Non-responsive replies marked as answers by moderators RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • Several things I have noticed that seem to be consistently true in the SQL Server Forums,

    1.  When a person has a problem carrying out a process based on the standard way of doing it, a person gives a reply that shows the he or she either did not read or did not understand the question.  They will give an answer based on the standard way of doing it when the question indicates the the questioner has already tried that and got the error causing them to ask the question. When that person was a moderator they marked the question as answered with their reply.  This is not helpful to readers bringing up that thread because they have the same issue.

    2.  A person asks a question and gets a reply that doesn't answer the question, (in many cases one that asks the questioner fo more information).   However the questioner did not follow-up.  Then a moderator comes along and shows the question as answered, when in fact it was merely discontinued (perhaps becauser the person found the answer elsewhere).  Then when I or someone else will come along with the same issue and open the thread merely to find that the supposed answer is in fact not an answer.

    3. Another issue occurs when a questioner poses a question but does not get back to it right away because he or she is out sick or on vacation, or the connection to the internet at work is not working.  Some moderators will wait just a couple of days then mark a thread as answered before the questioner has had a chance to even read the reply.  I understand you don't want threads hanging out there for several months without being reviewed by the questioner, but a couple of days?  C'mon.  (In one case I had a user reply to my thread at 10 PM Friday evening my time, and and a little after midnight (my time) on Sunday the moderator marked the reply as an answer before I ever got back to work to view it.  And this was an example of the reply being a request for more information, (which I provided after unmarking as answer the reply).

    4. Finally a questioner gets a reply that he or she indicates in definitely not the answer, but gets no other reply ever again.  Then later a moderator comes along and marks the non-answer reply as the answer.  It was stated on another thread in how to use forums that if a question does not get an answer it should be left open so others reading the thread will not be misled.   Yet I have seen time and again moderators marking as an answer a reply asking for more information.  Interestingly enough this seems to be more the case with the SQL Server and ASP.Net forums than the SharePoint or OS forums.

    I have also been told that community people will not look at a question marked as answered.  So if the "answer" is in fact not an answer then no one will ever come along and give a proper answer so that this thread hangs out there in space with the ridiculous non-answer answer and be of no value to either the questioner or any other user perusing it.

    I have also been told that you can't post a request for clarification on an old thread because no one is reading it.  So you end up having to post a new question for the same issue which was not answered the first time, only to be told to refer to the thread old thread which wasn't answered in the first place. 

    So my question is the same one posed by the Roman poet Juvenal; "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" or "Who will guard the guardians?"  Shouldn't there be some sort of uber-moderator whose job is to carry out random checks of the answers, markings and moves by the other moderators to make sure they make sense?


    Edward R. Joell MCSD MCDBA
    Wednesday, December 14, 2011 6:19 PM

All replies

  • Have you posted this in the SQL forums themselves with URL example so the SQL Forum Owners can evaluate this feedback?
    Community Forums Program Manager
    Wednesday, December 14, 2011 7:50 PM
  • No.  I was informed some time back that when there is an issue on how the forums are managed, you are not to put your thread in that forum but to go out to Generalized Using Forums location. (This was told me after I entered a post on a thread that complained about the way that thread was handled in that forum.  That post was relocated from that forum to one of the generalized forums as a new thread.) 

    I happened across a thread just today, where someone was complaining about this same issue.  When I added my observations the entire thread was moved to the Off Topic Posts (Do not Post here) forum (which to me seems to be telling me "We are rejecting your post.  Your opinion is of no value.")  So I re-entered the post about these issues here.

    Still this is not only an issue with SQL Server Forums but others as well.  (Still better than Oracle forums where the moderators just say "Read the documentation stupid".)

    Edward R. Joell MCSD MCDBA
    • Edited by joeller Thursday, December 15, 2011 2:20 PM re-phrasing
    Wednesday, December 14, 2011 8:25 PM
  • Good point about "Who will guard the guardians".

    So the problem that Brent is alluding to is that we have Moderator Guidelines (up on the Wiki), but we don't have a moderator moderator. That's not a bad suggestion. Perhaps we can log that as a request. We should at least add it to the Wiki feature request article.

