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answers that really aren't

    General discussion

  • I searched for a topic I had a question on, found lots of results, many marked as answered so I read those thinking the answer would be in there, but many aren't answers. An MS person or MVP asks a question "have you tried this"? The questioner doesn't answer. The "have you tried this" gets marked as the answer. Or simply "you're in the wrong forum". Or links to the basic steps the questioner already says didn't work. Or even ones where the questioner replies that the link suggested doesn't really apply. In a bunch of those the MS person or the moderator marks their post as the answer when it isn't answered at all. Makes searching for real answers full of dead ends. Seems a thread shouldn't be marked as answered unless the questioner says so.

    Sunday, July 30, 2017 10:55 PM

All replies

  • That can be problematic. The OP always has the power to unmark any proposed or marked answers. Sometime they're "drive by" questions where someone creates a forums account, asks a question and then never returns to even read the replies.

     

     

     



    Regards, Dave Patrick ....
    Microsoft Certified Professional
    Microsoft MVP [Windows Server] Datacenter Management

    Disclaimer: This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties or guarantees, and confers no rights.

    Sunday, July 30, 2017 11:38 PM
    Moderator
  • If the questioner is not happy with the marked answer(s), he can unmark it and thus indicate that he expects more answers. Otherwise, the questioner either accepts the marked answer, or has abandoned the thread and does not care about it any longer. In the latter case, moderators tend to mark threads "answered".

    Hope this made things clearer. If you prefer better indication of usefulness of answers, Stack Exchange forums may be more suitable for you.

    -- pa

    Sunday, July 30, 2017 11:39 PM
  • On the other side of the coin, many times the question is answered properly but the OP does not mark the answer or, in some cases, the answer to the question does not provide the OP with the desired outcome.  In these instances the OP disappears without accepting or marking the correct response as the answer.
    Sunday, July 30, 2017 11:58 PM
  • Btw, it helps to point out the thread that you think the answer is not really an answer by reply to it and state the reason why it's not an answer.

    Note that just pointing out it's just suggestion to fix the problem is not enough, as the marked answer often has reasonable chance to fix the problem. Usually you needs to hold some proof, or you're someone experiencing the same problem but the troubleshooting instruction does not help your case, and you're willing to continue provide information and carry on the troubleshooting.

    Moderators usually will help you unmark the answer on request, and they'll often suggest you to create your own thread so you can help mark the answer if it really help you solve the problem.

    Wednesday, August 2, 2017 2:19 AM
  • Well I see one way people forget about threads. I started this and then put it out of my mind expecting an email if there were any responses. Never got it. Will have to look into that.

    There are good points in the replies here but it still means if you're looking for questions that are "answered" on a given topic you end up with a lot that are no help. I realize leaving it to the OP (?) to mark the answer would leave a lot of questions not marked as answered, but I think that's the lesser problem. If other people are having the same problem and ask the same question and an answer is working it will get marked by someone. But all of these threads that are marked as answered when they aren't seems to reduce the value of a forum.

    Tuesday, August 8, 2017 12:25 AM
  • I agree. The whole point of marking a reply as an answer is to filter the results so more relevant content is returned when searching. There's nothing wrong with a forum having a lot of unanswered questions, but if Msft insists on incorrectly marking questions as answered maybe they need to add a "suggested answer" parameter to reduce the confusion. 
    Saturday, August 26, 2017 3:03 PM
  •  maybe they need to add a "suggested answer" parameter to reduce the confusion. 

    It is called "Propose as answer"

     

     



    Regards, Dave Patrick ....
    Microsoft Certified Professional
    Microsoft MVP [Windows Server] Datacenter Management

    Disclaimer: This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties or guarantees, and confers no rights.

    Saturday, August 26, 2017 3:10 PM
    Moderator
  • I agree.

    Unfortunately, and this happens all too frequently, the 'questioner' doesn't bother to reply with the results once their issue is resolved, leaving threads open in an 'unanswered' state, often for many years.

    As such, moderators will mark THE MOST COMMON SOLUTION to a problem as an answer if the OP hasn't responded to either confirm or deny the solution offered after a certain period of time, to help keep things clean, and to at least provide those common solutions to other users experiencing issues similar enough to lead them to that post.

