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For the love of Q&A

When SAP's well working Q&A platform SDN was migrated to the broader spectrum SCN, it didn't work so well anymore in the beginning. With a lot of pressure from the (Q&A) community, functionality was added and improved, and we came back to a satisfactory platform.

Then someone at SAP had a brainfart and came up with 1DX -sound of heavenly trumpets-, and Q&A was summarily directed back to the stone age, because that lot is mainly a bunch of socially-handicapped techies, who do not even read blogs -tsk tsk can you imagine?-. More importantly, a select group of fashionable gentlemen who paid 2000 bucks a head to develop their business network at a SAP TechEd event, were asked for feedback on the new design, and happily endorsed it, knowing they would never have to see or use it again after that. There you go, market research done!

Again with a lot of pressure from the SCN community, this time heartfelt promises were made to add and improve functionality somewhere in the foreseeable future (if you are farsighted apparently) until we'll once again come back to a satisfactory platform. This time however, development efforts are divided over all aspects of the SCN.

Have a quick look at the SCN release notes https://wiki.scn.sap.com/wiki/display/WHP/SAP+Community+Release+Notes, and you'll feel assured that Q&A is being developed just as much as the blog sphere. A closer look will reveal mostly fixes to minor issues, problems that are only that if you happen to know what you are talking about, and little face lifts to obscure pages, at the end of drawn out clicking adventures.

Anyway...

We could really use a little extra pressure from the Q&A crowd to get SAP's butt into gear, and bring the Q&A platform back up to scratch. The primary channel is currently the SAP Community Continuous Influence Session, and my sincere hope is that a lot more people would visit the site and cast their votes. Let me shamelessly market an idea of my own here, to name an example of showing Q&A a little more love than SAP is currently affording it, but there are a plethora of other improvement requests that can be voted for and/or commented on.

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Oct 27, 2017 at 11:27 AM edited Oct 27, 2017 at 11:28 AM
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Unfortunately if you have some votes in the old Idea Place (not in the Community area) then if you register on this site your company from the user info will be visible to everybody.

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By the way, I have created a test account and logged into CI site (my regular account was deleted from CI by my request). I can see my old votes/comments with the company name but without user name :)

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My guess is that they cannot clear your vote completely for ideas that have passed a certain stage.

If your vote is not cleared on ideas where voting is still allowed... I don't know, if you send a mail to the site support with a list of links - maybe they can remove these votes if you ask them.

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My original e-mail to influencing@sap.com was exactly about removing:

"Due to privacy concerns (company name visible) I request to remove my account and all my votes and comments from influence.sap.com."

They only delete my account. But it's not an issue - at least I don't see my name and my company related on this site.

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It is good to know what actually stands behind account deletion. This means that when/if someone decides to request account deletion before sending the e-mail it is best to clear all votes where this is possible.

I do not know if there is a GUI option for a user to delete own comments, because due to an unfortunate accident all my comments now appear like for deleted users. ;-)

If they decide at some point that CI should not be accessible with P-user ID even for SAP Community initiative this is also OK, because it will put an end to my hesitation about using the site.

Re: fake users. Is it really worth the trouble? At best, high vote count represents desirability, but feasibility and viability play even more important role when it comes to SC, which means that high vote count does not mean that an idea with 100 votes will be delivered sooner than an idea with 30 votes or even that the 100 votes idea will be considered in a future release. #justmy2cents

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In the UK (and I think most of Europe), not complying with that request is illegal. A short note to the Information Commissioner's office would sort that out quite quickly, and possibly get you some compensation and/or a fine for the company involved.

This just hilights the cross-border dilemma of the online wwwild west.

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By the way - easy method to fool the CI: create number of P-accounts with different company names (real or artificial) and vote :)

That's why I proposed sometime ago to use only S-ID for CI.

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I'd vote for the idea but, personally, I think we should do away with answers/comments and just use "replies". Keep it simple.

We keep dragging this because the people who make decisions don't actually use Q&A. If they had to spend a week in SD tag and keep pointing out to the people that no one is notified when they post an answer instead of a comment I bet things would change quickly.

