Adding questions to old threads: low response rate

siares

Senior Member
Slovak
I see any open thread as open for discussion in perpetuity.
Yes, but if you add a new question to an old thread, you will be waiting for an answer in perpetuity. Old threads basically do have a big icon SOLVED.
 
  • Yes, but if you add a new question to an old thread, you will be waiting for an answer in perpetuity.
    I beg to differ.
    If you tag on a new question that shows you didn't bother to read all the older posts you are unlikely to get an answer, which is more than understandable especially if people see that their previous contribution has been ignored.
    There is no such a thing as a SOLVED thread. WR deals with language topics, not maths. Languages keep evolving. A reply that was perfectly fine 10 years ago might have become obsolete or inaccurate.
    If you add a reasonable new question to an old thread (not a random thread, but the right one), proving you did take the time to read the whole discussion first, people will help you.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I beg to differ.
    @siares is right. Far too often, if you do everything right (search for an existing thread on the topic, read through it carefully, ask a question because the thread didn't address all your questions), you simply don't get an answer, whereas if you start a new thread you do. There's an irrational resistance to posting in a thread if the next-to-last post is old, where the same, identical thread would get answers if that same next-to-last post were recent. :(

    I've found this incredibly frustrating when I've used the forums for my translation work. Here's an example. :(
     
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    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    If you add a reasonable new question to an old thread (not a random thread, but the right one), proving you did take the time to read the whole discussion first, people will help you.
    This has not been my experience. I read the whole thread, ask a question, when the thread vanishes from the first page, report, wait for it to disappear again...

    Sometimes, I do get an answer. Often the answer shows that the person did not read the whole thread (where my question assumes he will do; otherwise it would be too long to repeat the points).

    What I noticed is that people who append a question to an old thread then quietly open a new thread after getting no answer. Then they always get one.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    We already have thousands of duplicated threads that are very similar.
    To keep asking the same questions all over again just because we can't wait a couple of hours doesn't help.
    The problem @siares and I are describing is a real problem. I (and I assume @siares) have experienced it many, many times. This is not about duplicating threads, not reading threads carefully, not searching first, or being impatient.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Yes, old and boring discussion - I read absolutely all old CS threads on this topic, and what I gather from them, there is a cult-like opposition to an 'unsolved' demarcation for a thread which would indicate someone is waiting for an answer.

    In this short time of search, I give you several unanswered threads, not even old (they would be hard to find): as soon as there is two answers, that's it.

    supply of a going concern in a private ruling
    In these days of
    sentence translate
    to reference something to something
    Becoming/having become
    No,I stayed...I was knocked out.
    for all the good
     

    Bevj

    Allegra Moderata (Sp/Eng, Cat)
    English (U.K.)
    Out of the 50 threads currently on the first page of the Spanish/English Vocabulary forum, no less than 13 are more than five years old and have been revived either because someone has a similar question or because more clarification is being requested. We don't want dozens of threads asking about the same phrase.
    The Sp/Eng mods encourage adding to old, existing threads - always when the question and context are not different - and I find it very odd to say that these revived threads don't get replies. In Sp/Eng, this is just not true.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I find it very odd to say that these revived threads don't get replies.
    Fortunately, it doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen a lot of the time (far too often, as I said).
    In Sp/Eng, this is just not true.
    What I'm describing (a response rate that is much lower than it should be, not a response rate of zero) is just as true there as it is elsewhere. I've experienced it regularly in a variety of forums, including Spanish.

    I could produce examples if necessary (like the one I've already shared). I've spoken with at least one other regular, rule-abiding forum member who agrees with me 100%.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    as soon as there is two answers, that's it.
    Wait a minute, this is not what I've been talking about. I'm talking about reviving a very old thread because you haven't found an answer to your question in any existing threads and your question relates to the topic of the existing thread.

