The Forum is Broken - And There's a Simple Solution

Introduction


This post is one I’ve wanted to make for a long time, and I’m finally getting around to it.

This topic is one that affects all users of the Forum. So, I hope you can at least take the time to read the summary located at the bottom of this post.

This post will go over significant aspects of the Forum, how and why they are flawed; along with my proposed solutions to them.

Everything in this post is my opinion and thoughts; however, all of my points have their examples and respective reasonings associated with them, even if not outrightly stated.

I have considered posting each point separately, but compiling all of them into one post has its advantages, like allowing me to reply to others more efficiently. And, most of the solutions are connected.

The Forum is flawed in so many ways that not addressing a majority of these concerns leads to daily frustrations that I’m sure many others feel.

Becoming a Member


According to this official post regarding ranking up on the DevForum, the only thing you need to become a Member is the active browsing of the Forum. Although this is a step-up from the previous system of manual applications, it still has its inherent flaws. While the main problem of application-based entry was scalability concerns, the main issue of this new automated system is the ease that one can gain access to the Forum.

You can make the argument that creating an account should be sufficient enough to become a member, but because of the intended professional nature of the Forum, being able to use the Forum correctly is a necessity.

Applications were before my time; therefore, I cannot comment on them without bias, however it does seem that the old method insured only those who were serious about the Forum would have their application granted. It wouldn’t make sense to fill out one if you did not intend to use the Forum correctly.

Now, however, the only requirements for becoming a Member are:

  • Browsing through a multitude of topics for a few weeks (i.e., 4+ hours read time, one+ weeks visited);
  • Having a verified e-mail address;
  • Having an >13 account;

Although these aren’t the exact requirements needed to become a Member, they are very close. There are people with less read time and fewer weeks visited who have become a Member.

The Issue:

To be able to fulfill these requirements, all you’d need to do is log in every day for seven days, and read posts for half an hour each day, and then, you’re a Member.

Moreover, the Forum treats read-time indiscriminately. Therefore, you don’t need to read any of the posts or replies. You click, skim, then it’s onto the next topic.

The tutorial has a different problem. It only teaches you the very basics and doesn’t touch into how to behave on the platform.

Nothing about the process ensures that the process has its desired effect on users.

Proposed Solution:

Instead of relying on traditional methods that Discourse uses, focus more heavily on the tutorial. If the tutorial was mandatory for Membership and asked questions such as,

What is wrong with this post?

Reply to this message with which rule the post broke, or give this comment a like if it didn’t break any.

How can you fix this post? Also, reply with one of the following emojis:

  • Reply with “:bellhop_bell:” if it needs to go into more detail;
  • Reply with “:stopwatch:” if it needs to be in a different category;
  • Reply with “:heavy_check_mark:” if the post has broken no rules;

These are just examples of the type of questions that would better facilitate the quality of new Member’ replies and posts.

This process forces new members to show their knowledge of correct Forum usage, essentially training them. Implementing this correctly also takes away the need for Community Editors, because if new members showed their proficiency, there would be no need for Community Editors to show them, they would already know how to post in restricted categories.

Help And Feedback (HAF)


By far, the most active public category HAF is filled with posts asking for help and feedback 24/7, multilingually with hundreds of posts per hour.

It is also because of this sheer level of activity where an issue arises.

The Issue:

HAF is filled with posts asking for help, but there are only so many people who have the knowledge, qualifications, and time to help. The more advanced your topic is, the less chance you’ll get a good response.

An example of this is this post. Scripting Support gets over 900 posts per week, and out of those 900, this post was at the top; a 0.1% chance. Yet, it had zero responses from Roblox Staff, Community Sages, Top Contributors, or even Regulars.

Although some of the replies were from experienced programmers, none of them provided actual reasons as to why their method was the best, beyond something similar to, “It worked for me so…”.

Even with a one in a thousand chance coming true, you still might not be able to get the help you require.

I will not be naming any names, but there was a Top Contributor who claimed that HAF had become oversaturated with common simple questions, that they don’t even look at the Support topics anymore.

Proposed Solution:

According to this Discourse blog post, a possible Trust Level requirement is one in which a user must read a certain percentage of new posts.

By implementing this, even at a small percentage, higher-trusted users will read more topics in more common categories. The intent of this proposed solution is not to force users with a higher Trust Level to answer the more common, simple questions, but rather, to encourage them to read the more highly-rated posts, and possibly reply to them. It’s a post read percentage not a post replied percentage. Doing so would be unfair and practically unfeasible.

