5

I'm just thinking out loud here.

Folks often ask me where they should ask a question about their stuff, and when they start focusing in on "Hardware Recommendations", the conversation inevitably goes something like this:

Author: Can I use your Hardware Recs to ask why my TV wont connect to the Internet?

Me: I'm sorry; that would be off topic.

Author: Why? They allow questions about TVs. Don't they have a recommendation for me?

If you look at a lot of the closed questions, people are equating "recommendations" to similar words like questions and advice. This isn't a "hardware questions" site or a "hardware advice" site. That's why we are getting a lot of (correctly) closed questions from an incorrect assumption.

No name change is ever going to 100% cover everything that's on topic, nor will it completely clarify the back-story that created this site. But if we can steer folk more clearly towards you're supposed to be searching for something, I think that can head off a lot of the misunderstandings about what this site is supposed to be about.

Thoughts?

  • 4
    I'm not terribly enthusiastic about "search", but I like the idea of a name change to remove some of the confusion. – Undo Feb 3 '16 at 20:48
  • I echo Undo. Good idea, some other possibilities for names would be useful. – ArtOfCode Feb 3 '16 at 20:51
  • 2
    @ArtOfCode Hmm, I tried but the title: "I Can't Find This Piece of Hardware or I Have a Pre-Purchase Question SE" just didn't fit :P – Robert Cartaino Feb 3 '16 at 20:53
  • I also agree with Undo. There's a good wording for this situation out there somewhere. – Adam Feb 3 '16 at 21:19
  • FYI, ongoing conversation about the name change and what other courses of action we can take in the Rec Center. – Undo Feb 3 '16 at 21:30
7

We have a problem with technical support questions.

I'm not just saying that; I went and dug out the stats.

In the last 90 days, we have had:

  • 444 questions asked
  • 200 of those closed (45.05%)
  • 81 of those closed as technical support (40.50% of closed).

That's a problem. Not only is our close rate one of the highest on the network, but going on half of our closed questions are for one reason. It's not a massive issue, but it's certainly pressing and could do with having some resolution. On a purely statistical basis, if we didn't get any technical support questions, just 27% of our questions would be closed, which is far more normal.

When there's an issue like this, something needs fixing. So, what's broken?

  • the users asking these? ❌
  • the people closing them? ❌
  • the guidance we're giving? ✓

OK, it's probably not that clear-cut, but you get the point. Most of the time, it's not the user's fault that they think technical support is on-topic here. To get to the point, perhaps that's partly down to the site's name.

Now that I've dug into all the stats and found this, I'll be posting some more meta questions to see what we can do about this issue - but for now, I'll make it clear that I think the site name might be a problem, and therefore I support changing it to something clearer.

  • I mentioned it in your other meta post, but we may be able to utilize the post blacklists to help with some guidance. – Andy Feb 4 '16 at 4:32
4

I am firmly in the 'meh' category right now. I'm not opposed to a name change, but I don't think it's going to solve the problem completely.

Before going down the route of changing names (been there), are there other features that could be utilized to combat some of these problems? I think we should try something, at least for a while, before taking the step of changing the name.

To me, that seems like an over reaction. I think that's especially true because "Hardware Recommendations" describes the site and what we are here to help with. We aren't having an identity crisis because of our name.


I know there are warnings and blacklists that can be applied to posts (and titles too?). Can we find a few key phrases that will hit a decent percentage of our technical support questions? This doesn't seem viable. See my update below with reasoning. I still think this is a good guidance tool, but we don't seem to have enough common phrases for the close reason.

There are disclaimer boxes on Health and Law. Must this box be used for a disclaimer, or can we co-opt it for an educational blurb about our question requirements?

Can we edit our side bar in the ask page? There isn't anything mentioning technical support, quality guidelines or "broad" topics.


I realize that my questions revolve around making the users read a bit more (especially on the "ask" page), but it's a start.


Update with data!

Undo provided me with a list of questions that have been closed since the start of the year.

I went through and pulled out the close reason for each of those (chat link):

technical    28
too broad    26
off topic     7
isunclear     5
isopinion     2
migrated      2
duplicate     1

The first thing I noticed is that our two "too broad" reasons are almost as common as the "technical" close reason, at least since the start of the year.

