Discussion:Chronology of discussions; dead-end ones, too

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Discussion Forum Index --> TaxAlmanac Feedback --> Chronology of discussions; dead-end ones, too


LJACPA (talk|edits) said:

4 June 2010
I virtually always try to use the 'yellow box' and search before asking a question or adding to an existing discussion. Now that TA has been around several years this is becoming more and more cumbersome and sometimes downright worthless. First, is there a way to show the date of the last post? For example, I am trying to research short sale and of course a whole list of discussions comes up. While I could go to the very last one and go backwards, there well may be a discussion at the top of the list that has more current posts than the ones at the bottom of the list. Having that last post date on each discussion would be a tremendous help. Also there are so many 'dead-end' discussions, ones where a question is asked but never responded to. It seems pointless to keep these in the list of discussions especially when there might be hundreds of discussions on a topic. Thanks.

Trillium (talk|edits) said:

4 June 2010
You have some good suggestions in the feedback above. Tim's always looking for ways to improve TA, and I'll make sure he sees this post, too. Unfortunately, though, he's responded to other feedback about the search function in the past; the gist is that it apparently isn't something he can "work with" easily (and if he can't (with super-powers), we can't!).


Meanwhile, therefore, I have a suggestion about narrowing your searches that might get you partway to where you want to be: include "2010" as one of your search terms. You don't even need to put the quotes around it. This is an imperfect limitation, as all it takes is someone/some article to mention 2010 and it'll get picked up in the search, but it does tend to reduce the search results to those that have had posts added this year. But definitely get into the habit of reading from the bottom, up, in any case - that usually does help. (Then, if you don't get the results you need/want, try 2009 instead.) Other Hints and Tips on How to Search on TaxAlmanac might also be helpful in terms of work-arounds (you've probably already read that, but others maybe have not).

Another suggestion, for something like short sale, which has many, many discussions, is to narrow the results further. You've already got "short sale" in quotes, to find any discussions where that phrase was used, and I've suggested adding 2010, then perhaps add either "residential" or "rental" as appropriate. And keep adding words you think might be relevant until the search results are a manageable size. Then, once you've read the handful of discussions in the narrow search, take out the more specific words and scan the wider search that others that might add to what you found originally. Hope that all helps a bit.

Trillium (talk|edits) said:

4 June 2010
You can also exclude the no-response posts from your search results by including the following as a search term:
ForumReplyPost

That will make your search results include only those discussions with responses. As an example, a search for discussions including "short sale" with no other modifiers brought up 75 title matches and 170 content matches. Adding ForumReplyPost (all one word) to the search terms (like this) eliminates all of the title matches, obviously, and reduces the content matches to 161. So there were apparently 9 discussions in that search with no reponses.


A side note about "dead-end" discussions: The search will include every match it finds, whether or not there were responses, as you noted. I think there are a couple of reasons that makes sense:

  1. the opening post itself may well have information in it that's on point to someone searching on a topic (e.g., cites, research path pursued, form numbers), even if there are no responses,
  2. posts with no responses might be valuable in helping a person frame his/her own question in a way that's more likely to get responses (e.g., learn from others "mistakes," like too little info, too much info, confusing fact patterns, attitude, etc.).

It's also consistent with a general wiki philosophy: once it's on the site, it stays on the site (even if something's edited away, you can always get back to the original version in the history, for example).

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

5 June 2010
Does anyone else (besides me) want to delete no-response discussions (that are over 6 months old)?

LJACPA (talk|edits) said:

5 June 2010
I do. I appreciate Trillium's comments regarding these dead-end discussions but I don't really see the value. Anyone posting here should be able to form a question and I have rarely seen any cites, etc. and have found it a waste of time to open any discussion that has no response. Every 6 months seems very reasonable.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

6 June 2010
great, then everyone who finds such a dead end, please delete the discussion.

I know that Trillium and I won't be searching them out, but as everyone finds them, take on the responsibility of making this place better for everyone. Thank you.

