IF Answers

The IF Answers site is… not really taking off the way I’d hoped.

Many posts seem to be duplicated either here on at the textadventures forums, and most of the traffic to it comes from these two forums as well.

It doesn’t look like it’s becoming the go-to place for questions and answers about interactive fiction. It seems more like a place where questions about Quest and Inform go to be ignored for a few days before they get reposted somewhere else. Most questions only get one answer and people aren’t really voting on anything.

The aim of IF Answers was to be a Stack Exchange-style site for interactive fiction. It’s certainly not succeeding by SE standards:

  • Questions per day: “10 questions per day on average is a healthy beta, 5 questions or fewer per day needs some work. A healthy site generates lots of good content to make sure users keep coming back.” IF Answers is getting about 20 questions per month.
  • Answers: “90% answered is a healthy beta, 80% answered needs some work.” Looking at ifanswers.com/questions we’re hitting about 80% for the most recent questions.
  • Avid users: “Every site needs a solid group of core users to assist in moderating the site. We recommend: 150 users with 200+ rep, 10 users with 2,000+ rep, 5 users with 3,000+ rep”. We are nowhere near this: ifanswers.com/users. We have 7 users with 200+ rep, and none at the higher levels.
  • Answer ratio: “2.5 answers per question is good, only 1 answer per question needs some work. On a healthy site, questions receive multiple answers and the best answer is voted to the top.” Pretty much one answer per question at the most.
  • Visits/day: “1,500 visits per day is good, 500 visits per day needs some work. A great site benefits people outside the community. Eventually, 90% of a site’s traffic should come from search engines.”. We’re getting about 30 visits per day. 25% of that is from search engines.

It seems to me like the IF Answers isn’t really doing anything - everything that’s on there might as well just be here or at the textadventures forums instead.

So, I’m minded to shut down the site. Gracefully of course - a read-only period, and then making an archive of the content available so nothing gets lost.

But just before I do that, I wanted to see if there’s anything preventing you from making more use of the site? Is there anything simple and obvious that we’re missing that might make the site more likely to take off properly?

If it doesn’t work out for IFAnswers to be a separate site, what do people think of the idea of setting up something like that as part of intfiction.org? (Is that even possible?) Just for technical questions. Even if not a lot of voting goes on, I still see an advantage for technical questions in that it’s a lot easier to search past questions and find the answers you are looking for without reading through several pages of a thread to see if any of it is relevant.

@Alex, maybe it needs more promotion? I check out the various IF sites from time to time (Choice of Games, textadventures, here, Twinery, reddit, etc.) and I haven’t heard much about the site anywhere.

Most of the activity is on the forum. Right now you can barely get out “How do I-” before someone with a cape leaps in and solves your problem. This won’t always be the case.

Perhaps IFAnswers should be a repository to archive questions and answers that come from here for people to search and peruse, rather than a place to ask open-ended questions? Kind of like a collaborative Recipe Book. Instead of having people ask questions on IFAnswers, people can transcribe really good Q&A solutions over there.

Most people won’t want to use IF Answers until enough other people are using it that they can expect to get their questions answered. It’s a circular problem: the more users you have, the more want to use it; the less users you have, the less want to use it. I’m not sure what the answer is - more promotion?

One suggestion: when you launched IF Answers, I (as someone who only uses Stack Exchange as a Google result) wasn’t clear from your posts what the advantages were over the forum. Maybe clarifying that would help attract some users.

I’m also not sure that this forum is big enough to have some of the problems that Stack Exchange is supposed to solve. For instance, most programming question threads don’t run past a single page of posts. Glancing over the Inform forum quickly, most topics have around 5-7 posts. It’s not hard to find the information you need in a thread that length. I don’t think many questions are answered more than once here, either - the extra posts are often the original poster asking for additional clarification.

That said, I don’t think you should give up on IF Answers yet. This forum was set up in 2006, but it took several years before it reached anything like critical mass. rec.arts.int-fiction was still receiving a non-trivial number of posts as late as 2011.

Whenever I have an IF-related question, I just post it here and it usually gets an answer within a few minutes or a few hours on a slow day. So while I think it’s nice to have a site like IF Answers around, it’s not going to get a lot of use in comparison with a forum like this.

I love this idea:

Once the question is answered, having an easy-to-use archive (where you know all questions presented indeed have an answer) would be so helpful.

My feeling was that there were lots of repeated questions, but now that I think about it, I don’t have any concrete examples.

