5

This kind of response has been popping up a bit more frequently, as well as "X isn't a feature, but you could sponsor the creation of it". These responses often get upvotes or are accepted, but in my opinion they are non-answers and should possibly be flagged. At minimum an answer should reference the ability to do X via API/extension, with at least a suggestion to help the asker get started down the path to create X. What does the community think?

  • 1
    I bet there could be a canned response that points to how to get started doing an extension .. but also it is good to keep in mind that there are probably people who have work arounds for different missing features too, so it's good to encourage those posts. – Elin Apr 17 '15 at 2:55
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    Exactly. People come here when they can't find a feature or figure out a workaround on their own. When we just say "sorry, can't do that" without offering any alternative, we're shutting off the question to future answers that could solve the asker's problem. – Nicholai Apr 17 '15 at 2:58
6

On the Civi forums, the foundation owns the site; I think the core team and the most well-known developers feel a commitment to read and respond to every unanswered thread, so this kind of answer is totally appropriate in that setting.

SE sites are community-owned. There is no expectation of response from core committers here. On the Drupal Answers and Wordpress SE sites, you won't see:

That isn't a feature but you could submit a patch.

Instead you see:

That isn't a feature, so you'll need to write a plugin. Here's a quick 5-line function to show the general idea. And this blog post might help. If you've never written a plugin, here is a link to the docs, and another link to a demo plugin you can download.

This answer helps the current asker, other responders, lurkers, and future web searchers. And it works for multiple audiences:

  • The non-coder understands that the problem isn't impossible to solve. "I could commission this if I really need it."
  • The power user may get inspired to try building a first customization. "I'm ready to take my Civi skills to the next level".
  • The developer who starts every project by searching SE gets a headstart on solving the problem, and may then provide a more thorough answer, a link to a shiny new extension, or a patch to add the feature to core.

Final thought: if you can't provide an actionable answer, it's better not to answer at all. It prevents non-answers from appearing in search results. It also means the "Unanswered" link in the nav menu remains useful for its purpose of displaying unanswered questions.

3

I appreciate the concern you are raising in this question, and will try to use what I've learned from this to improve my future answers. However I don't think the problem is as terrible as it is being made out to be and want to put in a word for moderation (in two senses of the word).

Yes, this is a community site, and no one owns or controls the content, but that works both ways. If someone posts an answer that is in some way incomplete, the wonderful thing about this site is that the answer can be edited by anyone. I would encourage everyone who finds a piece of content less than satisfactory to engage with the process of making it better. Please do add links, notes and how-tos. If you care about your rep score, add it as a separate answer instead of editing the original. Your more complete answer will likely get voted to the top.

This isn't to excuse unhelpful answers, but I think it's always good to remember that taking the time to answer a stranger's question is an act of goodwill (just as you starting this thread is coming from a desire to improve this site for everyone), and treat folks accordingly. Some ways to do this might be:

  • Post a comment thanking them for their answer and asking for more detail.
  • Suggest they mark their answer as "community wiki" content so it can be collaboratively improved.
  • Edit or propose edits.

All of the above seems like it would be more helpful, and more in the spirit of cooperation, than flagging.

I also agree that we all could start compiling some generalized advice into the CiviCRM wiki. If you find yourself posting the same answer to similar questions, it might make a good reference page, for example.

  • My concern comes from these kinds of answers being upvoted and marked as accepted, when they should probably be downoted or remain at a neutral 0. But yeah, flagging isn't the right solution either. – Nicholai Apr 19 '15 at 13:14
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Everyone who contributes to open source projects sometimes wants to give that answer; phrased the right way in the right context it is a good answer. But sometimes it is an answer you give because you are tired and you have a list of many priorities and the asker seems to be acting entitled. When I feel like I'm at the point of saying something like that because I'm annoyed, then I know it is time to walk away from the keyboard. But if I feel like I'm saying it because it's important to open the door on the process so the user can understand how things work, then I think it's a fair response if it is done with a good tone.

2

Agreed. It is one of the most annoying responses at the forum, especially for tech-minded end users who are not coders - it's very off putting. To me, it gives an air of If you can't figure it out in code, we can't help unless you pay us, noob.'

I know that it must be annoying from the developer POV to get, 'Why doesn't it do this?' posts frequently, but that response I think hurts the community. Better would be, 'good idea, unfortunately, no one has built this into the program yet but (pick one) it's in the roadmap, feature requests go here, it could be created if (with advice on a starting point).

2

Humm, I'm not sure whether to post comments or answers in Meta. I'm going to phrase this as an answer.

Here's a response I wrote a few days ago - it boils down to "you could do hackish thing X, or write an extension Y, or contribute the fix to core".

https://civicrm.stackexchange.com/a/484/149

It doesn't solve the problem as much as Nicholai's example would, but it does direct the user to the place to start work if they want to understand why things are the way they are.

  • Chris, the answer you referenced was solid. It helped the asker today who can rename his orgs, and the future asker who can't do that, but will know that his extension needs to implement hook_buildForm() and can click straight through to the doc. – Nicholai Apr 19 '15 at 12:47

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