Planet, StackExchange, Ubuntu

How’s Ask Ubuntu working out for you?

An interesting thing is happening over at Stack Overflow. They’ve been doing an analysis of their “niceness” to people. Like all growing online communities there comes a point where you’ve gotten so big that it feels like you’re stuck in Eternal September.

When you start to get real popular on the internet there’s usually a a shift or transition when the early adopters either move on, or attempt to resolve the situation, or any one of the number of things that can happen to a site. Since Stack Overflow, SO, is many times larger than Ask Ubuntu but the same kind of site, I think we can look at how they’re solving their “big city” problems and apply it to make AU better.

I’m not surprised that SO used a very scientific method of figuring out how nice they were to people. They gathered up all the comments, shoved them into Mechanical Turk, and then published the results. Stack Overflow is nice, nyah-nyah, science. And the debate continues. πŸ™‚

I’d like to think we do a decent job of keeping the snark down on Ask Ubuntu. If someone asks “How do I adjust my clock?” and someone else responds with “Have you googled?” you can be pretty sure that kind of response gets removed in a timely manner. Every day we have users submitting fixes to answers and questions, and about 140,000 visits every day, so we know the content is getting better and more importantly, staying up to date.

The site does have a pretty strict element to it. If your question is a bug report, it gets closed and you’re sent to Launchpad. If you want to run a poll or have a chit chat about Ubuntu it’s closed and you’re sent to the forums, and so on. It’s my strong opinion that this level of focus is a good thing, do one thing and do it well. But on the other hand I can see why some people might think we’re sending them up the creek with no paddle, and after reading some of the bad comments posted on Stack Overflow it reminds me that we should be vigilant to ensure that we’re learning how to continue to grow without letting the quality slip.

So what’s your opinion on Ask Ubuntu? Do you feel like the site is friendly and welcoming to new users and contributors? Have you had a bad or good experience with the site?

  • I think we do a pretty good job so far, and are improving.

    One area we could possibly improve on is where users have fringe case questions. Some such questions we just cannot answer, but often when they are closed, users are not directed in the right direction.

    Otherwise, I would say we’re doing pretty well.
    One thing I’ve noted is that many new users are climbing the rep ladder and learning the ropes quickly.

  • ObsessiveFOSS

    I’d say that although the site is slightly bloated with new users asking duplicate questions without searching, posting off-topic questions, or even posting in a confusing manner, we are coping well. We just need to tighten new user restrictions. Somehow.

  • Coding Crow


    You are doing a wonderful job here. The place is warm and out of many fellow sites my opinion is AU tops at welcoming people.

    I am newbiee to Ubuntu and asked a series of questions on AU and all of them have been answer and I have learned in the process.

    So thumbs up you guys and 5 Stars.

  • Exeleration-G

    AskUbuntu has been getting a lot of ‘1-Point-Reputation Users’ lately. That is a good thing, as it really shows that AskUbuntu is becoming the place to go to when you have questions in any way about Ubuntu. Because of this, the number of new questions is growing very fast. This sure has its advantages, but also, finding the needle in the haystack is getting tougher because the haystack is growing. So I think we should really focus on improving the search engine.

    • That’s out of our hands as a community, but we certainly can request that on Meta Stackoverflow, and it already sort of has been.

    • Ben J. Britzman

      I’ve been a part of the communtiy for a couple of years now but have only recently, in the last couple of months, created an account and only more recently attempted to participate. This community is my ‘first-and-foremost’ troubleshoot when I have a problem I am unable to figure out on my own and I have never been led astray. With that said, it has been Very frustrating to attempt participation (upvoting, commenting for clarification, etc…) as I am granted a ‘1-Point-Reputation User’ status. But, as with All things Ubuntu, I have figured out for myself that there is no circumstance that will not be rewarded with a lot of research, perseverance, more research and the abundant help from our community.

      Our community has developed one of the most positive, helpful forums I have yet to see in many other places. It may come off as seemingly “harsh” at times, but for even the new(b)est of users (myself included!) who are sincere and committed, there are no real threats that should send anyone “off their rails” and in a different direction, nor leave them in sincere want of another forum.

  • “removed in a timely manner” seconds I tell you. it takes mere seconds.

    AU is a great site. It works very very well like this. It has also become -my- main source for troubleshooting.

  • Bruno Queiros

    I agree that: “Have you googled it?” is not a good answer, but users should be “helped” to search before posting. There’s already a lot of info in AU, and many times, we keep getting posts and answers duplicated. I believe AU is going in the right direction, but more proactivness from the user side, should be incentivized.

    • They are helped as they post. As they type the title it does a search, and as they add more content to their question the sidebar on the right adjusts with similar questions, all in real time – it’s a pretty great feature.

      • Bruno Queiros

        Didnn’t knew that. But what explains so many duplicated questions then?

  • Mason Shelby

    I’ve had only good experiences with Ask Ubuntu so far (and Stack Exchange, for that matter). I like their straight-forward approach which helps me avoid wading through slightly different iterations of the same answer over and over and other useless chit-chat.

  • Mitch

    The site is great, and provides a lot of help to almost everyone. I would have to say that the it will improve better as time goes by. I think that one of the areas of improvement, is abandoned questions, where the person who asked the question, doesn’t really comeback for the answer, ar doesn’t vote it up or down.

  • The feeling I get in askubuntu is much positive than other bigger stack exchange sites. Let me give you an example:

    Even with the size that askubuntu has already, newcomers are generally received with helpful hints to how they should do a question, how to make it better and so on. Even the negative voting in most cases is not applied to not make the newcomer feel like he/she did something wrong and should not ask again. They get a general feel of being part of a team of people that are happy to help. Basically encouraging new and old users to help each other.

    Not only this but many times over, new users might have a new way of looking at a problem and attacking it in a very clever way. So is a kind of way of new users helping old ones.

    The other point is the up-to-date the site gets, thanks to many, MANY users that answer old questions or current ones very quickly. It is very difficult to make a question and not get somebody commenting on it or answering it.

    In general, askubuntu has become a positive site that delivers answers to common (And many uncommon) questions and helps many new and old Ubuntu users solve everyday troubles.

    • wdn

      It’s the Ubuntu way *O*

  • yuvilio

    Ask Ubuntu is awesome. It serves as my go to “stuck after reading documents” source for all things Ubuntu. And when I find an answer, I will browse it to see who else was stuck by something similar to my setup and how did they handle it? If it’s a question that has not been resolved, I’ll write up an answer and link to it in my own documents. That plus the admin’s constant correcting and clarifying of language and technical intent makes the content a pleasure read.

  • Neil Broadley (Scaine)

    It’s a great site for which I have (or had) a lot of love. Sadly, most if not nearly all the questions on it now are very specific hardware-related or niche software questions that I can’t help with. The few that aren’t such questions are quickly answered, so my contributions over the past year amount to the odd comment and a few votes. I worked to get near 5K reputation, but despite hitting 4.5K pretty quickly, it’s fizzled out now.
    I do try to check the site regularly, but I think I’ve contributed about as much as I can, except perhaps to update a few of my older answers. But honestly, I’ve answered so many, the upkeep of those is pretty disheartening.

    • Now that’s an interesting situation…. And yes, the upkeep is daunting – and you don’t have to do it alone! in fact, I don’t do it alone. Thats why below every single post there is an edit button. πŸ™‚

  • Lucio

    The Ask Ubuntu site is a great site of SO, and my reason is because it is very dynamic and in constant growth.

    Also true that most of the new questions have very poor quality but this are written by new users. As new users, enter into Ask Ubuntu because have a problem and they want a immediately solution, but with the time must adapt to the rules. As a result, in these moments are very important the editions from the entire community.

    One way to prevent this is: when a new user make a Question it should see a short video or review 3 exemplary Questions.

    After all in my experience, Ask Ubuntu have a own environment of open community and their users are really ready to help.

  • air_dex

    Ask Ubuntu is a great Q&A website.

    I have got an idea about people who ask basic questions whose answer that can be very easily found on the Internet outside AU and/or on the Ubuntu Help. Why not introducing “RTFM votes” on questions. Upvotes would decrease the reputation and downvotes would increase it.

    • ? The system already has a voting system.

      • air_dex

        I know and that’s why I called it “RTFM votes” : votes for questions that you want to answer “RTFM”.

        But perhaps I don’t know AU enough.

        • Neil Broadley (Scaine)

          Yeah, but what “manual” are you referring to here? People are going on AU because there’s no established manual and this post makes clear that you should try to avoid alienating new users by telling them to RTFM!

          The same topic was covered by UbuntuForums back in the day when (over time) a stock answer commonly was “Google it”. You really have to stamp that out, or your community faces a lingering death.

  • Bruno Queiros

    AU is going the right way.

  • Laurent Rondet

    (+1 to AU) Thanks to SE dynamic system, AU is the best site to get help or find answers related to Ubuntu because you can see the value of the answer. I feel the community is friendly and helpfull to new users and old ones and a very important point is that most of the answers are correct πŸ™‚ and that’s not true for many help sites or forums!

