Connect people who have questions to people who can provide answers RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • I'm primarily an answerer, which means I spend my down-time looking for questions that I might be able to answer and providing help to people who are seeking help in the domain of my expertise.

    Unfortunately the forums software is not doing enough for answerers, and therefore doing a disservice to people who ask questions because answerers are having trouble.

    The forum software has crippled me from answering questions in the following ways:

    • My Forums Threads or equivalent is gone.  Selecting forums doesn't seems to "stick" either (the set of selected forums is volatile / ephemeral).  And there's no way to quickly select "my forums" all at once to get it back to "my forums threads".  This was the best tool I had to be able to find relevant questions for answering.  Now it's too difficult to direct relevant information my way.
    • The normalized/organized information is redundant and the critical information is buried.  I don't care if threads are answered or not if I have filtered already on unanswered threads.  Also I don't care how many votes the thread has, I'm just as willing to answer a thread with no votes as one with a hundred.
    • The rest of the critical information is displayed poorly:  Who replied last and when? Am I the last replier? --- all are displayed in non tabular form at a font that is extremely low contrast (happens to be #AF9595 over white on my computer.)  This slows down my workflow of determining which threads need my attention.
    • The ubiquitous controls to group, sort/order, are gone.  Only filtering is available.  This further hinders my ability to work on groups of similar questions. 
    • Too much vertical space is used.  At normal zoom, I get 9 messages per screen on my 1920 x 1200 display.  My ability to scan information manually is critical because there are just not enough automatic tools to bring relevant information my way.

    All in all, it now takes too long, and is too frustrating for me to sift through users posts to find issues I can help with.  The forum software is not doing a good enough job at connecting people who have questions with people who have answers.

    As an answerer, I'd like to provide metadata about my expertise and have relevant questions be brought to my attention.  Previously I could do this only at the highest granularity by creating a set of "My Forums", but now that functionality seems to be gone, or greatly crippled.  I'd be willing to provide a lot more metadata about my skills, too.  Such as language familiarity, areas of research, technologies, keywords or tags that I might be able to help with etc., all in hopes that relevant questions might find their way to me.

    There are thousands of questions that I might be able to answer each day, but as it stands I see very few of them.  I've resorted to just scanning the top few posts and only of a couple of forums.  The amount of noise that I have to sift through has surely increased tenfold.

    All this is compounded by spam that I regularly complain about.  In a time when reducing noise is the most critical aspect to me finding relevant questions it's deeply disappointing to have to deal with spam as well.

    I expect answering has gone way down lately.  I'd like to know the statistics if msdn would be willing to share them.  [EDIT: Richard Mueller manually collected some stats.]

    As of the forums redesign, for the first time, I feel strongly compelled to write a forums reader app to try to deal with this problem.  And I shouldn't have to!

    • Changed type Wyck Tuesday, July 2, 2013 3:17 PM My question is only, what are you going to do about it?
    • Edited by Wyck Friday, July 5, 2013 12:12 PM Link to Richard Mueller's stats.
    Tuesday, July 2, 2013 3:03 PM

All replies

  • I want to reiterate that I spend my free time providing help to the community.  My free time is very valuable to me and I'm pleased to share it with the community but I think that it is an equally valuable resource to the community in that it shouldn't be squandered by sucking my time away as I search for issues relevant to my expertise.

    This reminds me of Aardvark, a system for connecting you with experts over social media, something similar to what is going on in community forums everywhere.  If what I say resonates with you then I suggest you read about what happened with Aardvark.

    • Edited by Wyck Tuesday, July 2, 2013 3:18 PM minor typo
    Tuesday, July 2, 2013 3:14 PM
  • The first thought I had when I saw the redesign was Digg v4. I also hope history doesn't repeat itself.

    Don't retire TechNet!

    Tuesday, July 2, 2013 3:29 PM
  • I agree with all points here, Wyck. I installed today a stylesheet by Crazypenny which helped a little bit, but not much. For the people answering questions the old forums were way much convenient. That's why we were begging to restore them as they were even with their recently (last couple of months) introduced bugs. They are still much better than current forums. 

    My own productivity in answering is way down it was before. I spent too much time scrolling, looking at the waste white space, etc.

    I also don't read many forums I used to read in 'My Forums' before.

    Also we never got an honest answer as why MS and forums developers did this and why did they want to remove all people who wanted to answer and help others. We want to continue helping but the new forum's design STANDS in our way.

    For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert. - Becker's Law

    My blog

    My TechNet articles

    Tuesday, July 2, 2013 8:46 PM
  • I've been avoiding custom CSS, I don't want to put a bandage on and forget about the actual core problems. Still though, if TechNet actually gets killed off, I won't need to care about the forums......

    Don't retire TechNet!

    Tuesday, July 2, 2013 8:49 PM
  • Thanks, Naomi N. I appreciate the support.
    Wednesday, July 3, 2013 12:27 AM
  • The forum software has crippled me from answering questions in the following ways:

    • My Forums Threads or equivalent is gone.  Selecting forums doesn't seems to "stick" either (the set of selected forums is volatile / ephemeral).  And there's no way to quickly select "my forums" all at once to get it back to "my forums threads".

    Maybe not the same as My Forums Threads but pretty good and in some ways even better, perhaps depending on how many categories you try to follow and how many forums you want to see in each category.   FWIW what I am doing is changing my list of subscribed forums to just one representative one of each category which I expect to have the most traffic in.  Then, I can either work on that or use the category view to quickly change it to either All or some other subset.  The speed of these changes is what makes this work.  E.g. change your category view and instantly you see the changed thread list to correspond with that view.  I think there is still lot of potential here that it will be worthwhile trying to get used to.  What I have to contrast it to is what I was doing before and that was just subscribing to individual forums and using My Forums as a launch point for them.  Now I view My Forums as a launch point for categories and let how ever I choose to use the category selectors as how I will follow any of the forums in each.


    That just makes use of the designed UI.  There is also the possibility of customizing your own category lists and saving them as Favorite Bar buttons (something that I did for one category in the old version but which so far I haven't found necessary.)


    Robert Aldwinckle

    Thursday, July 4, 2013 1:26 AM
  • Thanks, Robert.  That's a clever approach.  I've been doing something similar but without actually unsubscribing to anything - I've just bookmarked a few key forums.
    Thursday, July 4, 2013 12:51 PM