Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Asktom Redux....

Ok, by printing it – it means I’ll be obligated to do it.  I want to rewrite asktom from the ground up.  I’ve been rumbling around that I would do it for a while now – this’ll help make it happen.

27,614 questions after it started. 68,210 review/follow-ups later – it is time.

In addition to what the site does now, here is what I want to add:

  • Non-fixed width screen.  Right now I wrap at about 80 characters.  Don’t even ask – I just did it that way – that is why.  There will be a [code] thing to prevent wrapping – but it’d be nice to let some things wrap.

  • Mixed fonts/markup – support for some “tags” like you see in various forums like [code], [b], [I], and so on.  No, there shall be no smiley support whatsoever.

  • Factoring out of all URL’s (so when they move the documentation on me AGAIN, I can just figure out a neat update)

  • No more follow-ups after “n” units of time.  That is – the closing of a question.  I will allow an “emergency button” – because I despise wrong or misleading information.  The emergency button will allow you to comment, and I’ll see it and either rectify it or provide you a response why I think it is OK the way it is (a dialog can ensue).  This will let me take more new questions, but still preserve the mantra behind the site – that of “let’s get it right” (things change, I make mistakes).

  • An upload feature, so when I request it -  a button shall appear on your question page as we are going back and forth that will allow you to attach extra information like a big statspack or a trace file or an dmp file –whatever.

  • This will be questionable – but I think I need to do it.  In order to ask a question – it will be a two step process.  You’ll input your question and then receive an email saying “click me” to have the question actually get submitted.  I have about a 10% failure rate on email addresses.

  • OTN “cookie” support – so if you are logged into OTN, I’ll already know who you are and fill that stuff in.

  • WAP user interface (since I have a treo – this’ll be a mandatory feature indeed)

  • Like to have a way to show you “what’s new since you last came here” support.

  • The ability to create an “account” optionally – to let you store some preferences but mostly to let you change your EMAIL address so the “your questions” stuff works over time.

Part of what I want to do as well is “full disclosure” – I’ll publish the entire application after the fact (I hinted it would be nice to ‘open source’ it in another blog but go no takers on that idea :).  I’d put the schema, API’s and htmldb application on htmldb’s studio site for download.

Ok, now your turn (I’ve forgotten many things I want to add – I’ll remember them and add them over time here…)

What would you change?

Question – should Q&A pages be broken into smaller pages or left “monolithic” pages as they are now?
POST A COMMENT

68 Comments:

Blogger nilendu said....

This is my shopping list -

(1) Break down the questions into "categories" (not beginner-intermediate-expert way; but Config-OS-Optimizer-Storage-SQL-PL/SQL way.)

(2) Ability to navigate on a time-bound basis ("Show me the questions from 2004"). Or, map it to a particular Oracle version.

(3) May be I'm asking too much - but is it possible to be able to export the questions etc for burning CDs? (I'm hopeful since you'd mentioned "open-source" ;))

(4) Apart from you, there're some regulars in that site who've also been helping others. May be a list of "top 10 contributers" - that will encourage people to help you and ensure collaboration. I am not sure at this point how we determine "top 10" - surely not by the number of questions asked ;)

Tue Dec 20, 08:29:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

When and where was this where you "hinted it would be nice to ‘open source’ it in another blog but go no takers on that idea :)"?

Tue Dec 20, 09:33:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Mariano said....

Following Nilendu ideas:

(1): These categories could be updated by the readers, just like, let's say, a wiki.
(4): Good idea.

Tue Dec 20, 09:38:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the great 'Ask Tom' site effort (well, going off-topic here:)...

Can you kindly add Indendation (if it is not already in the list) for subsequent responses and an option to close the subtree too ;)?

I like the Idea of recognizing the other poster who contribute/share their time and knowledge, how about some color'd star as prefix to their posting's (Ofcourse Tom would be the brigtest one :) with subsequent posters in different color grouped star's (based on the feedback on their replies).

TIA

Tue Dec 20, 10:11:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Tom,
Great to hear of your interest in continuing the evolution of asktom.com!

I very much look forward to "view new comments" functionality. I think the search capability could be enhanced. While the catch-all/google type search works very well, it often makes it difficult to search for technical jargon or syntax.

I know its not easy to manage, but metadata tags applied to questions/comments could be very helpful. Often I see questions twist and turn direction in mid-thread. If tags were applied to each entry, it could enhance the search. Perahps a managed, dynamic dictionary of metadata tags could be created and applied by you or the poster?