  • Aldon

    Really happy with AskUbuntu. It’s a well organised place but would need a few tweaks here and there. For example, when a question or response gets downvoted, it should require the user to comment so that the person knows what not to do or what was the reason behind the downvote. Without any comment it’s just crazy. I mean there are some users that just downvote to decrease the other member’s score. I’ve comes across this. Both the question and the only answer was down voted. The person who raised the question asked me who downvoted both the question and answer as he didn’t and neither did I.

  • arasbm

    As a relatively new user of AO I can say that my experience so far has been very positive. There has been a few times that I was surprised though. For example there were a couple of times that I had searched for an answer, then went to AO to ask and checked all the real time recommended questions and didn’t find mine — and still ended up posting question that turned out to be a duplicate. The recommendation tool in AO is great and has worked several times for me, but there are times it doesn’t hit the right answers, either due to wording being slightly different or there being too many similar issues.

    • Having a duplicate isn’t a bad thing, the more duplicates a question has the more pointer pages from search engines will be there and the question will start to show up more during searches, etc. so don’t feel bad, you just helped improve the search terms of a question!

  • GaRyu

    I like the concept of Ask Ubuntu… But it seems like a little bit too often the comments on a question are not about trying to answer the question but rather discussing if this question is supposed to be on there or not. Someone says yes it’s a relevant question, then someone says that the answer can be applied to any linux distribution so it should not be an AU question, etc etc. Just a waste of time if you ask me. I understand the need to keep away polls and chit-chat, but a real question shouldn’t be questioned.

    • If a comment is worthless you can click on the little flag next to it to have flagged for removal. You’re right that most comments are worthless though.

  • Andy Bleaden

    I have been really impressed with the results that get produced with AskUbuntu. It seems to me to focus on those issues that people find hard to solve and make using Open Source a little harder at first but the way the solutions are peer reviewed I think are really unique.

    I think I would like to see an easier way to help newbies in rather than …have you read all this, googled that …almost like a triage system but understand the limitations of resources however I feel it would help to have a newbie help button with live (where poss) help to get a question sorted so that it can then be posted up properly without snarky coments. Although they are getting less and less which is grand

  • peter

    As a technical user I once responded to a question with a related question including much technical info that could have added value. Following the “reason” (‘no questions in answer section’) I opened a new question/problem with that info and more. That one was closed too (more suited to a ‘bug report’?).

    I’m relatively persistent when it comes to things like this. I’ve logged proper bug reports before, but most times they’re just closed, labeled incomplete, etc. I’ve also engaged in longer discussions on forums – so I understand the purpose of each of these and why they should be handled separately.

    I understand why AskUbuntu needs to have the narrow and strict focus it has. Answers to questions are easy to spot, and it’s more effective in that way.
    What I’m worried about is that once you reject an entry by a less persistent or technical user, you lose them and chances are they won’t try again and be frustrated on top of that. Getting people to engage the community and contribute questions, answers, bug reports etc. is hard enough as it is.

    I think there should be a smoother, perhaps automated process that migrate:
    – invalid AU questions to bug-reports, or
    – invalid bug-reports to AU questions, or
    – AU-discussions/polls to forums, or
    – valid forum questions to askubuntu,
    – and so forth.
    And also a way to easily link questions, bugerports, and forum discussions together (besides pasting URLs)

    P.S. Please don’t delete this post and urge me to post it on BrainStorm!

  • fuzzylumpkins

    i actually had no idea that threads got closed and sent to other areas, thats pretty slick. maybe next work on consolidating forums, ask ubuntu and launchpad/bug reports? reading things like this really puts the size of the Ubuntu community / Canonical into perspective,

  • gummibear

    Wow, deleting comments critical of AskUbuntu without notice or explanation… You would have made a good henchman in Joe Stalin’s government.

  • Pingback: Ask Ubuntu update for August 2012 | The broken spectrum()

  • Samantha Atkins

    I looked on ubuntu answers for a simple question. The information I found is incorrect or more recent Ubuntu. I can’t say so to get it corrected because I don’t have 50 reputation. This is totally bogus. It is especially bad for new users that need to respond to answers that are unclear.

    • You can submit an edit at any reputation level. Don’t correct posts via comments (which require 50 rep) instead select the “edit” option and make the change to correct the information!

      It takes a large community effort to review and update outdated answers. Submitting fixes via edits, or correct responses via new answers, is a great way to not only keep data updated but also to gain reputation for additional site features (such as commenting, etc).