    What you've shown examples of is totally different, and is extremely uncommon in my experience. No one is obligated to post if they don't want to. What I'm talking about is the fact that the same exact content would get at least some responses if it were in a new or currently active thread, versus an old, revived one. I've experienced this very, very often. When I'm working on a translation, if I start a new thread, I invariably get at least one response (most of the time several). If I revive an old thread (having done my due diligence and reviving it instead of starting a new thread in order to abide by the rules, etc.), I probably get a response no more than 50% of the time (and that's being generous).
    there is a cult-like opposition to an 'unsolved' demarcation for a thread which would indicate someone is waiting for an answer.
    That I think is more reasonable than a "solved" label (which I expressed opposition to in the thread that spawned this one).
     
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    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    What did I do wrong here?
    I'm 99.99% positive that if I had started a new thread with my question, I would have gotten at least one or two responses. In essence, I was punished for following the rules.
    (And this is by no means an isolated example; it was just the one I could find most easily.)
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Wait a minute, this is not what I've been talking about. I'm talking about reviving a very old thread because you haven't found an answer to your question in any existing threads and your question related to the topic of the existing thread.
    I understood you. But using search function, it is not easy to find those threads.
    My examples are a subcategory of that. A thread is not answered often if there are several replies, even regardless of its posting date. It is presumed solved.

    Example of an unaswered old thread:
    there are very few threads on 'belie'. Carefully read them all, carefully asked my question, and then lost heart once it vanished from the first page. So I asked for the question to be deleted.
    to belie
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    A thread is not answered often if there are several replies, even regardless of its posting date. It is presumed solved.
    I don't know about that. In my experience active threads generally get a lot of attention, and most questions and follow-up questions do get addressed. The biggest problem in my experience is when a more or less substantial amount of time passes, and then you post a follow-up. For many threads, that elapsed time is unfortunately a death sentence. :(
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    when a more or less substantial amount of time passes
    I think it doesn't make a huge difference whether it is a day or a few years. A few hours old thread with two replies has much less chance to be opened by new readers as compared to a thread with a red zero.
    That I think is more reasonable than a "solved" label
    Sorry, the opposition might have been to that. But after vigorous defence against 'solved', people lose interest :) . CS threads go cold too.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I think it doesn't make a huge difference whether it is a day or a few years.
    In my experience, it does make a huge difference.
    A few hours old thread with two replies has much less chance to be opened by new readers as compared to a thread with a red zero.
    Less of a chance - undoubtedly.
    Much less of a chance - I'm not so sure (based on my experience)
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Much less of a chance - I'm not so sure (based on my experience)
    You are probably right. I wonder if I am not making the thread confusing, even if you understand me. If you feel like it, just delete my search results and references to them.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    I see quite a number of revived threads where members fail to catch on that the first post was an old one, with some members contributing to the original debate while others answer the new question. It can get quite messy.

    Many members don't read the whole thread. (Who'd have thought it?)

    I have revived old threads a few times myself, but I make a point of prefacing my post with a few words in [bold red type], alerting members that it's a new post added to an old thread. If it doesn't get many answers, I assume it wasn't as interesting a question for others as it was for me.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    I would have loooved your timelier response on the 'belie' thread, velisarius! I was enamoured of the word at the time.. searched so many examples in old books.. and new ones...I adored whodunit's threads.. I used to browse happily old threads and never noticed that I am living among the shadows.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I make a point of prefacing my post with a few words in [bold red type]
    Do you find that effective? Do you get a decent response rate?
    If you've also done it without the preface, have you noticed a difference in the response rate based on whether or not the preface is included?
     
    Out of the 50 threads currently on the first page of the Spanish/English Vocabulary forum, no less than 13 are more than five years old and have been revived either because someone has a similar question or because more clarification is being requested. We don't want dozens of threads asking about the same phrase.
    Amen.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Again, that’s not the issue. The issue is that very often, when we don’t start a new thread precisely because we don’t want to duplicate an existing one, we get no answers. So in many cases it’s either follow the rules and get no answer, or break the rules and get an answer. Reiterating that we don’t want duplicate threads will not solve the problem.
     
