16

So currently many questions on IPS get lots and lots of answers, some of which are duplicated with others. This isn't necessarily bad, but I think we could use the same strategy (with modified thresholds) that the workplace uses to discourage duplicated answers and encourage people to focus on improving existing answers instead.

Currently, on the workplace, if you attempt to answer a question that has more than 2 answers already, you get this notice and have to explicitly acknowledge it before being allowed to write your answer:

This question has more than 2 answers already.

Did you read through all the existing answers first to make sure your answer will be contributing something new?

Also, please note that you can click the edit link on any of these answers to improve them.

Now obviously, for IPS, the 2 answer threshold should be tweaked, but I still think we could benefit from such a feature:

  • It does not prevent answers past X, only makes people read a thing before they can post them
  • It works really well in preventing outright duplicate answers in the workplace
  • It gets the point that duplicate answers aren't really useful across in a way that is not as easy to ignore as the FAQ or help center is.

What do you think? Should IPS get this notice? At which threshold if yes?

13

That notice was actually an unintended consequence of another site setting, so if IPS does this it'll need to take both. The main goal on Workplace was to make big piles of comments less prominent. Now, all comments anywhere on the page that aren't upvoted are automatically collapsed if there are at least N answers on the question. N is set to 2. (The network-wide default is 15, just for some context.)

IPS also gets a lot of comments, often tangential, so this might be a good idea here. Comment collapse and the "too many answers" notice are joined at the hip, so we need to decide on them together.

  • 1
    This is a feature I was thinking about requesting, too... That is somewhat odd they're conjoined, though. – Catija Nov 10 '17 at 16:41
  • @Catija I suspect the goal that produced both of them (in one feature) was "make big pages with lots of answers more usable". If the question and every single answer displays, by default, 5 comments there's a lot to page through to get to the later answers -- or to get to the "post your own answer" box, so maybe some pushback there would be useful. Obviously I'm just speculating. – Monica Cellio Nov 10 '17 at 16:55
4

I think this is a good idea, including the "attached" feature pointed out by Monica Cellio. I would put the threshold at either 5 or 3; I think in IP it's very rare that there's an obvious "right" answer so there's benefit in seeing several different perspectives.

I would probably go for a threshold of 5, but if that seems too high then 3 is an equally "round" feeling number (I think 4 would come across as arbitrary, even though it's not any more arbitrary than 3 or 5). More than 5 starts to be very cluttered already.

  • 1
    Before doing that, I need to get some data to see if there was actually any benefit to the site to having this feature added. It sounds cool but whether it's effective or not would tell us whether it's worth asking the team/devs to make the change for us. – Catija Nov 10 '17 at 20:21
  • This question is asking whether there is any benefit from it... part of determining if there's any benefit is studying whether the existing implementation gave that site any benefit. There's no need to have a FR for adding it if there's no benefit to the site in doing so. The team isn't going to use dev time to implement something ineffective. I'm fully aware of how Meta works. If it is beneficial, I don't actually see the need for a second post. The votes here show that there's already support for it. :D – Catija Nov 10 '17 at 21:42
  • Ah, OK. So I take it there's some behind-the-scenes mod communication/research going on? Or is there something any non-mods could do to help gather necessary data? – 1006a Nov 10 '17 at 21:51
  • Not "behind the scenes" in a way that is mod only... I'm trying to figure out the right SEDE query to show us what we need to know. The one I've got right now is pretty general but not very convincing that this is effective. I'm trying to see if there's a factor that we can add to the query that will show something else. I don't know SQL, though, so I have to get help from people who can actually write the query or find one that already exists. – Catija Nov 10 '17 at 21:55
  • I see what you mean. I wonder if the median or mode would be any different, and also if there was any perception that there was a qualitative difference in posts after the change. Unfortunately I don't know SQL, either, so I can't help you write the query. – 1006a Nov 10 '17 at 22:15
  • @Catija I know some SQL. Let's take a look on sunday? – Tinkeringbell Nov 10 '17 at 22:59
  • @Tinkeringbell sure. :D I'll see if anyone else has thoughts on it between now and then. – Catija Nov 10 '17 at 23:09
  • Perhaps what we want to try to capture is: for every answer posted in the target month, was it the third, fourth, ... nth answer? Maybe a line graph where each line shows one N value. (We can drop first and second because people wouldn't have seen warnings about those. Or include them for interest, but they don't help answer this question.) Answer score might be relevant too, but I don't have good ideas on how to reflect that. Figuring out what exactly the question is is the hardest part sometimes. – Monica Cellio Nov 12 '17 at 3:14
-6

Please no!

One of the principles we work with here is "back it up", yes? That is, you don't just give an answer, you support it with your own experience, or citations, or the like.

Well ... the "back it up" we get on IPSE is often personal stories, which by definition are not duplicate. They may be similar, but each person's story backs up the answer in a different way. And it's hard to ... improve an answer which is based on someone else's experience.

Short-short: I do not think that there is value in trying to tamp down the number of answers. If anything, we should be trying for more answers!

Update: I don't mind being wrong (heh), but it helps if yez tells me why... ;D

  • 4
    DV = disagree on meta ;) I disagree because while we allow backing up answers with personal stories, it isn't meant so we can collect a bunch of personal stories which are all backing up the same answer. Like if we have an answer saying "You should do X, because once upon a time there was a blue cat...", we don't need ten other answers saying "You should do X, because once upon a time there was a red dog..." etc., etc. The same value is achieved by leaving a comment on the first answer saying "+1, this also applies to my experience with red dogs". – Em C Nov 13 '17 at 16:07

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