I really like being in Answers, especially when the community are actively sharing their views, opinions and answers (pun intended!) amongst each other. This really is a healthy activity for Atlassian users, particularly those who are still new to the products available to them. In the end, I view Answers better than most forums.

But (correct me if I'm wrong) I begin to notice a pattern that I believe can be a bit disturbing. Most of the answers shared are just plain URL slapping and I believe benefit less. I don't know whether this is really a bad sign, but I tend to believe that this method of providing answers is just like a hook for gaining more and more karma.

Say, for instance, there are two answers to a question:

  • One answer provides a detail explanation of the solution/workaround, and with possible hints and suggestions to further progress along the way. It's like properly constructed, with screenshots and suggested examples to refer to.
  • The other answer is just a URL slap of the same thing. "Maybe this can help you: <insert URL here>"

The user who asked the question finds that the answers provided solved the question, and he accepted both answers.

I just feel that the second answer pattern is just plain baiting for karma (just because he got the 25 karma for acceptance).

I always look up to people like Nic, Renjith, Jamie and Andy for providing good answers that really help the people.

What do you think measures a good answer? Is URL slapping good?

8 answers

1 accepted

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Hi Justin,

To be honest, I'm regularly just providing links to the information that people need, so maybe I'm an URL slapper.

I respect people who have time to write out nice complete answers, and I try to always vote up their answers as a sign of respect.

For me, I frequently don't have the time to write a clear and consistent answer to a question so I first try to find out if somebody has already written it down. Because If it's already been written down why should I write it again?

In this way I feel like I'm also providing a link to more information then just an answer to the question, the user might use that link to discover new and interesting information.

If I can't find a clear solution for the problem I try to ask a lot of questions to narrow down the possible causes and solutions and then respond with a well build answer.

I think both kind of answers provide the same information, so it's up to the person who asked the question to accept the answers of his or her choosing.

I do agree that from a community perspective it's nicer to see well written and thoughfull answers than plain URL slapping.

Best Regards,

Peter

Hi @Peter,

For me, I frequently don't have the time to write a clear and consistent answer to a question so I first try to find out if somebody has already written it down. Because If it's already been written down why should I write it again?

That's true, Peter. To be honest, it's true that some people do not have the time to provide a well-concise answer to the question. It's truly a respectful deed to the users that provide a long and nice answer; in which it may not only benefit the user who asked the question, but others who are about to ask a similar question as well.

In this way I feel like I'm also providing a link to more information then just an answer to the question, the user might use that link to discover new and interesting information.

This. I really agree that the usage of this links do benefit users in the longer run as they can learn more from what they initially asked. And I notice that you have a way to use URLs in your answers in the form of including them in your answer, rather than just "Oh hai, try this: <URL>" :)

Hi Justin,

you mentioned Nic, Renjith, Jamie and Andy as people you look up to since they provide exellent answers (I totally agree with that point) and even more people do that. But if you go through their answers you will also find examples where they only provide an URL. Do you think that those answers should be downvoted?

Cheers, Udo

Hi @Udo,

Well, sometimes a URL slapping answer is really a gray area, but speaking of the people I've mentioned, I noticed that they do provide URLs, but in the end of the day, they gave an insight to the questions at hand.

An example of these would be the following:

  • Nic - Explanation before URL
  • Renjith - Gave a URL, but also clarified on where to go
  • Jamie - Another explanation before URL
  • Andy - Suggested on usage of the plugin he created

These are examples of some of the URLs they've given, but granted, they just do not say, "Hey, read here! <URL>". They provided some explanation before hand, or clarifications first to point the user to the correct direction.

I've seen people actually just providing the URL without some clear-cut explanation, and I just feel that it's sad; I put myself in both the user who asked the question and the person who answered it with a URL slap. As the person asking the question, I would be a bit cheesed off because there was nothing but a URL (despite it having the answer I need). As the person answering though, I would think whether I can better summarise this for the user so that he can get some reason as to why I provided this URL.

Hi Justin,

I agree that this is a gray area. I hope you don't understand me wrong. I don't want to discredit Nic or anyone else but as an example he did it also. (Nic is giving an explanation why he's done it in his answer and I can absolutely understand his motives).

I did it also and was downvoted by the user who asked that question. That is fine, since he felt that this answer or the style I answered was bad.

However, I can't advocate your downvoting on Rambanams answer, which started this whole discussion, I guess. If answers are outstanding the community should upvote them, if the answer is wrong I support downvotes, but to downvote correct answers just due to the way how this answer was given isn't correct in my point of view. Let the questioner decide.

