Noise-to-signal ratio


noise-to-signal ratio feels like it’s been rising an awful lot lately

Second that.

This is an awfully difficult topic to discuss and I kept quiet until I see other long-term community members speak up about it.

It’s difficult because of course we are all happy about every new member on the forum, especially the ones that are willing to engage, learn and help others. Those are exactly the people we need. And we all started out with little knowledge and posted things that where somewhat misguided. That’s entirely normal and to be expected.

So I do NOT want to discourage anybody from participating an trying to help others!

In that light, here are a few tips for answering other people’s questions:

  1. if you are not sure your answer is correct, then say so
  2. if you are not sure you understood the question, then ask questions back to understand better BEFORE giving advice
  3. if you did research, link to it
  4. if you can link to the documentation or an earlier thread even better
  5. if you don’t know the answer and haven’t been called out by name, there really is no need to post

I sincerely hope this is helpful and not discouraging.


Good to know I’m not the only one.

I suggest stickying a simplified code of conduct containing at most three items each written in one short, simple sentence. Even better–make it appear whenever someone tries to submit a reply or a post (like the “have you searched for it?” message).

The three items are up to the mods, but it would probably include some variant of “Have you done basic fact-checking?”

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It sounds too rude for me. I would suggest “please back up your answer with useful links if possible”.

Something along the lines of “Have you done basic fact-checking?”

Also, not everything can be neatly linked to, and the sources themselves might not be credible–useful for backing up the answer, but ultimately not credible

How about, instead, praising, encouraging and rewarding people who do fact-check? :slight_smile:

My aunt would always tell me this while growing up:
"BE the change you want to see in the world"

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I’m not against a positive reward approach in general, but it isn’t applicable to this situation (internet forums).

It entails either having people like mods actively checking people’s posts and then rewarding them (with praise, encouragement, or giving something like a ‘like’) until a self-sustaining culture forms. Given the nature of this forum (high turnover–at least in my mind), this isn’t practical and takes too much effort.

Being that nice is a luxury that isn’t applicable to our situation. What we should start out with are firm-but-gentle reminders.

Well, that’s at least one way. But you’re right in the sense that there has to be other ways that don’t require as much manpower…

Maybe something like “Don’t be like this guy, and you will be well-received here.”…

Apologies in advance of the cringe you will suffer as a result of this video.

Trust me, I know exactly what you’re talking about, and it definitely annoys the hell out of me too.

Moved into Feedback/Forum.

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I REALLY like the little crown for dom0 in the Qubes Manager on 4.1rc1. :wink:

scnr :laughing:

PS: seriously, it looks like noise in this forum is due to an increasing userbase and attracting less experienced users, which is a good thing. One could compartmentalise the forum more, like setting up a Newbie-Corner, an Arch User Corner, an Offtop Section, and so forth.

When I used to fight with QEMU/KVM/libvirt or iptables, the answers in the forum I used to visit could always have been rtfm!, go to the libvirt maintainer, visit the QEMU’s forum, “why do you want to do this? use virtual box instead!” or something like this. Or not answering at all. However, people stick to a handful of forums they like and tend to post their questions there, hoping more experienced users are going to assist, so I believe is to give them a little bit place here is okay. That is an incentive to stick to the Qubes Distro as well. Stuff which is not interesting to others at all is just going to stay unanswered.


Discourse already nudges the user to do it and also it shows pre-typed on the editor if you open a new topic.

Yes. I believe so. But on the other hand, the forum is no longer growing the number of pageviews.

I second this. It’s very hard to make users follow rules. And we have been only enforcing code of conduct type stuff. More than that is unmanageable.

But what I can say is that leading by example is more effective from my experience.

I understand the sentiment and the difficulties of enforcing more rules. Right now I’m not quite proposing rule changes or stronger enforcement–just increased awareness.

The problem with leading by example is that it assumes the people you want to change are watching and are willing to change. There may be a somewhat small contingent of long-term members such as Sven and myself, as well as stakeholders, but for most people who transit this forum, it’s for tech support, especially since only Level 2 members and above can even access the tangential category. People don’t usually hang around tech support forums nor do they browse casually, picking up on examples being set. Other times, they just want to do whatever it is they’re here to do, so they’re unwilling to change even with examples.

That said, I want to stress again that I’m not advocating for an approach that’s akin to reaching for the sledgehammer; I’m just saying we should nudge and prod further than whatever it is Discourse is doing (which I’m not noticing, to be honest).