    Again, that’s not the issue. The issue is that very often, when we don’t start a new thread precisely because we don’t want to duplicate an existing one, we get no answers. So in many cases it’s either follow the rules and get no answer, or break the rules and get an answer. Reiterating that we don’t want duplicate threads will not solve the problem.
    Again, in my personal, long experience on WR, the decisive factor that determines whether a question usually gets answers or not isn't that fact that is tagged on a previous thread instead of being posted in its own thread. Usually, well framed, interesting questions are more likely to get replies than silly, unclear, done to death queries, regardless of whether they are tagged on an old thread or posted in a new thread.




     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    That is not my experience at all. And I’ve been a member longer than you.

    If you’ve had a better experience, that’s great. Many of us haven’t. It’s a real problem that needs to be addressed.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Usually, well framed, interesting questions are more likely to get replies than silly, unclear, done to death queries, regardless of whether they are tagged on an old thread or posted in a new thread.
    I used to test this with the old software with precise changing numbers of views. Old threads got opened much less often on their way down the first page.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Part of the problem, I suspect, is the fact that from the front page of a forum a potential answerer can't tell whether a post resuscitating an old thread contains a question, a comment, or a piece of random spam.
    There are also other factors (eg the fact that to properly answer a question added to a previous thread you need to read the whole thread.)
    But the 'visibility' issue might, perhaps, be solvable?
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    the fact that from the front page of a forum a potential answerer can't tell whether a post resuscitating an old thread contains...
    Ah! :idea::idea::idea:
    I don't think I was consciously aware of the fact that thread opening dates are included on main forum pages!!! That must be at the root of this problem! I was always a bit confounded by the idea that posters were checking dates and timestamps within threads (I don't do that, I generally just filter that stuff out). I'm now convinced that that's not what's happening; they're not even opening these threads to begin with because they can see when they were opened! :idea::eek:

    This doesn't appear to be the case in the mobile version, at least on my iPhone. [CYNICAL] Maybe the only times we get answers is when the answerers are using the mobile version. :D :D :D[/CYNICAL]

    I wonder, then, if a solution might be to remove the thread opening dates from main forum pages (if it's programmatically possible)? (If people need to know when a thread was opened, they can click on it.)
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    The vague idea in my head was that it might be possible to add some sort of New Question indicator - I'm not sure I'd vote for taking information away. And for me, in any case, I think the primary signals of a resuscitated thread are (1) (where applicable) the litttle bubble showing I've posted before in the thread (2) the number of responses/views. I don't often look at the thread opening date.

    .......

    Ten minutes later
    And now, of course, I'm looking at every single thread opening date!:rolleyes::)
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I've just had a further thought. With the previous system, we were able to hover over the newest post in a thread to see its contents. Is that possible in XenForo, I wonder?
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    One thing that I've suggested several times is that posts older than, say, 3 months should have a different background color or some other obvious distinction so that when someone does add a new question, the thread doesn't fill up with replies to the original post and no one replies to the new question. That's what happens to most of them that I've seen.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Do you find that effective? Do you get a decent response rate?
    If you've also done it without the preface, have you noticed a difference in the response rate based on whether or not the preface is included?
    I don't make a habit of reviving old threads, so I'm afraid I don't have enough data. I haven't noticed any problems.

    I do think a lot of confusion could be avoided if the new question was clearly marked as such. But of course when you post in an old thread some - or even most - of the members who reply will be more interested in answering the original question than the new one. The result is often a confusing parallel discussion.
     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    English - USA
    It's very simple to get responses if you start your reviving message by saying something like "I am reviving this thread with a further question on the topic."

    I don't experience problems with revived threads getting new responses in the FR-EN Forums. We do spend a good amount of time in the background cleaning up and merging old threads so that as much as possible, there is only a single thread on any given term not in the dictionary, expression or grammatical usage, which helps future readers get clear responses/discussions to learn from more efficiently. Our Senior Members are aware of this and certain members helpfully signal such issues needing attention via RP messages.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    There was a thread in 2007 about the same thing.