Tue Dec 20, 10:42:00 PM EST  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

If metadata tags means some keyword ability, then I'd second that. It would be great to be able to search for questions/answers relevant to "Execute to parse ratio" without getting hits on all threads that have a statspack report included.

One pipe-dream of mine has been to have a way of neatly presenting both a code segment that can just be copy-pasted and also that code when executed -- kind of like be able to see both:

set autotrace on

select rownum
from dual
connect by level <= 10
/

... and ...

SQL> set autotrace on
SQL>
SQL> select rownum
2 from dual
3 connect by level <= 10
4 /

ROWNUM
----------
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

10 rows selected.

Elapsed: 00:00:00.06

Execution Plan
----------------------------------------------------------
0 SELECT STATEMENT Optimizer=ALL_ROWS (Cost=2 Card=1)
1 0 COUNT
2 1 CONNECT BY (WITHOUT FILTERING)
3 2 FAST DUAL (Cost=2 Card=1)




Statistics
----------------------------------------------------------
1 recursive calls
0 db block gets
0 consistent gets
0 physical reads
0 redo size
517 bytes sent via SQL*Net to client
508 bytes received via SQL*Net from client
2 SQL*Net roundtrips to/from client
1 sorts (memory)
0 sorts (disk)
10 rows processed

Too often I see an executed script that I would like to run on my own system, but editing it to extract an executable script is a distraction to the thought process. In fact over at the Sponge I usually just put in the script itself and some highlights of the execution just to make it easier.

I would think that in the "perfect interface" there'd be a way of either displaying the script and being able to call up the results, or display the results and have a link to a script page.

Maybe too advanced, I don't know, but it seems that scripting is such an important part of the methodology of AskTom that it might be worth considering.

Tue Dec 20, 10:57:00 PM EST  

Blogger Gary Myers said....

"The emergency button will allow you to comment, and I’ll see it." I'm trying to imagine how this will be different in practice from the current situation (except for the label on the button).

I can see there's a 'twilight zone' of "Well, I tried the advice given and it didn't work in my case. Here is my situation...", which might indicate the original response isn't correct (at least in all situations) or was capable of being misunderstood, and in those cases you want it appended to the entry.

At the moment, for a comment you seem to have the choice of either leaving their comment visible but without a response, or responding to it. If their comment might mislead others or seems 'interesting', you'd probably respond to it.
I think your 'Emergency' option needs to give you the flexibility to not show the comment on the original entry (so if it is misleading you don't HAVE to critique it) or spin it off into a new thread.

I like the file upload bit and don't have problem with an account.

I think trying to put questions into a single category would be too hard. Maybe allow some category keywords (performance, database design, etc) that the questioner can select from (include Oracle version)

Tue Dec 20, 11:18:00 PM EST  

Blogger Robert said....

Awesome ! it is about time :)

(1) [code] tag as you said = YES !
Definitely a clear visual separation of "code/screen_output copy/paste" from typed-in text.
('Cause boy sometimes the pasted stuff is just awefully HUGE !)
So a [code] tag that puts code in a scrollable TEXTAREA will be great.

(2) Also a [quote] tag ?

(3)
Question – should Q&A pages be broken into smaller pages or left “monolithic” pages as they are now?

Broken into smaller pieces:
In stead of loading the whole page ...How about putting a link at page bottom that says something like "...More" and have the link fire click-event that pulls the next n-numbers of follow-ups via "AJAX".

Wed Dec 21, 12:45:00 AM EST  

Blogger Robert said....

Oh and I can't wait for the HTML DB app...as Austin Powers likes to say "yeah baby" !

Wed Dec 21, 12:48:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

As a big fan of your work, I will chime in...

>>What would you change?

If its not broke don't fix it comes to mind here. Is this for HTMLDB marketing? But I do really like some of the ideas. I think integration with OTN accounts, "what's new since last visit" and an enhanced search are good and useful ideas.

>>No more follow-ups after “n” units of time. That is – the closing of a question.

This is a huge change and it fundamentally changes the way your application works now. I do realize that the follow-ups are not the original way you anticipated getting questions, but the ongoing conversations that happen are very productive and a large part of the usefulness of the application. It is nice to see all things on one topic in one or two threads with follow-ups... not in many threads. Look at the discussions on the "Popular" tab. Do you think without follow-ups that those would be as useful? I don't.

-LC

Wed Dec 21, 12:59:00 AM EST  

Blogger Aman Sharma said....