Post Approval


PA are highly-trusted users who handle the approval process for several restricted topics.

I’ve purposefully made this section brief, as I went into more detail earlier in the section on becoming a member.

The Issue

PA has become so backlogged that it takes several weeks to get a reply back.

Proposed Solution

The backlogging would be a non-issue if the tutorial from my section on becoming a member also included a section on proper posting in these restricted categories.

Becoming a Regular


Warning:

I am not a Regular, because of this, this section will be brief, and based less heavily on my observations and more on facts.

A Regular is the next Trust Level and is one few ever attain.

According to this official post regarding ranking up on the DevForum to become a Regular, you must fulfill several requirements.

  • Active browsing;
  • Abiding by the community rules & guidelines;
  • Going through PA several times successfully

Although its requirements seem lax, appearances can be deceiving. As I mentioned earlier, few ever attain this Trust Level. Go to a non-Cool Creations HAF post, and you will see most if not all, the replies are only from Members.

Is this because most users haven’t been on the Forum for long enough to be considered a Member? Partially, however, there is a bigger problem at hand.

The Issue:

Because of the severe backlogging of Post Approval, getting a post approved multiple times is extremely difficult. With the uncertainty of the new post-approval system, this difficulty is worse.

Proposed Solution:

The tutorial from earlier makes this requirement unnecessary. It provides the same experience as post-approval, just automatically. It would show then ask you how to improve a post, rather than tell you, but the effect would be the same.

Conclusion/Summary


The Forum is flawed in many significant aspects. Changing the tutorial can fix many of these issues.


There are some more topics I would like to touch on, such as:

  • Repeat Posts (Encourage the use of the search bar & search engines.)
  • Professionalism (Encourage flagging.)
  • Unuseful Replies (Encourage flagging, differentiate between useful and unuseful)

I will edit this post to include those in the future, however I believe this should suffice to get my point across.

I didn’t intend for the title to be clickbaity, but I originally started this post with the idea that there would be more solutions than just enhancing the tutorial. I would change it, but although the solution is simple, the severity of the issues isn’t lessened. So I added the second bit as a compromise.

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Yes, I touched upon the idea of a Discobot tutorial in this post, which the topic is about the over-simplicity of becoming a member. The issue I see with this is that there are so many things to cover such as using the search bar, not using the 30 charrrrrs bypasses, creating clear and understandable posts, posting substantial enough topics in #resources, not farming likes on announcement threads, etc. It would be good to see an interactive tutorial, but the sheer amount of engineering behind such a creation seems enormous. Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the idea of a tutorial and that such a thing is for the greater good for years to come, but that may be one of the reasons as to why they’re not doing it yet.

Also, when there have been rulebreakers running around misusing the categories, they often create multiple posts in a row. There should be a system in place where when someone’s been flagged or has their topic unlisted/locked for breaking the rules, then their posting ability is taken from them for a set amount of time. And that time will increase with each consecutive flag. I believe this system can easily teach them not to do such things as the ability to post will become a valued thing as opposed to just posting on your daily social media (which is what they’ve been using the Forum as).

Another thing: having an AI that detects whether the post structure and formatting meets the category guidelines is crucial. For example, if members forget to provide a section for use cases for feature requests, then upon trying to send it to PA (or the new system which will be in place soon), the AI blocks them from doing so until they fulfill the guidelines. This will:

  1. Reduce backlog for PA (and the new system)
  2. Make the poster develop a habit of following the format
  3. Make the Forum would tidier

Now, having this system not only in feature requests, but everywhere else on the Forum, especially for #resources, would be great to stop spamming, low-quality posts, and misuse. It’d be like a dam which allows only a few streams of water to flow through, not the entire lake.

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You are actually quite right. A tutorial or even a quiz could fix these problems. I only disagree where you said that the member title should be easy to get, because it’s unfair to exclude some people from a forum like this, just because they don’t have enough experience.

An other way to add more PA/CE is to the forum is by submitting a request to be one. When sending a request, you would need to fill a quiz and fit a few requirements (such as rule obedience). This way people who want and can be a PA/CE can be one without needing to depend on their luck.

Thanks for creating this post, it’s really professional and I think that it represents almost every forum user thoughts.

