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Petition to replace answers/comments with "reply" (or similar)

Nov 03, 2017 at 06:45 PM

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For over a year we tried to use comments and answers as part of Q&A platform on SCN.

The specific issues Community is still facing:

  • Comments and answers cannot be sorted together chronologically. This (a) makes it difficult to understand how the solution/answers evolved (additional information could be posted by OP anywhere); (b) can make the answers look odd/incorrect because it’s impossible to see in what context they were posted.
  • Answers are used to reply to another answer, in which case the person replied to does not get notified.
  • A comment could end up being an actual answer.
  • Any advantages comment/answer structure presents seem to be of no value to the SCN members.

I feel we have spent sufficient time and effort expecting the community members to adjust and adopt this feature. It is clearly not happening and mis-use is still very prevalent.

With this in mind, I motion to replace answers/comment with a singular “reply”. This will simplify UI and notification process, in my opinion.

Thank you!

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Where or how do we sign? :)

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Good question. And most people won't see this comment (ironic!) but I'm guessing by upvoting the post?

(Cue someone asking to post this where ideas go to die in 1, 2...)

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If you posted in the other place where ideas go to die you need to do double work, because you have to persuade people to use a site that some dislike more than this one :)

My question was more in the line of: do we just upvote or upvote + post answer or upvote + post comment... meh, this answer/comment thingy is really too complicated...

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prime example of answer vs. comment :D

Finally, reading this I have the explanation why my Notifications seem not working. It's no bug, it's the feature (by design).

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This is a daily struggle, so bumping up the thread.

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While perusing the latest content in "Using SAP.com" I saw this:

How long do you think it took me to find the comment? This particular comment was worth the effort (thanks for the laugh, Mike Pokraka) but it took *way* longer than it should have. Go on, give it a try...

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Also funny thing: I'm the author of this question and I'm not even notified there are comments posted because they are posted in the answers. This is a huge #facepalm.

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Jelena Perfiljeva

Yeah but why should you? If I'm commenting on someone else's comment then I'm not answering your question </sarcasm>

Which begs the question: do you get notified if your comment on someone's comment on your question gets commented on?

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If someone replies to your comment then you are notified regardless of where in the whole hierarchy the comment stands. But the people "above" are not notified. There is no "comment propagation" concept, I guess.

I'd love for Tripp and Tyler to do "SCN question in real life" video, like they did for the conference calls. :)

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14 Answers

Veselina Peykova
Nov 04, 2017 at 09:51 AM
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If the new community site rework initiative could stand any chance to succeed - a simple reply feature and a chronological flat view (configurable by profile setting) needs to be an integral part of the design.

Yes, it is great that we are going to have content organized by topics and hopefully it will be more discoverable, but this is of little consolation if the organized content is incomprehensible and not reusable.

I am not paid to provide personalized support on this site, I help because at some point others, me included, may come across the thread later and benefit from it.

SAP software is complex, business processes are complex, the time when it was justifiable to ask simple questions and get simple answers has long passed. The content we create (the one that does not end up in a moderator's inbox) simply does not fit into the Q&A concept.

The purpose of software is to empower the business. If a software solution cannot support core business processes which make your company successful you don't change the business processes, you change the software.

To me the question is not "Is it possible?" but "When will this be finally deployed?".

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If it's not possible to use "reply" in AnswerHub then another engine for Q&A has to be implemented. But it will be a project like Community 4.0 and I can't estimate the time required...

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Jürgen L
Nov 04, 2017 at 12:06 AM
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Since I am moderating 31 tags I also follow them, which means I have everything in my activities and read it anyway, in these cases I don't really bother if someone replied directly to me or posted an answer to himself.

But sometimes I find questions based on answers given by people I follow, these questions belong to tags I do not follow, hence I do not get any update in my Activities when I added an answer and the user did not act as the design wanted it to be when he replied.

