FAQ Category and Wiki Posts - Dealing with the Scalability Issue of Forums

@david I think a FAQ category with each top post being a wiki post, like the one @happybeing posted earlier, could be a huge benefit for the forum.

One question that can be answered with facts per post. I’m thinking the questions could follow guidelines like the guidelines that stackoverflow uses. Everyone could discuss the topic below the main post and anyone could update content to keep up with the latest information. This also allows us to link to “definitive” information when we are in other conversations.

I don’t think we should stop crazy discussions that involve hotly debated topics like this, but I agree with the following sentiments of the stack overflow blog:

Most forums and chat rooms have a scale problem. As in, they don’t. The more people that join the discussion, the more noise each of those connections bring. So the forums get progressively noisier and noisier, and suddenly one day … you stop learning.

I would like to see some really good objective and subjective posts as well as wander into crazy subjective land now and then when I’m feeling adventurous.

This might allow us to better serve one another in our community. What does everyone else think?


Yeah, I think it makes sense, let’s give it a shot! I’ll create the FAQ category now.

Done. Here is the FAQ category.

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Yes, great idea @chadrickm and I like the sticky FAQ intro you made @David. Hope it can work without a curator, that would be fantastic.

Curation for standardising the format and providing clear presentation, language, weeding out dross etc will no doubt be helpful, but again if the community can share this task it would be great.

Yes, curation by all of us is what should/will make these category posts helpful. I think we should post our own guidelines under that sticky FAQ intro, or maybe better, make that a wiki too so it can grow with our discussions as to what makes for good FAQ content.

This morning I took a post done by others and made it a FAQ post. Do others think this is an acceptable policy?

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Something along these lines is what I’d like to see in the FAQ intro:

This was copied and liberally modified from the stackoverflow blog post “Good Subjective, Bad Subjective

The FAQ category is for questions with objective, factual answers. Avoid asking/answering questions that are too subjective, argumentative, or require extended discussion. Thus, questions that are not answerable — discussions, debates, opinions — should not be under the FAQ category.

Why do we need this special category?

Most forums and chat rooms have a scale problem. As in, they don’t. The more people that join the discussion, the more noise each of those connections bring. So the forums get progressively noisier and noisier, and suddenly one day … you stop learning.

If we as a community curate this category correctly we can have the best of both worlds. We can discuss, debate and be opinionated in the non-FAQ categories and attempt to keep the FAQs free of the noise that often cause most forums to inevitably break down.

Guidelines for Great Subjective Questions

The definition of what is too subjective is somewhat … subjective. But we can provide a set of guidelines that help us determine what a good subjective question is.

Great subjective questions inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”. The best subjective questions invite explanation. If you’re asking for a product recommendation of some kind, you want answers to contain detailed information about the features and how they can be used, and why you might want to choose one over the other. “How?” and “Why?” has more lasting value than a bunch of product-feature bullet points or a giant enumerated list, no matter how extensive. In contrast, the bad subjective questions let answerers get away with hit-and-run answers that maybe provide a name and a link — but fail to provide any sort of adequate explanation, context, or background.

Great subjective questions tend to have long, not short, answers. The best subjective questions inspire your peers to share their actual experiences, not just post a mindless one-liner or cartoon in hopes of being rewarded with upvotes for being merely “first.” Sharing an experience takes at least one paragraph; ideally several paragraphs. If I’m asking about how to bake cookies, don’t give me a list of grocery items: milk. butter. vanilla. eggs. There is virtually nothing I can learn from a short, static list of grocery items that make up a recipe. Instead, tell me what happened the last time you made cookies from that recipe! Share your detailed experiences, so that we all might learn from them.

Great subjective questions have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone. The best subjective questions avoid the all too seductive route of ranting and flamebait. They set the right tone of constructive learning and collaboration from the very outset, by emphasizing that we’re all here to learn from each other, even if we have different viewpoints or beliefs about the right way to handle what are inherently subjective decisions. We’re not here to fight each other; that’s an enormous waste of everyone’s time. There is always more than one right way.

Great subjective questions invite sharing experiences over opinions. Certainly experiences inform opinions, but the best subjective questions unabashedly and unashamedly prioritize sharing actual experiences over random opinions. It’s more useful to share with us what you’ve done than what you think. Everyone has an opinion. It takes zero effort or imagination to have an opinion about anything and everything. But people who have done things, real things in the world, and have the scars and arrows in their back to show for it — now that’s worth sharing. You should be uniquely qualified to have your opinion based on the specific experiences you had. And you should share those experiences, and more specifically what you learned from your experiences, with us!

Great subjective questions insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references. Opinion isn’t all bad, so long as it’s backed up with something other than “because I’m an expert”, or “because I said so”, or “just because”. Use your specific experiences to back up your opinions, as above, or point to some research you’ve done on the web or elsewhere that provides evidence to support your claims. We like you. We want to believe you. But like wikipedia itself, {{citation needed}}. And good subjective questions make this clear from the outset: back it up!

Great subjective questions are more than just mindless social fun. The best subjective questions avoid the social pitfalls of “Getting To Know You” (GTKY) and mindless entertainment. Sometimes people just want to poll a community for ideas that might help solve a problem (best book, best approach). These can be okay when there is actual knowledge in the collection of answers. What isn’t okay are the social bonding questions which are designed just to impress others, such as “What is the coolest/stupidest/weirdest/funniest thing you saw/did/tasted today?”, or questions where the site’s actual topic is tacked on as a token afterthought, such as “Favorite food for programmers.” If you removed the “for programmers” part of this question, is it really unique to our profession? Could an average member of our community reasonably be expected to learn something that makes them better at their job from this question? If not, then it’s a bad subjective question.

I would prefer if people don’t ask questions directly in the FAQ category at all. Instead, post there if you know of a question that is often asked and that you have a good answer to. So that all threads in the FAQ are always questions with answers, not a lot of unanswered questions.

Or, I guess it could be OK to post a question with just a placeholder answer if it actually is a common question, you know, a frequently asked question - not just a random question that you happen to have.


I like not having a bunch of unanswered questions there as well. I wish there was an easier way to take existing posts and create these FAQ posts, but perhaps what I did with gary’s post is ok…

Yes, this is a jointly owned thing and we are posting here to support and enhance SAFE network. There is the possibility of offending someone, but just because someone gets offended doesn’t make them right. Lets see anyway! Crediting the original may help.

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great ideas