LJACPA (talk|edits) said:

6 June 2010
I didn't think we were supposed to change, alter or delete someone else's discussion. If this is okay, how do you do it? Should we use the six months or older rule?

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

6 June 2010
If the discussion is truly 'dead' (and not just off-topic), which, according to my definition, would be where the only post was an unanswered question, and the post was at least six months old, then

you could just post a message to my or Trillium's Talk page with a link to the desired discussion to delete. We will make the final determination and do it for you.

LJACPA (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
"Rental home abandonment & foreclosure"

I think I'm going overboard on this but everytime I try to research I find discussions that are so irrelevant and pointless in addition to those that have no response. I sadly do not know how to link so can not pass this along to either of you. I copied & pasted the above discussion title as it is one bizarro discussion that truly provides no value. I realize that that is my opinion but if there is some way for these types of discussions to be maybe archived under "Useless" and not in the mainstream list of discussions when you research it would make researching here so much easier.

Trillium (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
That's a consumer question, over in the consumer forum. I wish, wish, wish that questions in that forum, and in chat, would be automatically excluded from the search results unless the user specifically requests them, but that's not possible with the current search engine.

However, if you get into the habit of adding the following phrase to your search terms, you won't have to wade through those:

-"consumer questions"

That's a minus sign, and then consumer questions in double quotes. Sorry for the extra step, but hey - part of what you wanted has already come to pass; the discussions HAVE already been classified as useless by being coded as consumer questions! You just have to know how to exclude them from your search.

Trillium (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
OR - if you don't want to have to remember to exclude the consumer questions, then try this instead:

When you click on a discusson from the search results, before you read it, look up at the very top where it says "Discussion Forum Index==>" and if it says "Consumer Questions" just close it back up and move on.


And thanks for the continuing suggestions. I don't believe that there's any possibility of a dramatic improvement in the search engine we've got, but just in case there is, it's always great to have info about how people are using the search, and the frustrations they're encountering.

For example, it'd be great to have check boxes to exclude:

  • Discussions with no replies
  • Consumer questions
  • Discussions where the last post is more than a couple of years old (people should start with the newest ones, generally!)

And it'd also be nice if we had a choice about the order of display, rather that it defaulting to reverse chronological (discussions started earliest tending to be at the top). At the least, the discussions started most recently should be at the top!

So keep 'em coming!

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
does anyone (besides LJACPA and me) want to delete consumer questions at will?

Trillium (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
I think it's a gross violation of the concept of a wiki, but that is just my opinion!

<If I were a smiley-face kind of person, I'd add one here; otherwise my comment sounds argumentative which wasn't intended!.>

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
but in that thread, LJA is totally correct: the consumer didn't understand the advice given by Riley2 or Dennis, thus no good information for future tax professionals may be gleaned from the discussion. It is totally worthless. In my opinion, totally worthless consumer questions serve no purpose here on TA.

Trillium (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
Or, for a counter view (a weak one, but it gets stronger when you get to the second paragraph, IMO): That thread provides needed info for someone reading the next discussion the same person started. Without knowing about the first one, you might actually think the second one (the same question asked again) had useful info. And reviewing all of that person's questions indicates that they might actually be doing taxes for a living - although I would certainly agree with you that they were not a "tax pro" in the way I'd think the term should be applied!

It's similar to how the old discussions in a person's user history contribute to figuring out whether or not they're a tax pro. If the old discussions showed that a non-pro was only faking it to get their questions answered here, then deleting them would remove that valuable info, and we might not move their new questions to the consumer forum.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
ah, but then fakers can be blocked from the site

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
(Trillium is much kinder and gentler than I)

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
(and that particular poster hasn't posted since April of 2006 so what harm would be done????)

Trillium (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
Back to my original position: The harm is to the concept of a wiki, the premise that what's here will always be here (even if you have to check the edit history to see the original version).

One discussion, sure, no big deal. Move the content over to the DIY's user talk page so that the wiki premise is upheld, and delete it. I've been doing that with some of the old tax questions that were posted in articles, and thus never had a chance to get responses.