Hope you can accept my opinion.

Cheers, Udo

Hi @Udo,

The reason why I downvoted him was already mentioned in the stated question. I believe that with his knowledge of development, he would at least provided some ground in his answer rather than just URLs directing the user to find out and construct the development by himself. Yes, it is a sense of discovery for the user who asked the question initially, but at least some directions? What if the user already knows about JQL, and he just wanted to parse it to the REST API instance? That was what he was asking. Giving just URLs just didn't cut it for me, though.

Don't worry, I do respect your opinions. But as what Jamie and Andy mentioned, it would be best to try to provide a canonical answers so that to make Answers the place for the community. It's not StackOverflow, but looking back at it, we can make it better.

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I agree with the sentiment of the question. However I think the way Answers is used or has been designed encourages that these bad behaviours. Take stackoverflow... if you ask a question that has been asked before 5 people will jump on you and close it down.

This encourages people to perfect their answers on the one canonical question. However, if you spent half an hour writing an answer, it's pretty demoralising to see the exact same question come up one or two days later.

Answers is used more like the old forums than SO.com... I think this encourages minimal answers. I sometimes url-slap to documentation I've written... I think this is fine, I certainly don't want to waste my time rewriting stuff I've already written.

Hi @Jamie

However I think the way Answers is used or has been designed encourages that these bad behaviours...Answers is used more like the old forums than SO.com... I think this encourages minimal answers...

Yea, indeed this is something me and @Nic noticed recently; and it's really something that I sometimes find disturbing; just because of the constant URL slap without further explanations or clarifications (unless it is a URL that you linked back to your blog/documentation; something that you and @Andy (JEMH) does).

Answers is great but there is a certain 'polite' level that means that questions showing no real effort to resolve tend to be treated with kid gloves. On the rare occasion one might use lmgtfy to illustrate the point, be sure to expect a torrent downvotes! This behaviour drives nicey-nicey responses, reducing the chances of well thought out 'canonical' type questions, instead, encouraging (in some cases of course) the less well thought out variety, which where we are today.

A URL slapping may be due to a poorly researched question, underlining the point that if a reasonable effort had been made the problem could have been resolved sooner, or it could be the result of karma-grabbing with a quick google and a grab of the first Atlassian doc that looks relavent! Manging this kind of thing through downvoting doesnt happen much, as without understanding the question in detail, figuring out a URL slap doesn't answer the question is a bit hard, and who has time anyway!

The pattern I see in Answers is documentation for 'X' is offsite, clarification/discussion is done on Answers, arguable this is what Answers is for, even if boiled down it looks like a linking service. Not many people will have the time/willpower to repeatedly put detailed documentation against a question (hats off to you if you do!).
Common courtesy is always welcomed, but the lack of same could be an unspoken nudge to the poster that they really ought to figure out how to use that google thing, its really quite good.
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I think it is up to the user who asked the question which or how many answers he will accept. If both answers provide him a solution it's fine that he accept both.

Providing links isn't a bad thing in my opinion since if the user is reading the content of that link he might learn a little bit more than what he asked for. But this is just how I see it - there might be other opinions.

Hi @Udo,

Agreed! Providing links in your answer is a great way of pointing to more information. But I would just hope that an explanation is given first before the link comes about.

Indeed, not everyone has the time and leisure to construct something for every question; that's why it just comes naturally. We all are humans after all, right? :)

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I agree with you in general. But I think there is no good or bad regarding "URL slapping". In my opinion, what has been said or written by others (general documentation, Answers, blogs, you name it) doesn't have to be written again.

I mean this is not about Karma baiting (at least not in my case) it's about helping others and the fact that some of the people here are being able to help out has multiple reasons. Best-practices etc. learned over time and based on experience of the past (customers etc.) can't be replaced by an URL thrown at the one seeking for help. And there are good people around (you mentioned the in your post :-) who are doing exactly this. Investing their time to share experience and even ready-to-use code which is phenomenal...

When it comes to questions that wouldn't be aked if people had read the documentation (or just tried to google it) before asking the question this results in a waste of time for those trying to solve real problems. In those cases "URL slapping" is the right thing to do (again, this is just my opinion).

