Featured Answers vs. Ongoing Discussions

(Richard Millington) #1

I’m really curious to see how many of you use some form of featured answer / accepted solution option in your community.

I’m aware we lean more towards being a support community compared with others in our space.

People come, they ask questions, and (hopefully) receive a good response. But should we be looking more at having a ‘best/featured’ response pinned at the top? Or should we continue to let the discussion flow and see what kind of discussions we get?

What would you prefer? A featured best answer to a question or an ongoing discussion? (or both?)

(Piper_Wilson) #2

Personally, I prefer an ongoing discussion. Especially as one who doesn’t have as much experience, I want to be able to ask (“stupid”) questions and have a conversation. Once a best/featured response is decided, I think of that question resolved and complete.

(Mark Williams) #3

Although it is a bit more of a support community, I think often the path is better than the destination. The best answer probably builds from other parts. The answers are not always easy.

I think best answer is often best when you can get there quick and the answer is clean. I think there’s been an over reliance on the “answered” UI (esp in Jive based communities).

(hellekin wolf) #4

I tend to favor long-lived discussions. When there’s a specific question it makes sense to use a ‘featured answer’ solution, but most of the time, it shouldn’t derail the conversation. If your topics are sufficiently ‘vast’ in their scope, it doesn’t make much sense to narrow them down to one specific question; an unwanted side-effect is that the same questions keep repeating and you have to remind users to make proper use of the search engine before asking anything. In the recent years, unanswered questions in forums became a plague in search engine results. Discourse enables proper tools to consolidate topics and avoid repetitions. When a user searches for something, the last thing you want is bring them dozens of possible topics to browse through: they will tend to add yet another one without reading the backlog, pushing the responsibility on someone else to point them to the right resource.

(remah) #5

Both. I don’t see the choice as either-or. In practice, most sites don’t appear to have a consistent and comprehensive model for managing the many types of useful answers. So their situation becomes either-or. I don’t think that you’d have to do the same.

Category titles indicate scope

Generally, the category title for the topic indicates the scope for discussion. Chit-chat or Watercooler suggest social interaction whereas, "Support’ suggest the drive for a solution to a problem. I’m not sure what titles would be used to indicate deep or far-reaching discussions but I’ve felt that the Discourse default of Meta does it for me with topics like this.

Immediacy drives the solved feature

I’ll echo that specific questions do deserve specific answers but they also need immediacy to deserve a best/solved feature. With immediacy there is a lot of value in having the specific answer directly follow the question. The selected answer then becomes one kind of natural conclusion for that topic which can soon be closed if the topic originator is satisfied.

The issue of better/best answers

The greater issue for me, is what to do with a better answer. A great answer is a thing of beauty but a sub-optimal answer usually leaves me feeling dissatisfied and cheated. So should a a better answer replace the previous best answer? And how would this happen?

Also, who determines what is better? My idea of a better answer usually involves a more generalisable response. The current solution probably satisfies the original poster but the solution may need more work for others to receive the full benefit of the solution. On a Discourse site, I’d say put the general solution into a new topic.

Without immediacy we have best answers which can develop from long discussions. But we also have several other kinds of best answer such as the following:

  • FAQ for commonly asked questions
  • How-To for instructions
  • Wiki for comprehensive knowledge

I like the Discourse wiki post because when it is the topic post then discussion can continue while the wiki post continues to improve.

The role of moderators

Quality, including the applicability, focus, and completeness of featured answers, often depends upon the moderators. Moderators model acceptable responses by what they do to support good answers and what don’t do to bad answers.

If there are clearly defined guidelines then moderators can do what needs to be done.