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 close

the 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

explicit value.

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

track record.

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.