question

lehrling avatar image
lehrling asked

Why is this community structure so confusing?

Hi,

I am new to this community and would like to give feedback with my opinion on the structure of the forum threads - it is horrible!


I get that you are trying to create a knowledgebase with each topic having only one answer, but but this idea of comments vs answers really mucks up the flow of the threads, makes it confusing to follow, and spoils the user experience.


I have not seen another forum anywhere that uses this format.


Edited - Moved to a new question by Guy.

victron community
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5 Answers
Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager) avatar image
Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager) answered ·

Hi @Lehrling,

Welcome to the community,

It was a deliberate choice to structure the community in this way, with full knowledge of the downsides you mention.

To explain the behaviour...

A discussion forum model uses a chronology of posts, with oldest at the top, and newest at the bottom. Usually there is only a single thread, and they rely upon quoting to reply to a specific older post in the same thread.

This encourages a discussion back and forth between users, and keeps things nice and linear for our brains to follow.

During pre-launch testing, this community initially had that model - and we chose NOT to continue with it, and instead go a different way.


The big problem for us with the forum structure is that it can take a lot of reading and encourages back and forth discussion, not normally the most efficient way to clearly deliver the best answer.

It might even present an incorrect or low quality answer at the top, just because it was first, requiring moderation or apparent 'censorship' to remove it from prime position. I would rather avoid that situation when a community driven merit system can solve the problem instead.


The structure of this community is to drive the BEST answer to appear immediately below the question, regardless of when it was posted, first, last or some time in the middle.


To do this, the response structure is a divided between ONE original Question, comments about the question, then many possible Answers, and then many possible Comment trees to each of those Answers.


The choice to prioritise the best Answer, over a logical discussion is not unique to this community and is very popular in developer Q&A sites (such as stack overflow), where a high quality clearly presented single answer is ultimately preferred and more valuable than a good/lengthy discussion.

Answers initially are ranked by post date, newest at the top (because presumably they are adding something different and better than what is already there), however another answer that has been upvoted will take priority over any other date ranked post (because people like it more), and an 'Accepted Answer' will take priority over all (unless there is another Accepted answer that is higher voted, or newer).


The downside is where there is not a clear answer, or some discussion or investigation is required, and then I agree the community structure can get EXTREMELY confusing. However my intention for the community is not to be or encourage a discussion space, but a productive exchange of the best answers to the re-occuring questions, and that is the priority which decided to make it like this.


I think the success of this community has supported that decision.


There are also alternative platforms on the internet that specialise in Victron, and even potentially enough space for a completely independent Victron discussion, design or DIY forum that is more conducive to a linear conversation.

I would personally consider it a big success if there was enough interest in Victron to drive someone to create, support and maintain that, as having it would go a long way to removing demand pressure on this site to be something that it is not intended to be.


PS - I took the liberty of creating a new question for you, moving it from where you initially posted it.

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nigelfxs avatar image nigelfxs commented ·

I am okay with this forum structure, but really miss a quick way to find the most recent comment - especially in long topics.

A button to jump to the most recent post would be helpful, or a way to toggle between showing the comments in date-order and threaded order.

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Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager) avatar image Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager) ♦♦ nigelfxs commented ·

This may be something that I can improve - allowing you to click the at least the MOST recent comment or answer, but probably not all unread comments.

I will look into it.


There is also a feature already where you can enable email notifications for question that you follow, and that will give you the content in your email as well as a link to that specific new content.

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marekp avatar image marekp Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager) ♦♦ commented ·

It would be nice to be automaticly notified by e-mail on the answer to the question one asked, or to the comment/reply one made. (e-mail with the link to the post)

Now one would get such an e-mail only if person answering/commenting/replying, to your post, includes "@your_nick" in the body of his post.

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Hi @MarekP

I have heard this issue before, but it does not affect me personally, I get email notifications of replies when I am following, as expected.

I presume if you go into the notification settings in your profile it is configured to receive emails on posts that you follow, and that you are set to follow posts that you have commented on? And you have checked your usual junk mail boxes?

Once confirmed I will ask a dev to look into why that might not be happening.

As an aside, the entire notification system is getting an overhaul this year, which should also help, but we won't wait for that.


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marekp avatar image marekp Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager) ♦♦ commented ·

@Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager)

Hi,

I probably do not understand the choices in the notification panel.

Here are my settings. They are default because I did not change them myself.

screen-shot-2021-01-14-at-24946-pm.png

screen-shot-2021-01-14-at-24854-pm.png

screen-shot-2021-01-14-at-24910-pm.png

Only this setting "Additionally" work because I am getting e-mails when post includes this "@username" notation.

screen-shot-2021-01-14-at-24923-pm.png

Regards,

Marek

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marekp avatar image marekp marekp commented ·

@Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager)

Hi,

I changed "Daily Digest" to "instant" and started getting e-mails with info on replays to my comments.

I think "Daily Digest" option is not working at all.

screen-shot-2021-01-18-at-120445-pm.png

Regards,

Marek

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Ahh thanks very much for that additional bit of info! Will definitely help in finding the issue.

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muddy1 avatar image muddy1 Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager) ♦♦ commented ·

The issue I see is "answers" being posted that are actually "comments". These show the question has been answered but in reality it has not. As a consequence it is less likely to be picked up by victron staff or other users. It would be useful if all could change an untrue answer to a comment.

Additionally is there any way to flag a reply that identifies a bug in the system so that it is highlighted to victron staff ? rather than the answer being a bug that is never resolved.

There is an issue with "VE Bus State for Multiplus not showing correct Information in VRM" at present. This has been the subject of a number of questions.

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Hi @Muddy1,

Good point - I have just enabled the ability for all users to convert comments to answers, and answers to comments. Hopefully this helps the situation.

