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Old Nov 6, 2009, 10:43 AM   #1
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Default Research...the condemned word?

This is one of many Steve's forums I subscribe to and I noticed that members post the same (or very similar) questions on a daily basis. Obviously the responses are also almost identical from post to post. My question is, are people just lazy and don't want to bother doing some research first (either here by using the "search" feature or elsewhere) before asking for advice or is the search functionality actually not working very efficiently, discouraging members from using it? Perhaps we should encourage members to search for the answers when we know a particular topic/subject has been covered extensively rather than repeating ourselves over and over again. What do you guys think?
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Old Nov 6, 2009, 10:56 AM   #2
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First, this site is rated by the amount of traffic it receives, which helps determine the amount Steve can charge for ads. So I don't think there's a real incentive for the site to discourage people from starting their own threads.

Second, as similar as each thread might seem, they often wander off in different directions. So having a custom thread for each questioner makes more sense.

Third, when multiple questioners all pile their own questions into the same thread, the result is almost incomprehensible. Case in point: What point and shoot should I buy?

Fourth, things can change pretty quickly, so someone might do considerable research, reach a conclusion, and buy something based on old info, when something newer might have been a better choice.

So I don't really see a problem.
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Old Nov 6, 2009, 11:10 AM   #3
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Actually, the search functionality is pretty good with the new forums software (thanks to a lot of work by the developers to handle things like lens search queries that wouldn't work properly in most default forum installs due to dashes between focal lengths, etc.).

But, one of my "pet peeves" is rude responses to members to Read the Fine Manual, use Google, etc. Often, a reader may not know what to search for, and have a lot of confusion over feature differences and more.

Sure, some of the responses are repetitive, and you could always point members to another thread on the same topic (and I do that from time to time in responses). But, a reader may also have some unique questions (or requirements) once he gets a response. Available equipment is also changing at a rapid pace. IOW, what was a great solution last year, may not be a great solution this year (given "bang for the buck" due to price changes, new equipment that was introduced, new features, etc.).
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Old Nov 6, 2009, 11:20 AM   #4
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I guess I'm with TCAV on this. Buying decisions arae very personal. ANd the paths to a good choice are different for each user. I think searches are a great way to narrow choices down but just like getting purchasing help at a store - the best help is usually gotten when you get one-on-one assistance.

In fact, my preference is indeed to keep each 'what camera should I buy' separate. It makes things a bit convoluted when you have 3 different people looking for buying advice in the same thread - at 30,000 feet it looks like their needs are similar but when you get to the details there is almost always something which differentiates them. And when you chase all those different needs you end up with a thread like the one TCAV linked to.

Now, to me this is very different than a person posting the question "how do I change the aperture value on my camera" - at which point I think suggestions that the manual does a great job of answering that question can be appropriate.
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Old Nov 6, 2009, 2:21 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnG View Post
...
Now, to me this is very different than a person posting the question "how do I change the aperture value on my camera" - at which point I think suggestions that the manual does a great job of answering that question can be appropriate.
I haven't thought of it that way. It certainly makes sense.I just thought that many times only the title of the post is different but not the content. One person may create a topic named "Help find a P&S" while another starts a topic named "What is the best P&S" and the content of the two are identical "I'm looking for a good P&S to replace my old blah blah blah". Anyway, I guess I can simply do the triage upfront and be more selective as to which topics I browse. I do appreciate all of you guys' thoughts, though.
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Old Nov 6, 2009, 5:55 PM   #6
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I like the way queries are generally handled on this website. Many people new to the hobby don't know anything about F stops, ISOs, fast lens, wide angles, telephotos, etc.

Sure many of the same questions have been answered before and it is handy to type in the info you want and do the research. This is one tool. But there are many instances where a new person may have a slightly different question or needs to phrase the question in a certain way to get the particular info they want.

I believe that there are no 'dumb' or redundant questions. I think we need to encourage people to ask ...even if the answer seems elementary to those who are well experienced.

We don't want to chase people away.

We also need to remember that we all started at the ....beginning...and I'm sure asked some questions where the answers seemed obvious to our photog mentors.

Encourage, rather than discourage is my credo.

As far as manuals go...some are great, very reader friendly...others are abysmal.

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Old Nov 7, 2009, 9:45 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimC View Post
Actually, the search functionality is pretty good with the new forums software (thanks to a lot of work by the developers to handle things like lens search queries that wouldn't work properly in most default forum installs due to dashes between focal lengths, etc.)....
Yes, I usually find what I need among recent stuff with the Forum's own search engine. However, I have more difficulty when looking for older stuff, typically my own posts here from a long time ago, where I can remember just one or two key words.

I learnt an excellent tip from someone right here in these forums, which is to use Google's 'Advanced Search' facility (via a small print link alongside their standard search box) and use the 'restrict to this domain' box at the bottom with http://forums.steves-digicams.com/ typed into it. This is just a little more flexible than the forum's own improved search engine, notably allowing the exclusion of certain search terms.
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Old Nov 7, 2009, 11:21 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by lesmore49 View Post
Encourage, rather than discourage is my credo.
I never meant to discourage anyone but to encourage research when we know the answer can be easily found here because we have answered the same exact question a couple of days ago. If you go to dpreview and ask a question that has been beaten up to death, they will tell you to search for this or that keyword to get the answer rather than keep repeating themselves (and I'm OK with that!). I don't see traffic diminishing over there because of this behavior by any stretch of imagination. Eventually, we'll have here the same two or three members answering the same questions with almost identical answers and I'm not sure that's very encouraging (or even representative) either.