Of course I could click "Follow" for all those questions where I give an answer, but this would just make the activities of my followers even more useless as they are today. An auto-follow to all those questions where I gave an answer or a public comment (I exclude herewith my moderator comments, as I do not want to see any reply to questions that I moved from my tags to other tags where they belong) could solve this deficit, it would give me updates in my Activities and would not spoil the activities of others.

But auto-follow would not stop the confusion between comments and answers, it would just make it more convenient to ignore the misuse and this questionable distinction.

Where should the OP leave a comment which is visible to all who have helped him? The OP can either add an individual comment to each of the supporters, or add it as answer to himself or as comment on his own question, which is both not visible to any of the supporters if they do not follow the question, the user or the tag where the content was posted. I just had this case today here: https://answers.sap.com/questions/344890/explain-lot-size-hb-replenishment-upto-maximum-sto.html where we had some ping-pong in the comments within minutes and then it became silent. After about an hour I remembered and searched for the discussion and found his reply as answer, given just minutes after my last comment. At this time I could still the information x minutes ago, but if you look now you just see hours, and next week you will just see x days ago and have no clue about the sequence if you do not resort by date (instead of the default vote) and you also need to move the mouse over x y ago to see the exact time)

Not to mention that the question had been marked as answered before it started to become busy and long before most replies got added.

And this just leaves me with the impression that it is concept failure and not just a bug because you can't really make it better by fixing one thing.

Comments collapsed is another point that I don't like, it lets you look like stupid, as if you could not properly post a single answer and posted it in several pieces. Look at this one: https://answers.sap.com/questions/336922/pr-overall-release-strategy-config-gives-no-error.html . I appear with 5 answers, and each answer is actually a reply to a comment which was made to an earlier answer. An outsider or Newbie would not even know that he has to resort and to open the comment section to understand the whole flow from the beginning to the final reply.

No wonder that a good portion of users is now digging in the archives as archived content is better to understand than new content. (I actually like that more users are searching now instead of posting the questions right away).

And this brings me directly to the missing flat list instead of structured content...and since not everyone shares my opinion on the flat list layout it just gets me to missing personalization options

In case it got forgotten, there is still a group called SAC (strategic advisory council) which addresses these issues invisible for most of you but also enjoys these kind of public discussions for opinion formation and for backing us.

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Jelena Perfiljeva
Nov 07, 2017 at 04:30 PM
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Thank you, all, for the replies… err.. answers and comments. Now I’m not sure how to reply to everyone. Do I add individual comments? But then no one will see them. Do I post an answer? But then no one will get notified. Do we really need more evidence of the apparent design failure?

Jürgen L - I feel the same way. We clearly can’t just improve this by changing/adding features. It’s the comment/answer concept that is simply not suitable for SCN. As Veselina Peykova noted, the questions we answer can be quite complex. They might not have a simple answer and require a discussion to solve.

Mike Pokraka - completely agree. It's annoying to both sides: to the SCN regulars who are trying to educate others about the new structure and to the OPs who are irritated by the reprimands (no matter how polite).

Chronological flat list is the way to go, from what I see too. I suspect we will be again written up for being Luddites and trying to drag SCN back to the old state. But if something is old it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Cast iron skillet is still a cookware staple and it’s a “technology” that is centuries old.

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Thank you, all, for the replies… err.. answers and comments. Now I’m not
 sure how to reply to everyone. Do I add individual comments? But then 
no one will see them. Do I post an answer? But then no one will get 
notified. Do we really need more evidence of the apparent design 
failure?

Well, IMHO those two points do not relate to the "comment+answer vs. reply" discussion - the first would not work in a reply-only system, either, and the second is certainly a bug which could also appear in a reply-only system...

Just saying...

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I'm a bit confused... Which one did you count as "first"? Individual comments? They are "rolled up" by default when opening a question. Why would this be an issue when there are just replies?

And if the second one is lack of notifications then we all might think it's a bug but I believe as far as SCN team is concerned it's a "feature".