If I was someone who was more regularly answering Inform 7 questions here I’d get frustrated pretty quick I think, which is why I was supporting the IF Answers site. But I guess if people are happy here to just keep going as they have been, the IF Answers site won’t be very useful. Maybe it’s better to phase it out.

I find it annoying to search for answers on this forum, fwiw, for various reasons: lots of times the search feature will tell me that my search term is too common, you can’t necessarily tell from the subject line what the exact question is (it may just give the general topic), you can’t search by tag, and adjacent questions tend to get asked in the same threads with the original question, so answers to the question you’re looking for may be buried. (Yes, I am guilty of this.) Clarifications and corrections tend to occur in subsequent posts, instead of editing the original question or the original answer for clarity, so you can’t necessarily be sure you’ve gotten the whole picture without reading most of the thread.

Here’s an example of a recent question that had been answered before, but was buried in the original thread:



Another nice thing about IFA is that when you are in the process of submitting a question, it automatically shows you similar questions, so you can see pretty easily if it’s already been answered.

I find the search here confusing but generally if I Google a question, it directs me to the relevant post on this forum anyway.

Laroquod said the same thing, funnily enough. Use google, refine it by using site:intfiction.org/forum, and apparently it’s better than the forum search feature for these cases.

When I go to google and enter “site:www.intfiction.org when a response is required by the standards of the New Inform extensions (A)” to try to find the answer to Wade’s question linked above, the thread that contains the (original) answer doesn’t show up in my results (well, I didn’t look past the “In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 10 already displayed.” verbiage, so it’s possible it could show up later.) I’m thinking it might be easier to navigate with tags, so you could browse questions related to extension authoring, or whatever.

Tags… that’s sounds like a nice idea, if it could be implemented in this forum somehow.

And if someone were willing to cathegorise every question/answer as they come along, including a substantial amount of backlog…

…but the idea has merit!

OK so my current plan is to make the IF Answers site read-only from 1st November. I’ll have a look at archiving options after then.

Pretty recently I added a link to the sidebar of Planet IF to try to get it a little more promotion, though I doubt that many people look over there and click those links. Ah well.

Also, I assume someone blogged about it? I don’t seem to recall seeing a post about IF Answers pop up in my news feed, though I’m sure I easily could have missed it. A twitter account that automatically tweets all the questions or answers could also help with promotion and visibility.

I posted on the textadventures blog when I set up the site: blog.textadventures.co.uk/2015/0 … e-fiction/

If anybody wants to do some more outreach then let me know - I’d be happy to defer the read-only date until after we can see the effect.

Tweeting the questions seems like a useful idea, especially if hashtags are included for the authoring system. And we’d probably want to make it so that new IFAnswers users must be approved, to prevent spam from getting retweeted. I’m not really twitter savvy at all though.

And I guess the question remains: if IFAnswers had more activity, would it interest people from this forum? Or are people here just not interested in using it, regardless?

I posted this in IntFic, and am pasting it here verbatim.

Ok, look - let’s imagine that IFAnswers got populated with an EXISTING backlog of questions and answers, say dating about three months.

Let’s imagine that this information would come from IntFiction, the Quest and ADRIFT forums, and even from this here wonderful place we have i[/i].

If this were to happen, then IFAnswers would no longer be a blank starting point with much better alternatives. It would suddenly be a viable place for asking questions and really getting some answers, old or new.

The question would still be, of course, how would it sync with the IntFiction or Quest or ADRIFT forums. That’s always been the reason I never really believed in this project…

…but if this project is to have any chance, it needs an existing backlog. It needs people to start using it to look for answers, and actually expecting to find them.

This is a tiresome procedure, I imagine, but it may be difference between what IFAnswers is and what you guys want it to be.

But there’s already an existing backlog of questions and answers - currently 314 questions and 357 answers. So I’m not really understanding what the suggestion is here. If it’s to copy questions and answers as they get posted on other forums, then there’s never been anything stopping somebody from doing that if they want to. I don’t really see how it would change people’s habits or get people to engage with the site more though - what’s the incentive for somebody to go over to IF Answers to upvote something or contribute another question or answer under this plan?

I think Stackexchange sites need a bigger community to really work. I spent a huge amount of time with MathEducators Stackexchange, and we had to fight SE management the whole way. The community is pretty weak right now, with 1.5 questions a day. But the number of math professors and teachers is much higher than the number of IF writers.