And we know that never happens…at least, not without a lot of pain on our part…

There’s definitely a difference between “teach me about this, so we can fix it together” and “it’s broken, fix it for me, I’m not interested in learning, that’s why I asked you!”. Ideally, more of the former, and less of the latter…

I’ve been considering the viability of paid Qubes OS tech support for a while, now…

“I’m just like Edward Snowden, I have a crypto wallet, and I want to protect myself from evil hackers, which is why I installed Qubes OS, but I have never touched a command line, and now my computer is ‘not working’, because I used the GUI to download both the cloud and the edge through my NordVPN, and suddenly my serial bus froze onto my clipboard, and I think it’s because rEvil disabled my nVIDIA drivers via my hardware wallet. Normally I just click on the EXE file, and I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, and it just does it! FIX IT NOW! Yeah, I’m totally 1337…”

EDIT: For anyone who doesn’t know much about computers:

  • Congratulations! Admitting it is the first step, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and we look forward to supporting you on your journey of enrichment! Even experienced ones learn something new every day!
  • NONE of this quote is anything that should be aspired to, and NONE of it actually make any sense whatsoever. NONE OF IT!

Honestly, I’d happily listen to this all day if I was getting paid for it…but I’m not…

Trying to get people interested in Qubes OS when it’s painfully obvious they haven’t got the slightest idea how computers work (and couldn’t be bothered putting in effort to learn) is an uphill battle at best.

It is definitely very rewarding and satisfying when you see someone’s knowledge grow, though. But then, you’re hit with the next person, and you’re back to square one…

Is there a way to channel the behaviour you’re talking about into a certain area of the forum, so that it doesn’t contaminate the broader forum? (for example, the parts that contain the important advice that will prevent someone from getting compromised)

Just out of curiosity, if discourse has a “LIKE” button, is there by any chance a “STUPID QUESTION” or “CLEARLY MISINFORMED” button as well?

I have a feeling that they would be clicked on a lot…

I’ll happily write one if it doesn’t exist.

But there has to be a way to achieve all of these outcomes, without being too taxing on our patience…

That could sound like something the “trust level” concept in Discourse could help with. Something like, Level0/New users could be allowed to create topics only in a “Newbie’s corner” category ? Generally-useful topics there could then be moved to the regular “Support” category.

The number of new users does not translate into more page views ? Do we have some visibility of where this comes from (ie. “users dropping out” vs. “users posting less” etc.) and the evolution of these numbers ?
Sounds like we would need to monitor such metrics if we feel there is a problem to address.

That would be a lot of work, to move that all. We already have special Testing Team.

Are there that many support questions from Level0 users ? I had the idea that the involved work would look like (today at least) moderating a small number of questions, but they I may easily be misleaded :slight_smile:

It isn’t exactly the fact that questions are being asked. I don’t mind that.

It’s that the answers don’t actually answer the questions, or the answers make such outlandish claims without even a shred of evidence or citation to support them.

And even when confronted with evidence that shows that their claim is basically a flat-out lie, the answers are still not amended.

This can cause problems when people are genuinely interested in educating themselves.

And in some cases, especially when you’re talking about Qubes OS, it could even result in pwnage…

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With payments comes expectations and liabilities, which is a monstrously big can of worms compared to whatever loss a non-functioning user forum entails.

I mean, you could try doing it independently, but that also creates its own set of issues, with the big one being trust–users for whom a program doesn’t exist unless there’s a desktop icon, but are wary enough to use Qubes, would probably be wary of the unaffiliated gentleman selling services claiming to make all the thinking go away.

I feel this complicates things too much and creates a distinction and segregation that doesn’t quite work (e.g. a CS PhD starts using Qubes and has insightful ideas, but has to start in the kid’s pool).

I like the broad concept of this–I’ve long felt it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff here, especially as the number of topics expands.

What might help is something like a “Best of” category where individual posts or entire threads deemed worthy by team members, mods, leaders, etc. are copied to. They would be selected on the basis of quality, relevance (how often does this issue appear?), technical content, or even entertainment value. Ultimately its main function would be as a quality-controlled community guide/FAQ.

What’s important for technical content is that they’re relevant, so stuff about R3.X that’s now outdated, for example, would be removed.

You can have intangible rewards (I’m thinking titles) that go to those who create these posts, or creates the most of them, etc. This might increase the overall quality of content here. Of course, those who can nominate and vote can’t win these.