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

June 30, 2010
Another option that would support the thought of limiting search results to valid discussions as well as Trillium's point of not deleting data on a wiki, we could always "rename" the pages from the "Discussion:" namespace to another namespace (i.e. Discussion Archives:) once it had been deemed no longer valid or useful. This other area could even be set as not searchable by default (but searchable if you changed your settings for that search). Best of both worlds? If this is something that you think might work, we'd need to create a new namespace (fairly easy to do).

- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator - Talk to me 13:23, 30 June 2010 (CDT)

Trillium (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
Tim, thanks for contributing to this debate. Yes - to me, that sounds like the perfect solution.

How would it work? You'd set up the new namespace, and then as we come across discussions to get shifted there, we would use the move command to change "Discussion:" to the new namespace? Can the TArobot change the names of all of the discussions currently classified as "consumer questions"?

Why not make the new namespace just "Archive:" if that's possible; I can think of some articles that might benefit from getting shifted there, too. (Although on second thought, I suppose nobody would mind if I tossed a few old articles into "Discussion Archive:" - and perhaps it's better to retain the connection with the original "Discussion:" namespace.)

CathysTaxes (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
Or maybe all discussions in the Consumer forum automatically be deleted after a certain time period.

Kevinh5 (talk|edits) said:

30 June 2010
oooooh, I do like that option, Cathy

LJACPA (talk|edits) said:

8 July 2010
I am bound and determined to read every discussion on TA regarding 1099-A, 1099-C, foreclosures, COD, etc. I've got a huge mess to deal with. Again, I'm running into a tremendous amount of garbage - worthless discussions. I don't know how to link or reference these for someone to determine if they can be deleted. If someone will let me know how, I will. Thanks again.

Trillium (talk|edits) said:

8 July 2010
LJA – I admire and identify with your desire to read all the discussions on a given topic to get the best background info. However -

I would strongly suggest that you do NOT read all of the discussions on that particular topic. Limit your search to 2010, and if those aren’t enough do a second search limited to 2009 (on the second search, add these search terms: 2009 -2010 in order to eliminate any of the discussions you would already have read in the first search list).

I would also suggest limiting your search results to those with a few selected responders. These people have shown that they are not speculating or applying best guesses with no experience, but rather are speaking from long experience and deep research. Why waste your time going through the others?

Unfortunately, you’ll have to do these searches one at a time, as the search engine doesn’t like the OR search term, so first add this term to your search terms: Riley2. Then, after you've read through those discussions, replace Riley2 with another user name. Since Riley changed his user name recently, you’d want to try this, as well (sorry for the complexity, but with only 2 characters, you can’t just search for R2): "UserID=R2" (include the quotes). Then use DaveFogel as a search term. And then try Kevinh5. Do each of those user names as search terms individually (adding them to your other terms - e.g., Search "1099-C" 2010 "UserID=R2", or Search "1099-C" "short sale" 2010 davefogel), since there aren’t all that many times when more than one of them have participated on the same discussion.

I'm sure there are other true experts in this topic I've neglected in my rush to post this; I'll edit to add more names as they come to me.

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

July 8, 2010
And we're supposed to remember all this. I cannot believe that the geniuses who created Wiki, which was in this century for cryin' out loud, didn't anticipate needing to do simple and effective searches? Hmmmm. I wonder if we're not better just Googling for our terms and letting them pop THERE and then linking back. You have way more effective search possibilities that way, no?

Trillium (talk|edits) said:

8 July 2010
My suggestions for how to work with the search engine we've got, in order to find what you need today, are not meant to obscure the fact that we could really use some improvements (Tim's suggestion would be a huge step forward).

But YES - by all means use a search engine you're more familiar with, instead; it may help you more effectively add search terms to narrow the results, and they all have algorithms to calculate "best match" instead of this reverse chronological thing (although I'm truly not sure how well they'd deal with the plethora of repetitive 1099-C discussions!). Add "site:taxalmanac.org" to limit your search engine's results to hits on TaxAlmanac.

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