1

English Student makes a very good point in this answer:

Less than 5% of OP's even post an update, I think. It would be nice to know how their problem turned out.

On the main stackoverflow, or the electronics one, the asker will usually try proposed solutions and experiment, then post feedback. For example, "This solution offered best performance" or "this was what my problem was all about", stuff like that. Often a dialogue takes place, until the solution is found. This is very valuable, as anyone who has the same problem and googles the same Q&A later on will find this information very useful. People who answer also learn new things from this process. Negative feedback helps, too: someone with the same problem will be interested in not losing time researching solutions which did not work. My point is: the asker will usually provide feedback on answers, based on actually trying them.

This Q&A is quite the opposite. It feels a bit like opening a book at a random page. Someone tells their story, introduces some characters, then asks for help. People post answers, which are then voted up/down based on everyone's experience and/or subjective opinions: "Yeah... I think that would work."

However, only the asker can tell how they handled their problem in the end, if it worked or not, what they wished they could have done better, etc. This would actually be the most valuable information for anyone coming later to view the question, but it simply isn't there... Using scientific vocabulary, each answer is a hypothesis, but only the asker can perform experimental validation and decide which one worked.

Therefore: How to encourage askers to leave feedback and tell the end of the story, so this Q&A becomes more useful to future visitors?

This would also provide closure to people who write answers, and more important, allow them to learn from the results of their advice and keep them motivated. I still wonder how Tycho's cat situation turned out... It is nice to wonder how to write such feedback, but this doesn't address the issue that almost no-one bothers to actually do it. And even if they did, the answerers wouldn't be notified.

I'd suggest adding a timed reminder email which would be sent say, 2 weeks after the question was asked. Maybe a reputation bonus for motivation? Notifying the ones who answered? Other ideas?

EDIT

For a quick example, I grabbed a random question from stackoverflow about a rather common SQL error. This example is interesting for several reasons.

  • Some of the answers are wrong.

  • Someone proficient in SQL will have no trouble solving this and telling which answers are wrong. However for a beginner, this will not be the case. The error message is pretty cryptic if you see it for the first time, and the wrong answers will lead them off track. Some are wrong for rather tricky reasons.

  • The accepted answer provides two solutions, one is right and safe, and the other may be a trap depending if the asker told the whole story or not.

Thus the asker took a minute to write a comment on the accepted answer to say that it solved its problem, which makes the whole thing a lot more useful for people with the same profile encountering the same problem.

This can be transposed to IPS: often answers will contain tons of suggestions. Simply accepting doesn't record which one worked for the benefit of future readers...

TL/DR: This is valuable feedback. How to get more?

| |
  • 3
    Uhmm... isn't that what accepting answers is for, if there is an answer that fits best? Otherwise, take a look at that meta where you picked the answer from you're disuccing here: if it's not there you can self-answer... – Tinkeringbell Nov 29 '17 at 21:30
  • 2
    Your point is very valid @peufeu because like the sites you mentioned (and unlike a few other SE sites) the msin activity on IPS.SE is collaborative solving of real life problems. A problem solving activity alwsys benefits from user feedback about solutions. Since users are often not posting updates, incentivising the process as 'good practice' or worthy of reputation points might be a good idea. – English Student Nov 30 '17 at 3:42
  • @Tinkeringbell I did have a look, but the point here is not how to give feedback, but how to motivate askers to do it more often. For example the report you gave about the aggressive person in the train is very helpful. There should be more. – bobflux Nov 30 '17 at 10:46
  • 1
    Ah... Like that. I agree that such things are very helpful (and nice to see). But I also a agree with the answers already here: Such things should come from an user themselves, not be forced or nagged about... ;-) – Tinkeringbell Nov 30 '17 at 11:50
  • 3
    @Tinkeringbell I wouldn't consider just one message to be nagging. – bobflux Nov 30 '17 at 15:37
  • Some people will absolutely perceive it as nagging. No matter what exact term you prefer, it's an unsolicited reminder, and even the first such message can be annoying. – Cascabel Dec 1 '17 at 15:51
12

No. I don't think we should do anything programmatically to request this.

We're already asking people to share their private lives to some degree when asking the question. Prompting them to come back by emailing them or somehow having the system pinging them on the network seems invasive. In cases where it went well, no harm would likely be done... but think about cases where they are in a very fragile or stressful situation. Reminding them about their question here and asking for an update could hurt them - unintentional though it may be. And offering special reputation rewards for it seems crass.

If they choose to come back, we have guidelines for how to share this information but, otherwise, I don't see any reason to ask the Stack Exchange developers or CMs to create a feature to do this on a system basis, particularly not if the intention is largely to satisfy the curiosity of the users here.

  • If they used one of the answers, an accept (possibly with a comment) is simple enough.

  • If they used a combination of the answers, they can write a new answer or note that they used a combination of those two answers in the comments on them. An example of this can be seen in the comments on some of the top answers here.