    In a way, it makes sense. But, given that these common solutions tend to be overly available on the internet (through this forum, blogs, and other sites) odds are the OP has already gone down those paths.

    Saturday, August 26, 2017 3:19 PM
  • It depends on who marked it as an answer. You imply it was not the person asking so I will assume that is the case.

    It depends on when it was marked as an answer. There was a period where Microsoft representatives were very liberal about marking posts as answers. I think they were urged to close questions by marking them as answered. If that is the problem here then it is futile to say anything; they are not going to undo what they did.

    If you are aware of a current instance of what you are describing then that is worth discussion.



    Sam Hobbs
    SimpleSamples.Info

    Saturday, January 6, 2018 8:32 PM
  • I have seen many cases where the OP replied with a thank you, or other comment that the issue was resolved by a reply in the thread. But they still do not mark an answer. New users especially do not mark answers. Many others don't even bother to reply.

    Richard Mueller - MVP Enterprise Mobility (Identity and Access)

    Saturday, January 6, 2018 10:18 PM
  • I have recently seen (twice) a Microsoft representative answer a question then list previous questions from the member that have not had a reply marked as an answer. I think that is good.


    Sam Hobbs
    SimpleSamples.Info

    Saturday, January 6, 2018 10:30 PM
  • I have seen many cases where the OP replied with a thank you, or other comment that the issue was resolved by a reply in the thread. But they still do not mark an answer. New users especially do not mark answers. Many others don't even bother to reply.

    Richard Mueller - MVP Enterprise Mobility (Identity and Access)


    I agree that this is a common occurrence.  In those instances where the OP has accepted a response as an answer but failed to mark it I think it would be appropriate for the forum moderators to mark it and close  the thread.
    Saturday, January 6, 2018 10:38 PM
  • I think that the forums miss a possibility to mark a thread with "No answer available" (Webbrewer wrote something likewise).

    Sometimes there are questions which have no answer. For instance for somebody who asks if the world is flat?

    (Don't be so clever to tell that it is off topic).

    Microsoft moderators are then endless going on by asking if it is answered. Probably they are not anymore allowed to do that (mark it as answer) because then we get a result as in the Answer forums, where you never can find an answer because search engines leads you first to answered threads but that are often empty threads marked as answered. 

    Therefore my suggestion in this. Be clever at Microsoft and understand that solutions which did go more then 10 years wrong needs improvements not additions or workarounds.


    Success Cor

    Wednesday, January 10, 2018 4:46 PM
  • And here's another issue -- You answer the question and solve the problem and then the OP marks as an answer their own "thank you" instead of your correct response to the question.  Maybe Forum Etiquette should be more visible and transparent.
    Wednesday, January 10, 2018 8:10 PM
  • Having used the forum quite often looking for answers I find that the answered flag is at best largely useless and at worst misleading. I frequently find that the true status of a thread is the opposite of its flag setting.

    After reading this thread I suggest that removing the answered flag completely might be the most helpful "fix".

    Wednesday, January 10, 2018 8:40 PM
  • Sometimes there are questions which have no answer. For instance for somebody who asks if the world is flat?

    (Don't be so clever to tell that it is off topic).

    Yes, we know it is just an example. An actual example that I have posted asks something about showing CSS styles. There is not an answer but I wanted to leave it open in case someone does have a reasonable solution.

    Another question I had does have answers, including doing it without MVC, but I did not want to use MVC and the one member that wanted to answer the question insists it must be done using MVC.

    Having used the forum quite often looking for answers I find that the answered flag is at best largely useless and at worst misleading.

    One advantage of Stackoverflow is that responses are voted on by the community. I assume that all the members here know this but in Stackoverflow the person asking the question can mark a response as an answer but the responses are also voted on by other members.

    A related problem I encounter is that if I tell the member what they should be told then they are not likely to mark my responses as answers. Similar to what I said about MVC but if the person says they don't want to do it "my way" then I stop trying.



    Sam Hobbs
    SimpleSamples.Info

    Wednesday, January 10, 2018 9:32 PM
  • " For instance for somebody who asks if the world is flat?"

    Whaddya mean? It isn't flat?  Oh my....

