After months of promises and postponements, we've finally begun serious
planning for the long-awaited revamp of our Technical Q&A feature.
Nothing has been set in stone, not by a long shot, but our biggest
problem is what to do with TechPoints, the currency that makes our
knowledge-trade economy go. Frankly, the economy is broken, and it
would solve a host of problems if TechPoints were done away with, but
I've got a feeling some members would be really upset by such a move.
Especially those with a huge store of TechPoints.
However, I'm betting most people who answer Q&A questions do it for
the love of helping people and the love of showing off their tech mojo,
and the points are simply a way of getting street cred. If we built a
smarter cred system, I bet most people wouldn't miss TechPoints.
Especially if we "cashed out" the existing stock with some thank-you
gifts, tiered to your points levels.
The ideas we tossed around today—just ideas mind you—involved
rebuilding Q&A into a sort of "global help desk" with an interface
very similar to a help ticket, that had fields for various key aspects
of the question: OS, hardware platform, urgency level, etc. Our users
know what a help ticket is, and we think this would make the feature
more intuitive. We'd slim down the topic categories and enable freeform
tagging to streamline the process.
Also, there would be no TechPoint cost to opening a ticket. You can set
an urgency level, which will float your question to the top of the
returned All Open Questions page (which would be sortable on multiple
data points), but that also means your question will be autoclosed much
faster. If you want a quick turnaround, you'll have to mean it.
To put more teeth in the autoclose, we're going to require you to do a
quick post-mortem on the responses. If you don't confirm
success/failure and note which answer(s) helped, then you can't closethe question. If you can't close the question, it autocloses. All autoclosed questions would be erased from Tech Q&A.
No fair never rating a question but still getting the benefit of
answers that work. Unconfirmed remedies will be expunged, and you won't
have the free advice to fall back on. Yes, the question and answer
wouldn't be there for others to benefit from, but if the poster never
confirmed that a solution worked, how much value is it anyway? If you
gave the answer and you know it works, you still have that knowledge.
Essentially, this makes Tech Q&A an archive of confirmed results
only. Success or failure, you'll know the results, so the archive has
If you have a question autoclosed, this would be noted on your profile
and your Q&A signature. Potential answerers would know immediately
if you don't close/rate questions. Good luck getting help with a bad
Also, we'd set member levels. Level 1 members could have maybe 1-3
questions open at once. As you submit successful answers, your level
would rise, and you'd be granted additional question slots. If you have
a question autoclosed, you lose that slot, and can't earn it back until
you provide accepted answers to others. Repeat offenders would have
their ability ask questions stripped in short order, and would have to
earn their way back in.
The hole in this system is recognizing difficulty. Skilled posters know
when a question is particularly hard and set point values accordingly.
The process is hit or miss, however. My initial thoughts are that all
questions would have a set reward value. Easy questions would obviously
have many people answering, and answering quickly, so if all answers
were accepted, the reward would automatically be less. Easy answers
thus would pay less, unless they were clsoed and rated quickly, so
you're rewarded for being first, and having a considerate poster.
Conversely, a hard question that only one person could answer would be
intrinsically more valuable, because the single answerer would reap all
the points. This puts a premium on answering well and answering
quickly, which are behaviors we want to encourage.
We'd keep the TechPoints icons, probably, and there was even talk of
creating branded "thank you gifts" for people who achieve certain
levels. We don't have a pointscale yet but, pulling numbers out of the
air, 10,000 TechPoints would earn you a certificate, 25K a TR mug, 50K
a t-shirt, 100K a polo. Things like that. Things you couldn't buy, so
they'd be rare and have some cred to them.
We'd also create a signature meter that was exclusive to Tech Q&A,
based on your points level and acceptance percentage, autoclose
history, etc. It would be seperate from your discussion activity. This
would recognize quality activity over quantity, which we think would be
very compelling and popular. We'd maybe have a composite meter on your
profile page, which would fuel a revamped Top 100, but that may be a
ways down the line.
Anyhow, that's where the conversation is at today. Leave a comment if you have any thoughts on the viability of these ideas.
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.