Ubuntu Forums: The font of all knowledge?

Many developers will know about the Stackoverflow ‘trilogy’ of sites which take a fresh approach to user forums. In addition to the Developer, SysAdmin and PowerUser sites the Stackoverflow team are also hosting more specialist sites such as Game Development, photography and even home improvement. In amongst these is a site dedicated to my operating system of choice, Ubuntu. It’s still in it’s infancy but if Stackoverflow is anything to go by it will flourish into a place where users know that there is quality content.

So being a Stackoverflow user I decided to spread the word about this new site via the Twitter and Identi.ca microblogging services, I means that’s what community is all about isn’t it?

Well, it would appear that my good intentions were not well received by everyone.

Within about 5 minutes I received a reply via Identica which implied that I should not be spamming the !ubuntu channel with links to Q&A sites. I was a bit puzzled at first, how could the posting of a link to an Ubuntu related site into an Ubuntu related channel be seen as a bad thing?

After continuing the conversation for a while I did see the guys point of view – to a degree. You can see his full response (i.e. more than 140 character) via this PasteBin link. His point was that promoting a Q&A site that is not the Ubuntu Forums is a bad thing and the new uses would not know where to look for information.

Well I disagree for a couple of reasons:

  1. I don’t like posting links to other sites in a forum post. Call me old fashioned but I think it’s a bit on the rude side.
  2. I think that the normal forum model is somewhat flawed. People go to forums to ask questions, not to answer them. That’s way so many are full of ‘I have this problem too, please help’ posts rather than actual answers.

To illustrate point 2 I picked a thread at random from the Installation and Upgrades area of the Ubuntu Forums. This was a created by a new forum user in January 2010 who was having problems with his Netbook WiFi. One user does try to help but by the fourth post on 31st January the problem has not been resolved – nothing unusual there, not all problems can be resolved quickly. However, the next post in the thread was posted on 7th September – that’s seven months later. Moreover, it’s by the guy who initially started the thread who says he still has the problem so despite using the ‘Official’ forums this chap has not received the help he needs. I’ve gone against my better judgement and posted a link to the Ubuntu Stackexchange site but with a note to the moderators that they should delete it if they feel it is inappropriate.

Now I’m not knocking the Ubuntu Forums but the old fashioned forum model is just that – old fashioned. I’ve used the Forums and the Ubuntu site and have found them useful – but it is far from a one stop shop for everything Ubuntu, even if that is Canonicals wish. The Stackoverflow model is different in that it rewards users who ask ‘interesting’ questions and those who provide suitable answers. Ok, users are not rewarded financially but the kudos of a high reputation in Stackoverflow is a boost to your online presence and has been shown to be of interest to potential employers!

I’m interested to see what other people think, I want to feedback to the community wherever I can and while I know that you can’t please all of the people all of the time did I get this one wrong?