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Flagging Follow-Up Questions

by Sherlock (Deacon)
on Jun 27, 2001 at 20:55 UTC ( #91983=monkdiscuss: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

I've had this thought before, but I was really spurred to asking something about it when I read Re: Writing answers for newbie questions by nysus. In that post, nysus said:

Too often, the newbie asks a question, gets some answers, and that's that. But I'm sure the newbie still probably has lingering questions...

I have an idea for a new feature that would allow nodes with follow-up questions to be "flagged" in some way to draw attention back to them. Let me construct an example and then I'll show you what I'm getting at.

Consider me a newbie Perl programmer. I have a question about how to use hashes with HTML::Template or some such thing. I post my question and it is quickly answered by merlyn (you know, it works perfectly, but the title of the response is longer than the response itself) - no offense, merlyn. ;) As more experienced monks, many of you will view the response and deem that question "answered." I, as a newbie, might not totally understand the solution, though. I'll take the code in the response and put it into my script and, sure it works fine, but I really need to understand why. At this point, I'd like to post a follow-up question asking for an explanation of why this works or where can I find more documentation on this, etc. Unfortunately, most of the monks might have already viewed my post and most likely will not be coming back to it. What I really want to know is if there is some way of flagging that node to show that it has a follow-up question and the author is asking for more attention? This could help direct some of the monks that had already viewed the post back to it in order to address the follow-up question. I don't think such a feature currently exists, so perhaps I'm asking for consideration of something new.

I think the easiest way to flag a node as having a follow-up would be to re-"timestamp" the root node with the time at which the follow-up was asked - this should bring that node back to the top of the Newest Nodes list.

Now - a few ideas and concerns I've had toward this notion.

1. Can it be done? Obviously, this is an important question and I don't have the answer. I don't know if the nodes even can be re-"timestamped." That was just my best guess as to how to get the nodes back to the top of the Newest Nodes list.

2. Will it get abused? At first glance, I thought some monks might abuse this feature by constantly posting follow-up questions in order to keep their nodes on the Newest Nodes list longer in hopes of attaining a higher reputation on those nodes. After thinking about this, though, I feel that the other monks around here would police this just as they police useless posts made by Trolls. If someone keeps creating follow-up posts (which keep getting more useless), the other monks will eventually vote those posts down and the original poster will be losing XP, rather than gaining the XP they had originally hoped for.

3. Is it necessary? Well, I wish I could say that every reply to a question is thoroughly explained, but they aren't. Granted, I've seen a number of questions get answered very thoroughly. Take this node entitled Hash Tutorial by dhammaBum. The replies by tilly and stephen were outstanding. Other times, however, I think some inquisitors are left scratching their heads as much (if not more) than before they had posted. It's for these cases, when the other monks feel that they've answered the question, but the original poster isn't yet satisfied, that I believe this feature could be useful.

4. Is it only for newbies? I don't think so. Obviously, my example uses a newbie, but I don't believe that my example really shows the only case where this feature could apply. Perhaps higher level monks might use this feature in Meditations as well when they want clarification or want to prod on a discussion.

5. Why not just make another post? Frankly, I often don't feel that a follow-up question is worthy of another post - nor does it belong in a separate post. It belongs with the original question; hence, it is a follow-up question.

Well, I think I've gone on about this feature long enough. I really just wanted to get the opinion of the other monks as to whether such a feature would be worth taking up vroom's time to implement or if we, as a community, should either do a better job of explaining ourselves or revisiting nodes. I just feel that there is so much to do here (and I'm sure we all lead busy lives) that no one really wants to take up extra time if they don't need to.

Let me hear what you think.

- Sherlock

Skepticism is the source of knowledge as much as knowledge is the source of skepticism.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re: Flagging Follow-Up Questions
by Masem (Monsignor) on Jun 27, 2001 at 21:32 UTC
    It sounds like you want to chain nodes together (that is, to provide a logic progression from one to the other, in addition to the chronilogical done by Newest Nodes, and the hyperlinking of nodes). This isn't a bad idea, though I'm not sure that the mechanism that we currently have would already cover it.

    You're looking at 3 possible ways of doing this:

    1. Following up with posts in the same thread. This is the most logical place to put them without modifying PM's backend, but it's the most unlikely place that people will look for additional questions after time; I try to browse all newest nodes regardless, but I know some don't, and sometimes I don't have the time to do this. So a followup question that's posted a day or two later will be lost in the noise.
    2. Following up posts in a new thread. As recently discussed, you should never be worried about hurting PM's resources as the amount of disk space that new questions take up is not a limitation. You can easily backwards-chain questions since you can refer to a previous question in your new one, and to complete the forward chaining, it should be possible to add to Editors Requests to include a link to the new question. The only disadvantage this method has is that it puts more work on the Editors to keep the chain alive; the followsup will be seen by most everyone moreso than replying to the existing one.
    3. Modifying PM's structure to allow users to chain their posts. This satisfies both the lack of any extra work to be done by Editors (though vroom would have to implement it), and keeps followups at the Newest Nodes level. But again, this is the only possibility that requires vroom to do significant coding, so it's not the greatest solution.
    My preferences would be #2 above, where you can maintain backwards chains, and ask editors to help with forward chains. Alternative, you can always post a followup in the original thread that points people to the newer node; I typically read all replies in older threads when Super Searching for answers, so including a pointer to a followup would help here. This also requires no extra work by vroom and minimal work by the Editors, but it does also put the brunt of the work on the user to maintain such chains.

    Dr. Michael K. Neylon - || "You've left the lens cap of your mind on again, Pinky" - The Brain
Re: Flagging Follow-Up Questions
by Abigail (Deacon) on Jun 28, 2001 at 03:26 UTC
    Unfortunately, most of the monks might have already viewed my post and most likely will not be coming back to it.

    Well, that is the nature of webboards. There is another forum, more than twice as old as the web, that addresses this, and other problems webboards suffer from.

    It's called Usenet.

    -- Abigail

(Follow-Up): Flagging Follow-Up Questions
by Hofmator (Curate) on Jun 27, 2001 at 21:04 UTC

    A simple idea - not needing any kind of extra coding... just mark the follow-up post in the title clearly visible with (Follow-Up) or (Follow) or whatever we decide on. See e.g. this post.

    I know that it is not an ideal solution because you have to know about that convention but it's simple and there could be a hint in the FAQs...

    Update: My original suggestion of (FU) could be easily misinterpreted in a way not intended :-)), thanks for pointing that out japhy.

    -- Hofmator

Re: Flagging Follow-Up Questions
by nysus (Curate) on Jun 27, 2001 at 22:32 UTC
    How about if a private message showed up in the chatterbox whenever there is a reply to one of your posts?

    So merlyn writes a reply. I humbly ask for clarification. merlyn now sees a little message in his chatterbox that says "nysus has posted a reply to one of your posts". He graciously clicks it and responds to my answer.

    This seems like a solution that could be relatively easy to implement. Would it add value to PM?

    $PM = "Perl Monk's";
    $MCF = "Most Clueless Friar Abbot";
    $nysus = $PM . $MCF;

      This is actually already possible if you allow root to message you whenever a reply is made to one of your posts. (It's available in your user settings.) Unfortunately, this would only draw attention from one monk - in this case, merlyn. What if merlyn doesn't have the time or ambition to follow up? It would be nice if, in some way, you could let the whole community know. In many cases, maybe the follow-up question wouldn't be to an individual response; maybe the follow-up question is a reply to the original post, which means that only the original poster would receive a message saying that they had a their own post!

      - Sherlock

      Skepticism is the source of knowledge as much as knowledge is the source of skepticism.

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