Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Have something to say about forums.debian.net itself?

Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby scraze » 2009-12-25 14:06

Hi there - the following is a brainblurb that has been around on the premises for a short time; I'm sharing it with you to see if you agree.


As many of you may have noticed, help can be terribly slow on here. I'd say 90% of the threads I've posted here won't get attention from anyone familiar with the problem - while I'm absolutely sure that there are some debianists out there that could simply shake the solution out of their sleeves.

So what's going on? Is it reasonable to assume that this is simply the way it is, and we can't do a thing about it?
I choose to believe that we have many, many options. There may be several reasons why the forum is not rolling as fast as it could - these are the two which I think to be of the greatest influence at this moment:

#1. The more experienced Debian users get, the less time they are willing to spend on newbies.
#2. The forum propels active threads more than unanswered threads.

The first is simply true because newbies need so much more explanation than is obvious to an experienced user - even for simple questions. Maybe you've noticed while glancing over a thread that you've decided to 'let it go' because the effort needed to answer does not relate to the complexity of the question - for example, in threads where newbies ask for a howto that actually is the first result in a Google search. In a similar way, some call themselves *couhgcoughcough* "Real Debian Users" and subsequently juuust don't want to help anyone who, in their opinion, isn't.
Of course then, what we're doing here is diminishing the opportunity for upcoming generations of linuxians to become debianists. Many such a thread dies a silent death, along with the newbie's enthusiasm for Debian. This is a shame, as enthusiastic newbies are great at helping eachother - or at least, at keeping the enthusiasm up. Surely a grumpy reaction like 'learn to google' won't do that; ignoring a thread because its "too easy" neither. So basically, we need those newbies to take care of eachother, and to get to that point, we need to be accessible, 'even' for them. Attitudes such as the "Real Debian User" that 'stupid newbie questions' deserve to be 'ridiculed' (not my idea!) are absolutely detrimental to the sociocultural expansion of Debian, and may eventually play a role in the decrease of new members.

The second problem is logistical of nature; somehow the default behavior of a phpBB installation seems to be to display the most active topics. For a forum largely based on prosocial behavior (to get help), this seems somewhat like a misconfiguration. After all, those who need the most help are those that aren't getting any - the threads with 0 replies, for instance. Luckily, there is a 'View unanswered posts' button so you can easily get to those 'newbie posts' that you could answer in 1 minute.
However, the existence of the link is the only aspect of the whole forum that seems to promote prosocial behavior. It promotes prosocial behavior in the sense that most of us will only click on it because we want to see who hasn't received any help yet. Simply by being on the front page, it seems to say 'you could be helping someone'. That's awesome - and we need more of that.

What can we do then, to increase prosocial behavior?

One obvious thing would be to place emphasis on such things as the list of unanswered posts, simply by moving the link from the Board index to every single page, next to View your posts (which IMNSVHO should be the default for forums where prosocial behavior is crucial). Better yet, don't just have a "Unanswered" list, but an "Unsolved" list (implicating a 'Solved' button for owned threads).
Secondly, we could implement a 'thanks'-rating for each user - simply to 'use' the egotasticality of debianists is brilliant. Getting 'manually' thanked by the user in his thread is nice, but having the opportunity to get a high 'Thank'-status simply by helping more members may.. well.. get people to help more members. The idea of holding a carrot in front of Debianist horsies may seem simple at first, but usually indications of a certain form of status like that will have a collective effect as well - you may expect to see a few who go nuts on getting 'thanksies', then a large group of people who start 'recognizing eachother' because of the shared disposition to help others, and then a few who almost never get thanksies may start wondering what other people are doing different.. The drawback of such a system is of course that an indication of prosocial behavior implicates that the lack of such an indication also means lack of prosocial behavior, ending in 'thanksies'-wars between those who like the system and those who feel they're being put down by it. However, with those "Real Debian Users" out there, I wonder if we need to feel sorry for those who feel put down.
Last and foremost, help somebody out every now and then. No matter how little the forum seems to promote it, it is something we cannot do without. After all, the more help we receive, the more time we have to help others - and vice versa! It's not altruistic behavior - it's prosocial, and we all need it.

