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Solving the H&S "Free For All"...Once and for all!

Started by: thunderdragon
On: 29/03/2017 | 21:44
Replies: 6
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by: thunderdragon
on: 29/03/2017 | 21:44
Evening, guys & girls! :-)
After sticking my head into H&S briefly this evening, I've once again found myself being chewed out by the rather disagreeable "Free For All" nature of that forum, driven primarily (I suspect) by payback hunters all sticking their oars into a massive fight for dollars. This happens much to the detriment of those of us who both want to help other customers work past problems, and/or whose preference for giving a well informed and concise solution to a problem means it takes us a bit longer than a quick browser macro or [Ctrl]+C/[Ctrl]+V sequence from a generic H&S script to post a response...By which point our posts end up so far down thread it takes three hours in a TGV at full speed to get anywhere close to seeing it! :-/

As many of us no doubt know all too well, many users seeking a quick response will only read the first few responses to their help requests and ignore the rest because tl;dr and a quick look at reply timestamps shows there is always a massive cram for first post because - Secretly - All of us know that a higher response is (falsely) regarded as having a "higher" standing...Certainly in the eyes of many OPs, at least. :-(

Now most (If not all) of us will probably have considered using the "Placeholder trick" at one time or another and I found myself driven to this earlier today when trying to solve a customers problem over premium rate texts - Only to find myself getting a polite message from an Educator concerning this not being regarded fair practice* and my post content being moved into a later post I'd made in the same thread to reflect likely chronological order.
(* - It needs to be noted here that I and some other users might well have communication difficulties which mean we may need to proofread, spell-check and correctly format our posts in full prior to submission. Not only does this mean a "Realtime" environment without placeholding works unfairly against us, but lack of appropriate adjustment in this respect might also constitute a breach of the Equality Act.)

To try to solve this problem, I would like to propose An alternative approach to the H&S section based on a "Jobbing system" as opposed to the present "Black Friday"-esque model, which can only be described as being like a busy minicab office at 01:00 on a Saturday morning.

Under this model, providing assistance under H&S might work as follows:
  1. Users needing help or with questions post "Jobs" (Or "Tickets", if you'll forgive my inevitable jokes over railway fares) in the H&S section, ideally with users being able to subscribe to existing jobs using a "Me too" function if an existing job matches one they were about to post. (Think Labs).
  2. Members seeking to help other members browse the H&S section and have the option to accept jobs which they feel they can make a positive contribution to. In my case - For example - I might subscribe to jobs concerning issues with IoT mobile devices. (That seems to have been my flavour of the past couple of days, and is an area in which I have fairly good knowledge and experience.)
  3. To ensure that there's a fair distribution of jobs and contributions thereto, members may only take on a certain number of jobs at any given time and each job - Though open to multiple members - May only have a certain number of members "Working on" that job (With extra members having direct relevance being invited by Educators where necessary). This ensures that anybody wanting to help others can browse H&S for jobs they could do without losing out to certain members grabbing every available job in H&S and then running off with them for bot processing.
  4. If a member drops out of a job for any reason (i.e: They're not going to be online for a few days and want to pass on their slot to someone else) that slot becomes available to another member who wants to take it on (Perhaps jobs could have a waitlist?) to ensure that each job always has the option of a full team helping those users who need help.
  5. Once the job has been successfully completed (As determined by those who posted or "Me Too"'d the job) those who posted the job each get a ballot on whose contributions they felt helped them the most (I'd suggest a secret ballot, but this'd be open to discussion) with the contributor receiving the most votes being awarded the "Best Answer" flag. All contributors who actively participated in completing the job however have their IDs INSERTed into a "Contributors" table in the database which would make H&S PayBack processing quicker, easier, and far more open to automation than at present.
Now I already realise that some of my sentiments may seem controversial to some of our user-base (The phrase "Can O' Worms" enters the mind repeatedly) but I don't think a proposal for a different apprach to H&S should be any less contentious than the present Anarchy-based model which is intimidating and driving a lot of us away from H&S repeatedly.
This is definitely true when considering my observations that some members might be using bots or AI to answer topics in H&S at speeds higher than a human could reasonably achieve (For a demonstration: Lurk in H&S between 01:00-05:00 on most mornings and note topic turnover) and when considering it costs a near pittance for bot-capable users to run Alexa AI on EC2 nowadays, I don't think my concerns in this respect could be thrown out as audacious.

Anyhow...Looking forward to seeing what others think about this, and - In particular - Just what percentage of us feel the same way I presently do over this rather perennial problem. :-)
+++ ThunderDragon +++

(N.B: I might be away for about a week or a little more, but will be keeping an eye on the topic via the public web if not from my GG account. :-)
WARNING: The "Always On" GoodyBag does NOT offer unlimited data. More details Here.

