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Any way to get questions sorted by unaswered AND recent? Answered


This subject has been raised in another thread but I think it was miss-categorised. Here is the link, in short the thread relates to the inability to seperate the wheat from chaff in terms of "active" and "discarded" questions that have not been yet answered.

To summarise; there is no way to list posts in the "answers" section by both unanswered status and recentness. This is a problem because people like myself who only use the forums intermittently have a hard time finding "active" questions where the author is still active and responding. In the linked thread there are some suggestions and idea's.

My apologies for effectively duplicating the forum post, but I do not know of any other way of bringing this to the attention of staff.

Thanks,
Drew

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kelseymh

8 years ago

Hi, Drew. You're not duplicating -- that earlier thread was posted in Answers (and there's no way to move something from Answers to the forums, or vice versa).

Your summary is a bit too specific. The underlying problem is that I'bles backend software doesn't not allow any multiple sort queries. The browsing pages can only be presented sorted on a single field.

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andykelseymh

Reply 8 years ago

Hi kelseymh,
Thanks for the correction. Your right in that the underlying problem is shortcomings of the site's search capability. However in the post I put forward the idea that correcting just this (in the answers section) might not be enough.

From my post in the forum;


Just a couple of idea's;

-a "lifetime" (say 2 months) on a question before the author has to "resubmit" a question and it goes back to the top of the (recent) listings. This process could involve filling out a form rationalising resubmission to deter trolls and spammers.

-change the (unanswered) to sort in time ascending order, with the most recent to the top.

I think the former idea would be harder to implement but would give you a much healthier population, with many "healthy" (i.e. active, maintained) questions and with the "sickly" (I.e. neglected/ignored) questions dropping off the listing in a short amount of time. I think you would also see a jump in the number of answered questions, as people like myself periodically trawl through the questions (which they might be assured are still active) for something to answer.

I have no way to check but I would wager that the vast number of Unanswered questions are;

-over half a year old
-have not had any comments in >2 months
-have received no feedback from the initial author



In short; I think that the backlog of (effectively discarded) questions is a bit of a pain, even if you can address the issue with a multi vector sort, you still have all these unanswered (and possibly useless) questions floating around. If users have a higher probability of getting an 'active' question they will be more likely to commit more time and effort to a response.

In the referenced post I state that there are over 700 unanswered questions - I was wrong, there are 776 pages of questions (each page is 30 questions) a sum total of approximately 23280 unanswered questions. Since this burden of unanswered questions will most likely only get bigger it seems unlikely that the problem will go away.

Since some unanswered questions may well contain useful information, the best strategy that I can think of is to demarcate between "healthy" and "sickly" (I.e. discarded by author) questions, where the former are quick-listed and the latter are not, but both can be searched.

On a similar subject, if a question is discarded by the author it would be useful to allow members of the discussion (who may have committed significant time and effort into answering questions) to vote on a best answer. Although this wouldn't (presumably) effect the author it would help others who come across the thread in the future.

Anyway that's just my thoughts on the subject. I know in real life users want "just" X - and that in practice X may well not be feasible or cost effective, as simple as it may seem to the user.

Thanks,
Drew




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kelseymhandy

Reply 8 years ago

Hi, Drew. This is an excellent, and well written, discussion of the issue. As you may imagine from the volume of topics you cite, Staff doesn't always see every comment to every topic.

I would encourage you to send this either as a PM to Eric or Christy (perhaps with a bit of introduction), or as an e-mail to <service {at} instructables.com>.

As you can imagine, with essentially just one code developer, Eric has to prioritize new development projects fairly harshly. The highest priority tends to go to things which encourage new visitors to the site to stay (and hopefully become members), since those are what can raise advertising revenue. That doesn't mean other worthy projects (like this one) never happen, just that they might not happen as fast as some of us would like.

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andykelseymh

Reply 8 years ago

Hi Kelseymh,

Thanks for the encouragement. Before contacting Eric I looked a little further into it; there is definitely something peculiar about the way the way the questions are listed. If you look at the last page listed in "unanswered" all the questions are actually answered. Furthermore after a certain point in the list all the questions are "answered" - and all the questions before it are unanswered. In short it seems like there is either a problem with the database query getting the values for the search or some records are malformed. I have had this issue when I was on placement (the latter - malformed records) and it did not take too much effort to correct (of course this is problem dependent).

Thanks,
Andy

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kelseymhandy

Reply 8 years ago

I think that what you're seeing is the fact that they are actual using a sort rather than a filter: Suppose that (for efficiency) they're using bools to flag whether a given Question was answered or not: if you sort bools in ascending order, then you'll get all the 0s (unanswered) followed by all the 1s (answered). Do the same sort descending, you'll get the opposite. Either way, you end up with the full complement of Questions, blocked into two groups.

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andykelseymh

Reply 8 years ago

Hi Kelseymh,

Ah, I see - that explains it. That also might mean that the lack of date sort is due to technical limitations of their DB framework (single parameter sort and filter?) and that they are fully aware of the issue but unable to resolve it (but that is just speculation). By the way, I have sent a message to Eric as you advised just outlining the issue and linking here.

Thanks,
Drew

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kelseymhandy

Reply 8 years ago

I find it hard (impossible) to believe that the backend database can't do multiple sorts. I mean, even frickin' Excel (an oxymoron if ever I heard one :-) can do multiple sorts. More likely, the CGI script which processes the URLs isn't set up to handle more than one instance of a given key/value pair. And you know those CGI scripts are all roll-your-own.

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andykelseymh

Reply 8 years ago

Hi, sorry your right - I was just guessing...I have very little web development experience (I'm more towards the J2EE end of things).

Thanks,
Drew

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steveastroukkelseymh

Reply 8 years ago

Is there no super-clever KMH Google command ?

Steve

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kelseymhsteveastrouk

Reply 8 years ago

No, because (a) the browsing pages aren't generated by Google, and (b) Google search does not (aarggghhh!) have any sorting capability. So you might be able to find unanswered questions, but they won't be in date order. And if you use the "...&sort=RECENT" URL to generate the browsing page, you can't then filter it.

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EmmettO

8 years ago

I'd tend to agree that this was the first sort feature I wanted.

Having a background in databases, I'd be really surprised if the database didn't allow multiple sort queries. Granted there are databases out there that don't handle them but they tend to be really low end consumer databases like MS Access or Bento. Anything like MySQL, MSSQL, Oracle or Informix (does anyone use Informix anymore?) has this capability and I would be happy to write the SQL query for it if someone allowed me (it's trivial really). Then all that would be needed is a script (PHP, javascript, whatever) to call the SQL query. In all likelihood, the script part is already written because there are already sort links. You'd just need a link to "Recent Unanswered".

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kelseymhEmmettO

Reply 8 years ago

(I'm just copying my answer to a related comment...)

I don't think it's the database, or even the back-end scripting which is at fault. Much more likely is that the CGI script which parses the URL just can't handle duplicated key-value pairs (i.e., sort=X&sort=Y). The poor thing either sticks with the first, or overwrites with the second, or just wanders off somewhere to make a paper wallet...