    So telling us doesn't change the behavior of the moderators on a different forum. We only control our own behavior. That's why Brent suggested that you go there. (But as you pointed out, they don't like that.)

    However, what we can do... is we can confront specific moderators and discuss this with them. We've done this in the past. It usually helps. There are two ways to do this.

    First, you can start a new question in this forum with specific cases (links and details) where you want specific moderators to be challenged. Throw down the gauntlet. Turn it into a question where you ask why they did that and if they can choose a different behavior in that scenario (point to the Moderator Guide). We'll ping them to respond. They usually respond and an agreement is made. However, this results in a public discussion, so please be nice. The Moderators aren't intending to frustrate you. Sometimes it's just a misunderstanding.

    Second, if you don't want to risk hurting their feelings in a public argument (or hurting your own reputation), you can email me (edprice at microsoft) or contact another moderator. We'd contact the moderator in question, and we'll discuss. However, make sure you send me all the details (links and contextual info), because we have to agree that they violated the Moderator Guidelines (search on TechNet Wiki for "Moderating Forums").



    Ed Price a.k.a User Ed, Microsoft Experience Program Manager (Blog, Twitter, Wiki)
    Thursday, December 29, 2011 8:16 AM

  • HI joeller !

    With all your due respect i have to disagree with you with the version you have provided here. I just have to say this is your observation not the reality.

    I am pretty much active at SQL Server Forums especially at (Transact-SQL , Getting started with SQL Server & Database Design) Forums other than just last 2 weeks due to some personal issues otherwise you will probably find me out there, so i have this idea where you are pointing. But still its not correct way to say this.

    I would also disagree with you statements regarding

        "I have also been told that community people will not look at a question marked as answered.  So if the "answer" is in fact not an answer then no one will ever come along and give a proper answer so that this thread hangs out there in space with the ridiculous non-answer answer and be of no value to either the questioner or any other user perusing it."

    You have been wrongly told by someone, community members , MVP's and Moderators looked at threads that have been marked as "Answered" by another "Moderator" or by the "Original Poster". If a Moderator thinks that provided answer(s) is an inappropriate or not what the best practice is they can unmaked the "Answered" thread and provide details with more appropriate solution.

    Similarly Community Members / MVP's can point out to a thread if they find out it has been wrongly marked as an "Answered" by a Moderator or OP to same thread appending a post that marked "Answered" is incorrect so whenever other Moderator can look into it he will read into it and unmarked it as an "Answered".

    Also, you can put these kind of threads at below link or if you think a thread that has not been marked as an "Answered" and have a valid answer you can put it here;

    Just to put things into context what i have mentioned above, i am saying this because i have been in TOP 2 Answerer's at (Transact-SQL) Forum for at least whole month of November 2011 and some part of October and December as well.

    I am still not a Moderator there but i followed these pretty closely. Like me there is a Moderator "Naomi" which is pretty active and involved member of the community and top ranked here.

    There are other community members , MVP's & Moderators as well which also looked into Answered threads.

    But still you have a point, you need to brings those threads to our attention so we will unmarked.

    At last, here at MSDN / TechNet Forums we all work voluntarily to give other community member best experience not to hurt anyone else feeling.

    Please let me know if you still need clarification on this. Once again my applogy if you don't like my way of responding to your observation.

    Thanks, Hasham

    Thursday, December 29, 2011 12:55 PM
  • Ed;

    I am please to see that you comprehend the frustrations and the issues, and I will take note whenever I see the issue occur and build a dataset to which people may refer to take corrective action.  Can you provide me with the link to this moderator's guide?  (BTW I am curious.  How can a comment be marked as answered ;-) )