Second, there aren't many common phrases over 3 words in length between all of the technical closes. The only three we have are

  • "enter image description here" - Obviously not related to being a technical question
  • "a second hand laptop" - Only occurred twice.
  • "I would like to" - Only occurred twice. Also, fairly common, so it's to noisy.

If I checked for 3 word phrases that occurred more than once, I get things like:

  • "is running at" - twice
  • "Are there any" - twice
  • "buy a new" - twice

Due to the infrequent overlap between phrases in these questions or the commonality with unclosed questions, I don't think the warning/blacklist will work at this point.

  • 1
    Warnings and blacklists could do some good, but I can't think of many blanket keywords that could be useful. And I disagree about the site name. It's definitely causing a lot of trouble because most of/all users consult the name as the very first "what's on topic here?" source. If the name is vague enough, people will assume more is in scope. – Adam Feb 4 '16 at 16:49
  • 3
    "Hardware Search" is just as vague though. I think it will also cause us to suffer from needing to over utilize the "Too Broad" reason. It may eliminate some of the technical questions, but I think it'll swing us over to closing all of the "What computer should I get?" questions that show up instead. – Andy Feb 4 '16 at 17:29
  • That's true. We're in a real pickle here. – Adam Feb 4 '16 at 20:49
4

I am getting frustrated with the number of closed questions that are appearing. The numbers provided in Art's previous answer haven't changed much since February (4-5% in each stat).

In the past 90 days, the Close Review stats show:

  • 384 questions asked
  • 213 questions closed (55.47%)
  • 94 of those closed as technical support (44.13%)
  • 62 questions closed as too broad - combining our two "Too Broad" reasons (35.21%)

We've clearly captured our two biggest reasons for closure in our custom reasons.


I don't have any suggestions about this that I haven't already made. However, I have a couple questions for the moderators/CMs that may open up other possibilities or discussion.

  • We've already edited the sidebar. It doesn't seem to have made a difference in the last month. Percentages are within 3-4% on the 30day vs 90day tables. Is there a way to A/B test different side bar messages?
  • I'm starting to come around to the idea of "Hardware Search" (or something else...), but I don't want to swing our close reasons from technical to too broad with such a name change. Based on previous experience, it's not the fastest process in the world either. Could we start with a smaller step? For example, Wowfunhappy suggested changing our icon from HW to either HR or HWR. I see this as pretty minor, but it does break that immediate "Oh, a hardware site for my hardware question!" association when I see HW. Unfortunately, I doubt changing the icon will do a ton to solve the issue.
  • At the moment, there are 5 total users here that can do anything deletion related. Three of those are moderators. The other two can't delete questions without getting a moderator involved. There just isn't enough of us. I cast deletion votes on questions that are clearly technical support in an effort to remove some of the "on hold"/"closed" questions from the front page. Since I'm only able to cast these votes on questions older than 48 hours (and I do it only a couple of times a week), I feel there has been time to correct a post by the time I issue a delete vote. Can we get some help from moderators in cleaning up posts that are several days old? This might be just fixing the broken windows, but I am theorizing that if we clean some of these posts from the front page we may get less of the technical support ones.
  • How have other sites dealt with a large influx of related, but off topic, questions? Can we utilize any of that past experience in dealing with the issue here?
  • Bullet point 3: flag 'em. We'll accept those flags, especially when there aren't enough users to delete without a mod. – ArtOfCode Apr 20 '16 at 21:27
  • @ArtOfCode Regular flags on the post using "Other...", or using the delete option? – Andy Apr 20 '16 at 21:29
  • "Other" flags. We can go through and search, of course, but if you've found candidates for deletion then kick 'em up to us. – ArtOfCode Apr 20 '16 at 21:31
  • If changing the sidebar has done little to nothing, I'm very doubtful that changing the icon initials would do anything at all. – Adam Apr 20 '16 at 22:02
2

Perhaps "Hardware Selection" would be a better name. That's really what is done here: you help users select hardware that meets their needs.

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