How to optimize issue/support ticket like workflow?

I am active as a moderator in a tech, Javascript framework, focused discourse. Naturally, we don’t only have discussions about architecture and the deeper meaning of code syntax, but lots of very basic questions and topics. Lots of the posts also have with bad formatting, missing information etc.

The workflow for these topics as a moderator mainly is making the topic title and category somehow relevant to the actual question and asking for all the required information (version numbers, command executed, command output…).

After a bit of time you come back and have lots of replies to your initial replies that you then follow up to and do it all over again until you start discussing the actual problem, suggest solutions, wait for the result, again, etc. until finally a) your reply is ignored and the asked for information never comes :monkey: or b) the user replies that it worked and he is happy now :smiley:

(So basically normal support ticket or Github issue flow :wink: )

Do you have any ideas how to optimize such a moderator workflow?

Right now my routine looks a bit like this:

  1. Handle Flags and Spam
  2. Skim new topics for crass abuse and fix it, also replace some things we don’t want in titles (unrelevant version numbers)
  3. Open “Unread” and open them all to reply
  4. Back to big topic list and skim for specific problems I am an expert for, reply
  5. GOTO 3

One of the optimizations already in place is that I use a bookmarklet to open 10 topics of any list in new tabs at the same time. As I go through all “Unread” anyway this makes sense.

What do you consider to be the biggest sticking point? What part of the process feels extraneous?

Difficult to say. It feels very “unoptimized”.

(Today) The worst topics were those where users post code, but don’t format it with ```. For educational reasons we pubicly (each message telling them how to do it will hopefully be read by other users that then won’t make the same mistake) tell them to fix this, but many just post the (often unformatted) code again instead of editing their old post.
A “request changes” or “hide post until code is formatted” feature would be awesome, but of course is very hard to implement.

The other thing is the ping pong. You reply with all the open questions, they reply with one answer and ignore the rest. So you have to reply again, and again and again.

Sometimes I wish an AI or bot would do some of the work:

  • If post mentions x, give me a 1 click button to set category y.
  • If post is missing string “abc”, give me 1 click button to post text asking for it

Ah, I forgot to mention in my original post that I use “Canned Replies” as much as possible. But as each topic is different, I often have to combine several Canned Replies into one message. This takes a lot of clicks per part (4 or 5) and is quite tedious.

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Have you tried using topic templates to help people with this? Try making a post in this category to see how it works. You could have a template like

<!-- please make your topic title as descriptive as possible. -->
<!-- There's no need to include version numbers though -->

# The issue
<!-- Please describe your issue here. -->
<!-- Surround any code with ``` (three backticks) to format correctly -->

# Version Number
<!-- We need the major and minor version numbers of the framework you're using -->

Note that the <!-- --> won’t be included in the person’s final post, so you can use that for little hints to show while they’re editing.

That doesn’t necesarily help with getting users to use the correct category though…


Throw @david’s excellent template suggestion into the mix and it sounds like you’re doing all the right things, both in terms of utilising the tools and attempting to change the long term behaviour.

Another thing you could try would be to mobilise some superusers to help reinforce the correct behaviour and to take some of the pressure off you.

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We wrote special code at Stack Overflow that tries to detect unformatted source code (there are a lot of unusual [ and { characters per line, etc) and blocks the post until the user formats it. I believe there has been some discussion of such a plugin for Discourse, it wouldn’t be terribly hard to write.

Then users started posting screenshots of code …


Such a plugin would be AWESOME!

Seems you are posting some code.
Please make sure to format it as code by using the </> button above the input field.
You won’t be able to post unformatted code.

(Just in a way the users actually understand…)

Same here: Code and command line output. But not to avoid posting text, but mainly Windows user that can’t figure out how to copy from the default cmd (I am a Windows user myself, so not hating) or output from websites that actually prevent copy/paste…

It’s on my TODO to write a very harshly formulated Canned reply for these users how impolite this is. But have to create a “How to copy command line output” text that I can link to first :confused:

(Again, an AI that checks if people are posting text as images… I think on reddit /pics they have something like that)


Sure if someone wants to work on those plugins we can sponsor them. Volunteer yourself, people reading these words on a screen!


No one? I’ll love to throw myself in, also this slack app could be good starting point for writing discourse plugin.

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I created a new topic to collect information and examples for this here: Catch and educate users posting code without properly formatting it Idea was to create a “specification” that a “Plugin Author” could build… *hint.hint :wink: