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Did This Work? - Forum Changes at SQLServerCentral

By Steve Jones,

One of the requests that we've had for a long time is the ability for people to mark a forum post as an answer to a question. I have resisted this for a long time, and I'll explain why, but we've made a compromise that I'd like to explain here today.

Worked for Me

We've added a button to posts that only a few people can see. Administrators and the original poster (OP), or person that started the thread have the ability to click a button that will mark a post as "worked for the OP". When this is checked, the post will turn green and the verbiage will be in the top bar for that post, as you can see below.

This can also be removed if it was checked by mistake. In this way we allow the OP to determine if a particular solution helped them. The OP can also mark multiple posts as helpful for them if they choose. Please try this out as you ask questions and find solutions that work. Please also encourage OPs to mark posts if they thank you for information.

Note that the "Unmark as solution" button only appears for OPs and administrators.

The Problem

I've resisted this for a long time for a simple reason. Arguably the person asking the question is least qualified to determine the accuracy or veracity of a particular answer. They don't know, so they can only report that the solution appeared to work, but they shouldn't necessarily be the judge of whether this is a good solution or not.

As a result, I've preferred the voting method that the StackExchange network of sites uses. The idea that a crowd of people can make a better judgment about whether an answer is good makes sense to me. However, I hate the fact that the discussion and flow of chronological information is lost. We haven't moved in that direction for that reason, though we do offer a Stack-like site at ASKSSC for those people that prefer that format.

I do hope that this change will allow people to gather more information about which items might make more sense.

The Future

Other sites implement similar actions, some allow voting, and some allow other mechanisms to rate posts. We are examining ways in which we might surface other information about posts, and we are certainly open to your suggestions. Please feel free to leave a comment in the discussion for this post if you have any thoughts.

One of the ideas is that we would allow voting on posts, but not in a thumbs up/thumbs down fashion. I have considered setting a few scales that are independent and with which users could rate a post. These would be a few buttons on each post such as:

  • performs well/performs poorly
  • relevant/off topic
  • thoughtful/not appropriate

These could be a simple button press, or a sliding scale. I've seen both used, and I'm not sure which matters.

There is also the possibility that we could put all of these items as buttons on a post and users could check any, multiple buttons, or all of them and we'd surface the "votes" for a particular tag or description. Potentially we could also allow people to tag a post with their own verbiage and allow that tag to gather votes.

I don't know if any of these ideas would gather much information for most posts, but if we have some way of better serving the community, we'd like to do something. Many people visit and appreciate our forums and we want to continue improving them over time.

Let us know what you think, what information might help you, and what would be easy to use as you ask, answer, and browse the forums.

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