Sometimes it feels like people ask things like "how do I get a specific screen on my transition" just because they don't want to go through the documentation where things like that are being explained IN DETAIL... It's just easier to ask and get the answer right away. In general the people that answer those questions HAVE READ the docs. Otherwise they wouldn't know the answer.. Remember, no one here gets paid for their help and if people help in their spare time they shouldn't waste it, don't you think? Of yourse I could ignore those questions, but again, I want to help (not gain KARMA / I also "need" help a lot) so I try to a least guide people in the right direction by posting the URL of the official documentation. Just my 2 cents... Anyway, this forum is as dood as it is because of the people you mentioned, no doubt about that..

Cheers Christian

Hi @Christian,

When it comes to questions that wouldn't be aked if people had read the documentation (or just tried to google it) before asking the question this results in a waste of time for those trying to solve real problems. In those cases "URL slapping" is the right thing to do (again, this is just my opinion).

Indeed, when you mentioned the scenario whereby people didn't invest their time to read the docs before asking and a URL slap is given, then I would have to agree with you in that regard. But maybe with some further explanations before the URL is given? I mean, just like a direction on where to go; and who knows, he may find more things in there. Also, as a new guy, the documentation is a daunting place to be; so I felt that it was better to welcome him/her around in this community with great help. :)

Granted, no offence to Atlassian, the documentation is a bit all over the place. Their documentation is great, but it could use some organising. I recalled some customers previously were lost in the documentations, and nearly messed up their instance. When they logged a support request, I just gave them steps to continue; with the URL to the proper section they should be referring to.

Remember, no one here gets paid for their help and if people help in their spare time they shouldn't waste it, don't you think?

Yup, that's right, mate! Everyone here is contributing greatly to the community; which is really an awesome feat! I'm just thinking on whether the community can be improved in such a way whereby people discuss rather than just give a URL.

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I'm guilty of url slapping. Whether it's a good thing or not, I'm not sure.

I've seen some url postings that are pretty much useless because they don't answer the question at all. As Justin implies, I think there's been a recent upwards spike in the numbers of these useless postings. Some do seem to be for karma-farming, but most of the bad postings seem to be from people who are genuinely trying to help, but not quite grasping that the questioner probably already knows the stuff the url is going to tell them and they need a bit more.

But most of them are still perfectly good pointers to helpful stuff.

If you look back through my answers, you'll probably find a pattern - the really short, terse ones that are barely more than "lmgtfy" or "rtfm" are applied when the questioner seems to have made no effort to search at all. That's probably judgemental on my part, but it's really annoying to see "I've got error X help me", when you know that if they'd simply put the error message into google, they'd already have an answer.

My longer answers are the ones where the question is unclear, or there's a twist in the problem, or the urls aren't that helpful because of one of the quirks that isn't really explained in the docs or posting.

I also point people at URLs in order to encourage them to read and learn, instead of just asking for help and giving nothing back.

But, like most people here, I usually point at URLs to save me simply repeating what's already written in them.

Hi @Nic

I've seen some url postings that are pretty much useless because they don't answer the question at all. As Justin implies, I think there's been a recent upwards spike in the numbers of these useless postings. Some do seem to be for karma-farming, but most of the bad postings seem to be from people who are genuinely trying to help, but not quite grasping that the questioner probably already knows the stuff the url is going to tell them and they need a bit more.

I've seen answers from users who really wanted to provide some assistance, but just a URL would sometimes not suffice as well; like I mentioned about one of the questions you've answered. You gave a URL (yes), but at the same time, you provide an explanation on why is it not possible for the installation of 3rd party plugins in an OnDemand instance. The recent trend that I notice too is that some users would just provide the URL and run away, hoping that they would get 25 karma back if their answers are accepted.

If you look back through my answers, you'll probably find a pattern - the really short, terse ones that are barely more than "lmgtfy" or "rtfm" are applied when the questioner seems to have made no effort to search at all. That's probably judgemental on my part, but it's really annoying to see "I've got error X help me", when you know that if they'd simply put the error message into google, they'd already have an answer.

Yea, these are the ones that @Christian mentioned above: the people that just came here with a question that simple search query can return you. Maybe the gray area here is that Atlassian products have gone so big and complex that sometimes, it gets a bit confusing just making a particular feature work. And then, there are some people who I supported before are also IT illiterate. Maybe it's in my nature, that I would try to construct something first before providing my answer to anyone. :)

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Mizan Community Champion Jul 11, 2013
What will you do if someone asks :- JIRA Startup Failed. JIRA has been locked I would provide this link https://answers.atlassian.com/questions/24694/jira-startup-failed-jira-has-been-locked

Hi @Mizan

Providing a link to an existing Answers question is a good start for a question like this. But if it's just a URL and didn't mention anything other than just the URL, I would downvote it.

