Microsoft Forum – Creating a new community anti-pattern

I’ve recently had reason to ask questions on the Oslo and WCF forums and in both cases my posts got responses quickly (which is more than can be said for the WCF REST starter kit forum which is dead as a doornail). However in both cases a strange thing then happened, someone else immediately marked the answer given as being THE answer to my question.

So instead of the person asking the question getting a chance to decide if the answer was suitable, or whether they wanted more information (in both cases I did), a higher authority decided (presumably the person providing the answer). Why does this matter, well apart from anything else answered questions get a tick when displayed in the list and who in their right mind is going to want to help answer an already answered question?

To me this seems like a big community anti-pattern, but it all makes sense when you read the sticky post on marking answers in the WCF forum. One key line is:

Our forum gets ‘measured’ based on how many unanswered questions are in it at any time and we work hard to keep those numbers to as low a level as possible. By marking answers, others get a more accurate understanding of how well (or badly) things are going on the forum.

Incentivise people to mark questions answered and thats what they do, who whould have thought?

Mind you on the right handside of the front page of the forum you also get a list of the “Top Answerers” which is also an amusing idea and probably not one I’d want to see on any forums I use regularly.

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    6 Responses to Microsoft Forum – Creating a new community anti-pattern

    1. Cory Foy says:

      That’s why I lean towards the StackOverflow model where the answerer is the one who can accept the answer. At the very least, the asker should be able to unmark a question as answer if a moderator marks it as answer. But yes, typical optimizing to measurement issue.

    2. colinjack says:

      Yeah StackOverflow’s approach is far better, especially when the questions are a little more open-ended and there is no one “right” answer.

      I maybe shouldn’t have used the word community in the title, because I’m not sure such an incentivized (MVP being the carrot) approach will ever build a good community.

    3. jdn says:

      I had that problem a few years ago, but was able to ‘unanswer’ the question and took the guy (some random MVP) to task publicly for it.

    4. I couldn’t agree more. It seems like the ASP.Net forums are the last place I go for information or answers these days. +1 for stackoverflow.com. The answers there seem much better and on point.

    5. Darren Stokes says:

      Only a moderator can mark the question as answered immediately. There are good and bad moderators. The forum I participate in regularly (VSX) doesn’t have this problem much. The moderators are pretty good about waiting to see if the OP replies or marks it. Regular posters can only mark the answer as proposed.

      I do agree with you that certain moderators seem to abuse the ability to set the answer immediately. I wish there were a waiting period for that.

    6. colinjack says:

      @jdn
      You’re quite right, I can unmark it which does help. Having said that its still a deeply annoying practice not least as by the time I’d unmarked the WCF one it was already the last question on the first page of the forum….and so very unlikely to have anyone else looking at it.

      @All
      Glad to hear it wsn’t just me thats had it happened, or that found it annoying. A waiting period, as Darren suggests, would be a great idea.

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