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How do you know having a tutorial will fix these problems? People can probably look up the answers or if they got one question wrong they could try again later. They would beat the quiz no matter what. Sure, it may filter the forum somewhat, but I don’t think it will bring the effect your describing.

We were all a noob at some point. There is no denying that. I don’t think having a harsh filter is the ideal solution.

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Incorrect, Community Editor does not handle post approval.

Post Approval is being phased out by September 15. Further discussion on it is pointless – it’s being removed.

Could we please not use “CE” as a substitute for post approval? It will be incredibly confusing once post approval is removed if people are referring to the new level as post approval. They’re not the same.

EDIT: I’ve edited the post to not talk about Community Editor

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Thanks, I don’t believe I was clear on that enough, but I believe I mentioned somewhere in the post the ambiguity regarding the new post-approval process. I am not sure myself, and I believe it’s still up in the air with DevRel, according to your newest post.

I don’t. There will undoubtedly always be the outliers and cheaters, but the point I was trying to make was that the tutorial should be less of an introduction and more of a tutorial.

The bot would show a well-thought-out, high-quality post. It would then explain each component of the post, along with the common pitfalls associated with each component.

This learn-test model is the same type is used in most tutorials and academia.

The point of an enhanced tutorial isn’t a filter, it’s to somewhat emulate what Post Approval used to do, so they, and their new replacement, wouldn’t have to do as much work.

Will it magically fix every aspect of the Forum? Certainly not, nor am I claiming it could.

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I believe you read my post wrong, I claimed that it was too easy to become a Member, not the other way around.

I can’t comment on the effectiveness of that new process you described. While I do believe it has its potential benefits, it may run into the same problem of scalability, and the fact that there may be no Discourse plugin available to do that.

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I am quite sure I read your post right, and you said that it was too easy, so it should become harder. This is the point where I disagreed with you. The new process might be inefficient, but we can’t really know unless we try it, so I won’t fully agree.

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The forum isn’t broken, its unbalanced.

There isn’t enough PA, Top Contribs, and sages to keep up with the thousands of new members (myself included) joining the forum every month.

The DevForum is peaking right now, but the forum staff can’t keep up with the amount of users joining daily.

The old acceptance method was bad, and unfair. I disliked it even myself because it was just too long of a response time due to how many applications were sent in.

I saw what your “solution” was to this and I have to say its a mediocre solution. You cannot force someone’s mind to follow certain rules, it’s the way the mind works. I do agree that there should be a heavier tutorial, however this wouldn’t necessarily solve the problem in question. The main problem is that because of how many users are joining per day, PA and such cannot keep up because they are understaffed.

They should release applications or something of the such, this can’t go on like this forever or else we will have a serious problem of overpopulation in user count.

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As I have stated numerous times, my proposal was a learn-test method. This is the same method used in the majority of other tutorials, academia, and life in general.

The point is not to “force” someone, it is to teach them how to properly post, reply, and interact, test them for proficiency, thereby better balancing the workload of the future of PA.

The purpose of PA is to, as the name states, approve posts in categories that can be frequently misused. If you format your post wrong, they will correct you.

My solution is to take away the need for this, as before users even become Members, they would have already learned how to correctly post, and have proven their proficiency in it.

And yes, there will be a fair share of bad actors who look for cheats to this method, but this method aims to help those who are want to use the Forum properly and are tired of waiting weeks for PA. It is not intended to get rid of manual moderation.

On a side note, as much as I’d love to apply to become PA and help, far too many people will inevitably apply, and the same scalability problems will repeat.

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Just a quick note: Top Contributors don’t actually help maintain the forum at all. We’re just active Regulars.

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I know that, but top contributors respond to posts that are about their development fields. They are useful because of how active they are on the forum and respond to questions quickly if they see them.

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But in that context you imply that top contributors help out with the posts themselves e.g renaming topics etc

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The quality of the content on the Developer Forum is decreasing fast since the announced end of Post Approval.

I really agree with your suggestion related to the tutorial. On this way, posts like “Thanks” can get prevented.

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I noticed that. Even the discussion isn’t Regular+ only anymore.

Maybe the reason this is happening is because there’s a lesson for us? I’m not sure, but since there was people, (I’ll admit, including me) complaining about how low quality this forum has been. Maybe they’re removing post approval to let us see the differences between low quality and high quality devforum? As we complained, the devforum was high quality, but now the post approval is being removed, we’re seeing how the quality is decreasing.

Or maybe there’s a high chance I’m wrong. Not sure. ;-;

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