Forum Moderation Best Practices Part 6 – Let your Vote be Heard! (I wonder what it’s saying.)

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:


Yes, part 6 of this series covers guideline #8. The numbers don't match up. Why? Well, some of the guidelines made sense bunched together as one post. But not today's guideline! Today's guideline gets its own blog post!

Let's look at Guideline #8:

8. Use the Vote As Helpful button whenever any post is helpful. It makes a much more positive, kind, and giving environment. Plus everyone in that environment gets more Recognition Points (5 points with each vote), and so more people then want to be part of that environment (so it helps you grow and care for your community).

So, I've been saying (more like writing) that these were hard guidelines that we came up with. You might be wondering, "What's so hard about that? Seems a little fluffy and soft."

Well, that one is a little softer. But, in contrast,  take a look at the article here. Before the guidelines, it was just the top part. And even then, we added in the stuff about why answering questions is important. So, compared to that fluffy bit of cloud, this is rock solid. =^)


And... what is this guideline telling us? Well, about three-four years back-ish, the MSDN/TechNet team wanted to tackle the forums in a redesign and make them more like Stack Overflow. It got a cosmetic makeover, a lot of missing features (long story; many of them were rebuilt), and the voting option took more prominence (which is the primary method used by Stack Overflow; they still have marked answers, but only the OP can mark them, you can't search on them, and it just takes the answers/replies stat and makes it green... so definitely not the focus).

For the system that is MSDN/TechNet Forums, the marked answers have more prominence. That mentioned, when the forums were redesigned, the prominence of voting went way up (but you can't down-vote; only positive voting).

Ultimately, whether you wrestle with which should be the focus (voting or marking answers), we think it would be beneficial to give voting its best shot. They still get 5 points per vote they receive (the OP asking the question, the person answering the question, or the person replying to clarify an answer).

This practice invites more people to participate, and a lot of times someone might give a great answer for the specific scenario that the OP started with. It just might not be the OP's solution they needed (usually it means the OP didn't give enough info, and so it was a shot in the dark). But if the OP asked the original question on a high level, then that answer might be incredibly helpful for people searching for the high level problem and solution.

Therefore, you might want to give the person who took a shot at it a vote. It's like a tip, but instead of costing you $10, it costs you 1.5 seconds. =^)


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

  • Jedi Ed


PS: How many Alderaanians does it take to change a light bulb? None. They were all destroyed by the Death Star.


This post is part of a conversation in this series of blog posts:

Comments (13)
  1. Great Post Ed!!! I think of voting the post helpful as my way of showing gratitude to the person who has taken time out to share nice little nuggets of knowledge with others and for enriching the forums experience

    1. Great point, Mandar. Even if the OP doesn’t think it’s the answer, it often is the answer to the problem (but the OP just hasn’t clarified the specifics yet, what was already tried, etc.). I don’t know how many threads I’ve seen (maybe thousands) where someone posts the solution/answer. Then the OP responds that they already tried that and it didn’t work. Then three more people post answers. Then the OP replies three more times saying that he/she tried all those things too, and they didn’t work.

      So why doesn’t the OP include all the things they’ve already tried?

      Thus, I think the people who gave a great answer for the limited information… deserve a vote. They didn’t give the OP the solution they needed, but they certainly answered the question.

      1. Rightly said ED!! In words of Bruce Wayne: It is not the answer the one the OP needed but the one the question deserved !!

        1. Exactly! And a lot of times, hundreds of people land on that thread, and the answer becomes very helpful to those other people!

  2. The joke at the end of this blog post reaches an all-time low. There’s only one way to go when you hit the bottom, I guess.

  3. Voting replies helpful definitely encourages participation in the forums. And if you are a moderator it can also help you get some curator achievements, as some of them require that you vote a minimum number of posts (in addition to other activities).

  4. pituach says:

    Great post!

    1. “Vote As Helpful” can be very important tool which we all need to use it more. I think that there is misunderstanding regarding this option. The idea(at least as I see it) is not to vote for message that help you specifically but to message that you think can help people in general.

    What I mean is for example, even if you are Microsoft Employees. Microsoft MVP, or simply an expert who familiar with the topic and the message did not gave you anything new, but you think it can give other people, then you should vote for it. Remember.. it cost nothing to vote and it gives a lot for the person you vote for.

    2. I always like to vote fore new members (if I see for example someone with 0 points) and if I see that the user close the thread by marking answers + said thanks for the help he got, then I vote for his “thanks message” and give him his first 5 points

    Why? Again… it cost nothing to vote and it gives a lot, in addition a person who got points will probably continue to use the same user and not open a new user each time he have question, the person that got the points probably got email that bring him back to the forum, and this message is helpful to teach others about the right approach for any user that start a new question 🙂

    1. pituach says:

      In short, you are welcome to use any good excuse to vote for others 🙂

  5. Great Post, Ed! Thanks!

    1. You’re welcome, Vincenzo. Thanks!

  6. Ed – great post, voting is a way to recommend a good/valid point.

  7. Sjoukje Zaal says:

    Detailed and clear series of posts, Ed. Thanks!

    1. My pleasure! Thanks, Sjoukje!

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