Make version information mandatory when posting in software forums
Thread poster: Samuel Murray

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:42
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Jan 10

Hello everyone

We see it all the time: people post questions in e.g. CAT tool forums without telling us what version they're using. People tend to assume that most other people use the same version as they do, or that people who have the same version will recognise the question (and vice versa). But the fact is that CAT tool questions (and other software questions) can be solved a lot more efficiently if the rest of us know what version the OP is using.

For this reason, I suggest the forum system go out of its way to encourage users to mention such information specifically. A simple reminder somewhere on the editor page will not suffice. At first I thought that a dropdown list would be an ideal way to ensure that people specify a version number, but that would require constant updating of the forum system every time there is a new version (and some tools have lots of little releases), and not all questions require or relate to a specific version number anyway.

So my suggestion is:

Add three additional one-line fields at the top of the post editor that asks for version of this software, operating system, and additionally relevant software. The user can fill these out however he sees fit, so there is still a risk that a user might write "Studio" or "Freelance Plus" or similarly useless information (at least that will give answerers an idea of the user's level of computer literacy, heh-heh).

If the user does not fill in these fields, and he presses "Post topic" button, he is given a single reminder about it (along with some advice about what to put in it if he believes his question does not relate to a version number), but if he chooses to ignore that reminder and press "Post topic" again without filling in the information, it gets displayed in the forum as "N/A".

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I'm not sure where to display that information in the posts itself -- perhaps at the very top of the first post as part of the body of the post, or perhaps in the side bar, or perhaps as part of the topic title somehow.

Your thoughts?
Samuel


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
No Jan 10

I don't think the good intentions justify the increased bureaucracy and added complexity. You can turn a system so much into a straitjacket that it becomes unpleasant to use. One can always ask. Live and let live.

Kevin Fulton
Jessica Noyes
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:42
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Thomas Jan 11

Thomas T. Frost wrote:
I don't think the good intentions justify the increased bureaucracy and added complexity.


I don't think there is added complexity. Users who post on forums know what text fields are for.

I also would not call this increased bureaucracy. We'd not be not asking for any extra information that users would not otherwise have provided if they had followed the posting instructions. We'd simply be creating an environment to ensure that more users do provide the information that they're supposed to provide (while still allowing them the option not to).

All software support systems struggle with the problem of users not providing relevant information in their support requests. Putting detailed posting instructions on the post editing page doesn't help.

You can turn a system so much into a straitjacket that it becomes unpleasant to use.


I agree, but I don't think this suggestion does that.

One can always ask.


It's silly to have to ask, and it wastes everyone's time. A request for assistance should at least contain the information required to let potential respondents know whether or not they'd be making good use of their valuable time replying, or wasting it because it turns out their reply doesn't apply to the asker's situation.

Look, I understand the position that askers are in. They are in a hurry to find a solution, they are frustrated by their failed attempts to find a solution themselves, and they don't want to spend time writing a long post, so they write only the information that they deem relevant to their query, without realising that not everyone is using the same system/version that they're using.

In addition, I think many users who neglect to provide this sort of information are not frequent forum users, so their posts get moderated, so there is delay upon delay before their problem gets solved.


 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
Danish to English
+ ...
Not a software support system Jan 11

Samuel Murray wrote:

All software support systems struggle with the problem of users not providing relevant information in their support requests.


The Proz Forum is not a software support system. That software questions are occasionally asked doesn't make it one.

And I quite disagree that all software support systems struggle with the problem you mention. It's often my impression, when contacting support somewhere, that I have to waste time filling in one technical detail after another that is irrelevant to the situation. The support agent usually has to ask a few questions anyway. It's not the end of the world to have to ask for more information. The real world and how people interact in it don't function like a German automatic gearbox.


Kevin Fulton
 

Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:42
German to English
Clueless translators cannot formulate queries Jan 11

As much as I can appreciate Samuel Murray's concerns, the problem is not limited to software versions. The Kudoz fora are full of contextless queries: terms with multiple possible translations are queried with little or no information to aid in providing a resolution, or identified with the incorrect category (medical instead of engineering, for example). Responders have to ask for a sentence or two in order to develop a meaningful solution. At least one translator in the German > English group helpfully uses a template as an aid in obtaining a response.

I doubt whether many people seeking software help would bother to fill out the form Samuel proposes, even if Proz were to develop one.


Thomas T. Frost
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:42
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Huh, what? How so, "not a software support system"? Jan 11

Thomas T. Frost wrote:
The Proz.com forum is not a software support system. That software questions are occasionally asked doesn't make it one.


My suggestion relates specifically to the software sub-forums, i.e. sub-forums that are dedicated to discussions about specific pieces of software.

I'd say 90%+ of questions asked on those sub-forums are support requests. By "support request" I mean questions asked by users of the software or its files relating to the use of the software or its files (and since ProZ.com's software sub-forums are community forums, the replies come from mostly fellow-users and not official representatives).

It's often my impression, when contacting support somewhere, that I have to waste time filling in one technical detail after another that is irrelevant to the situation.


The fact that there are poorly designed software support systems out there does not mean that the best software support system is the simplest one.

The support agent usually has to ask a few questions anyway.


In our case, the "support agents" are us, i .e. follow-users of the software who are not paid for offering their support, who donate some of their precious time to help out colleagues that they have never met.

Also I don't think it's fair to compare the ProZ.com software sub-forums to the chat-box style interaction that individual users can have with individual official helpdesk staff.

When you're chatting (be it using text or voice), it's normal to initiate the conversation with only the most basic details about your question, and wait for the helpdesk technician to ask further questions, but when posting to a community-driven support forum, it is perfectly normal (and expected, I believe) that you provide all information in the initial posting that would hopefully lead to replies that are immediately useful.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 17:42
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@Kevin, re: KudoZ Jan 11

Kevin Fulton wrote:
The Kudoz forums are full of contextless queries ... Responders have to ask for a sentence or two in order to develop a meaningful solution.


I use the KudoZ system occasionally, and I believe the KudoZ posting form is an example of overkill and what happens when you request too much information. I dislike that posting in KudoZ is a two-page process. And I dislike that you are required to select from a very, very long drop-down list. And there are just way too many things to fill in.

I don't think that the KudoZ situation should put us off from improving the software sub-forums, but should instead be regarded as an example of **how not to do it**.


 


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