Apologies if you've stumbled a lot over my horrible writing style; glad you made it, and curious as to your opinion!
User avatar
scraze
 
Posts: 85
Joined: 2008-05-14 21:47
Location: Utrecht, the Netherlands

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby julian67 » 2009-12-25 15:00

scraze wrote:As many of you may have noticed, help can be terribly slow on here. I'd say 90% of the threads I've posted here won't get attention from anyone familiar with the problem


Your whole post falls down right there. "I'd say" = "I don't know". Opinion and anecdote are not useful in this context. How about some facts? First you need to actually count new help threads, not just stick your finger in the air and try to work out which way the wind is blowing. Then you need to see how many have received no reply. Then you need to look at those which have received a reply and try to assess if it was a useful/pertinent reply. You're then stuck with the problem that a few people never even acknowledge the replies, and that many never mention if the help offered was either somewhat useful or actually helped them resolve the issue or was unhelpful. You would also do well to look closely at those posts which received no reply and consider the reasons. Was the post nonsensical? Was the poster aggressive/demanding? Was the post about support with Windows/OS X/some other distro? Was the post about a highly specialised area that most board members will not feel competent to answer? Was the question one of those which is seen daily and has been answered hundreds of times before (i.e. how do I install adobe flash?) and which many board members will feel disinclined to answer (the answer being easily available in numerous forms)? Yes, all these happen. When you've completed this interesting project you need to offer verifiable data so that others can reasonably consider your method and conclusion. Of course by that time your conclusion may well be entirely different, now that it has some factual and rational basis.

I suggest that we don't need any management techniques to modify our social behaviour, thank you. You describe something apparently known as "prosocial" behaviour (and by implication to characterise other behaviour as anti-social). I detect a pointy haired boss. Nobody here is obliged to help, we do it because we want to, and when we don't feel like it we don't do it. If someone would like to remunerate me at a commercial rate I will commit to accurately and promptly answering # questions per day between certain hours....oh wait...I had that job before and am no longer interested. The fact that numerous people are here regularly contributing without prompting, obligation, expectation of reward, or inducement, demonstrates that there is already a wealth of positive and helpful behaviour.
Wisdom from my inbox: "do not mock at your pottenocy"
User avatar
julian67
 
Posts: 4648
Joined: 2007-04-06 14:39
Location: Just hanging around

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby mdevour » 2009-12-25 16:31

Hi Scraze,

Let me anticipate a few likely responses, just to get them out of the way:

Says who? You got any numbers on that?
It's not our job.
Stop whining. Go away.
http://catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html
What makes you think we need new people?
It's fine the way it is.

Ummm, I think that ought to take care of at least a few of the facile dismissals you're destined to face. :roll:

scraze wrote:As many of you may have noticed, help can be terribly slow on here. I'd say 90% of the threads I've posted here won't get attention from anyone familiar with the problem - while I'm absolutely sure that there are some debianists out there that could simply shake the solution out of their sleeves.

I've been fortunate. Very few of my questions have lacked for answers thus far. I've occasionally had to be pretty patient, but help did come.

I admit this is the first time I've clicked on the View Unanswered Posts link. :oops: I see there are from 1 to several per day going back quite a while. :| So there is at least some basis for assessing whether a problem exists.

There may be several reasons why the forum is not rolling as fast as it could - these are the two which I think to be of the greatest influence at this moment:

#1. The more experienced Debian users get, the less time they are willing to spend on newbies.
#2. The forum propels active threads more than unanswered threads.

Re: 1) The longer a member is here, the more they've seen the same questions over and over again. How many times this week have we had to sort out problems with broken installs and sources.list? In the face of that kind of disincentive, a person needs to be committed to helping people for its own sake. Continued development of FAQ's. Beginners' Guide and Howtos will make it easier to keep up.

The first is simply true because newbies need so much more explanation than is obvious to an experienced user

Yep. Giving good instructions to a first-timer is very labor intensive, usually involving doing the same thing locally so you can catch all the little gotchas that can confuse somebody.

In a similar way, some call themselves *couhgcoughcough* "Real Debian Users" and subsequently juuust don't want to help anyone who, in their opinion, isn't.

To be fair, I think most such objections are simply to a lack of effort on the part of the poster, rather than pure eliteism. There is debate over what is a reasonable level of expectations and the appropriate response if they're not met. I'm willing to go lower-end on the expectations and be pretty patient, in hopes of bringing someone along even if they're getting off to a slow start. Some aren't so charitable.

Of course then, what we're doing here is diminishing the opportunity for upcoming generations of linuxians to become debianists. Many such a thread dies a silent death, along with the newbie's enthusiasm for Debian. This is a shame, as enthusiastic newbies are great at helping each other - or at least, at keeping the enthusiasm up.

Sadly, driving people with a weak commitment away has been the stated goal of a few of our members. Some will characterize "enthusiastic newbies ... helping each other" as too much like other forums where the response is more enthusiastic than accurate. Again, they will question the need for us to "win" members for either Debian or Linux.