    If one is forced to append to an old thread - due to conscience/because the mods caught them - the best thing is to choose not by the best match, but anything vaguely similar with at least two active members, and quote the posts of those members in your query, hoping they have mentions activated.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    so that when someone does add a new question, the thread doesn't fill up with replies to the original post and no one replies to the new question.
    I don't have a problem with replies to the original question, as long as the new question is also addressed. After all, if a new question is added to an existing thread as opposed to being asked in a new thread, then at least in theory the idea is that the topics are close enough to each other that they can reasonably be addressed in a single cohesive thread. If the new question is so distinct from the original one as to effectively trigger a parallel discussion (as opposed to a continuation of the original discussion), then that's probably more of a hindrance than a help and that question should just be asked in its own thread.
     
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    elroy

    Imperfect mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I'm not sure I'd vote for taking information away.
    If it's true that the appearance of thread opening dates on the main pages is a major factor in this, do you think that's worth having that information on the main page when it can be easily accessed with a single click if necessary? Ordinarily I wouldn't suggest removing information either; in this case it seems to be causing a problem, at no material benefit that I can see. Maybe there's a benefit I can't identify? I for one don't think I've ever really cared when a thread was opened, in deciding what threads to post in...
     

    SimonTsai

    Senior Member
    Taiwanese Mandarin
    the fact that to properly answer a question added to a previous thread you need to read the whole thread
    I think this explains why I may choose not to answer a question or add input.
    If it's true that the appearance of thread opening dates on the main pages is a major factor in this,
    I personally wouldn't pass a question because it is appended to a very old thread. It is the number of existing posts (e.g., 50) that puts me off.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    So is the problem
    - age of the thread
    - length of the thread?

    Suppose it is the length;
    In Elroys unanswered thread there were just 3 posts I think.
    I looked at some of my unanswered ones, with numbers like 3 4 5 12 17 20
    Worth doing
    beat vs. win against
    Compelling versus appealing
    give me or give us?
    Did I catch you at a bad time
    Nohow.

    I sometimes went back to my thread some time after posting it, when I thought of a follow up question, and didn't get an answer.
    article is too expert
    The hum was less now.

    (I have zero examples of no answer to a question posted in the first new post in a new thread).

    I thought it would get better after posting thank you was mostly replaced by an icon. I haven't really been watching but just last week there was a member, who deleted a follow up question from his own thread; with a reason: didn't get an answer, going to post a new thread.
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    So is the problem
    - age of the thread
    - length of the thread?
    As I said in post 28, length of thread must be part of it. I'd certainly think twice about answering a question added to a 50-post thread. I might in the end, but only if it was something I thought was interesting and worth the time I would spend reading all the posts.

    And there are, of course, broader structural questions such as the ones raised by panj back in 2007 (click).

    I do think, though, that a key issue is the fact that brand-new questions are highly visible on the front page of a forum, whereas it's not at all obvious when new questions are raised in older threads. If those questions could be made more visible, it might go some way to solving the problem.

    Do you have any suggestions yourself, siares?
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Nothing new, just the visibility as you say. Solved/unsolved status, somehow. (First proposed I think in 2009, post 24 relevant) SUGGESTION: "Tick" for solved thread?! ;)
    Then Myrison's idea, where older posts have different background colour.
    Maybe change in instructions for posters: include all background by quoting in your new question, don't assume previous posts will be read. This warning could be attached automatically as the last post to each thread.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    I often revive old threads and haven't had problems getting answers. You just have to be clear you are reviving that thread. You have to state your intention and indicate what information you are looking for that wasn't addressed earlier. Some people who weren't around 10 years ago might reply to the original question, but that's not a problem.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    indicate what information you are looking for that wasn't addressed earlier.
    :thumbsup::thumbsup: Sometimes the new poster ignores the content of the old thread :rolleyes:, or else assumes that it's obvious to other members how the new question is subtly different from the original one.
     

    S.V.

    Senior Member
    Español, México
    Could add a New question? ☑, next to Post, so it adds a little [New question] tag. Removed after 3 days or so.

    Something that doesn't require moderators' time, along those lines.
     
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