"Reply only" just offers a simpler structure and IMHO this would mean less work for the technical team, hence they'd be free to do something more productive for SCN.

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Sorry for being not specific enough:)

  1. "How to reply to all" -> IMHO that would not work with only one reply, independent of the concept.
  2. "Lack of notification" for other contributing users -> is a bug independent of the concept. (As you state, it might be easier to fix when there is just the reply concept, but I guess that should be no big difference. - That being said, many of the known issues do not seem hard to solve, and still they are there or are only partly solved, so I guess I should not comment on the actual work needed...)

Using a nested comment to clarify postings, kind of "q.e.d.":)

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Ryan Crosby Nov 03, 2017 at 07:14 PM
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Agreed on all of the points you mentioned. I'd say at least 50% of the time I am not informed of updates because of the failure to comment on an answer vs. adding another answer. The chronology problem is also very prevalent and leads to several challenges when participating.

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Johan Hakkesteegt Mar 27 at 12:39 PM
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I have said it before (don't ask me where, because I don't like looking for needles in haystacks): in the previous iteration of SCN, they had already figured it out: it was a discussion with a clearly structured flow of the conversation, in which you could mark any one of the replies as the answer, or as helpful.

Worked like a charm, but because apparently Jive was evil, that couldn't possibly have been a good concept. An lo and behold, everybody is now bringing up problems and challenges, that were already solved, as though they were all new.

In my (I guess not so) humble opinion, all SAP has to do, is look at the previous concept, and find a system that delivers it.

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Yep. First we create problems and then heroically solve them.

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Or to be more exact, first we find problem, then we solve problem, then we create problem by throwing away baby with bathwater, and then we heroically solve problem half-assed.

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Mike Pokraka Nov 04, 2017 at 01:00 PM
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+1

Personally I think the whole thing is a train crash. Many people struggle with language and/or barely understand how a forum works, and we are asking them to think carefully how to categorise their communication. It's just not helpful and alienates people.

There were other issues with the old platform, but the question format was OK. I like the up/downvoting idea, but the comment vs answer concept just does not work. And I don't like it on stackoverflow either, but it works a little better there because the site tends to attract the type of geeks that will try to fit with the system. But to me it still feels like an effort even when it works, I just don't see any value whatsoever in segregating the three response formats.

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...and as if on cue I get this response to my comment on someone else's comment.

'nuff said.

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Joe Peters Nov 07, 2017 at 08:13 PM
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In my opinion, the issue here is that the old forum-based SCN was shoehorned into the AnswerHub Q&A format. If you're expecting to use it like a forum, then it's going to be a mess as it's not intended to support threaded discussions.

As I've said elsewhere, the Q&A format works quite well on some other sites, in particular Stack Overflow. But those are inherently Q&A sites to begin with.

I see value in the Q&A format, but it's not really being realized here as it is elsewhere. At least for the tags that I follow, there aren't more than 1-2 upvotes at most for any given question or answer. Below-zero scores are rare, even for answers that deserve it. So, any benefits of the Q&A format are being overshadowed by the confusion that it's causing.

While I don't feel that there's anything inherently wrong with the platform, it's just not well suited to how it's being used here. That being the case, I don't think it's salvageable.

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Joe - you are exactly right. There is nothing wrong with Q&A format, it's just not suitable. We gave it a try but it does more harm than good.

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I disagree. I don't see any value in segregating comments from answers as compared to a threaded system where anything can be an answer.

IMHO I don't think the comment feature contributed much to StackOverflow's success, personally I find it clunky and hard to follow just like here. But StackOverflow has plenty of other great features: It's a great UI, snappy and responsive navigation, easy to use, and the voting system rocks. The layout is information-dense which appeals to information workers, such as us, far more than the acres of SCN whitespace (or massive images).