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Message 1 of 7
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by: phillsibson
on: 31/03/2017 | 04:02

 

Hi,

I appreciate the thought that @thunderdragon has put in to his idea, but I cannot see it as suitable for giffgaff for the following reasons...

 

As far as equality goes, I would expect most of us seeking to provide a well thought out and meaning full answer will need to proof read and spell check our answers before posting them - I certainly do, but I don't feel in any way disadvantaged or hard done by with the notion that there are others who have a natural ability to get their thoughts down without such measures (or who can simply do that quicker than I can).

 

All that is important is that when answering a question, before posting, we avoid duplication by checking that the point we were about to make or information we are about to give has not been submitted in the time we were typing and checking our post.

 

This can easily be done by drafting our posts in a notepad or similar program, leaving the web browser window free to monitor the H/S or other thread by refreshing page from time to time.  (when we are done typing & checking, our post can simply be copied and pasted into the web browser).

 

While the O/p & many others have issue with quickly pasted stock answers, I do not - sometimes, they are all that is required - BUT ONLY if the poster has properly read, understood the question and provides a concise reply that answers - and only answers - the question being asked  (Sadly, this is often not the case).

 

Participation in these boards is not a job,  efforts are recognised and rewarded, but it is not employment.

 

The person who is being looked after by H/S is the person asking a question.  If an answer solves their problem, they will not care who gave it - and it should not bother us or giffgaff. 

 

It should not matter if the person providing the answer (or trying to) has already answered 50 questions today or if this is the first time they have attempted to help someone here.

 

It may be that being able to answer a question properly and promptly is more likely to be rewarded but it is the purpose of H/S is to get answers to those asking questions as quickly as possible.

 

Any 'system' that one has to learn (and enroll into), before being able to answer a question represents a barrier to anyone wishing to just 'pop in', see if there is a question they can answer and  give that answer - In short, it would be a complete turn off to anyone new or anyone with only small amounts of time to give.

 

It would also be an additional frustration to anyone with a problem if they have to learn how to ask their question - all they want to do is post a question (even if it has been asked a dozen times already), get an answer that solves whatever problem they have and get on with their day.

 

Just yesterday there was a post in contribute praising the prompt reply someone got when asking a question in H/S - it being faster than they would have expected of any of their previous network support systems Smiley Happy

 

What will (and already does) help is that people are not rewarded for wrong answers or failing to properly read and understand the question being asked.

 

Since I've been with giffgaff, they have constantly tried to improve their systems for calculating payback and improving the systems to discourage 'payback chasing'.

 

Of course, in a system that is open to all, and constantly attracting new users/members, there will always be new 'helpers' that need 'educating' what actually is required and what will actually result in both help for users and payback for those providing it.

 

On the subject of AI or Bots, If someone took the time to produce one that could properly interpret a question, answer it properly and respond to follow up questions then I'd not begrudge them 1 penny of payback - I doubt very much if any would find it worth employing the kind of resources necessary to do the job properly ( though giffgaff and other networks would probably buy or rent any system that could be demonstrated to work as well as a large team of real helpers with the wealth of experience and knowledge they bring to the task).

 

Any 'simplistic bots' running on EC2 or similar systems would be trivial for the payback system (or webserver) to spot and could easily be prevented from posting (or being rewarded).

 

All we should do - actually, all we can do - is concentrate on finding questions that we have an answer to that has not yet been answered properly (or to the satisfaction of the person who asked it).

 

Focusing on the person asking the question - rather than worrying about the possibility of earning payback will both help those who need it and get rewarded.

Message 7 of 7
by: navvy
on: 30/03/2017 | 02:13

@thunderdragon

A system like this might be suitable for professional agents, but not for a community like this.

 

I must confess that I frequently edit my posts, but usually only if nobody else has replied yet, so I won't be affecting the timeline too much.  If I spot a typo then I may add other things that I forgot originally.  I also had a spate of accidentally posting when I'd only just @ mentioned the OP, but I think that was caused by the screen jumping so the post button was where my touch keyboard return key should have been.  When I edited those posts, I could well  have been accused of placeholder posting.

 

If you start at the bottom of the page of threads, you are less likely to get BAs marked very quickly, and others may have already asked questions and received no reply.  If it looks like nobody else is going to give a good answer, you'll have plenty of time to write a good reply and about 4 days later the BA setters will go through the thread and recognise that yours is the best answer if it meets their criteria.

 

I know this won't get quick replies, which are sometimes needed, but it's generally better to take time to think about a reply, as you do.  IoT users are generally in less of a hurry than someone who bought the wrong goodybag becaue they were pressing things too quickly without waiting for the screen to finish formatting and displaying.

 

Message 2 of 7
by: blackfive460
on: 30/03/2017 | 11:39 edited: 30/03/2017 | 14:24

@thunderdragon

 

Well, it's an interesting approach but as @navvy has pointed out, it wouldn't work here unless there were other changes introduced to restrict those who could take on those 'tickets'.