Hi Sir,
List looks very promising but still have some doubts and some suggestions too.
(1)The original posted questions wll not be changed right?they will be as like they are right now?Reason I asked that I was thinking to copy all the questions from the starting to now?
(2)Please provide an option to somehow take away Asktom with us.You know what I mean to say?Its really a gold mine of Oracle and there must be an option to get the whole stuff in either soft or hard copy format?
(3)I am not really looking forward to the closing of the questions as you mentioned.Sometimes,the original poster may just ask a question and wont post anything else but after a while someone else takes a look at it and then the thread really picks the pace.It has happened alot of times.I am not in favour with the closing of the threads Sir.
(4)Account creation is not required too I think,but its optional socan live with it.But is really not needed.You wont make it like register->login->visit right?
thats all for now Sir.
have a great time and happy holidays.
best regards
aman

Wed Dec 21, 01:22:00 AM EST  

Blogger yas said....

One pipe-dream of mine has been to have a way of neatly presenting both a code segment that can just be copy-pasted and also that code when executed -- kind of like be able to see both
I agree with David Alridge. This can make things much easier for the readers.

Wed Dec 21, 01:59:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Mr. Ed said....

Make sure you don't make the single worst strategic mistake.

Wed Dec 21, 02:41:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Georg said....

I use the AskTom in 2 different ways. Either I'm searching for something specific or I go to you just to learn something new.

Let's have a look on AskTom today - do you see the age column?

There is only one "new" question - 8 days old. The next one is 2.8 yers old.

How does it happen? Well, since your service is so popular it's a mission impossible to see the button "ask a question". But there is one easy way - post a follow up (just pick up a similar question).

For me it's not easy to read the origin question, your aswer and about 20 follow ups and finally discover the new question.

I guess, this must be even time consuming for you.

To close a question after a time or after N follow ups is the way out.

Your emergency button is a good idea but it should not be misused (like today's followups) just to place a new question.

I would suggest, the message written behind the emergency button should not be published until you verify it

Wed Dec 21, 03:07:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

All points are good but ..

Closing a question after n no. of followup .. can you please think once again on it ..

Wed Dec 21, 03:25:00 AM EST  

Blogger Connor McDonald said....

Seeing as you're planning cookie support, how about once someone has verified their email address, they won't have to do it for subsequent questions?

In terms of closing a question to followups, how about a compromise "after n days, followups will not get a response from Tom" - that way, if people have a genuine additional question to ask, they can ask a NEW question and simply refer to the old post.

Another suggestion, a more rigorous linking system - heaps of times you put "see http://other-asktom-post" - maybe this could be a "similar questions" link within the response so people can easily drill from question to question if applicable.

And can we have it in blue :-)

Wed Dec 21, 03:33:00 AM EST  

Blogger APC said....

A list of canonical answers (a FAQ) would be useful. For certain subjects you advise people to search for (say) STRAGG but the top hits in the results of a search on that term may well be other threads where you advised people to search for STRAGG.

So what I think would be useful is a list of the thread(s) you have in mind when offering the advice. Then in future you will be able to advise people to go to the FAQ list and follow the links under the appropriate section.

Of course I'm assuming you have a suuficiently accurate mental map of AskTom to be able to pick out the threads with canonical answers.

Cheers, APC

Wed Dec 21, 04:11:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Dave said....

1) Get rid of the comment system, doesnt seem to be used much

2) Keep it all on one page, I like to do ctrl-f and search for something, if I have to scroll through 10 pages I will get annoyed

3) Don't do a rating system, I dont like the 'i'm better than you' attitude it can bring about

4) Be stricter on people posting non relevant followups, even go as far as remove ones which totally aren't related. It can screw the search results and threads evolve into other things sometimes

5) I like a keyword idea, helps with searching

6) no code scrolling boxes, i find them really frustrating. Nothing wrong with a good old simple page, different font maybe to distinguish between code and text

7) No fancy technologies, keep it clean, simple and quick

8) lastly, make it how you want - don't pander to the whims of the masses because if you dont like it, you will use it less

Wed Dec 21, 04:52:00 AM EST  

Blogger Marcio said....

Question . should Q&A pages be broken into smaller pages or left .monolithic. pages as they are now?
Hard question ever. Because when would be the limit between each other? I mean it would be great idea to have just QA broken in its own room even though what about the ramification that just coming up when one of your fervour readers figured out something? My suggestion would either putting a level up there as such category i.e. CURSOR and all about cursor go to inside of that category; or See Also Section and putting all links relate with; or Readers looking for this also saw this Section and depends on the road-map people seeing your web you might have to populate this section with some links related. Well, just feed for thoughts.

