Disordered help and support topics. Can we disable some of the reply buttons?

Can we disable the “bottom” reply buttons in help and support?

What and who is affected by this issue/request?

There has been some discussions elsewhere in this forum about the responses in the Help and Support category ending up out of order as people tend to press the reply button to add what is really a comment to a previous answer as a separate answer and it isn’t possible for moderators to separate to comments and vice versa as it is for the old help site. This can result in very confusing threads as they aren’t correctly threaded and once the answers get voted on they end up out of order (e.g.).

People responding to than existing answer should be using the comment facility under the answer they want to comment on, but this the link to do this is overshadowed by a much bigger reply button at the bottom of the thread. Can we hide this button so that fewer people will make this mistake?.

Where on the platform does it happen?

The help and Support Topics that have post voting enabled.

How do we replicate the issue?

Create several answers to a question in help and support and then vote on them until they are out of order.

Expected behaviour (i.e. solution)

The person wanting to respond to an existing answer should only see the Add comment option and not a big “reply” option below it.

Other Comments

The reply button at the top near the original question has been renamed to “answer” but using this wording at the bottom might not make it any clearer that the box that it is just to be used to answer the original question.

Honestly, with how collaborative answers often are, I think just disabling the plugin that’s trying to do ranked voting at all, and just have everything be a “normal” forum post that shows replies in order, would make things simpler and more useful for everyone.

7 Likes

Agreed. We can express support for a reply using the emoji reactions, that’s enough.

The best of both worlds would be to have one level of comments (helps avoid taking the main thread off topic), but no post voting.

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If it’s replacing the old help site then collaborative answers should be minimal as it’s for straightforward (new user) Q&A.

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Well, maybe for some questions and not for others. The description at the top when I visit the category says “Whether you are new or experienced.” I can see some questions being straightforward, and it being helpful to just have a most-voted answer, with collaboration for the community to edit those answers in a wiki-like manner to the best they can be. And I think other questions are less straightforward, and people are trying to work around the system that’s preventing replies because really they’re wanting to do replies and not “answers”.

I’m certainly new to this community, though, so I may not be understanding fully why the current system is the way that it is.

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It’s possible to sort threads by “Votes” or by “Activity”

In this case it’s no longer possible to show the best answer immediately below the original question - IMO a great benefit of this Q&A tool.

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Historically, we used to have two separate platforms: forum.osm.org (with linear conversations ordered by posting time) and help.osm.org (Q&A-style voting trying to produce a single best answer). When we decided to migrate to a single platform, the idea was to have two big international categories, where General talk would resemble the old forum while Help and support would resemble the old help site.

Under the Q&A paradigm, the goal is that someone who has the same question as the original poster only needs to read the single top-voted answer and get a full answer. But of course, that requires people to act quite differently from how they do in linear conversations. For example, anything that isn’t attempting to be a comprehensive answer to the original question should be a comment and if new useful information or corrections are pointed out in a comment, an answer’s author would ideally edit their answer to incorporate it. This model famously works well on sites such as StackOverflow, and IMO used to work decently on help.osm.org as well, but so far we haven’t managed to replicate these dynamics on community.osm.org.

It’s quite possible that UI changes like the one suggested here could help us get there. I suspect this might be an upstream feature request rather than something we can (easily) do locally, although I haven’t deeply investigated yet.

5 Likes

if there is an answer that is mostly complete, but some facts are missing, typically you would only reply with the part that is missing, but if the answer should be complete, you should actually repeat what the other answer has said, plus add your points that are missing in that answer?

Yes, in a Q&A format it wouldn’t be unusual for an answer to partly repeat something said in a previously written answer, but explain it better or add some crucial additional information. After all, the order in which they’re written shouldn’t matter in a vote-based thread display.

Of course, if it’s just a small addendum, you could also comment on the mostly-complete answer.

3 Likes

A possible next step could be to offer quotations only from the original post of a thread:

Perhaps a way to keep conversations more focused.

Aside from the convenient Quote function, another reason why people seem to gravitate toward separate answers is that comments accept a different, more limited flavor of Markdown than answers do. For example, you can’t link arbitrary text to a URL; the URL has to appear inline. This is a frustrating experience, reminiscent of how osm.org accepts Markdown in diary posts but not changeset comments.

I’ve also noticed that the original poster often leaves their own “answer” in order to thank the community for their answers (not just the one marked as a solution) or refocus the discussion. In theory, emoji reactions and comments should be enough to express these sentiments, but even the OP who chose the Q&A format by default seems to treat it like an ordinary forum thread by this point.

4 Likes

In my opinion the reason for this is that Discourse makes it easy to browse the latest topics from all categories mixed together. So rather than functioning as two fully separate sections, Help and support and General talk are just categories within the overall Discourse system. When viewing the top level topics page you see Help and support topics mixed together with topics from all other categories.

This reinforces the feeling that Help and support topics are just like any other Discourse topic and users communicate in the same way within them. To foster a different communication dynamic in Help and support, it would really need to be a completely separate section with a somewhat distinct design and where topics didn’t mix with those from other categories. I’m guessing this isn’t really possible within a single Discourse instance.

8 Likes

The settings available for the voting and solved plugins are shown below


So this would require changes to the post-voting plugin to have an option like that available.

I think the question now becomes:

Do we think this would be useful enough to ask for it over on the the Discourse Discourse?

I could try to open a topic there, but if we wouldn’t be inclined to enable it anyway then I’d rather not ask for something that we don’t want as a group. (Not that I’d claim to be acting in any official capacity when I’m not of course.)

See also Broken reply allowed to Q&A answer

Plus my thoughts:

I’m sure if you were to write something as a wiki one of the moderators would be happy to pin it at the top.

Huh, there’s a setting “enable like button on post voting topics”, and it’s off, but I can see the like button (and emoji reactions) in post voting topics, both for the original topic and for “answers”. Is this a bug in the plugin or am I misunderstanding the setting?

Sorry, I have to carefully spend my little time for OSM. I am much more into JOSM and its wiki and judging by the number of people actively contributing on both sites, JOSM is my choice.

2 Likes

I think @SomeoneElse was referring to a feature on this forum that lets you mark your own post as a “wiki”, allowing other users to edit it freely. I think only users with trust level 3 can do that. Everyone else has to ask a moderator to turn their post into a wiki post.

1 Like

I completely understand that, and the reason why I haven’t sorted it out myself is exactly the same reason :slight_smile: