Get rid of post voting format in the Help and Support category

The up/down voting format in the “Help and Support” category is horrible for any question that doesn’t have a quick, short reply. If someone asks a more complicated question, the posts quickly get all out of order and you don’t have any of the controls available on the rest of Discourse. It’s impossible to follow the order of a discussion that starts in that category. I would like to see this category converted or changed into the format used on the rest of the site.

Case in point:


There’s a toggle at the top of the answers section that sorts by activity instead of by votes, but unfortunately it isn’t the default. I’d support changing the default to activity sorting, or making the post voting format a non-default option, or removing the option for new topics, whatever’s possible. But disabling the plugin entirely would eliminate all the replies under each question or answer. Those of us who’ve tried to be disciplined about using that functionality would get cut out of the discussion, making the discussion even more confusing.


As a regular user of Stackexchange I like the format very much - questions and plain answers that can be discussed individually and voted on by the community.
For OSM it worked quite well as long as it had its own platform and wasn’t integrated in the forums.

I think the main problem is that now it looks like a regular forum category and the difference is not apparent at all. Maybe there are options to make it visually stand out? Another default page design, or some large information box on the side and when creating the post?


With there was also quite a bit of moderator activity to “convert answers to comments” from people who didn’t understand how it worked (which was everyone not familiar with StackExchange, site i.e. “all normal people” :slight_smile: ). That is one of the things that the post voting plugin just doesn’t support. It’d be nice if it did, but that’d need contributions upstream (as would integrating comments with email, which would also be nice).

However, it;s not really a big problem - we haven’t really had many “bin fire” topics as a result of people not understanding how post voting is supposed to work, and even when people have given answers as replies sequentially, it’s possible to click a button and view them as “normal” replies. Of all of the things that “it might make sense to change in OSM” this is around the 94th…


I agree. It is only suitable for, and only intended for, questions that can be solved with a single correct answer. It’s awful for discussions or socializing.

At the same time, the old help site proved that such a format can work well … for the right kinds of questions.

So before giving up on the idea entirely, I’d like to see if we can get better at guiding people to the correct format for their question. Steps I’m thinking of of are:

  • Making the intended use of the categories clear by changing the current category description for Help and support
  • Reordering the two international categories so that General talk is on top and therefore more likely to get questions by anyone who’s not sure about which one to post in.

Maybe there are others? We’re somewhat constrained by what the software allows us to change.


Is it possible to move these problematic threads to another category without the feature enabled?

That would leave us with two categories, one with “Help and Support Discussion” and one “Help and Support Q&A”.

No, post voting is supported everywhere (and it’s possible to create a post voting topic anywhere, just not the default to do that). It doesn’t appear to be possible to change a post voting topic to a non-post-voting one. See also here and here**.

To add on Andy’s post, I just realised that you can switch between SE-like threads and standard threads for all categories on the button at the top left corner:

The problem is that this isn’t very intuitive as there aren’t many signs it’s an actual button you can click and thus change the type of thread alongside the fact that it’s enabled by default Help and support (I myself never had any issues on using Q&A topics, considering I’m quite familiar with SE).

On top of that, I think there should be a way to discourage posting a reply-as-an-answer in such threads like a warning when creating a second post or when the OP writes a post there.

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Yes, it’s quite undiscoverable. If the default were a normal post, new users might not discover the ability to do post voting, but emoji reactions and the Solution button would still be available anyways. (That button comes from a different plugin and predates the introduction of post voting here.)

For new users, the option to add a comment on a post is apparently easy to miss compared to the big blue Answer button. But even those who know better still use the Answer button because an answer has far fewer restrictions than a comment and gets parsed by a full Markdown parser instead of the limited, poorly documented parser for comments. All it takes is for one experienced user to post a comment as an answer and the thread is doomed.

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Yeah hi that’s me. Forum loudmouth, popularizer of :popcorn:, and longtime contributor. I still got this wrong, along with @stevea and @Mateusz_Konieczny who I hope we can agree are “experienced users”. We all made an unholy mess of the originally-linked topic and it’s broken beyond repair. It’s impossible to untangle the discussion that ensued. The format is the problem here, not the users.

What exactly, are we concerned about saving here?

The rest of the forum has the ability to “vote” on replies using the emoji reaction. Having one category default to a different, crippled threading model, with a vote system that re-orders replies, makes no sense. Everyone here is used to how every other category works. What do we gain from making one category different and confusing people for no benefit? Let’s recognize it as a failed experiment, learn from it, and make that category work exactly like every other one on the forum.