Let me exemplify with some very quick statistics. I just took a brief look at the past few posts on this forum and noticed the following:

Topic: "Need help selecting SLR camera" = 64 browses but only 1 reply
topic: "Which camera - beaten to pulp" = 95 browses but only 3 replies
topic: "Best camera to buy" = 1351 browses with 22 replies BUT only 7 different members contributed with multiple replies
topic: "Help me decide between ..." = 500 browses with 24 replies but only 7 members contributed with multiple replies

I also noticed that if you browse these topics (and most other topics in this particular forum), you'll see that there is a hand full of members answering most questions from newcomers. Also, a large number of new members come, post a question, get some sort of answer and disappear. Why is that considering we have so much to offer throughout the entire forum? My guess is, they really don't get a representative answer to their question(s) and the low activity drives them away. Let's be honest here, if you were looking for a camera (whether a cheap P&S or expensive DSLR system) would you make your decision based on 2-3 opinions? I wouldn't. However, if they are pointed to other forums where the subject was deeply discussed, that would give them a much better feel for what they're looking for.

In summary, I don't want to discourage anyone but IMO, we are discouraging ourselves. I for one, do not want to tell people the same thing over and over again, unless there is something new to be said (i.e. a newly announced camera model that has not been mentioned or a technique just learned, which has not been discussed and should be shared, etc.).
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Old Nov 7, 2009, 12:45 PM   #9
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Here's another quick statistic for this website:

"Currently Active Users: 305 (18 members and 287 guests)"

In other words, only about 6% of the people that are browsing are members, and only members can post. And many members only come here to ask questions, not answer them.
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Old Nov 7, 2009, 5:09 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tullio View Post
I never meant to discourage anyone but to encourage research when we know the answer can be easily found here because we have answered the same exact question a couple of days ago. If you go to dpreview and ask a question that has been beaten up to death, they will tell you to search for this or that keyword to get the answer rather than keep repeating themselves (and I'm OK with that!). I don't see traffic diminishing over there because of this behavior by any stretch of imagination. Eventually, we'll have here the same two or three members answering the same questions with almost identical answers and I'm not sure that's very encouraging (or even representative) either.

Let me exemplify with some very quick statistics. I just took a brief look at the past few posts on this forum and noticed the following:

Topic: "Need help selecting SLR camera" = 64 browses but only 1 reply
topic: "Which camera - beaten to pulp" = 95 browses but only 3 replies
topic: "Best camera to buy" = 1351 browses with 22 replies BUT only 7 different members contributed with multiple replies
topic: "Help me decide between ..." = 500 browses with 24 replies but only 7 members contributed with multiple replies

I also noticed that if you browse these topics (and most other topics in this particular forum), you'll see that there is a hand full of members answering most questions from newcomers. Also, a large number of new members come, post a question, get some sort of answer and disappear. Why is that considering we have so much to offer throughout the entire forum? My guess is, they really don't get a representative answer to their question(s) and the low activity drives them away. Let's be honest here, if you were looking for a camera (whether a cheap P&S or expensive DSLR system) would you make your decision based on 2-3 opinions? I wouldn't. However, if they are pointed to other forums where the subject was deeply discussed, that would give them a much better feel for what they're looking for.

In summary, I don't want to discourage anyone but IMO, we are discouraging ourselves. I for one, do not want to tell people the same thing over and over again, unless there is something new to be said (i.e. a newly announced camera model that has not been mentioned or a technique just learned, which has not been discussed and should be shared, etc.).
I'm always wary of stats as I don't think they tell the whole story .

Be that as it may, I still choose to answer a query. We make our own decisions about whether we want to extend the effort to answer someone. I don't answer every query I see, even though I may have the info the person is looking for. It might be because the query has been adequately answered by others, it maybe a time management issue for me...I simply don't have the time, at a particular moment.

But in my answers to newbies...yes, sometimes I find myself repeating myself, but I don't really mind. I also find that although I may be repeating the same info...in many cases I'm delivering said info in a different way...tailoring it to the questioner's level of understanding as it were.

Should we use and develop, encourage independent research skills ? Yes of course.

But as one tool in our toolbox towards getting good information in order to make a good, informed decision.

In the end I don't think it's a big deal. If you want to answer someone's query, answer it, If you don't..don't. That's what I do and I suppose I have never put too much thought towards it.

It's all a volunteer act anyways . If it was a company where time is money and employees were doing redundant work then yes, bring out the stats, let's have a meeting and develop a process to avoid redundant questions.
Before I retired I was a long time professional who happened to also be a long term administrator. My career experience was full of task evaluation, etc....but that was work focused.

But it's a fun forum that caters to those who are passionate about photography and those who are taking their first tentative steps. Then of course there are those, who just join to get answers about a purchase, then we may never see them again.

But that's OK. I don't mind being a mentor...I enjoy it actually, even though I realize it will involve a lot of repeating the same info. That's how many people learn, through repetitive reinforcement.

Les

Last edited by lesmore49; Nov 7, 2009 at 5:19 PM.
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