Mr. Johnston
but call me 'gun shy'.
|I think that this comes down to re-thinking then rephrasing the question so that it becomes one that benefits the many and not the one. |
I'm not talking about font problems. Those are relatively simple and folks should be able to describe them and post fairly short code to illustrate the problem.
I was referring to overlapping layers and complicated designs using strictly css for layout. IMO, that can get very intense and hard to describe without a visual.
I honestly hadn't thought about folks taking the easy way out and making simple "Take a look" postings. That would definitely be a problem. But they'd still have to describe what the point was of "taking a look". Otherwise, you're back into site critiques. Not necessarily a good thing in this instance.
Infamous Monty Python Thread [webmasterworld.com] :)
I am the Monty Python Culprit. Beware, I am constantly inundated with the inane, some of which I bring to WebmasterWorld, hopefully only to FOO and some backroom threads though. There's a discussion going on now about how well ventilated riding chaps are...
One of my pet peeves are code dumps. My eyes glaze over when I see large lumps of code. Are they valuable? If a question gets answered the post is valuable to the person asking the question.
Discussions have a habit of straying off-topic. Discussions about CSS can turn into usability discussions. Discussions about anchor text turn into cross-linking discussions.
Nick used this as an example for titles:
Newbie needs assistance!
I agree the title is poor, but it also one that I would read. That person needs help and from the look of the title they haven't been at WebmasterWorld long. That makes that post a priority.
As for posting links, I'm guilty. If I know I can link to a source that covers the question I link to it. What is odd is that if the resource happens to be one of my own sites I look for another link. :)
I'm quite happy with the quality of most of the threads I read here. Yep, there are some clunkers but all it takes to improve the quality of the clunkers is for someone to come along and post good info. That happens more often than not here.
My idea is:
If a thread gets derailed and moves into a completely different discussion, split the thread and move the new hybrid thread into it's relevant forum(with new title) and leave the original where it began(with original title).
Sometimes the hybrid thread will be far more popular but the original may have had value as well.
...now where was that thread with the 'cool css tutorials' ;)
BT recently approved these:
There not in the TOS, that's not the point but, it's helpful to have something we can refer to when we as older members ask newer members to post their code...
|C'mon, we're all webmasters in one form or another, some of our titles could do with a bit of work |
I am guilty of having my titles/desc edited for one reason or another. Not for a lack of trying to get it right but rather just not giving it enough time before I wrote my post. Usually when I'm in a pickle and facing a deadline that's coming up fast.
The sticky issue is a bit more - well - sticky (sorry). I've offered a couple of batch files to folks to help them out and had others request the same code in the thread. I typically ask them to sticky me if they want it so as not clutter up the thread. But there will always be someone who doesn't quite think it through. And yes I agree, whenever information is taken to an exchange of stickies it can destroy the continuity of the thread. I don't have an answer on how to improve this.
Re: code snippets. The point of this Board isn't to provide you an answer per se though often it is done. The point is to give you a nudge/helping hand in the direction so you can find/develop the answer for yourself such that someone with a similar problem should be able to follow in your footsteps and learn as well - rather than being handed an answer.
When it comes to the programming languages, however, where syntax can trip you up with a simple missing '.', it sometimes helps to have a second set of eyes look it over. But in a 1000 lines of code - and you don't know what's causing the problem - what do you ask for and how do you acquire the assistance/guidance you need?
The default is to post the code - which in this case - would be a bit much. I think that in some cases we're seeing people that simply lack the experience of how to troubleshoot a problem. It doesn't come easily. And the more complex the code the more options there are for narrowing down the problem to within a few lines out of that thousand. So it's not easy to explain how to learn either.
I've sometimes wondered about the usefullness of starting a thread that discusses troubleshooting methods for specific languages. But I think the problem is I'd risk duplicating a reference website or book somewhere. Still a few useful hints might be a good idea.
What if all the guidelines were placed in a single separate Forum heading? It would make such things easier for newbies to find and therefore (hopefully) make them read the Guidelines more often.
Tutorial listings could also be placed there, with relavent links to the appropriate forum discussion. The same with things like Brett's Search Engine Relationship Chart [webmasterworld.com], etc. References and resources like that would be really convenient for newbies (and even older members) to have in a single location.
I'm thinking in terms of extremely generic information being included in one single easy-to-find Forum under the Index.
Don't allow (lengthy) discussions to take place in the Forum - only appropriate postings and updates to the information provided there. (I'm thinking in terms of avoiding all those "great post", etc. postings.)
Maybe even call it - "Welcome to WebmasterWorld". ;)
It might cut down on some redundant posts/threads by providing generic, but detailed, information in one place.
>I am guilty of having my titles/desc edited
Well, sometimes title have to be edited when the mod/admin knows what the thread is about ;)
Lots of threads in CSS start off as one thing but are best re-titled a few posts into the thread.
We're not just thinking of getting the best help but good titles are the same at WebmasterWorld as on our own sites: They get ranked, people click them, we get fresh members with fresh ideas ;)
|Instead of "Here, take a look at this..." people should be encouraged to rephrase their question to, "I am doing this, and the symptoms of my problem are..." then you have a post that will be of aid to many people. |
And it helps our own critical thinking skills in working through the issue. I have a couple of questions to post to the CSS forum, but I first have to figure out *exactly what I have to ask*. I've spent the last few hours investigating the code, doing more reading and, in general, getting a better handle on it. Maybe I'll be able to work through it myself; if not, I'll at least be able to phrase the question somewhat intelligently (maybe).
Links? The guidelines seem pretty workable here. In those few cases where something more is needed a sticky could work as long as the people on both ends are sure to discuss and clarify.
A plain old sticky me? If it doesn't do anybody else any good, dump it.