It is possible to @victron and then select one of the staff to see the list of Victron staff (most often me), if you see a post that you think we need to see.

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muddy1 avatar image muddy1 Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager) ♦♦ commented ·
That's ideal, and it works.

The @victron is a useful tip.

Thanks


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seb71 avatar image
seb71 answered ·

The biggest issue is with the "comments" (replies to answers") and "comments to comments". Sorting by "oldest" (to read them in chronological order) does not work for these.

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I don't understand @Seb71, as long as people are replying to the same answer (rather than to another comment) then it should be the correct chronology, oldest first.

To demonstrate, I made this comment on your answer first.

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seb71 avatar image seb71 Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager) ♦♦ commented ·

The thread from which you moved this question was an example of this behaviour. But now it is "pruned".

If I find another similar thread I will link it as an example.

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seb71 avatar image seb71 seb71 commented ·

Wait, I got confused by the hidden replies. :)


I think that thread still can illustrate the issue.


Sort it by "oldest"


Then go to this comment (by hdb):

"6kVA 400V diesel generator with 16A 50Hz 220/230 ac output which I gave to him. Good machine."


Comments to this comment have the same indentation as comments to comments to this comment.


So it might appear that you are reading the replies in the wrong chronological order (as I first mistakenly thought; only now I noticed this).



-------

Also. it is difficult to find where a new comment was posted in a long thread and with many branches like that one.


Could it be highlighted some way?


-----

In general, I find this "one problem/one thread" approach quite good, but it might need some fine tuning when the same problem branches out in many replies, replies to replies and so on.


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Stefanie avatar image Stefanie ♦♦ seb71 commented ·

And replying to oneself doesn't help either, because the one you're talking to might not be notified of your reply (depending on settings) ;-)

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seb71 avatar image seb71 Stefanie ♦♦ commented ·

Ha, ha. Correct.

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seb71 avatar image seb71 seb71 commented ·

This reply I made above is an example: is no longer indented and appears to be a reply to my other post, not to Stefanie's post (if you only look at the indentations).

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seb71 avatar image seb71 seb71 commented ·

And now even the "Seb71->Seb71" marker does not help.

Did I replied to my post above or to the other one?

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seb71 avatar image seb71 seb71 commented ·

This is a reply to the "other one" (longer) post.

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seb71 avatar image seb71 seb71 commented ·

@Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager)


Hope this illustrates the issue.

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And then I followed it up with this comment.

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It is possible for me to disable comments on comments, and only allow comments to answers. That might help with some of the threading issues, mainly when people get confused and click comment or reply to a different comment or answer than they mean to.

That would make things simpler by preventing sub-comment conversation.

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Stefanie avatar image Stefanie ♦♦ Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager) ♦♦ commented ·

IMO it is hard for many people to understand the difference between a reply/comment and an answer. This then adds to the confusion and is making threads sometimes unreadable. Maybe this can be better highlighted in the Community Guide.

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raymond-nicolas avatar image raymond-nicolas Stefanie ♦♦ commented ·

yes I'm troubled also regarding the nuance reply/comment And
I don't know when to favour one or the other.

sorry for my bad english

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klim8skeptic avatar image klim8skeptic ♦ commented ·

I'm not so unsure.

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lehrling avatar image
lehrling answered ·

Simple is always better, I think you are overthinking it.

You underestimate the reader's ability to follow, absorb and process the information as it comes in.

You said it yourself:

"A discussion forum model uses a chronology of posts, with oldest at the top, and newest at the bottom. Usually there is only a single thread, and they rely upon quoting to reply to a specific older post in the same thread.

This encourages a discussion back and forth between users, and keeps things nice and linear for our brains to follow."

I have personally read many multi-page forum threads that follow the model you described and prefer that.

The solution here could be that we all just Answer and stop using comments and replies. Just like using Victron products, sometimes workarounds are necessary.

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Stefanie avatar image
Stefanie answered ·

For me it is very confusing finding the right answers to questions because most of the questioners forget to mark their questions answered (in case they get the answer they were seeking for).

Maybe this can be improved in some way?

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Indeed this is a problem,

(nearly) everybody is able to 'accept' an answer, not just the original asker of the question. Perhaps that could be further encouraged somehow, I am open to suggestions if you can think of something to try?

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Stefanie avatar image Stefanie ♦♦ Guy Stewart (Victron Community Manager) ♦♦ commented ·

I don't know about your and the forums software possibilities.
Maybe a visual hint what the accept button means or make it more prominent?

I didn't know that a question can have several accepted answers. Just seeing this now that you mentioned it ;-)

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klim8skeptic avatar image
klim8skeptic answered ·

Really neat trick adjusting ppl's notifications to spam their inbox's.

An unwarranted invasion of ppl's privacy.

GGgrr. S.

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Ahh, sorry about that, not intentional and still broken clearly.

The situation is that the 'daily digest' mode was set as site default - so one email a day with all the links to the things you follow - but this was broken so that no email were sent at all for the follows - just for the @ mentions of your name.

So this was changed to the working - but possibly overwhelming, 'instant' mode. Which means one email per 'event' (question, answer, comment for the things you 'follow').

Hopefully a once off, but a bug with the site none-the-less, so likely to change BACK to daily digest as default when the bug is fixed.

I BELIEVE that if you modify your notification settings inside your own user account - that your account will no longer follow the 'defaults' whatever those are for the site.

If you have changed your own notification settings and made them custom, and then those were overwritten then that is YET ANOTHER bug with this notification system - and if that has happened, let me know and I will report that in addition to the daily digest issue.

I'd rather send people less email - and one per day seems more than enough, so the quicker I can get things back to that the better.

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