You know what, I like it as is. Pure and simple! Period. If you're going to enhance, great! However please do not forget to keep the essence. Remember that your site is one of the best ever.

I'm just looking forward Alberto's comments :-)

Regards,

Wed Dec 21, 04:58:00 AM EST  

Anonymous mario cariggi said....

Hi Tom,

it would be great if you could add
something like that feature
of gmail that permit an user to
mark a thread with a star (I think
that it will requires a login for
the user and more code by you).

Then I second Mr. Ed' advise about:

the single worst strategic mistake.

Thank you Tom.

Wed Dec 21, 05:10:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Tagging is definitely a good idea

Big page for Q&A is fine, but a threaded view would be helpful to follow the conversation. With the usual tree view to expand/collapse the tree.

Upload attachments is a great idea.

Better search like "nilendu" said.

Wed Dec 21, 06:49:00 AM EST  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

When and where was this where you "hinted it would be nice to ‘open source’

right here

Can you kindly add Indendation
I don't think that is feasible or possible given the "linear" nature of the way it works. That would be a rather major structural change and could never be retrofitted to the existing archive (they are linear, there is no threading in them)



I like the Idea of recognizing the other poster


That would imply "accounts for all" - not sure I want to create user accounts for everyone - or force them to use them.

If metadata tags means some keyword ability

The problem with metadata tags - markup - is that someone has to sit there and categorize everything.

I actually have the ability to do that, I have however never really used it beyond the first couple of days of having it. I'm afraid it would never work - due to lack of use on a certain persons part...


the idea about an automatic "script extractor" is a nice one - I might be able to automate that (at least 90% of the way anyhow)


"The emergency button will allow you to comment, and I’ll see it." I'm trying to imagine how this will be different in practice from the current situation (except for the label on the button).

Easy, if it is not really relevant to the question at all - not a "bug fix" or "refinement" but a new question - they will get the response I send to people that email me questions directly - I'll have a "go away" button I can press saying "thanks for the NEW question, but...."

My interface would definitely have the ability to expose their comment immediately if I wanted.


also a [quote] tag

Yes, there would be various ones - stolen ideas from the other boards I visit


via AJAX

Why would I want to complicate it? The page is just a query really and html db sort of paginates already. No code.


Is this for HTMLDB marketing?

Not at all - the application has evolved over the last 6 years (this is version 3 already) and is in need a of rather major overhaul - there are lots of administrative things I didn't mention that I WANT but would be hard to graft into the existing schema.

Look at the discussions on the "Popular" tab.

I think they would be even more popular if they didn't have so many "not relevant" comments ;)

The original posted questions wll not be changed right?

They will be unchanged and the URL's will not change for them (I'll bulid a new application 4950 - the asktom number - that gracefully forwards the information in the correct format to the new application)

option to take away asktom

I am very much opposed to that. You can and will be able to get the "archives", but that is about it.


the single worst strategic mistake.

Well.... Probably will be doing that. The schema is botched right now - too many hands in the proverbial pie. It is not done the way I would do it - and since I'm doing it.

And remember, this is hardly the scale of a web browser or a database engine! We are talking about a *couple* of tables ;)


There is only one "new" question - 8 days old. The next one is 2.8 yers old.


that is just the default sort on the home page. goto advanced sort and sort by "timestamp". In the last couple of days - I have taken quite a few new questions.

I sort by "last update" however, not by "first asked".

and yes, the emergency button would make the comment for "my eyes only" and I would judge if it was relevant or not.

Seeing as you're planning cookie support

I plan on using the otn cookie, it has the email in it (optionally). So, if I can find it in there, I'll use it. One of the benefits of being in the oracle.com domain.

and can we have it in blue...

;)

of gmail that permit an user to
mark a thread with a star


Not being a gmail user, I've no idea what this would do...

Wed Dec 21, 07:03:00 AM EST  

Blogger Barry Cooper said....

One wish?
Keep the whole implementation light-weight. That way, us poor 'road warriors' with a laptop and a GSM card can still make decent use of it.

There's nothing like an overloaded web page, full of adverts, graphics and java to kill a dial-up connection.

Wed Dec 21, 07:26:00 AM EST  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

There's nothing like an overloaded web page, full of adverts, graphics and java to kill a dial-up connection.

Man, there goes my idea for music in the background, animated gifs on every page, pop ups, pull down menus (that never seem to actually work right), wsywig editors, ballon help, a rich java client interface with client server features and all...

Oh well.

Seriously - the goal will be "pages as small as humanly possible with as little extra outside of the box stuff"

And will be tested on IE and Firefox (and maybe opera)

I spend a great deal of my life on the road with an EVDO card...

funny, the verification string was:

jdkfnn

like jdk fun :) wonder how they knew...