Personally, I'm of the opinion that our best future will come about when we have advanced and adapted well enough for Linux to win a decent share of the end-user market. I don't want to see the internet and personal computing dominated by Microsoft and a few big media companies.I think the epicenter for progress lies in the developing world and with our youth, so when I see posts where the English is halting or the member acknowledges being young (hiya Polaris!!), it's easier for me to imagine the long-term benefits of helping them along.

Surely a grumpy reaction like 'learn to google' won't do that; ignoring a thread because its "too easy" neither. So basically, we need those newbies to take care of eachother, and to get to that point, we need to be accessible, 'even' for them. Attitudes such as the "Real Debian User" that 'stupid newbie questions' deserve to be 'ridiculed' (not my idea!) are absolutely detrimental to the sociocultural expansion of Debian, and may eventually play a role in the decrease of new members.

Again, the knee-jerk reaction will be, ****'em if they can't take a joke.

Our Admin team has recently moved us one step in the direction of encouraging new members by setting up the Beginners' Questions forum. That is good, though I see a situation where the newcomer who learns just enough to know they should post in one of the other sections may find their extra effort rewarded by a response that is more demanding than is appropriate for their actual level, without the extra protection they are promised in the Beginners' area.

What can we do then, to increase prosocial behavior?

One obvious thing would be to place emphasis on such things as the list of unanswered posts, simply by moving the link from the Board index to every single page, next to View your posts (which IMNSVHO should be the default for forums where prosocial behavior is crucial). Better yet, don't just have a "Unanswered" list, but an "Unsolved" list (implicating a 'Solved' button for owned threads).

The one would be a fairly straightforward template change, I imagine. The second item would be a more significant mod. So long as its use was optional it wouldn't get in the way of free wheeling discussions that don't need such a metric. There'd be an admin burden, or at least some choices to make as to how to handle threads abandoned by the OP or what to do with threads as they age. If you keep it as a simple tool to aid in organizing things, rather than try to establish a rigid structure, it might work.

Secondly, we could implement a 'thanks'-rating for each user...

This will be a little more controversial! :lol:

There are plenty of forum mods for creating a reputation system, which is essentially what this is. You'll find your idea being compared to coffee beans and other unsavory elements of that much-despised "other forum."

I think that such things can work, but that we could also be just as successful without them, provided the forum owner clearly defined our mission and the standards of behavior he expects of us so each member can measure their own behavior against that yardstick. Once you have buy-in to the purpose of a community, positive behaviors will emerge without a lot of bribery going on -- and disruptive behavior will be more easily recognized and remedied with less drama.

I think many members will agree that we all ought to be mature enough to govern our own behavior, and to measure our actions and desire to participate against the stated goals and expectations of the forum owner.
.
Last and foremost, help somebody out every now and then. No matter how little the forum seems to promote it, it is something we cannot do without. After all, the more help we receive, the more time we have to help others - and vice versa! It's not altruistic behavior - it's prosocial, and we all need it.

I see it as a given that more Linux and Debian users is a good thing, but not all will agree with us. Or they'll qualify it with some variation of "We only want the smart ones."

Apologies if you've stumbled a lot over my horrible writing style...

I resemble that remark!

Mike D.
mdevour
 
Posts: 342
Joined: 2006-03-05 17:55

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby jheaton5 » 2009-12-25 17:09

@mdevour I think it is amazing that you took the time to respond as you did. It must have taken well over an hour.
I think the community here recognized the need for more indepth assistance to beginners and was motivated to create the "Beginners Questions" forum. Oswaldkelso and absentminded are to be commended for their excellent how-to's We also have a "How To" forum that has been around for a long time. The existence of these forums indicates that for the most part the OP's assumptions are flawed.
Beginners helping beginners as is prevalent on the Ubuntu forum is a dangerous practice. I follow the Ubuntu forum frequently and am amazed at the amount of bad information given out there. On the other hand, there are a lot of helpful "How-To's" on that forum.
However, it must be said: "Debian is not Ubuntu."
The mantra on this forum is "Self Help" Refracta said it best when he said (paraphrase)"asking a question here should be the last resort, after you have done your own research." There are so many times I read a question and in an instant can find thousands of google hits that adddress the issue. People learn more, learn qucker, learn in more depth, when they research for themselves than they do having the answers spoon-fed to them.
This forum is populated by volunteers. We all have other lives besides reading this forum. Most of us are willing to share our knowledge with anyone at any level of expertise. But we are not here all the time and when we are we don't always have experience with the problem at hand.
I am offended, as many of our collegues will be, that the OP has taken such a sarcastic and condenscending atitude while he generalizes and puts us all into neat little pidgeon holes.
Enough said, that's my two cents. I've taken much more time to respond to this issue than is warranted, especially on Christmas morning.
Merry Christmas.
debian sid
User avatar
jheaton5
 
Posts: 1489
Joined: 2008-08-20 01:40
Location: Newnan, GA, USA

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby Bulkley » 2009-12-25 18:02

The simple answer is that every poster here, for better or for worse, is a volunteer; sometimes better, sometimes worse. Usually, it is for the better. Over the several years that I have been posting here the gang have helped me solve the majority of my problems as they arose.

One key factor is patience. Newbies inevitably want an instant answer which might not be forthcoming. I have had problems which took months to solve. Sometimes, all posters can do is to offer suggestions; it is up to me to run with those suggestions which I am grateful for.

One of the big problems that happens on all boards is that some newbies arrive with an attitude and don't take kindly to suggestions. It can really put off those who might help.

Newbies should take note: 1. Linux is not Windows. 2. Debian is not Ubuntu, SUSE, Mint, Red Hat, etc. When you come to Debian, be prepared for Debian methods and Debian solutions.
Bulkley
 
Posts: 6063
Joined: 2006-02-11 18:35

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby jheaton5 » 2009-12-25 18:22

Bulkley wrote:The simple answer is that every poster here, for better or for worse, is a volunteer; sometimes better, sometimes worse. Usually, it is for the better. Over the several years that I have been posting here the gang have helped me solve the majority of my problems as they arose.

One key factor is patience. Newbies inevitably want an instant answer which might not be forthcoming. I have had problems which took months to solve. Sometimes, all posters can do is to offer suggestions; it is up to me to run with those suggestions which I am grateful for.

One of the big problems that happens on all boards is that some newbies arrive with an attitude and don't take kindly to suggestions. It can really put off those who might help.

Newbies should take note: 1. Linux is not Windows. 2. Debian is not Ubuntu, SUSE, Mint, Red Hat, etc. When you come to Debian, be prepared for Debian methods and Debian solutions.


++
debian sid
User avatar
jheaton5
 
Posts: 1489
Joined: 2008-08-20 01:40
Location: Newnan, GA, USA

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby jheaton5 » 2009-12-25 18:49

The turning point in my learning curve with Debian came in the form of a rant at me by rickh. After calming down, I knew he was right. Figuring things out for myself was the best way to learn. And the amount I learned was based on my enthusiasm for learning and my drive to find an answer. Those who have no drive to find the answer will never learn no matter how much they are spoon-fed by others.
debian sid
User avatar
jheaton5
 
Posts: 1489
Joined: 2008-08-20 01:40
Location: Newnan, GA, USA

Postby llivv » 2009-12-25 18:51

'
Last edited by llivv on 2019-02-21 03:33, edited 1 time in total.
In memory of Ian Ashley Murdock (1973 - 2015) founder of the Debian project.
User avatar
llivv
 
Posts: 5484
Joined: 2007-02-14 18:10
Location: cold storage

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby scraze » 2009-12-25 20:42

Hey guys, thanks for the attention - I didn't expect it so soon and so elaborate, and cannot reply in an equally elaborate manner at the moment (christmas celebration with the family). I do however want to calm the mood a bit with the following:

Noone 'should' feel offended; if any part of my post seems condescending, I apologize. Certainly there is some sarcasm in there in relation to the "Real" Debian User, but that is only in relation to their attitude towards newbies (about those; I can quote from threads if you want me to). I don't care for that attitude at all. But that's just my opinion, and I do love "Real" Debian User's their analytical skills, and admire their stance irt principles. Although I do not necessarily agree with the principles, they do make for an intelligent community.
In addition, I'm not implicating there is a problem with antisocial behavior by talking about prosocial behavior. I can see how one might think so, but whether or not the lack of prosocial behavior constitutes antisocial behavior is still a matter very much up for discussion. For me, if you purposely withhold much needed prosocial behavior just because it's more comfortable to you, then that may be antisocial behavior; but that is _my personal opinion_, and not a very strong one at that. That is also why I posted this; I can't get anywhere with only my own opinion.