    You don't have to apologize if you disagree with me.  After all its a free country and you've got the right to state your opinion.  However in fact I do disagree with your assessment.  I would like to point out I have been accessing the SQL Server Forums for about 10 years now.  In addition, I also made extensive use of the ASP.Net Forums, the SharePoint Forums, the C++ forums, the C# forums and the VB forums, both .Net and 6.0.  I have also been to forums on many other sites such as Experts Exchange, dbForums, sqlservercentral, sql server magazine,  ESRI's ArcGIS, ArcObjects, ArcIMS, and ArcSDE forums and sqlteam to name a few.  The moderators of all of these forums respond differently.  Expert's Exchange used to be my favorite because the moderators would monitor a new questions and if 48 hours went by without an answer they would assign someone to take a look.  If there was an answer that was non-responsive you could then request the moderators to assign someone else to the question.  Then they decided that membership was not sufficient you had to be a premium member to ask questions (i.e. pay money) so I could no longer get answers from there.  Amongst the Microsoft Forums I've noticed that the moderators were most active in checking for answers and ensuring proper answers in the SharePoint Forum.  By contrast, I've had questions sitting on the ASP.Net Forum for years with no reply and have been surprised after three years to get an email saying someone has answered a thread.  In my experience in the over 1000 threads I have searched this past year for answers to situations that I had never before experienced, there have been a disproportionately larger number of threads that met the criteria outlined above in the Microsoft SQL Server forums than in any other question & answer site with the exception of (where there seem to be a large number of answers that are just plain wrong). 

    I understand that the contributors are volunteers and some of them are in fact very good. Others are not so good.  Many of the moderators only response like one of my college professors did.  When you would ask him a question about what is in the book because you did not understand it, then he would respond by reading the book back to you.  They are not as bad as the Oracle Forums moderators who arrogantly respond "Read the documentation stupid!"  However, since SQL Server is a Microsoft product, I expect better of their moderators.   In other cases, I have posts on quite a few answered threads that deal my issues but whose solution did not work for me where I ask for further clarification, and I am still listed as the most recent post months and years later.  So I know people aren't reading answered posts.

    Also Hasham;

    The thread you cite for me to post threads with which I have issues is titled "Post a thread URL here if you tried answering a question and no one noticed " started by Ed Price.  This is not and has never been one of the issues that have bothered me.  I don't care if my answers to questions (other than my own) are marked as answers or not because I am providing those answers to help the both the questioner and others reading the thread.  I could care less about the points. In addition, I do not have a lot of answers because I am too busy to take the time to answer the simpler questions and will only take the time, if it is something that cost me a lot of pain and effort, to help others avoid that.

    However Ed;

    Do you think it would be beneficial to start a similar thread in that same forum showing threads marked as answered which aren't answered, or whose answer did not work? 

    As stated above, from now on I will be keeping track and submitting discovered issues as specified by Ed Price. 


    Edward R. Joell MCSD MCDBA

    • Edited by joeller Thursday, December 29, 2011 2:38 PM
    Thursday, December 29, 2011 2:14 PM
  • I don't think duplicating thread is a good idea, but if you do, please link to the old thread in the new post, probably link to your new post in the old thread as well, and state that you need to renew a discussion.

    For point hunters, an answered thread may be less attractive, as replies are less likely to gain points, but that's a side effect of awarding people for their contribution. And let's be honest, the time spent in volunteering on the forum is much more valuable than the points, which I don't know any real world use. 

    I think the reason you are asked to not reply to an old, answered thread is technical. Personally, I use Google Reader to aggregate questions from forums, with tags set on each forum's feed (e.g. C++ tag for a C++ forum or a C++ tag on stackoverflow) so I can navigate questions easier. A side effect of this is that when you revive an old answered thread, I got the thread in the RSS feed. However if a volunteer is  aggregating  forum questions using a newsgroup reader via the NNTP bridge, then your post will appear to be a follow up of an old thread, which may not be very noticeable if the newsgroup reader choose to display the threads in a tree view sorted by thread start time. Although I know most people use the web interface, people I know who are using newsgroup readers to access the forum generally have more experience, so it may be a good idea to start a new thread instead of reviving an old one, but it is best to link to and from the old thread so people do not lost track of what is suggested and what is not.