As things stand, there'd be nothing to stop anyone, with or without appropriate knowledge, taking those 'tickets' and posting any old rubbish. Instead of the rush to get an early post in, you'd replace it with the rush to grab the jobs to the detriment of those who could really help who wouldn't even have a chance.

 

The only way it could work is if it were introduced alongside H&S as an alternative for those seeking help but even then, it would either need to only be available to a select cadre of helpers or be taken out of the payback system and neither seems likely to appeal to giffgaff with their 'free for all' ethos.

Message 3 of 7
by: germansheppard234
on: 30/03/2017 | 21:43

@thunderdragon hi I agree HS is just mostly bad replys but do like me and others go to labs help group and put your views, a new approach is being sorted now there and your imput would be welcome, that's where changes and discussion is at present going on to improve HS cheers brian 

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Message 4 of 7
by: herne1
on: 30/03/2017 | 23:13 edited: 31/03/2017 | 12:55
@thunderdragonHad that feeling for the last two or three years now but came to the conclusion nothing will change. We all (including those with giffgaff power) know that H+S quality has been replaced by a lot of banality. With that knowledge and the power to change the format the choice is to do nothing (and hope?). Frustrating isn't it when so many knowledge helpful members are scarcely seen in H+S now.
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Message 5 of 7
Highlighted
by: phillsibson
on: 31/03/2017 | 04:02

 

Hi,

I appreciate the thought that @thunderdragon has put in to his idea, but I cannot see it as suitable for giffgaff for the following reasons...

 

As far as equality goes, I would expect most of us seeking to provide a well thought out and meaning full answer will need to proof read and spell check our answers before posting them - I certainly do, but I don't feel in any way disadvantaged or hard done by with the notion that there are others who have a natural ability to get their thoughts down without such measures (or who can simply do that quicker than I can).

 

All that is important is that when answering a question, before posting, we avoid duplication by checking that the point we were about to make or information we are about to give has not been submitted in the time we were typing and checking our post.

 

This can easily be done by drafting our posts in a notepad or similar program, leaving the web browser window free to monitor the H/S or other thread by refreshing page from time to time.  (when we are done typing & checking, our post can simply be copied and pasted into the web browser).

 

While the O/p & many others have issue with quickly pasted stock answers, I do not - sometimes, they are all that is required - BUT ONLY if the poster has properly read, understood the question and provides a concise reply that answers - and only answers - the question being asked  (Sadly, this is often not the case).

 

Participation in these boards is not a job,  efforts are recognised and rewarded, but it is not employment.

 

The person who is being looked after by H/S is the person asking a question.  If an answer solves their problem, they will not care who gave it - and it should not bother us or giffgaff. 

 

It should not matter if the person providing the answer (or trying to) has already answered 50 questions today or if this is the first time they have attempted to help someone here.

 

It may be that being able to answer a question properly and promptly is more likely to be rewarded but it is the purpose of H/S is to get answers to those asking questions as quickly as possible.

 

Any 'system' that one has to learn (and enroll into), before being able to answer a question represents a barrier to anyone wishing to just 'pop in', see if there is a question they can answer and  give that answer - In short, it would be a complete turn off to anyone new or anyone with only small amounts of time to give.

 

It would also be an additional frustration to anyone with a problem if they have to learn how to ask their question - all they want to do is post a question (even if it has been asked a dozen times already), get an answer that solves whatever problem they have and get on with their day.

 

Just yesterday there was a post in contribute praising the prompt reply someone got when asking a question in H/S - it being faster than they would have expected of any of their previous network support systems Smiley Happy

 

What will (and already does) help is that people are not rewarded for wrong answers or failing to properly read and understand the question being asked.

 

Since I've been with giffgaff, they have constantly tried to improve their systems for calculating payback and improving the systems to discourage 'payback chasing'.

 

Of course, in a system that is open to all, and constantly attracting new users/members, there will always be new 'helpers' that need 'educating' what actually is required and what will actually result in both help for users and payback for those providing it.

 

On the subject of AI or Bots, If someone took the time to produce one that could properly interpret a question, answer it properly and respond to follow up questions then I'd not begrudge them 1 penny of payback - I doubt very much if any would find it worth employing the kind of resources necessary to do the job properly ( though giffgaff and other networks would probably buy or rent any system that could be demonstrated to work as well as a large team of real helpers with the wealth of experience and knowledge they bring to the task).

 

Any 'simplistic bots' running on EC2 or similar systems would be trivial for the payback system (or webserver) to spot and could easily be prevented from posting (or being rewarded).

 

All we should do - actually, all we can do - is concentrate on finding questions that we have an answer to that has not yet been answered properly (or to the satisfaction of the person who asked it).

 

Focusing on the person asking the question - rather than worrying about the possibility of earning payback will both help those who need it and get rewarded.

Message 7 of 7