My suggestion is to introduce a topic report button. The button would be located at the top of every topic and enables users to quickly and easily report a problem about that topic to a bartender/sheriff. This has 3 advantages:
The problems get identified and handled quicker.
The bartenders/sheriffs have less searching for problems to do.
Users feel more involved.
What do you think?
"Any fool can write code that a computer can understand. Good programmers write code that humans can understand." --- Martin Fowler
Please correct my English.
I like the idea, but I worry that someone, out of spite or just to be a nuisance, would start randomly marking threads which would lead to a big waste of the bartenders' and sheriffs' time. On this forum I'm not sure it would be a big problem though, and I do like the idea.
When I die, I want people to look at me and say "Yeah, he might have been crazy, but that was one zarkin frood that knew where his towel was."
W. Joe Smith wrote:I like the idea, but I worry that someone, out of spite or just to be a nuisance, would start randomly marking threads which would lead to a big waste of the bartenders' and sheriffs' time. On this forum I'm not sure it would be a big problem though, and I do like the idea.
Anybody can abuse the forum. I'm sure there are provisions in place already to deal with that - like removing access.
Like you said, I really doubt this would be a problem. Many other forms I visit have this capability. I was rather surprised that Java Ranch did not.
That's easy to fix just only allow a topic report once every x minutes. Also the user should be able to comment on the problem. A good example would be renaming the topic. Then the bartenders don't have to read the topic just the comment. And if you want to improve the usability then you could filter the problems based on which topics you're administrating.
I'm a mod on another site that does have a report button, and I hate it! The report goes by email to the whole staff; most of the time, you go to check out the thread, and it's already been deleted/dealt with, so it's a lot of wasted time. So the question is, should the individual Rancher spend a little time once to report a problem, or should every staffer spend a little time every time a Rancher reports a problem? The first has a far lower "human cost."
I was thinking about Ernest's concerns, and I think that the problem of emails going to all moderators could be alleviated.
I'm thinking that a report could be sent to a central web page (that only moderators can see). Any moderator on the site could see a special icon indicating that there are topics that need to be looked at. When they go to that page they can then click a button to indicate that they are investigating the issue and/or that the issue has been resolved. That way any other moderator coming to that page will see that the issue does not need an extra set of eyes.
Wouter - your comment about checking whether a moderator is online or not is (in my opinion) not very valuable. Many visitors to this site, and many moderators (including myself) deliberately turn off the ability for others to see when they are online.
I am more concerned about the people who would mark a topic as requiring attention simply so that they get a moderator to look at it, hoping for an answer. Thinking about this though, there are many times when a moderator simply deletes a problematic topic with the intent to restore it later when they have some spare time to devote to fixing the problem. So perhaps if the "report this topic to a moderator" screen had an explicit warning that "reporting this topic as a problem might result in the topic being deleted - especially if it is not immediately obvious what the problem is", then this should stop people trying to game the system.
That makes me think there is potentially a need for a fourth state to the problem reports: reported / investigating / fixed / trashed. The trashed status might indicate that a moderator has deleted the topic because they don't have time to do a better fix, but it would be good for someone else to look at it.
I'm also thinking that it might be worthwhile tracking users, the reports they make, and the resolution. This will have two benefits:
a user who reports real problems with good reports of what the problem is and what they recommend (thereby making the moderators job easier) might be someone we might want to encourage
a user who wastes our time with silly / erroneous reports could be flagged as an abuser of the system, and future reports might be more likely to be ignored (or the ability to make reports might be removed)
So - I can see some ways of reducing the concerns listed here, and there are potentially some benefits. I have other features I am trying to add to the site first though, so I am not volunteering to add this one just yet.
Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:Posting in the thread to flag it to the moderator also involves only one step.
Agreed but I think there are some flaws with that approach:
- It would decrease the quality of the topic because of the "moderator calling" post.
- Other people may respond to the report.
- The problem-reporter might feel a barrier because other users can see that he reported it.
- The one that caused the problem might feel offended/attacked.
I was thinking about a box with messages, only visible for moderators, above every category so that moderators visiting that category could fix the problems.
However a central approach as Andrew suggested is also a good idea.
Remember that I'm viewing this "problem" from a users perspective since I'm not a moderator.