    I realize there's a "propose as answer" option but that's not what the question is about. It's about the tendency of mods to mark their responses as actual answers when they really aren't. There's no perfect resolution to this but I think the stackexchange model works best in terms of surfacing useful search results. I don't know why Msft doesn't just copy it. 

    Thursday, January 11, 2018 12:18 AM
  • There are problems with the Stackexchange way of doing things. I hope they don't blindly copy it. But in a way they are copying it; they are trying to avoid fixing the MSDN forums by getting everyone to use Stackexchange instead.


    Sam Hobbs
    SimpleSamples.Info

    Thursday, January 11, 2018 1:18 AM
  • [After reading this thread I suggest that removing the answered flag completely might be the most helpful "fix".]

    My longest thread in here has like 56 replies.

    While average "long threads" usually have 10-15 replies, require users to find answer in such long thread is not helpful either.

    And one thing I don't like on StackExchange series of forums is that, it attracts users who down-vote everything that they cannot find similar reply of the reply you provided on the web, even if they don't actually tried the steps to prove it doesn't work. It seems they have little idea that the internet exists before Google, and by Y2K, the ".COM burst" brings down a lot of companies along with the newsgroup/BBS/forums that they operated, and Google cannot index things that disappeared before its existence. I abandoned my account there solely because of that.

    And for unknown reason, I found the users there tends to vote for non-free solutions even when there exists simple troubleshooting steps but free to solve. (Not exactly unknown, because I aware there are commercial vendors sending people to up-vote their products.)

    If Microsoft want to modify the forum to use "judge by collective power of users" strategy, they had better keep these in mind.



    • Edited by cheong00 Thursday, January 11, 2018 7:50 AM
    Thursday, January 11, 2018 7:47 AM
  • I've seen threads where the OP has even replied that the MS rep's 'advice' wasn't helpful, and the MS rep went ahead and marked that advice as the answer. Multiple times. Even when their 'advice' has 0 helpful votes, and the right answer has dozens of helpful votes, theirs gets marked as the answer. Really?! Your 0 vote answer that the OP even stated wasn't helpful is the answer, while the dozens of upvotes weren't? I mean I get it, any reply can be upvoted regardless of whether or not it's helpful.

    I see 'solutions' to this problem such as removing the 'mark as answer' feature completely, comparisons to other sites that rely solely on upvotes, etc. but in all honesty, the only TRUE solution to this, that still provides some sort of indication as to what the answer is, would be:

    - ONLY the OP can mark a reply as an answer. Period. It's the OP's problem, and only the OP can confirm which solution worked for them. MS reps marking their cookie cutter answers does nothing but show that they really don't give a crap whether or not the problem is solved, only that they want to hit their quota for responses.

    - SPAM OP's that DON'T mark the answer. Yes, OP's (especially noobs) get their answer and don't bother replying or marking the answer. The forum should SPAM the f*ck out of these OP's to get it through their head that they need to respond. We responded to their question, we deserve to know if it helped. Include a link to the 'forum rules' or 'etiquette' as another user mentioned. It could be like "Hey, you had this problem and 200 people responded, but you never bothered to let us know if any of those answers were helpful. If you want to keep getting answers from us, you better get your act together and let us know"

    - As mentioned by another user, add a "No answer provided" option. This would work with the other points, to make sure that we know that "no, the issue still isn't resolved" so, you know, we don't keep suggesting things that never work (like MS's cookie cutter responses), or suggest other things to try.

    Friday, March 2, 2018 4:40 PM
  • You know, if you see moderators with problematic behavior, you can either post relevant thread here, or post to fissues at microsoft.com to have forum admins evaluate the moderator's behavior.

    If the moderator's behavior is really considered problematic, if he/she is not a CSG he/she will probably be warned and then revoked moderator right. If he/she is a CSG the forum admin may want to talk with the outsourced IT service company to have their staff changed.

    No need to open opportunity for outsider to "game the system".

    Btw, I like the "No answer provided" suggestion, but this is only useful if the asker no longer want an answer. Although a bit rare there are occasions where forum users revisit the question a few years later to provide an answer to the questions, especially if Microsoft introduced a change recently to the framework/application that addresses the problem.
    • Edited by cheong00 Saturday, March 3, 2018 1:17 AM
    Saturday, March 3, 2018 1:14 AM