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I'm building a website for an open source piece of software that revolves around backups and cloning. I was originally going to use phpBB for the forums, but then thought about the possibility of using a Q&A site like StackExchange using ASKBOT.

The upside to using a Q&A for this particular use-case is I can foresee a lot of questions like:

  • "Why isn't the NFS share mounting?"
  • "Why doesn't bootloader install correctly?"
  • "What iptables rules do I need for network booting to work?"

This will make it easy for people to find the answer they're looking for if it's already been asked.

The downside to using a Q&A for this use-case is open-ended discussions are not going to be very feasible. I want a place for people to, at the very least, make feature proposals or changing functionality.

Is there a way to set up a Q&A site while preserving a way for people to make feature proposals and critique functionality, or is it better to stick with a regular forum?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You are trying to solve two different tasks (to provide Q&A and to collect users feedback) using one solution. Frankly speaking, forum idea does not suite any of your problems.

Feature proposals

Would you prefer to simplify this scenario or will you force a user to struggle with a forum, performing registration/creating a topic/posting a comment/...? I would say it is much better to have simple form to let anybody drop a line with useful (potentially) thought:

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In addition, forum will require constant attention and may cause some negative effect because sometimes you have to say "no" and simply drop a comment. Contact a user if needed, but do not make his comment public from the same beginning.

Q&A

Forums are not that good here as well. Do you need infinite discussions, tons of informational noise, etc? I hope you don't. It is much better to let google do the job and find a page with one or better several accurate answers.

enter image description here

I feel humiliated every time I need to scan trough 40 pages to find one and only clever and useful thought.

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Discussion forums and Q&A sites are solving very different problems.

Q&A sites are best when you want to focus on information. But to increase the information signal to noise ratio, you have to actively discourage discussion. Jeff Atwood (the co-founder of StackExchange) has written on this topic in his blog.

Discussion forums are just what their name states. They are great for discussion, and community involvement, but they poor at providing information or answers to questions. As an example consider the Wikipedia forum. A Q&A site would simply not work for them. A discussion forum is the only viable solution in their case.

So which choice is best for you depends on what is most important for your product. If you mostly want to provide customers with answers, go with a Q&A site, but is you mostly are trying to encourage discussion and community participation, then you should go with a discussion forum.


Additional reading:
Civilized Discourse Construction Kit by Jeff Atwood

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One solution is to set up a forum with topics specifically dedicated to

  1. feature proposals or changing functionality.
  2. FAQs

Another solution is not to reserve a topic for FAQs and wait for the other questions to come. People, more often than not, will see the most commonly asked questions as they are displayed near top of forum for view, ratings, et al.

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