Wed Dec 21, 07:35:00 AM EST  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

>> Make sure you don't make the single worst strategic mistake. <<

*Gasp*

"Never get involved in a land war in Asia"?

Wed Dec 21, 08:24:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Kyle said....

Hi Tom,

Question – should Q&A pages be broken into smaller pages or left “monolithic” pages as they are now?

I vote for "monolithic". I tend to quickly scroll up and down through the page as I'm reading it. Searching within the page is much easier in a monolithic page.

I will allow an “emergency button” – because I despise wrong or misleading information.

If this will somehow stop off-topic posts, then please implement it. I cannot stand to be reading through a Q/A session and see "I could not post a new question, so I'll just ask here". It drives me insane!

No, there shall be no smiley support whatsoever.

But what if we have a comment or question to ask with allot of emotion? ;-)

Wed Dec 21, 08:33:00 AM EST  

Blogger Alberto Dell'Era said....

Scenario: daily I patiently browse the new questions/followups to check whether there's something new to add to my knowledge.

Outcome: normally 95% of what I see is something you already discussed previously (or noise sometimes).

So, I re-submit the proposal I made one year ago : have a simple flag on questions/followups, "Tom's pick", that you set on when a question makes you discover something new, find a better test case to illustrate something old ... in short, makes you write something that's "new" in a broad sense.

And, have a tab, "Tom's picks", that lists flagged questions/followups, for quick checking by busy AskTom regulars.

It's something that adds almost nothing to your daily effort, but makes the life of regulars much much easier (and maybe let you quickly select topics for your column on Oracle Magazine also).

--

I support Kyle's ideas above (minus the last one ;)

bye

Wed Dec 21, 08:48:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Scott Mattes said....

I'd like it if I didn't have to camp on askTom, hitting the refresh button, waiting for the opportunity to ask a question. I did that once, took days and I gave up.

Wed Dec 21, 08:52:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

OTN “cookie” support – so if you are logged into OTN, I’ll already know who you are and fill that stuff in.

Hopefully it will be overrideable.

It is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to keep an OTN email address up to date.

http://forums.oracle.com/forums/search.jspa?objID=f29&q=change+email+address

Wed Dec 21, 09:27:00 AM EST  

Anonymous mario cariggi said....

Sorry Tom,

I mean something like
'My starred topics' on


comp.databases.oracle.server


on the left side of each thread' title there is the possibility to mark a thread with a star (if you have a google account), so you can mark those threads of interest for you and in the future you can easily access them.

Let me add: font size a bit bigger on the main page.

Thank you.

Wed Dec 21, 09:32:00 AM EST  

Anonymous mario cariggi said....

Hi,

an Anonymous said...


It is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to keep an OTN email address up to date.


most probably they chose the email address as a primary key, and as we all know updating primary key is a big no no ;-)

Wed Dec 21, 09:51:00 AM EST  

Blogger Jeff Hunter said....

(4) Apart from you, there're some regulars in that site who've also been helping others. May be a list of "top 10 contributers" - that will encourage people to help you and ensure collaboration. I am not sure at this point how we determine "top 10" - surely not by the number of questions asked ;)

I'm all for helping the community and all, but the site is "Ask Tom".
At the end of the day, it's his reputation on the line. Opening it up to others to answer the questions could be a disaster. Maybe a seperate "Ask the experts" forum or something where Tom could invite other members of the community in and maybe chime in himself occasionally.

OTN Cookied
Hip, Hip, Hooray!!! You're Oracle. OTN is Oracle. Do I really need another login?

I do realize that the follow-ups are not the original way you anticipated getting questions, but the ongoing conversations that happen are very productive and a large part of the usefulness of the application.

Personally, I think some of the followups get so far off track that they muddy up the original topic. I don't want to start reading about materialized views and end up with standby database.

take it with you
Why? Get an internet enabled phone.

Wed Dec 21, 09:55:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

[This got way too long - sorry]

I've been an AskTom lurker/user for ages now, a think a re-design is a challenge... on of the most valuable elements (detailed collabarative solutions to problems) is another face of a pitfall (long rambelling back and forths that jump many topics). One of the problems with the long running threads is that it gets hard to search, some threads are long enought that they contain every oracle/database related keyword you can think of, and in addition they don't really resemble their origingal topic.

I've sometimes thought a "hide everythingmore than two years old" switch would be handy. There is lots of "Fundamental" stuff in there that ages well, but there are some pre-8i items in there that don't "age" well... unless you are looking after some pre 8i databases (I think I'm down to only two!)

