Sunday Surprise – Forum Ecosystem: Why propose and mark answers? Why promote people to help?

Forum Ninjas Blog

A few weeks back, I sparked a fun and unusual Sunday Surprise blog post:


That sparked some good discussions, including this one, about why it's valuable to propose and mark answers:

"I have little different request, I want to be moderator in Below forums. I am sorry but I do not mark answer, I will definitely propose it. I want to be moderator to keep threads clean and make sure they are on correct forum and other such things, which I won’t be able to do if I am answerer."- Shanky

"Yes, please at least propose answers. Spam is very important too, but proposing and marking answers is what keeps forums from drying up where we still keep people motivated to answer questions." - Ed

My point there is that by proposing and marking answers, we motivate people to help others. Sometimes it's just subconscious. It's not like we are answering questions just to get our answers marked. But at the same time, we feel appreciated. And the bottom line is that more people answer questions when they get their answers proposed, marked, and voted helpful. Whether or not you disagree with showing that gratitude or not, the fact is that it helps significantly. It creates a fun and positive environment that becomes more enjoyable.

With that environment, more people help answer questions. Otherwise, without that environment, you end up with a forum where the questions still roll through, but no one is there to answer them. That's what we want to avoid.

That leads to the next discussion from the previous comments:

"I’d like to help but just want to ask first, is there a way we can get a list of forum that lacks answerer? I see that lots of major forums have a few answerers already." - Cheong

"Well, I see it as supply and demand. If there are a lot of forum posts that go by without an Answerer or Mod to check them and propose the right answer… then the current supply of Answerers hasn’t met the demand (the need). There could be 300 Answerers, but it means they either aren’t doing the tasks or there is a ton more traffic than the existing Answerers can handle." - Ed

I think I explained it fairly well. It really doesn't matter if there are 300 or 500 moderators or answerers. If there are questions being answered, and no one is proposing or marking them, then the people who contributed their time and expertise aren't feeling as appreciated as they could be. And that's the key ingredient to a healthy community. So that's why we do promotions like this blog post: Sunday Surprise – One Week Offer: Reply here to become an MSDN/TechNet Forum Answerer.

Also, this blog post highlights a method that we use in forum threads to recruit answerers: Featured Forum Thread – Recruiting BizTalk Answerers.


Some people think it's a hierarchical system and would rather not be involved as a Moderator or anything with an official title. And do you know what? That's good. We still greatly appreciate their community contributions. We're still humbled by their help.


So hopefully that all sheds a little transparency around the "why" behind the thinking of proposing answers, marking answers, voting posts as being helpful, and promoting people to the role of helping mark answers. Of course, there are a lot of nuances to marking answers, like how we try to get the OP to mark them. You can read more about all those details in the Forum Moderation Guidelines.


If you have any questions or comments on this, please reply below in the comments!


May the Forums be with you! (Don't like Star Wars? Ronen has a sign-off that's more for Trekies.)

- Ninja Ed


Comments (5)

  1. Shanky_621 says:

    Hi Ed,
    Marking answer does not appeases me simply because I am not an authority in SQL Server plus I have seen very less who are actually authority. I believe voting on answer should be mechanism to mark an answer. The more votes an answer gets the more helpful it is and eventually mods can mark it as answer. I am not against marking answer but who is going to decide with authority, considering how complex SQL Server can be, this answer is correct. If you say MSFT CSG guys then sorry to say but they are human as well. I like when they write small note and mark answer saying to OP that OK I believe this answer is correct and if you do so otherwise feel free to unmark it. I also believe marking answer is widely misused by MSFT CSG guys if we can control this marking answer would be more effective.

    Bottom Line: Not all questions needs to be marked with answer.

    1. pituach says:

      “I believe voting on answer should be mechanism to mark an answer.”

      well, this is a great approach, and it might work great, but it is not the current approach and it does not fit the current GUI. In fact I use this approach in my forum interface. There you don’t have points (voting without points for example like in Facebook), you don’t “close” threads, since thread are discussion and this is not a supporting system, were you open a ticket and you must close it at the end. I totally prefer this approach, but this does not fit the current interface, or current administrative decisions, and maybe it will not fit the target Audience as well 🙂

      * I want to clarify that even my first forum interface that I developed in 2001 has lot of other thing that a community need much more then pointing system or closing threads (which I didn’t add till today for the simple reason it is not my approach). For example it includes full private messaging system, live chats, personal page, forum page, and lot more stuff that community need…

    2. And truthfully, you’ll never really know. Why? Because 98% of the time the OP doesn’t give enough info for you to even know the question properly or doesn’t return to verify that’s truly the answer. What we’re left with is simply a method to verify that the thread has been resolved, to the best of our abilities. This keeps the community going. Is it the best method? That’s debatable, but that’s what we’ve got. If you prefer a different method of determining the “answers”, please email fissues your suggestions.

      1. Shanky_621 says:

        Agree Ed that is debatable. I do have different method like if post is really good we need to appreciate contributors to vote that post, after crossing certain number of votes moderators can mark that as answer. Why cannot we discuss that within ourselves do we really need to involve fissues. I believe you have authority and if you agree you can then take the points to fissues

  2. pituach says:

    This is a great discussion point.
    Several weeks ago I did interview to this blog and I spoke about something that is directly point to this topic. If I can quote my self “Moderator role is first of all an administrative role, and not a supporter role”. there is different between technical actions (like answer questions, propose answers, and so on which any user can do), and to administrative activities. I recommend to read what O wrote there 🙂

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