1. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Subject search forum

    Discussion in 'Support & Feedback' started by NaCl, Jan 27, 2009.

    During my short tenure on this site, I have seen some extraordinarily good advice pass through threads, only to vanish deep in the bowels of the site's memory. The same questions often come up again over time and it's sad that the original information must get repeated...or even ignored.

    Search engine: Once, I asked about a search engine but was informed it would take an enormous investment of time to develop and would cost too much to add/maintain. Fair enough. But, I still think we've lost some wonderful discussions in the current format. Plus, it puts unnecessary time demands on Cog and other moderators to cut'n paste the same'ol-same'ol every time new people ask "old" questions. I got to thinking...

    Why don't we add a "forum" titled "Answers to Frequently Asked Writing Questions"? Only moderators can post in this section, as it is intended solely as links by subject. For example, each OP would have a general title like "Writer's Block, Motivation, Getting Started" or "Discussion About Self-Publishing". Then, when people open that subject, they would simply find a brief comment and related links...like this: Under the thread titled "Writer's Block, Motivation, Getting Started"

    Writer's block...

    How do you cure writer's block?
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=18438
    I'm getting discouraged
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=18141
    A big problem
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=16343

    Or, another subject might be:

    Motivation to write...

    Motivation Level: Critically Low
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=18375
    I'm getting discouraged
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=18141
    Need help starting!!!
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=17923
    I need help sticking with it!
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=17793

    Getting Started...

    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=18280
    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=15957


    You get the idea...this forum would act as a sort of reference center or subject library for those threads that impressed a moderator by the quality and substance of the discussions within. I would "seed" this library initially with two or three threads for each subject and add subjects more over time. I would also limit the number of entries in each subject to no more than four links. It would build slowly but become a valuable referrence center for common questions...a place where we could direct people rather than re-inventing the wheel every week or two.
     
  2. garmar69
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    garmar69 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I really like this idea!

    I noticed a new thread about writers' block just this morning and thought, 'Didn't I just see this subject in another thread?'
     
  3. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I did too...if we had a resource like this, I would just say, "Here are several great discussions on this very topic..." and I would insert the link. It just doesn't make sense to re-visit the same topic ten times in a year...especially when a few of the past threads produced some excellent responses.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Instead, what we have are locked, stickied threads in appropriate forums. We add to these from time to time, but obviously a lot of frequently asked questions are not covered - yet. Sometimes I'll insert something when I get tired of answering te same question repeatedly. Other times, I don't bother because it is clear no one will look for the answer before asking the question again anyway.

    Adding another forum adds to the index page real estate (that's a frequently answered question too, although no one really ASKS about the downside of adding more forums ;)).

    For your example: There are many, many, MANY threads about writer's block. They are not at all difficult to find, but no one ever seems to try. Often there will be a couple of them active at the same time under Writing Issues -> General Writing.

    There is a Search functionality already. Look directly under the Private Messages link at the top of every page.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i agree with cog that the current threads combined with the search function does all that you want, salty...

    fyi, i just entered 'writer's block' in it and on the first page of 'hits' there were threads ranging from today back to a week ago... the last of the 284 [!] hits was from september 2006...

    so, what more could be needed?
     
  6. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    This would not be as much of a "forum" as a topical resource library that catelogs good threads by topic. If you guys want to explore this further, I will volunteer to set up the initial forum content. I will work with moderators to establish the initial choices of subjects and I will scour old threads for those links with lots of pertinent discussion. Let me know if you want such assistance.
     
  7. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    So, why aren't people using the search engine? Should we spend less time addressing "old" questions and refer to the search engine?

    The library I am suggesting has been selected for their good advice or diversity of opinions. Of those 284 hits you got, how is a neophyte supposed to sift the wheat from the chaff? I am proposing we supply people with a few of the best threads, not overwhelm them with vast piles of sifting to find a few gems.
     
  8. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've seen something like this on several other forums. Wf.com has a whole forum of comprehensive answer threads requiring onlt that they be checked by staff before they are actually posted. AW has a thread at the top of each section that is basically a ToC of the best threads on common subjects. As someone who does try searches first, I have to say that it is often easier just to start a new thread, even if all that happens is more senior members reply with a flurry of links or copy-paste answers. So I think something like a stickied ToC would be cool.

    But I understand the issues with real estate and more work for the staff.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the problem with that is 'the best' is subjective and what may seem like 'best' to the one who's doing the choosing might actually not be, and/or contain some not so good advice...

    which is why it's really best to leave it as it is and let folks check out previous threads, where they'll get a variety of opinions from which they can decide which make the most sense or are presented by/from the most reliable sources...

    i'd really hate to see this site descend into having a few decide what's best for all... it would take it from being a 'forum' to somewhat of a dictatorship... besides the fact that it would be way too major a time and work commitment to demand of anyone...
     

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