Other things....

Some *limited* tagging... [code] for sure, [bold], [italic], yeah ok.

"Closing Questions" - I think overall that would improve searchability - it would keep things on track. you, as admistrator, could allow reopening, upon request.

Two-step question submission process - mild pain, but probably neccessary.

Grok OTN cookies - cool idea.

"What's changed" feature - I have that now - RSS, I don't know that I'd burn time there. As people become more RSS aware that's probably how they'll expect that functionality.

Pages big vs. pages broken up... I am totally torn on this. If you could generate an easy and meaningful table of contents, I'd say break them up, but in most cases that won't fly. One possbility is to suppress the last portion of posts over a certian lenght, and provide a button to expand them out (you, know the ones... "Tom, here is my database's complete log file since 1982..."). I've seen this work well somewhere, but I can't remember where - I'll send a note if I do.

How about automatic IM-speak detection? Could terminate the session if anyone types "Tom, UR GR8!".

Have fun with it.

Wed Dec 21, 09:57:00 AM EST  

Blogger Bob B said....

Hoorah for the rewrite!!! Its not the biggest strategic mistake because Tom isn't competing with anyone.

Here are my opinions w/reasons:

1) Keep the question queue open.
Closing it will force people to go elsewhere (usually a follow-up) or to drop it entirely. I bet many interesting questions have fallen by the wayside or been posted on an unrelated topic. Having the queue open randomly for short periods of time decreases the chances of getting good new questions. One thing to remember, if someone is passionate about asking a question, they'll find some way to ask that question :-).


2) Keep follow-ups open
With the question queue open, I think you'll find follow-up relevancy to go WAY up. Old threads usually percolate up because someone asks a new question on them and then a bunch of people follow-up on that. With the new questions going into the queue, follow-ups on old threads will most likely be things that would get through the "emergency" button.


3) Let users manage the "tags" on a question
I'd suggest a List of Values (LoV) of all available tags and a way to suggest a new one for the question. How the majority of us tag a question is likely how the majority of us will find that question.


4) Add a related question list
Just a single location to find all other questions that are linked to this question or from this question.


5) Allow multiple display styles
Different views on the page can serve different types of users/uses. I suggest "monolithic", threaded, and paginated to start. You could even let us "vote" on which to be the default by linking to all three views for each question.


6) Let us see what questions you are answering
I understand keeping questions initially anonymous, because many good questions would not be asked if the asker thought they may be subject to peer ridicule. If you have decided to answer, let the asker know and let the world know. It'll keep us in suspense :-)


Now the question is ... you're already swamped with follow-ups, how do you manage all those questions? Get the back-end tuned with the way you take/answer questions ...

Have buttons that will mark the question with a status (go or no go, basically) and will write back to the user for you.

Some examples:
- "This is answered in the archives"
- "I need create tables, insert intos, etc"
- "Make the example smaller and more concise"
- "I will be answering this question"


I'd suggest treating follow-ups the same way (except the "I will be answering this question"). Spend more time typing responses that mean something to your user community than the same thing over and over again.

- Bob

Wed Dec 21, 10:01:00 AM EST  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

Please no rating system for posters - though I still laugh when I see "tkyte, newbie." :-) In most cases, it reminds me of old "prove yourself" BBS's, very juvenile. Your site (and some usenet newsgroups and mailing lists, at times) is very egalitarian, and that is one of it's strengths.

Support the zoom option to change text size in the browser. (I'm noticing blogger doesn't get it right on this comment screen). Someone demo'd me an htmldb app he was so proud of, and it didn't honor that at all.

Allow user color selection (like dizwell.com).

Different display for fast, medium, slow, large, wide or whatever connections. Please do not serve from multiple sites on the same page, even for fast connections. Let the user determine if he wants to be able to ctrl-f search a whole thread.

Allow regexp searches. Have the search help explain exactly what things do.

Show us how to declare asktom as an external table :-)

Time is not part of relational theory, why close questions? You might have noticed, sometimes "thread drift" is a good thing. Attach keyword attributes to subthreads.

The email issue - I have accounts I've had for more than a decade, some I've forgotten how to access (with no way to find out, thanks-for-nothing yahoo), some I still use even though the domain has been sold to someone in Japan and the accounts no longer exist. A very bad attribute to base any design on! And some very respectable people refuse to register emails in order to post - they just don't post.

Wed Dec 21, 10:10:00 AM EST  

Blogger Tyler said....