Instead, I would construct it as:

If you are using Java 1.7, I believe that this question has been looked through before by the community. The result of using Java 1.7 mainly caused incompatibilities with JIRA's bundled plugins; which are a necessity in order for JIRA to function in a more stable manner.

However, if you're not on Java 1.7, there may be other causes as well. Can you further describe the issue you are having during startup?

Mizan Community Champion Jul 14, 2013

There can be many reasons why JIRA statup failed . Java incompatibility is one of them and since JIRA5.2 Java 1.7 is compatible .

It is a very good practice to provide detailed answers .

Its good to down vote if someone is not being nice but we should even vote up . I see 436 users with critic badge but only 302 users with Civic duty badge.

True, but isn't that why I mentioned, "However, if you're not on Java 1.7, there may be other causes as well. Can you further describe the issue you are having during startup?" I don't know where you're getting at, mate, but this is what i would do; provide an answer to a first step, and then ask for more information if the initial one doesn't help.
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@Justin

for one of my question you have vote down but the user who posted the question is voted up, what do you say for this?

and you never explained why you have voted down, whether that answers is wrong or irrelevant to question or something, insted of voted down you would have suggested how to write the answers

without searching people are asking questions same questions again and again

for example, lot of people asked how to develop plugin, how to comment on issue through REST, etc even lot of documents, blogs are there with examples

coming to Karma points,

if some one simply post a url and if the user alreay gone through that link how he will vote up or accept as a answer?

Yes, it is my fault for not explaining the reasoning of my downvotes. I'm sorry for that. :) Yes, lots of people are asking the same thing over and over again, but does that also mean that we are just providing links? Like I've mentioned in the question about the REST API + JQL, the links you gave are indeed correct but just rather broad. At the very least, you can provide some explanation to the links you gave. Maybe something like "Basically, you can use the REST API given here <LINK> and parse the JQL in the "jql" parameter...". Something like this would definitely be beneficial (in my eyes).

As lmgtfy goes, it's better to put it in a more constructive manner. I'm not undermining your answers (as I've mentioned before, you have been really helpful in development questions; something which I lacked a lot, and I always refer to your answers for assistance if any), but let's try to make this place a better one for everyone one step at a time. :)

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I am one of the url slappers when the answer is already given. I am also one of the people who write long answers. I am also one of those people who will figure out the answer because I look at it as puzzle solving.

Why, I don't really know, other than if someone helps me, I will help back. I think if it was not for the people like Nic, Andy, Jamie, Mizan, etc (I apologize if I left someone important off the list. Feel free to edit my answer and add your name.), this forum would not be as successful as it is. Thank you all!

If I am url slapping, it is because it took me less than 30 seconds to find an answer that I believe meets the person's request. I believe url slapping honors the person who wrote the original answer. It points to the information, I believe answers the questioner's concern. I don't need to couch the answer with a nice wording because the person who wrote the original answer already did that. It is up to questioner to say that the answer I gave helps him or not. The questioner decides if he is going to give me karma points or not. I do not see this as gaming the system, since I have no control, if I will receive karma points or not.

Personally, I do not like links hidden behind text because it hides important information. By looking at the link, I can tell where the information is coming from. I get an idea if that link might be harmful or not. I personally do not want more information unless I request it. I know I am in the minority on this point.

If the person does not understand something that was originally written, then write back and then I can expound upon his confusion.

I am guessing what bothers you is the terseness of the answer. I believe you think it is rude or at least impolite to answer that way. I would not disagree with you there, but we are living in new age where information is truly at our finger tips. We, as a society, are learning how to live and respond in this new age. We have not settled on the appropriate behavior yet.

Look what Google gives you as an answer. A link and selective text from the original answer. I am willing to take the time to copy the Gogle link, but I am not fine copying the Google text because in many cases it is not part of the answer the questioner needs to see, but it does allow me to judge answer quality. I would be totally fine if Answers provided an interface to allow me to do that.

Do I think I deserve some karma points if my answer is an url slapping type, yes I do. I may not deserve full credit, but I did take the time to find an answer and point the questioner to it.

Answers is missing an important piece of functionality of being able to collapse/combine questions together. Once a questioner accepts an answer and it was an url slapping answer, then those questions should be combined. I believe this might assist in resolving your conflict you are feeling over url slapping and give credit where credit is due to the original answerer.

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