We have been receiving a growing amount of "discussion" in our forum as of late. By that, I mean members, usually new members, essentially posting Me too! And I encountered this and this additional/other problem. !@#$% about <brandname> !@#$%! I think yadda yadda, etc. etc. as answers to questions. I've seen more of these getting flagged lately, and I've noticed a few myself.

My standard response so far has been to offer something along the lines of

"Welcome to PhotoSE, so-and-so. Unlike most forums, we are not a discussion forum, but a Q&A forum. It looks like you've asked a similar question as an answer to another question. Please refrain from starting "discussions" on our forum. If you have a new question to ask, use the 'ask question' link in our header. If you need to discuss an issue real-time, use the link to our chat in the right-hand column of this site."

I also delete such answers immediately after posting my response (which is still visible to the owner of those deleted answers.) I have limited time to respond to the growing number of flags lately, so I move through them pretty quickly. I am wondering if there is a better way to handle these, and if there is a better way to make it known that we are not a discussion forum, and that discussions as answers are not constructive ways to contribute to the community. Any thoughts?

  • What do the bigger sites do? And, do we want to do what they do?
    – mattdm
    Dec 21 '11 at 23:25
  • 1
    @mattdm, other sites simply use the "review" tools to flag such non-answers. There's a reason most sites have at least 3 moderators. (Also, I think very-high-rep users can help resolve at least some such flags, but I'm not sure about that.) The problem with suggesting chat to new users is that most of them don't have the rep required to participate.
    – Martha
    Dec 28 '11 at 14:36

The fact is that majority of users try to read as little instructions as possible. So, when they have found the familiar-looking "your text here" box, they'll just pour in their thoughts and click OK on whatever dialog is trying to stop them. So teaching more won't work.

One idea is for the system to detect new users and present them a simple confirmation box with friendly choices "This is my solution", "I'm having a related problem" and "Neither". Accordingly, the system would save the text as an answer, a new question (with automatically added comment or a line linking back to the original question), or a comment flagged for moderator attention (not sure about this one - commenting would require 50 rep that the new users don't have, but we already know it's not answer - perhaps this would automate some moderator work).

A problem such solution might induce is that next time, the user is still no wiser and will use that same text box to enter whatever's on the mind.


I think the best approach would be an extention of the existing flagging mechanism, where if a post gets enough flags as "not an answer" the post can be dealt with by non-moderators.

In the meantime, though, I think what you've been doing is exactly right.

We can also protect posts (like this one) which seem to attract that kind of answer, but that's not necessarily the best new-user experience. My inclination is to save protecting posts for the ones that attract spam (like the data recovery questions), but I could be persuaded otherwise.

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