Edit: case in point, I've just opened the SD question list and this is the top one. OP is replying to an answer but stubbornly using an answer instead of a comment. Just fold it already!

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Although I agree with your point, the idea is actually a step in the right direction. Uniform formatting, independent of whether it is the question, and answer, or a comment, just makes sense.

Voting for it, does not impede the idea of doing away with the useless distinguishing between reply types.

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Maybe I didn't quite understand it but wasn't your idea about the comments in the questions? It could be "no comments - no problems" then. :)

Btw, uniform formatting went off the window when SCN adopted two different platforms for blogs and Q&A. Unless a custom UI (Fiori, cough) is put on top of APIs, it ain't gonna happen and we'll keep seeing comments that behave differently and 3 varieties of "Like" button.

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Yes, the idea being that once the formatting is uniform for all Q&A content types (question, answer, comment), it will all work and look the same, and it will be easier to do away with the different types.

And don't get me started on the different platforms business :-) By the way, I posted an idea about that way back during the SCN beta, but I am told that exactly because they chose to use two different platforms, we better not hold our breath.

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I do not know many technical details about both platforms, but I am fairly sure that it is possible to substitute the default AH editor with a different one (some sites already did that) and that AH supports a variety of themes and possibly theme development.

I agree with Jelena that if they throw away the concept of answers vs. comments it could eliminate a lot of headaches. It would introduce some new challenges of course, but compared to the current situation I doubt that it will get much worse from development and budgeting perspective.

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Yes, it is ridiculous that a year of evidence that the answer vs. comment distinction is a failed experiment here, the team is not scrapping the concept...

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To my mind the answer/comment concept is the core of Answer Hub. Changing to "Reply" means changing the platform. Nobody want to announce such change :).

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Based on my conversation with DZone folks (AnswerHub creators), it is feasible to switch off the comments and just use replies or answers.

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Can you provide ANY URL for the site using AnswerHub with only replies? Real example?

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You are already using it. :) Coffee Corner does not have answers/comments, everything is a comment.

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I second that.

The Q&A+comments concept "inspired by" stackoverflow had a distinct goal: to create a searchable knowledge base where specific questions would be matched with specific answers.

Discussions are explicitly not wanted in that format, but most SCN users seem to have rather discussions.

Accepting that this approach didn't work for SCN users changing the approach would be the right thing to do now, if the overall goal is getting/keeping users onto the platform.
If on the other hand, the goal is to have 3rd party contributors create and curate an SAP-centric knowledge base, that can be leveraged for anything from consulting, reference and support, then Q&A is a good choice and maybe just needs some tweaks.

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In the second case the wiki format seems more appropriate for the task, because many questions are incomprehensible unless you manage to drag the information out of the OP within the first few requests for more info.

But wait, we already have a wiki... not many people contribute and maybe few use it for reference, but I have found some really useful content in my areas of interest.

AnswerHub also supports post wikifying (we don't use this feature), but IMHO the main challenge is that the quality of the opening posts is rarely suitable to serve as a basis for a wiki.

In this article the consequence of choosing between Q&A and classic discussion forum is well explained:

Fora are, of course, conversational and should encourage discussion. That makes them a fantastic solution for building community, debating technical topics, and finding solutions as a group. One downside: A great solution might be buried on page 11 of a long thread, so it can be challenging for participants to find the answers they seek.
While a Q&A site can excel at offering quality answers quickly, the lack of conversation makes it less suited for building a community with deep roots, as such communities typically require that people get to  know each other through discussion.

This could explain why after the October launch last year some members felt that the spirit of the community was lost - this is by design. I guess that people who made the choice to switch the concept overestimated the strength of the community to survive the change.

Some sites choose to have both Q&A and classic forums. I cannot tell if this is a wise approach, probably not - as it could lead to content duplication, confusion among members where to post, additional workload for moderators and site admins and lower overall participation, but I do know that if I were given a choice, I would focus my participation on classic discussion forums and leave the Q&A part to people who find this format better suited for their needs.

if the overall goal is getting/keeping users onto the platform

If there are no people using the platform it matters little what platform you have even if you pay someone to maintain content and promote the site heavily as an official support channel. #justmy2cents

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Still agreeing with all of that. I'm pretty sure to have mentioned my interest in the community platform: interesting discussions and knowledge exchange.

