Forum: Can Biostars use question template like Github issue/PR?
10
gravatar for shenwei356
21 months ago by
shenwei3564.3k
China
shenwei3564.3k wrote:

Biostars new users often create threads lacking detailed, clear and reproducible question description. This significantly weaken the communication efficiency.

Although some volunteers add comments to notice the questioner. I'm thinking there may be some better ways, for example, using post template similar with that of Github issue and pull request to help create clearly described question.

One example (updating)

To get quick replies, users are recommended to create clear question following the guideline below.

#### Prerequisites

- Make sure it's a bioinformatics relevant question

#### Description

#### Steps to reproduce (optional)

- Input data (source, organism and sample data)
- Software name and version
- Code/commands
- Output/Error message

#### What have you tried?

- Have you Googling?
- Have you searched similar posts on this site?

#### Guide to comment

- DO NOT create new answer to reply any comment or reply
- Please click `ADD COMMENT` to reply an answer
- Please click `ADD REPLY` to reply a comment

Links:

github biostars template forum • 828 views
ADD COMMENTlink modified 21 months ago • written 21 months ago by shenwei3564.3k
5

I really like this idea, though care needs to be taken not to punish users if they can't clearly describe the problem, and make sure "I haven't tried anything" is sometimes appropriate when we're learning new subject matter.

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by Matt Shirley8.7k

Of cause, users are not enforced to strictly follow the template. But we can recommend this.

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by shenwei3564.3k
1

I think that haven't tried anything rarely applies. The point is that most people, even those that do not give any information about prior attempts might have done something, e.g. ask google. Given how easy it is to do a search, 'haven't tried anything' is imo very rarely an acceptable approach, but if it occurs, it is still good to know, it helps to understand which level of support is required. People often might not know the right search terms to find something significant at first. At this level, from a teaching perspective, it is often more instructive to provide help to get a first angle of attack, than to provide a full fledged solution.

ADD REPLYlink modified 21 months ago • written 21 months ago by Michael Dondrup45k
1

Thanks for opening an issue for it - that brought the thread to my attention.

A redesign is in the works for the entire site - with a migration to a newer Django version.

That being said I do agree with the sentiment that puts less onus on users. The problem that one ends up with when asking for too much formality is best described in the deeply sarcastic(?) essay titled "Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge" by Jorge Luis Borges:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celestial_Emporium_of_Benevolent_Knowledge

No matter how hard one tries soon they find that the problem eludes the formality and becomes a hindrance. What we could do is prefill some fields but that too can be very confusing. We need a good user interface that does not get in the way.

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by Istvan Albert ♦♦ 78k

You can also add "technology used to generate the data" to that.

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by WouterDeCoster35k

Sure, input data are optional needed.

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by shenwei3564.3k

Oh, and organism of interest. Also relevant :P

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by WouterDeCoster35k

We could also use some additional options for "Post types" with short descriptions of each type.

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by genomax59k

I add section Guide to comment, since so many new beginners create new answer to reply any comment or reply.

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by shenwei3564.3k

I think a majority of questions from new users lack sufficient details to answer usefully. It would be wonderful if this could be curtailed. Even if some fraction of new users are too annoyed and decide not to post as a result of the added bother, I think it's still, overall, useful.

Usually, it's a person's first post that is the most problematic and most lacking in details. What I typically want to know is:

1) What is the origin of the data?

2) How was the library prepared?

3) What is the sequencing platform?

4) What is the goal of the experiment?

For software-specific questions, it is crucial for the version, exact command line, and full screen output to be posted, as well.

It's obvious to an answerer that these are important, but for some reason it is not obvious to askers, so they generally are not present in first questions.

ADD REPLYlink modified 21 months ago • written 21 months ago by Brian Bushnell16k
3

We often waste a day of "answering time" by getting replies on those crucial elements from inexperienced posters, and by then the question is too old to get a lot of attention... so they often don't get the reply they need. Would be great if all information would be present in first post :)

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by WouterDeCoster35k
2

This is a good point. It is mostly about sharing the work load fairly. Currently the main work load for improving questions lacking the basics is on the moderators mostly. People don't read documentation, and for BioStars documentation -even though there have been good efforts- on how to do it right is painfully hard to find. At lot of web-forms now follow this concept to put relevant information directly where you want to type, so that it cannot be ignored easily. To have a question template is a minor nuisance to posters, compared to the costs of doing all the repetitive type of moderations which we have to do now.

ADD REPLYlink modified 21 months ago • written 21 months ago by Michael Dondrup45k
2
gravatar for Michael Dondrup
21 months ago by
Bergen, Norway
Michael Dondrup45k wrote:

I think this is a brilliant idea and I support it. It could work like so>

  • Unless user has reached a certain reputation threshold, pre-fill the question input field with the template and require some changes to submit.

    A user needs to fill some categories, at least it will have an educational effect if one has to write "No I haven't tried anything" as it makes it visible to the user and everyone else.

ADD COMMENTlink written 21 months ago by Michael Dondrup45k
3

New users (below a certain reputation) will have to follow/use a template like this but it would remain available for others (as an option) if they find it useful.

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by genomax59k

As I think about it, why not always have it?

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by Michael Dondrup45k

The hope is after an initial period new users will have learned how to enumerate an adequate amount of information about the problem at hand.

If it makes programmatic sense (in terms of coding) to make it mandatory then we could go that route.

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by genomax59k
2

I thought of this more as guidelines than rules, to keep content "free" but simultaneously suggest which information would be useful for people trying to help you.

ADD REPLYlink written 21 months ago by WouterDeCoster35k
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