And yes @SomeoneElse, on the list of things that matter in OSM, it’s probably even lower on the priority list than adding a :popcorn: reaction, but it’s also something we can can fix easily.


Or an initial post that is ill-suited to the Q&A format from the start. More thoughts on this previously here:

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When we introduced the Discourse community platform, the goal was to offer a new home for both the people used to the linear discussions of and those used to the Q&A format of (plus to some extent the people used to mailing lists as well).

Notably, the help platform wasn’t shut down because anything was wrong with the Q&A paradigm (it worked quite well), but simply because the software we used to host it was no longer maintained.

The feature we’re discussing in this thread is the keystone mechanism of or attempt to replicate help’s Q&A format. If we disable it, we will have shut down without offering a comparable replacement, which is not an ideal outcome.


I’m tempted to agree with the suggestion.

Post voting as per StackOverflow or the old is a great thing and in theory I’m glad it exists. worked really well, OSQA maintenance issues aside.

But on Discourse, the voted threads are not adequately signposted as being different from the main forum style. The result is that hardly anyone, newbies or regulars alike, treats voted threads here as an SO-style Q&A. So the threading goes completely skewiff and everyone ends up getting confused.

With a bit of CSS work and some explanatory text, I think it’d be possible to make the voted threads look sufficiently different that it could work. But I doubt we have a queue of people lining up to do that work.


I think that’s a perfectly fine outcome. There is no need for two separate web forums for engaging with the community. “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it” is bad rationale and we shouldn’t fall into that trap. The help site has outlived its usefulness now that we have a robust and modern Discourse forum that people can use.

Both the up/down voting and reaction voting have their merits if we were going to go all in on one or the other. Having one forum category work in a totally different way than the rest of the site isn’t justifiable on the basis of previously having had a StackExchange-like mechanism.

A person engaging with the community for the first time won’t (a) realize the forum style distinction or care and (b) won’t know the difference between a quick easy question and one that needs a more nuanced threaded discussion.

I also dislike the up/down format because it creates an “us vs them” dynamic between the question asker and the OSM community response. A threaded discussion allows for a more integrated engagement and is very effective on the rest of the site.


No, its because, even if not perfect, an up-down-voting mechanism allows to curate good and easy to find answers. As you point out later, providing somebody asking a question with a good answer isn’t your goal, so naturally you don’t like the mechanism.

Not a quote as @ZeLonewolf points out in the next posting so obviously Discourse hallucinating.


It would be great if you would speak for yourself in the future and not try to put words in other people’s mouths. I’m perfectly capable of describing my own position, thank you very much. I certainly don’t care what Simon Poole thinks my goals or likes and dislikes are.

As I’ve pointed out, the up/down format only works for questions that are neatly tailored to a set of competing answers. That’s why it works great on StackExchange (multiple ways to accomplish a technical/coding task) and terrible for OSM (nuance and discussion and consensus building). And further, a newbie asking the question has no idea whether they’re asking a question suitable for Q&A or something that loads to a discussion.

And in any case, emoji reaction counts already serve the function of showing the level of community agreement with a response.

My goal is not having users be confused by out of order discussion and replies. I almost wrote “new users” but when it’s experienced getting tangled up, the problem is no longer the user, it’s the software configuration.

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I’d argue that this is already the situation as the current state of Discourse + plugins does not offer a comparable replacement to the OSQA powered It sort of approximates it but is confusing and not working very well at all.


Currently we have situation where we have shut down without offering a comparable replacement AND we have random post ordering on some threads.

Having only the first problem would be better.


It feels like maybe we just need the normal post format but with the option to mark a specific response as “the answer” which is then highlighted and shown below the OP.

Presumably easier to say than to implement.

Where’s that then? Discourse’s UI is an utter mess. Trying to help someone to change something in their settings is an absolute nightmare of talking them through convoluted horizontal and vertical menus.

The implementation (or lack of it) of “post voting” is arguably compatible with the state of other features in Discourse. Elsewhere, we have zombie “always unread” threads, and people complaining that they (and only they) can’t see certain icons.

Taking a step back, it’s a bit of a shame seeing some people saying things that are essentially “I don’t think we should provide a question-and-answer style solution, and therefore I’m going to try and prevent you from doing that too”. It reminds me a bit of the extremists on either side of the “former railways” question (neither of which I agree with FWIW) - each tries to deny that the other position is one that anyone should hold, rather than trying to find common ground.

Maybe the answer is for a help and support mod (such as me) to come up with a form of words for a pinned topic that can explain a bit about how it’s supposed to work.