I still don't think that the "SAP Community? Why?" question has been answered in a way that makes the answer actionable.
For the Q&A corner, such an answer could be "to foster discussions and knowledge exchange" and would probably lead to the drop of the Q&A style and embrace the discussion style again.

It's beyond me why, after all this time, there are no clear answers to what this platform wants to be and for whom.

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What I find interesting, is that on the Jive platform, SAP had already solved this equation.

The Q&A forum was basically of the discussion variety. By allowing for 'Helpfull' and 'Answer' determintations, they successfully introduced gamification. By posting the thus accepted answer (with 'see-in-context' link) right under the original question, the answer did not get 'buried on page 11 of a long thread'. There were buttons to share discussions to social media. You could even specifically determine that you were posting a discussion, not a question. It worked, everybody was happy.

Now I don't mean to drag up the old "bring-Jive-back" discussion, it is understood that a new platform was necessary, okay. What I mean is if the principle is known of a Q&A format, that works for the bulk of all SCN users (both engineers and philosophers), why not choose a platform for Q&A, that will allow for a similar format? Why now, was chosen for a format that works poorly for either type of user?

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Jive designers got the thread detail right (I think that correct and helpful reply are standard features there) - the marked replies stood out.

The author of the article that I quoted probably meant classical forums, where this feature is less common.

I have no good explanation why the SC designers decided to go with a Q&A option at all - probably they did not evaluate well that the posted content and target audience of stack* and SCN are different, or their whole strategy involved turning SCN discussion forums into a Q&A site...

After reading the blogs and comments linked to what Lars posted I still do not understand what is the vision behind the site.

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"Why now, was chosen for a format that works poorly for either type of user?" - because AnswerHub is a best of breed technology :) Unfortunately this particular "breed" has poor relation to SAP Community way of answering questions.

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Even more interesting [ab]use case of answers/comments: https://answers.sap.com/questions/347746/two-questions-regaring-bap-material-savedata.html

OP receives a comment and gets upset because it does not provide "answer". Then OP posts what looks like a comment using an answer.

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Wow, that OP's attitude is surely a way to invite others to participate:)

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And again - it looks like frustration is hitting hard. This time it isn't in the answer and is in the question. That is why changes to this platform need to be made. With a slightly different tone in that question. I have done the following to try to find the answer ABC. Please can you help me with XYZ.

Of course instead there is frustration. On the bright side the question was asked and asked her on the community.

And of course it wouldn't make me want to participate. It does make me feel bad for him. I also did a quick check of his other questions. I didn't see any "non answers" answers to his questions. I'm surprised at the frustration I heard in that question.

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The thing is - it looks like OP there searched but didn't actually go through the results because it looks like work:

it shows a number of finds, of which all I can see is the heading and not the content, so I can't decide on which one to read unless I click on it and open it

I can certainly feel for OP here. Many times I find 10 SCN posts with the same exact title and don't know which one might have an answer (although if one uses Google instead of "this site" then results are usually better and top hits are more relevant).

But it's kind of a vicious circle when someone can't find the right answer because there are too many questions. And their solution is... to post yet another question. That doesn't make future search any easier, so more and more questions would just pile up, following that logic.

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If my search ends with a lot of questions with identical titles, I add more keywords. In this case the small excerpt in the result list shows where the keywords are found in bold text. If I remember correctly, the more hits on keywords you have within text in addition to what you have in the title, the higher the result is placed.

It would have been great if whoever developed the search was wise enough to discard the section "Learn more about SAP Q&A" from the excerpt, but this is the sad story of not very good testing process.

The inline search is not useful on this site, which is apparent to anyone who took a glimpse at the archive, but this is the price one pays when design is done purely based on theory.

searchlist.jpg (327.0 kB)
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