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"Please post this on ROS Answers instead"

Pointing users/posters to the correct support channel has been a practice for a long time, and it makes complete sense. As a maintainer I also don’t like issue trackers being used for how-should-this-be-configured questions or anything else which is not actually an issue. And vice-versa, there are plenty of examples here on ROS Discourse where actual issues are posted which should’ve been posted on a GH issue tracker.

Having written that, I believe we could perhaps improve a bit here.

It’s not uncommon for users posting on ROS Discourse, to be redirected to ROS Answers, posting there and then never receiving a response.

I can’t be sure, but I have the impression this is especially happening to ROS 2 related questions (here on Discourse but also on github.com/ros2 repositories).

The keep-everything-on-topic aspect of “please post this on ROS Answers” is :+1: and we should keep doing that.

Redirecting a support question to ROS Answers and then not following up there is something we should probably improve upon.

The number of topic experts on ROS Answers is very limited, so adding more posts to the already growing number of unanswered questions will not help keep ROS Answers the valuable resource it has been.

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So if you redirect someone and already happen to know the answer (but don’t want to respond to the original, off-topic post) please follow up on ROS Answers. This is especially true for ROS 2 topics, as those tend to be technical, often ask about specific details of the implementation or design and really need an answer by someone in-the-know.
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If we keep redirecting but then not answering, it looks like we’re trying to get rid of people, which I believe is not the goal here.

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Fully agree. I’m pretty new to ROS, writing a RCL library for SWI-Prolog. I’ve got enough general programming experience to be able to figure out most myself. It is hard to find a place for few questions remaining. I started in Answers, to be asked to ask it here. That worked (thanks). Next here was bounced to be placed in Answers and never answered (after some days I figured it out and answered to myself). Yesterday I tried a detailed question on action cancellation here that so far remains not posted.

I want to contribute. rclswi is quite likely to become a mature, maintained open source client. I’m ok with a bit steep learning curve. I find it hard to get answers on these detailed low-level library issues.

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Short answer: I generally agree and I can try to follow up as best I can. It really depends on what my day looks like, today it is almost 5pm and I just finished up my e-mail queue.

Longer answer: I’ve actually got some data about this and a rough plan how to address it but I haven’t found the time to put a bow on it just yet. I pulled all of the user questions from 2020 and did a quick analysis. From looking at the data it is pretty clear that topics/tags that have a dedicated community (e.g. NavStack) get answered; everything else is hit or miss. What I propose we do about it is take the top 200 or so question tags and assign them to dedicated “topic expert” who attempts to answer questions on that topic. I should be able to do some light automation to make this easier on the “topic experts” such that it is a 1-2 hour weekly comittment. I also have to put in some effort in to recruiting some of the experts from outside orgs to help us (e.g. PX4, OpenCV).

Anyway, this probably won’t happen for a couple weeks given my current commitments, but I am working on something to hopefully improve the situation.

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My experience has been that I hadn’t responded to questions much before I subscribed to a tag. Usually I would have a look at the queue after I googled a question of my own, or think to check ROS Answers at irregular intervals. Now that the questions assault my email inbox, I find them easier to sort through, easier to remember to get back to (just mark them unread), and easier to start mentally, because it doesn’t feel like an open-ended task that you don’t want to start, but instead like a short thing you can check off and be done with.

Asking topic experts to subscribe to tags sounds like a good idea. It would be juicy if the site nudged you to subscribe to tags if you have posted an upvoted or accepted answer. It would go well with the gamification aspect that others have described as motivating, and a popup like “Nice answer! Why not subscribe to the tags?” would coincide with the mental reward, so users might be more tempted to go “Sure, I love attention and recognition”.

In the meantime we can also ask everyone to keep looking at ROS Answers more, but it’s obviously a somewhat Sisyphean task, so I’m in favor of automating it where it’s reasonable.

1 Like

Maybe there could be some incentive we could establish for answering questions? A little award at ROSCon, on Kat’s weekly Friday summaries calling out the top 3 answers of the week, etc. Something that brings this more to the forefront of people’s minds to think about. I don’t think it even needs to be something big, just something visible.

Edit: I also have an extra Medium ROS Jacket from the swag order I’d be willing to donate to the cause.

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Thanks for your replies.

@Katherine_Scott: thanks. That could be a good approach.

@smac: I’m happy you’re willing to add some swag to incentivise more people to contribute to ROS Answers, and I believe it will help, as I’ve seen it help in other communities to a certain extent.

My main point however was not so much about drawing more people to the site, but to question the practice of “simply” redirecting users seeking support to it and then (implicitly) relying on the people there to handle those requests.

ROS Answers is for many who just start using ROS 2 the first exposure to “the community”. If they make the effort to reach out, and we want to grow that ROS 2 community, we should try to be supportive. Not dismissive, as @JanWielemaker experienced.

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I completely agree with that we want to be a welcoming community. And don’t want people to feel dismissed. When I pass on the redirects I usually try to both highlight the guidelines that they may not have been aware of as well as often giving hints on how to ask a better question and or pointers to resources to build into their future repost of the question. I think that most of the other forum moderators make a similar effort most of the time. However at some level this is mostly enforcing our rules. And we have those rules for a reason, and we can’t be super helpful and just answer people’s questions here because then everyone would just ask their questions here and we wouldn’t have the benefits of a Q&A forum and ever subscriber to our communication platform would be overwhelmed with the Q&A volume.

Do you have a suggestion what to do beyond simply redirecting users? The call to action to specifically follow up on the other forum is not something that I can write down to do and is an open ended task w/o strong definition.

The moderators on this forum’s job is to enforce the rules here. They may or may not be a subject matter expert related to the question. And there’s usually lag as to when the user follows up and asks their question hours later. If I am subscribed to the tags that get applied on that side I definitely try to catch it and follow up there. But odds are unlikely that the moderators for this forum have already processed and long ago moved on from that role by the time the question comes in. And also asking moderators from one forum to respond on another forum just because they were the ones who took action on one end adds a lot of scope to their requirements. Especially when it’s asynchronous and doesn’t get a notification.

The moderators also catch many of these question posts in the pre-moderation queue for new users and for those users we send personal direct messages to them about posting their questions on answers.

As another way to help incentivize answering and questions I’d love to find ways to facilitate acknowledgement of contributors with who would be nominated by users in the community. Maybe something ongoing like featuring contributors periodically, or at events like ROSCon. We can’t make it a competition because no one can compete with :star2: @gavanderhoorn :star2: I think almost everyone who has ever asked a question owes him at least one thank you. But back on topic we want to be able to value contributions at all levels.

If anyone has suggestions for doing something to help acknowledge people please don’t hesitate to send suggestions to me or @Katherine_Scott .

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I’d just like to reiterate and agree how beneficial subscribing to specific tags are. When I was first getting into the ROS community, and after having posted a number of questions on the answers site, I started logging in not only to follow up on my own questions, but to start answering a few as well. On the front page however, it can be little overwhelming to dig through the long feed of new questions to find something you can confidently answer or comment on.

After subscribing to a few tags in my expertise however, I found myself more regularly engaging with the answers site, making it a habit to check my tags weekly or finding more intriguing questions directly in my email inbox.

Perhaps community members could earn group flairs corresponding to answer tags as a badge of honor, signifying their expertise from answering a significant amount of questions in those categories?

So when you do end up striking up a discourse conversation with say @tfoote or @smac , you’ll clearly see from their user flair that you’re in fact chatting with a domain expert in transforms or navigation, even if you don’t immediately recognise the community member or user handle individually.

1 Like