1. Separate line numbers and code into 2 table columns. This would allow the firefox users to hold down ctrl and just select the code, not the line numbers. I've always found it annoying to take code samples from asktom and parse out the line numbers first.

2. Allow easy ratings of content. I like the "Star" system in iTunes. Do this via AJAX, so I just click the 4th star to rate some content without really submitting the page. Then, in my preferences, I can select to only show content above 2 stars (and unrated content). This might help filter out a lot of the noise that exists on the current asktom. Requiring people to have an account to rate or collapse by rating would also provide some incentive to be logged in.

You might also consider ussing this concept like ebay does it's rating system. So, as I answer questions, people's ratings of my answers affects my rating. Users could click my name and see my rating and activity history, such as how many questions I've answered. You could list the "top posters" on the home page, much like OTN does in it's forums.

Wed Dec 21, 10:23:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Jim said....

I like the monolithic pages, it is just easier with one page then having to keep clicking next page 14 times.

Wed Dec 21, 10:29:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Dave said....


You might also consider ussing this concept like ebay does it's rating system. So, as I answer questions, people's ratings of my answers affects my rating. Users could click my name and see my rating and activity history, such as how many questions I've answered. You could list the "top posters" on the home page, much like OTN does in it's forums.


I am really against rating systems. Top posters does not mean good posters. Ratings system can be abused and they dont add anything to the content. remeber this is askTom not askEveryoneElse, there are plenty of forums for this.

Dont need a login feature at all, just a cookie to remember your address when filling in the fields

Wed Dec 21, 10:34:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Tom,

When I look through the posts, the ones that "get in the way" are the Thanks Tom ones, and sometimes their followups. Though I got to admit, there was quite a splendid back-and-forth about using English as the language of communication. It was between the posts with the useful information, and whilst entertaining, it hid the real info.

So I suggest removing these kinds of posts.

Maggie

Wed Dec 21, 10:39:00 AM EST  

Blogger Colin Sheppard said....

I'd suggest you create the first (minimal) version, then reconsider the Open Source path. At least you can set the standard and example of what you want. If you want to do the Open Source approach, make a dedicated posting to appeal for participants. (Perhaps they can then implement some of their ideas directly, potentially reducing your workload? Under your watchful eye of course!)

I am sure more than a few of us would get involved for the chance to work with and be blessed by your holiness! :)

Wed Dec 21, 10:49:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

open source does not mean "get other people to work on it". It means the source code will become available after it has been finished

Wed Dec 21, 10:55:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Martin said....

Bob B said...

1) Keep the question queue open.

Please find a way to clone Tom and I'm sure he will implement this. ;-)
If you do be sure to let me know because I'm also kinda busy these days

Wed Dec 21, 11:21:00 AM EST  

Blogger scubajim said....

Not sure I want it tied to OTN. OTN has some wierd behaviors with sign in. If you forget your password you can't get it reset or emailed to you. (It says it can, but when I had the problem it wouldn't. To ask a question you have to be a member of a forum, but to do that you have to be logged in... So you have to reregister and find an email address you didn't use in the past. So that means I had to create a new email address for no other reason than to access OTN. AAARRGGGGHHH!)

Wed Dec 21, 11:21:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

- threaded discussions so they would be much easier to follow than in the current format :)

Wed Dec 21, 11:31:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Leo Mannhart said....

should Q&A pages be broken into smaller pages or left “monolithic” pages as they are now?
I'm all for the monolithic approach, I like to read/browse all of the Q&A part in one go or then use the ctrl-f feature.

I completely dislike the "voting system", "star rating" or "10 ten contributers" or whatever system. This is really AskTom and not a "I am better than you, look at my stars"-system. Tom is giving credit if someone deserves it.

And can we have it in blue :-) [thanks to Connor McDonald]
I second that.
(Connor: is there an open position Down Under ;-)?)

Tom: what about the section "Silver Bullets"? ;-)

Wed Dec 21, 11:53:00 AM EST  

Blogger Robert said....

Tom,

One of the beauties about your site is that it is fairly simple to use (maybe I'm just used to it). Please keep it simple.

Thanks!

Robert.

Wed Dec 21, 12:00:00 PM EST  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

Couple more:

Cookies: I look at asktom from various places; my home pc, my kids pc's, waiting at Kinko's, various customer pc's, whatever is handy. And that's just regular browsers! Need location independence.

The pancake test.