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Jelena Perfiljeva
Dec 06, 2017 at 08:52 PM
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Gah! I just can't stand this anymore! Get a notification that a comment was posted on my answer -> open the comment -> find there is still not enough information in the comment to answer intelligently -> ask for more info -> read all other answers -> manually expand the comments to every other answer -> find more info in a comment to another answer. (Link)

There is no way to know what exactly was posted between now and my last reply because it's all scattered between the answers (sorted by votes by default) and comments hidden underneath each answer.

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Vadim Kalinin Nov 03, 2017 at 07:12 PM
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At least we need a clear answer - is it possible to configure AnswerHub engine to have only "replies"? Any reply to the question can be marked "Accepted" or "Correct Answer" by the question author. No votes on replies, only likes.

And may be return an idea of "Helpful Answer" like in Jive.

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Well, it is possible to configure AH to only have Answers and not comments. That would still allow Accepted Answers to be designated. It would also, as far as I can tell, provide a chronological sequence of responses which would definitely make it easier to see what the newest posts were.

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Michael Appleby

I think the problem is then that all existing comments are not visible anymore if this general customizing is changed. so we would probably need a modification in the UI, which does not show the comment button and the reply link. This way you could still see existing comments but not add new comments.

And also the notifications would only work for the person who as asked the question, but never for the people who have responded, until the logic is changed and a kind of "auto follow" is implemented for all who had posted an answer to the question.

So both things (UI change and auto-follow for notifications) would need to be changed at the same time to turn it into a good user experience.

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If you have only chronological sequence of “answers” then you will need to quote previous answer to explain to which answer you reply. Like in old days.

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Quote button, oh how do I miss thee.

Just one click to quote for all to see.

Progress says: "copy and paste,

you have too much time to waste!"

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I believe Stackoverflow does a "mix" of these approaches - allows answers, and then *only one level of comments* on each answer. I did think it was a good balance of including the respective users within a conversation, without pulling every one involved in all answers.

So in this case, everyone in this conversation (all the comments under Vadim's answer above) would still be comments, but be on the same level. And @mentions would be used to get attention from a particular user, for instance Michael Appleby , or Jürgen L. Sorry Jurgen, and Mike for the mention but thought you may find it interesting. What do you guys think (just brainstorming here as I am interested in this topic from a notification point of view)?

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Hi Sajid,

You are welcome to use my name as an example for @mentions pretty much anywhere in the SAP Community. However, what is really different in what you present here compared to what we already have?

Multi-threaded Answers with hidden comments and an inability to follow the flow of discussion? Check
No real way to determine who said what since the last time you looked at the item? Check
For really good discussions, the last thing posted is always buried in the "show more comments"? Check

I think the community experts have spoken many, many times and in loud shrill voices. Regardless of what StackOverflow does or does not do:

We do not like this design!

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What is the benefit of having comments and answers, while keeping comments on a single level?
To me this seems like taking the worst of the two worlds:

1. we keep the confusion of two response types (something that proved to be an unsuccessful experiment);

2. we get no chronological flat list view (a frequently requested feature) and

3. we get rid of the hierarchy concept that all who do not use chronological flat list view find useful.

This is a bit worse than what is currently available. We have already been through a similar scenario (I mean the missing reply option in comments for non-moderators after reaching a certain nesting level) and it did not go well. Trying the same thing when nothing else has changed and expecting a different outcome does not make a lot of sense.

I understand that reworking question detail view, notifications and possibly the gamification concept means a lot of work, but investing more budget and effort on a faulty design is just delaying the inevitable...

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Summary:

Q&A requirements

  • Easy to ask a question assuming that in most cases the question author has no idea about details required (SAP community specifics).
  • Ability to ask for additional information in a structured way (thread).
  • Ability to provide additional information in a thread.
  • If some reply has a reply under it then this reply can’t be deleted or changed.
  • Accepted answer can be on any level of the thread.
  • Accepted answer is duplicated under the question to simplify reading.

