Forum Moderation Best Practices Part 5 – Mark other peoples’ answers as much as possible!!!

Forum Ninjas Blog

Hello! This post continues the conversation in this series of blog posts:


We’ve been digging into one article in particular, where we (Microsoft TechNet/MSDN forum owners) hammered out some hard guidelines:


Let’s look at the next two guidelines:

6. Try to propose and mark the answers of others in the community. For example, if someone else partially answered a question, and you want to add to it, then propose both answers, not just your own. And when it comes time to marking answers, make sure you mark the other person’s answer as well (not just your own). You should be willing to unpropose and unmark your answer when appropriate. It’s a team effort.

7. You should unmark answers/proposals VERY rarely (and communicate first). Obviously unmark answers and proposed answers if you accidentally marked them as answers but didn’t mean to (try not to do that). If you unmark an answer that was marked by the Asker/OP, then you’re being disrespectful to them. They are the client in this scenario. You’re trying to help them, not fight them. So instead you can propose additional answers, mark additional answers, or explain in a reply why you think another post is an additional answer. Another scenario where you might want to unmark an answer is if another Answerer/Moderator marked something as an answer (or if anyone proposes an answer) but was wrong (the reply is incorrect and doesn’t help in any way or the Asker came back later and said that it wasn’t an answer). If the Moderator has a reason for proposing/marking an answer, you need to discuss that reason before unmarking answers/proposals. Do not start a marking/unmarking answers war (or even a proposing/unproposing war). Instead, email the Answerer/Moderator and explain what you want to do first. It’s always better to move slowly and carefully. Think of this as a marathon and not a sprint… communicate first and act second.


So here’s the background story… most of you know this, but you’ll likely run into moderators who propose their own answers all the time and mark their own answers. The worst is when people only propose and mark their own answers! It really seems like they’re trying to game the system and not really helping and not marking the true best answers.

However, perhaps they’re just being lazy. They know their answer is right (or at least think it is, or they wouldn’t have written it), and they don’t want to take the time to read other answers and evaluate what the best answer is. If that’s the case, then I’d recommend not proposing or marking any answers. If you’re not going to spend the time to do it fairly, then perhaps you should only read and mark an answer that isn’t your own (in other words, if you only have time to evaluate one answer, pick one that isn’t yours). At least it’s fairer and kinder that way. No one is going to accuse you of gaming the system that way (obviously).

Personally, I propose and mark my own answers A LOT. But, I propose and mark other peoples’ answers 100 times more. So if you’re proposing and marking your own answers one out of 100 (and you’re clearly evaluating each answer), then I don’t think anyone is going to even bat an eyelash at you proposing your own answers (again, if it’s one out of 100).

So the general and expected behavior is to simply put others above yourself and treat it clearly.

There are many scenarios where you can’t get anyone else to propose or mark answers (or it’s kind of a waste of time in a few cases, where the only mods you can find really shouldn’t be bothered), and no one else is really answering a question… thus there’s a reason why you can propose and mark your own answers. There’s a value. So the ask to moderators is to use the feature/ability wisely, with tact, kindness, and a splash of humility.

Thank yoU! Yes, the “U” is capital. Because it’s you/U.


May the Forums be with you. (Plug in and don’t be a rogue one.)

  • Jedi Ed


PS: Where does Qui-Gon keep his jam? In a Jar-Jar.

Comments (6)

  1. I try to first propose answers, then after 7 days, mark the answers (if the OP or another moderator has not already). I propose my own replies as answer when the OP doesn’t come back, but I hesitate to mark my own replies as answer. Sometimes after 2 weeks of inactivity I will mark my reply, assuming I know it to be the answer and no one else has an alternative. But I agree, if someone has a decent reply, I would rather mark theirs as the answer (after 7 days). I have noticed more moderators waiting the 7 days.

    1. That’s great. I hope more moderators can follow this!

  2. Burak Uğur says:

    First of all thanks for clearing marking the answers strategy,so i’m a moderator on local forums.Also i have a question related to this topic,Does ms change the strategy of mark answer of a questions,cause since december ms moderator didn’t mark the answers they just select “Propose as answer”,so am i doing wrong?On local forums may i select “propose as answer” then mark the correct answer after 7 days later?or just leave them as “Propose as answer”??


    1. We’ve been systematically asking MS Moderators to follow the above guidelines. It’s been a process over the course of several years. So the change you saw is likely part of that process.

      I would mark the answers after waiting 7 days. Yes. That gives the OPs a chance to mark it themselves.

      If you leave it proposed…
      – The answerer doesn’t feel as appreciated and is less likely to continue contributing.
      – The forum stats make it look like the questions aren’t being answered.

      So ultimately, we should mark them. But we should give the OP the first chance.

  3. pituach says:

    >> “They know their answer is right (or at least think it is, or they wouldn’t have written it)”
    This is the issue
    any person (moderator or simple user) that write an answer “know their answer is right”, otherwise he would not write it. By writing an answer we already know that you think that your “answer is right”. Usually, there is no reason to double this by proposing it as answer.

    I am not talking about Moderators specifically but about any user. There are administrative exceptions as you mentioned, but these should be EXCEPTIONS and done only for administrative purposes, if there is no other option.

    In the past for example, in the Hebrew interface, I had a nice procedure with the forum’s owner. Since he was not expert in the same fields that I am and vise versa, we simply sent email from time to time to the other person, which includes a list of threads ready to be close, or simply questions that did not get answer yet.

    In short, we can simply communicate with another Moderator (if there is one) and work together 🙂

    * This procedure does not work anymore in the Hebrew system, since the owner left Microsoft several years back and for several years no one from Microsoft even visit the forums (at least no one I have notice), but this procedure worked well in the past. All you need is to join forces with another moderator/owner

    1. Agreed. The trick is finding the Moderator to join forces with. Even better if it’s a small team.

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