Just my 2 cents,
>> Lots of threads in CSS start off as one thing but are best re-titled a few posts into the thread.
I agree but in some cases this will happen simply because the person didn't know quite what to ask for. They simply took a swag at it. There's little reason to find this sort of error from a veteran webmaster but I suspect we won't be able to eliminate it.
Nick, I agree that posting code is valuable. Just makes my eyes glaze over. That was my point. People pick and choose what is valuable to them. One of my ramblings about writing copy probably doesn't interest the hard core PHP coder out there.
I like large data sets. NDAs prevent me from mentioning specific sites I collect data from and WebmasterWorld TOS prevents me from linking to pages where I display the sanitized aggregate data. I can't count the times I wanted to point to some of that data to help in making a point or refute a point someone else was making. However, I still can't think of an instance in which the value of dropping a link outweighed the risk of inviting URL drops in the forum.
One of the fastest ways to improve the quality of threads is to be very specific in how you present the information. Rather than stating your conclusions about a topic, state how you arrived at that conclusion. You can use specific information without using a specific site as an example. Avoid blanket statements. Avoid arguments that originate from an assumed cause, i.e., I changed the title on my index page and it dropped from #2 to #30. People assume that the reason the site dropped is the title change.
The best way I know how to improve the quality of discourse though is to encourage people to post. The sheer variety of ideas and theories will keep the topics lively and keep us from getting bogged down in stale ideas and habit. I'd rather deal with poor titles and good questions than the other way 'round...
Be nice to have cake and eat it thougb huh?
Some aspects coming up reading this thread
|As communities grow they begin to reflect all the generic problems of society within them. |
Found this forum, was fascinated, read a lot. Problem: you have to post in the first month after registration. If you don't have many time, that means: you can't have completely understood how the conventions are. Especially if english is not your first language.
Just one example (not really important, but typical):
Explaining a problem I posted an URL to a certain tool (found before somewhere else in this forum in a thread by Brett Tabke, so I thought it was ok. And a few seconds later I read a harsch "No tools!". So I decided to sticky URLS like that. If it's of general interest it would be easy to post a message like: please post this URL so everybody can see ...
Newbies learn (most of them). Communities grow by integrating new members. New members influence, or sometimes disturb, the community. See quote above.
All in all it's a great forum, and I appreciate to participate.
Be indulgent with newbies, juniors and even advanced members. Certainly those newbies a.s.o. should try to improve their posts and threads. - Politeness and patience should be constitutional for all of us.
And having fun, too.
|Can't post a link? - Of course you can! It's never been NO urls at all! |
Check the TOS again, we post links all the time, 'swhats the webs all about right?
I am confused and am not a nitpicker, so this is not a smartaleck comment. Here is a link to the TOS [webmasterworld.com]. Extracts:
|8. Links to adult content, pages with links to adult content, near adult content (including model and swimsuit sites), or messages describing anything against the law will be removed as soon as possible. Any discussion of those are off topic. |
13. Please don't drop promotional urls (we do not allow sig file urls). Signing your name is fine, however commercialized posts or resume signatures will be edited. We tend to err on the side of caution to protect the integrity of the system by reducing flippant commercialized posts. Affiliate based URLs are not allowed anywhere on the system.
25. Self promotional URL drops and whisper campaigns are strictly forbidden within the forums and will be edited out.
Those are the three TOS items I can find. What's the difference between your "links" and the "URLs" (and "links") in the TOS? Regardless of the answer, the TOS implies that all other kinds of links or URLs are OK.
I also see comments such as "no specifics!". Where does that come from? I cannot see it in the TOS (which needs to say somewhere that there are additional rules in each sub-forum's charter).
There are inconsistencies in the application of the TOS and charters that I don't want to cite, else I'll breach the TOS, but you probably know what I mean. It confuses users to see URLs and Links allowed in some sub-forums but not others. I can live with consistency.
As for old URLs to disappear, that is a known hazard of the Web and this site has its share of 404s within the site search. I find it difficult to follow a thread where the example cannot be looked up, and the poor poster ends up with a lot of stickies asking for the URL. The only reason I bother with other SEO forums is that they allow URLs.
Heck I don't even know what 'whisper campaigns' are. So if I just don't post any links, I know I'm safe.
Wow, there has really gone a lot of thought into this thread.
In general I'd like to state that I'm very pleased with the level of discussions here.
It's just that some feedback on how we all could adress some returning problems better have always been very helpful.
Heh! I didn't mean to say we shouldn't have fun! Even if it's not FOO. What I was pointing out is simply some threads I've been reading where nearly very second message was a request for a sticky. That was funny in a way, but also ruined the thread.
How about changing the "PubConference" link on the top to "Guidelines" or something like it?
|What I was pointing out is simply some threads I've been reading where nearly very second message was a request for a sticky. That was funny in a way, but also ruined the thread. |
In those circumstances it is not knowing the URL that is being discussed that ruins the thread.
You can glance over the requests for "Sticky Me Please" - which given circumstances such as "I've discovered this brilliant new spamming technique" are entirely understandable.
A de-linked copy of the URL (such that it must be cut'n'pasted / de-munged) into another browser window should be permitted in cases like those, so that we can all see what is being discussed, whilst Webmasterworld is not revealed as the referrer.
>discovered this brilliant new spamming technique
Yeah, but that's exactly what we IMO want to avoid at all costs.
I think I know to which thread you are referring, that was rather borderline as the player involved was so huge, that it probably wouldn't have hurt him.
But under all normal circumstances this is exactly one of my main concerns with sticky me threads.
We should at all costs try and avoid exposing sites. I think that is a fundamental principle for the board.
To me the core of the way we deal with urls is twofold:
We never promote sites, we never expose sites.
Part of the sticky me threads are really a way around that principle, and that's what concerns me.
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