All the mentioned points are part of “reply” concept used in Jive (SCN).

Sample:

QA – Question author; RA – Reply author

In this sample we can see a logical structure of the discussion. If something is not clear in the “accepted” reply then it will be clear after reading full thread. And it can’t be done using existing answer/comment_on_answer/comment_on_question approach even if the user will try to do the best!

Sample in the current Community:

With comments collapsed by default!

The logical structure of discussion is lost! And in this example both QA and RA are doing the best. In the real life both will not use comment_on_question and will use answer instead of comment_on_answer making things completely unreadable. Also in the current system it possible to delete answer or comment having comments under it (and users are doing it).

In SAP community we have discussions, not simply questions and answers. And the platform must support this concept!

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Wow, this Jive thing sounds exactly like what we need. We should... oh, wait, nevermind.

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No matter how well it works for SO I believe we've already established that answer/comment concept simply does not work well on SCN. We've spend enough time on this experiment. Let's accept it failed and move on to the solution that would be simple and best suitable for this Community. IMHO this would be original post (question/discussion/whatever) + replies that can be sorted by top rated or chronologically.

I'm getting very tired of missing notifications all the time (had no idea these comments were posted btw, found out by accident), tired of pointing out to others that the need to use comments instead of answers, tired of reading the same text copy-pasted as 3 comments to 3 different answers.

We shot ourselves in the foot with the answer/comment design, let's acknowledge that and move on to a solution.

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Hi Sajid,

SAP Community Q&A is not equal to Stackoverflow!

Here we have discussions, not simply Question and Answer. AnswerHub concept is not useful for SAP Community!

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Shouldn't we do our own thing instead of constantly looking at SO? Why not looking at our former SCN, which worked for the users much better than what we got since then. It was eventually the best in class before it got ruined so that Stackoverflow could become the new benchmark.

We make every day the experience that it does not work. We cannot change answers into comments and vica versa for the rest of our life, and without this moderator activity it is just not working. The whole world uses smartphones and in the SAP community it feels like establishing connections manually like in 1930s as without this manual moderator activity the response could not reach its recipient.

We have to make a software foolproof or at least so easy to use like Google, ebay and amazon.

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Another example on top of the pile: https://answers.sap.com/questions/450318/how-to-deletemodify-variant-in-ooalv.html

It's just a question, one answer and all the comments are hidden by default. The top answer is probably not even right. It was just a first guess and further discussion occurred in the comments. Thankfully, there is just one answer, so at least not hard to read through the comments. But I'm concerned this will become increasingly difficult over time.

Imagine in future someone finds this post through search. How would it help them to see an answer that does not solve the problem? Even if I posted one of the comments as a new answer, the context would've been lost. You'd see the question and wonder how the heck did this person arrive at such answer. When I'm finding the archived questions, at least I can take any "best answer" and easily see the context for it and the whole conversation. Now it's just plain impossible.

What value are we adding by continuing with this structure?

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Gustavo Vazquez Nov 10, 2017 at 12:24 PM
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Hi Jelena,

I vote up for unifying answer/comments, it was confusing from the start and there were tons of examples of miss use.

I also consider having multiple tags (or allowing to create new tags) makes things worst. You don't know where questions are asked or if you are on the right place. i.e: I'm on the financials tag and also have for AR, AP, AA, BP, Cash Managment, etc. We have one tag for FIN Treasury and another for SAP Treasury and Risk Managment version for the United States (yes, I know, it's all about US :-) ). Both tags post the same questions. The idea of having multiple is good, I like it but if it is controlled. Sorry for adding another topic to the discussion.

A software solution (or platform) is as good as people uses it, and in this case people has paused using it.

I missed old SCN, it was faster, easy to learn, read & find answers.

Kind Regards

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A software solution (or platform) is as good as people uses it

Agreed! That's exactly my point. Comments/answers is not working for the people of SCN. No matter how great it is on many other platforms.

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