So once again, thanks for all replies, I'm glad to see such strong feelings about the matter. In case I offended you; I'm sorry! That really isn't what this thread is about - this thread is only about the positive side of the community, and I don't mean to put anyone in 'pidgeon holes'.
When this christmas madness subsides, I'll get the evidence some of you need (should be no problem at all), and more importantly, reply to every single post.
User avatar
scraze
 
Posts: 85
Joined: 2008-05-14 21:47
Location: Utrecht, the Netherlands

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby nadir » 2009-12-27 07:42

not sure if thats the evidence you are looking for:
search.php?search_id=unanswered
(and it doesn`t count the threads where one himself did bump the thread for several times).

otoh: it ain`t that bad if one learns to rely on oneself, though its kinda annoying now and then (and very time-consuming).

my guess is that most or lot people here only post if they know for 100%... but sometimes a shot in the dark ain`t that bad in my opinion. i guess the balance is what is the best (always shooting in the dark is to be found at a well known other forum)

sure: the how-to is full of diamonds.

I say more RTFM is needed here, if only to keep the tradition healthy
but only when I don't have the easy answer :twisted:

:lol:

btw: i for one am happy that that fuzzy-warm "we answer the dumbest question ever with patience and friendliness" before christmas is over now.
"I am not fine with it, so there is nothing for me to do but stand aside." M.D.
User avatar
nadir
 
Posts: 5964
Joined: 2009-10-05 22:06
Location: away

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby refracta » 2009-12-27 14:20

I will simply say....I am trying to be nicer :lol: In order to be nicer I simply ignore threads that I feel would likely end up with me berating the n3wb, not for being a n3wb but rather for so many other reasons....although I did sneak in a recent 'mean' streak but it was deserved as are all my mean streaks :wink:

I usually read every post but carefully pick and chose which I want to help with anymore. If that makes me elitist then I gladly wear that badge with honor! I feel my time is wasted on many posters and I have better things to do with my time.

Oh....and I am very antisocial....that being said I am still fairly helpful....they are not mutually exclusive...
refracta
 
Posts: 1235
Joined: 2008-10-26 01:46

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby Pick2 » 2009-12-27 15:10

The biggest problem with people new to linux , as I see it , is that they don't even know the terminology to use to search for a solution. I look thru the beginners section and try to answer a few , or at least point them in a direction.
User avatar
Pick2
 
Posts: 797
Joined: 2007-07-07 13:31
Location: Decatur Il

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby refracta » 2009-12-27 15:27

I think the situation that leads to the problem is...

- distros that throw people in the deep end without even a hint that they need to know how to swim...
- people that talk people into jumping into the deep end without even a hint that they need to know how to swim...
- people that jump into the deep end without even a hint that they need to know how to swim...

Thee problem itself is...
- people that expect others to teach them how to swim in five seconds when it takes a lot longer than that to even learn the basics and a hell of a lot longer to have any skill

I didn't say any of us mind teaching or that we want them to drown....the problem is in the expectation.....and the resulting criticism that we are elitist and unwilling to help or unable to give a answer that just magically makes them able to swim like a pro...
refracta
 
Posts: 1235
Joined: 2008-10-26 01:46

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby nitehawk » 2009-12-28 00:08

I DON'T think that this forum needs to "stimulate prosocial behavior". That's because I am not so far removed from being a "Debian-newbie" myself. I started with other, easier "hand-holding" distros,....then realized that it was Debian I really wanted. I did post a few times here,...and recieved very informative answers. Google has been my close friend. So now,....(as a result) I am more knowlegeable (I'm still learning btw)....
Hand-holding and super-friendliness really wouldn't have helped me achieve my main goal (which is to simply learn how to effectivly use this excellent distro). If I want friendliness,...and a lovely "community" ...I'll go to some other kind of forum. I've never experienced any negative responses here, how-ever. (But then again,..I leaned from the "get-go" what is proper to ask,...and what I had dang better find out on my own from Google!!!!)!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:
User avatar
nitehawk
 
Posts: 126
Joined: 2008-12-06 15:49
Location: West Central Florida, USA

Re: Stimulating Prosocial Behavior

Postby julian67 » 2009-12-28 00:40

Good, all settled then.

Perhaps those righteous members who routinely dredge this subject up from the muddy depths can please do us all a favour and let it settle back into the murky recesses of their minds where it rightfully belongs? As an aside, how do such fine and kindly people so often and so easily form such low opinions of their peers? Would that be a conundrum?

Some new subject, a new way to measure, wonder at, and of course pronounce upon one's sense of social aptitude, fine manners and infinite goodness must surely by now be overdue to grace this forum.
Wisdom from my inbox: "do not mock at your pottenocy"
User avatar
julian67
 
Posts: 4648
Joined: 2007-04-06 14:39
Location: Just hanging around

Next

Return to Forum stuff & feedback

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests

fashionable