    The following is signature, not part of post
    Please mark the post answered your question as the answer, and mark other helpful posts as helpful, so they will appear differently to other users who are visiting your thread for the same problem.
    Visual C++ MVP
    Thursday, December 29, 2011 4:12 PM
  • Thank You Jiang

    That is a good explanation on why it is so hard to get anyone to response to an answered thread.  I also like your idea of linking to the previous thread.  I have done that myself many occasions, though not consistently.  (Though in one case where I did that the moderator that answer referred me back to the same thread I referrence in my question as the answer to my question about that thread.)

    Edward R. Joell MCSD MCDBA
    Thursday, December 29, 2011 4:46 PM
  • HI joeller !

    I have started a thread;

    Please make sure you put threads URL's there if you see threads that have been wrongly marked as an "Answered".

    Thanks, Hasham

    Friday, December 30, 2011 5:38 AM
  • Cool Beans;

    And I see someone has already entered a post.  If it is alright I would like to also enter a couple of my post which were wrongly marked as answered which I unmarked as soon as I saw them do so.  Also the post which was replied to on Friday night and marked as answered by the moderator on Saturday, two days before I got back to work where I could even check out the reply, (which turned out to be wrong.)

    How about a place where people can request moderator assistance with unanswered or unresolved questions?

    Edward R. Joell MCSD MCDBA
    Friday, December 30, 2011 1:16 PM
  • I have also been told that community people will not look at a question marked as answered.

    Are you sure you read something as declarative as that?   More likely I suspect is that you were informed that it would be "less likely" to have a Me too! post answered in a thread which was already marked answered.   There are several reasons for that:

    1. the filtering allows people to look only at Unanswered threads so that once people have looked at their own threads they may be more likely just to try to find something new not spend their time re-reading old stuff, especially in really large threads where performance issues in these forums makes simply getting to the last post an unacceptable pain for likely very little gain
    2. responding to additional questions in already answered threads tends to just confuse the original issue not clarify it--unless the poster is making a clear effort to do that and not just further his own objectives
    3. even when a Me too! post is asked in its own thread it may be ignored as a FAQ, the rationale being the poster probably didn't really spend any time looking for an existing answer before posting and so answering it again could very well be a waste of time because by the time your re-post was made the answer they should have found before posting would then have been read first.


    Robert Aldwinckle

    Friday, December 30, 2011 3:27 PM
  • One. Yes it was definitively stated that way specifically to me.

    Two. All of your points provide even more emphesis on why you should not post to an answered thread.

    I stopped asking additional questions in someone else's thread long ago.  However, what I still do is post a report that the purported answer did not work, and while I may request a reason why, now I generally start a new thread with a link to the old thread saying something like "I am having such and such problem.  I found this answer in the page listed below but that did not work and instead generated this and that error.  Any advice?  http:\\LinkToOldPage"  I also will mention the new thread in the post on the old thread.  Then if I get an answer I will mention it in the old thread giving proper creditation to the person that came up with it.

    In most cases this works fine as I get either new people with a fresh outlook and occasionally some of the old people who worked on the problem before.  One in a while however I will get someone who apparently did not read my post who reports the answer as being able to be found on the old thread that I listed as NOT providing the answer.  Then to add insult to injury they will mark their post as being the answer. 

    Previously my notifications were going to the wrong email address so I was never notified when a answer was provided.  However, I updated my window live profile which fixed that for everything except the ASP.NET forum.  Because this I make a point of checking "My Threads" at least a couple of times a week even when I don't get a notification.  So I never let a question sit unmarked as answered unless it truly has not been answered.  But I have found moderators going into my threads and marking non-answer replies as answers merely because a lot of time has gone by without anyone answering the question.  This is annoying as it makes work for me having to go into these threads and un-mark them again, when I don't have enough time in the day to do the work I am supposed to be doing.

    This thread has gone on long enough.  Hasham and Ed have provided means by which to make known the cases when there is a problem so that the moderators carrying out inappropiate actions may be advised of it.    So I am terminating my participation it in.  If you guys would like to talk amongst yourselves be my guest as this thread is listed as a comment.

    Edward R. Joell MCSD MCDBA
    • Edited by joeller Friday, December 30, 2011 3:58 PM addendum
    Friday, December 30, 2011 3:57 PM