Try setting your browser view to largest text and look at metalink. Very disappointing, starting with the login screen. Perhaps violates ADA, too.

word: qqjgdh

Wed Dec 21, 12:46:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

PDA/Treo Support! Glad to hear you have an interest in this. I tend more and more to use a PDA with the Blazer browser for blogs/newsletters/general research and it is amazing how so many sites go out of their way to make this difficult!

Wed Dec 21, 12:53:00 PM EST  

Blogger Joel Garry said....

Oh, forgot the second part of the "location independence," which is, I'd like to come back where I left off in the middle of a thread.

dovsbdj

Wed Dec 21, 01:25:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Gary S said....

Ability to narrow searches to (for example):

a) Original Question
b) Title of posting
c) Tom's original followup to a question
d) Any of Tom's followups

That would be my list. The current default of "any text that anybody entered" should be available as well.

As for smiley support-- Courier font should do just fine.

Wed Dec 21, 02:41:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Andrew said....

How about something like a tic box for 'Questions I am following' -- maby use cookie to store question ids. Then a "Qusetions I am Following" tab.

Wed Dec 21, 04:00:00 PM EST  

Blogger Howard J. Rogers said....

Just make sure that it uses Frutiger Linotype by default.

Wed Dec 21, 05:23:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Tom G. from Colorado said....

Tom -

I very much second Joel Garry's suggestion that regular expressions be supported in the search feature. I've found that searches for various strings with punctuation simply don't work because the search engine eliminates the punctuation and gives me all sorts of things I don't want.

As an example, do a search on the string "i++". It's the standard C-style incremental counter. The AskTom search engine interprets this as just plain ol' "i", and that's no good.

Thanks for the good work!

Tom G.

Wed Dec 21, 05:36:00 PM EST  

Blogger David Aldridge said....

With regard to the "emergency response", I'd suggest that you make people chose from a list of valid reasons for adding another comment ("Changed in New Release", "Enterprise Edition Only", "Bug In Code" etc). Not foolproof, but it'd help maybe.

Wed Dec 21, 10:43:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Ok I just discovered one posting a followup. I hit ctrl-z to back out a word I decided not to go with and it blew away the entire post I wrote.

Thu Dec 22, 12:02:00 PM EST  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

ctl-z....

that is builtin, that should affect ALL sites everywhere.

ctl-y right after should put it "back"....

Thu Dec 22, 12:12:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Yah, I have the same problem going between vi and google posting, I'm so used to hitting escape, which blows away the google post. But I don't know what will put it back.

yvpbrynn

Thu Dec 22, 12:32:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Gabe said....

Is this a naive question ?!?!

Don't you need some word verification functionality for comments?

Thu Dec 22, 06:29:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

tom,, a neat stat for you !! This appears to be the post that had maximum comments since you started blogging...

More to come

Thu Dec 22, 07:06:00 PM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

probably already covered implicitly by having the option of user accounts but:

1. The ability to 'tag' certain questions. I would like to be able to create my own categories and add links to them.

2. The ability to get an email when a question (thread?) you are interested in gets updated either by you or another person.

Rakesh

Tue Jan 10, 08:51:00 AM EST  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Hi Tom,

can i just explain the frustrating thing about searching the ask tom site. On my regular perusing of your site i cam across thi nugget of gold:

http://asktom.oracle.com/pls/ask/f?p=4950:8:::::F4950_P8_DISPLAYID:54643197712655#54695879387438

Now, thats really useful. How on earth would i be able to search for that? Its far too general in language terms to know what search criteria to put in.

If you could address this by perhaps adding a best tips guide?

R

Tue Jan 10, 12:07:00 PM EST  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

If you could address this by perhaps adding a best tips guide?

we call those "books" :)

Tue Jan 10, 12:53:00 PM EST  

Anonymous martin said....

Hi Tom,

Just wondering how this is getting along. Is it still on you to do list?

Fri Aug 18, 06:18:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

HI! I just wanted to tell you that i really liked your site and you did a great job with it. Just for your note http://mp3step.com/ has great music there.

Thu Dec 28, 04:13:00 AM EST  

Blogger ssk said....

hi tom
i lost my spfile and also backup of spfile(i.e) pfile my my instance is shutdowned
how can i start the server

Sat Oct 06, 05:07:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

if you have neither your pfile nor spfile, just goto your alert log, look at the last startup section, copy it out and format it as your pfile and startup using that as your pfile.

All of the parameters you set will be there pretty much, just edit it into a usable file.

Sat Oct 06, 10:41:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

when are going to continue Asktom.com???????

Sun Jun 01, 02:19:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

Very Good article , this article make some interesting points.
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Tactical Flashlight

Mon Jun 23, 02:37:00 AM EDT  

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