  • If their solution is vastly different from the ones proposed, they can answer the question themselves and potentially earn reputation from upvotes to the answer, so I don't see any need for specific bribes to these users in the form of reputation.

I'm also not sure how this is particularly different than other sites... If someone asks a question on SO or Cooking, surely there's still some question about whether the solution actually worked for them... the difference here is that people are more interested about what happened because it's someone's personal life rather than a computer program or fixing a recipe.

Please, let's give people some privacy. I actually worry that doing this sort of thing would inhibit people from posting at all, not wanting to be pestered for "how did it go".

If users can encourage it themselves as Jefromi describes in their answer, that's fine with me, but I do not support asking for a programmatic change and I'm pretty sure the CMs would refuse such a request, anyway.

| |
  • 1
    "Satisfying the curiosity of users" is really a minor point. Also pretty much everyone here uses pseudonyms (or can create an anonymous account) thus privacy is not really a concern. For the rest, see edit to my question. – bobflux Nov 30 '17 at 10:50
  • 1
    @peufeu Yes, privacy is a concern. Even under a pseudonym, people generally prefer not to overshare, and we need to respect that. And privacy also includes not being disturbed, which means extra unsolicited messages/notifications do matter. But whatever you call it, Catija's points stand: yes, the feedback can be very helpful! But while the OP does have some obligation to make the question clear and complete enough to answer, they have no obligation to divulge more, whether to validate answers or satisfy curiosity, and we shouldn't remind/message/notify them about it. – Cascabel Dec 1 '17 at 15:17
  • Catija, maybe a way to sidestep this slightly would be to change your first sentence to specifically refer to contacting individual users in any way about this, to clarify that it's the method that's the problem, not that feedback isn't useful? Systematically encouraging in a passive way like in my answer is probably fine, privacy-wise. – Cascabel Dec 1 '17 at 15:21
  • 1
    @Jefromi I can. I could also state that I'm pretty sure that the CMs would refuse any such request to automatically email people about this... so it doesn't really matter :P My use of the word "systematically" was supposed to imply that, though I guess it's not. – Catija Dec 1 '17 at 15:23
  • Oh, and a more specific reason even a notification can be bad: imagine the question was on an important, emotional topic - say, interacting with anti-LGBT+ relatives at the holidays, a potentially relationship-ending conversation with a significant other, or a stressful conflict the OP is trying to fix. IPS questions can be really crappy situations. Maybe it ended badly! Or maybe it ended well but was stressful throughout and they're happy to be done with it. How is a "hey, how'd it go?" reminder going to affect that person? – Cascabel Dec 1 '17 at 15:27
  • @Jefromi Better? – Catija Dec 1 '17 at 15:44
  • 1
    I think so! Thanks for the clear stand on unsolicited notifications - many people, including me, would be very unhappy to get them. – Cascabel Dec 1 '17 at 15:54
  • I think you worry way too much. However if you believe it requires a programmatic change that would be refused, then that is a valid reason. – bobflux Dec 1 '17 at 17:19
  • 1
    @peufeu This worry is from direct experience. I have seen so many organizations, websites, and apps send unsolicited messages to their users, with good intentions to encourage desirable behavior. And often it does solicit the desired behavior - more usage, more feedback, etc. But it also significantly annoys users - many see it as spam. It is of course all a moot point, because there's no way the devs would ever do this (partially because they'd think it's spammy too), but I'd really encourage you to think of all users' wishes, not just the potential feedback. – Cascabel Dec 2 '17 at 1:23
5

I think that when you see this sort of feedback frequently on a site, it's more of a cultural thing than anything about direct encouragement/incentives.

With that in mind, the best way to encourage feedback from those willing to provide it (see Catija's answer for why not everyone will be willing, and why pressuring is bad) is simply to be receptive to it, and to lead by example where possible.

So:

  • If you ever ask a question, and you have feedback afterwards that you're comfortable sharing, do so!

  • If you see good feedback from the OP, upvote it! (Note that if they wrote their own answer, this is the reputation reward.)

  • If you get feedback from the OP on your answer, incorporate whatever you can into the answer, so they see how valuable it is.

  • If you see feedback from an OP, don't take it as an opportunity to give further unsolicited advice or to cast judgment, or anything else that might make them uncomfortable. Be appreciative of their time and their willingness to share.

  • If you ever interact in comments for any purpose (not just this sort of feedback), be friendly and constructive, so that the OP is more likely to feel it's safe to interact in comments.

Again, even with everything going perfectly, many people won't have the time or desire to share further, and that's totally fine. But a supportive, encouraging environment will let you get what you can.

| |
  • Your suggestions are good, unfortunately the askers are unlikely to read them ;) – bobflux Nov 30 '17 at 10:51
  • 4
    This isn't for the askers to read. It's for you and other active community members to read, to encourage you to set up an environment that's welcoming enough that askers might decide to share more often. – Cascabel Nov 30 '17 at 14:57

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .