Plugin: 'Ask to Answer' Mechanism


1) An option to send a "direct invitation" to somone that likely would be able to answer it 2) An enginee to find/filter those specific people.

Use Case

I whish to implement Discourse in my University Course Website, which can be defined as a small and closed comunity (about 1000 students). I predict that people wouldn't use it in a regular basis and would only open the website when they needed an answer. In this scenario, the chances of a question being seen and answered by the right person would be low, not achieving the full potential of the application. I believe this feature would be help a lot.

Analogous Feature

Quora has this feature, and they provide interesing filtering capability, by “User Engagement” (statistics) and “Bio Profile” (user-defined keywords). That’s Quora’s UX:


I have an idea to re-create this feature using Discourse’s current feature set.

Questions (ergo, topics) may be tagged, and those tags are based on specific fields of study.

Those tags can then be “watched” (or tracked) by the individuals who are proficient in those fields.

This idea allows people-of-interest to opt-in, if they want to answer specific questions.


I really like this idea - would be an awesome plugin. Could work nicely with the Accepted Answer plugin


Thanks for the idea. I think it does work well, but it does not substitute the concept.

The Track Mechanism relies a bit more on the good will of The One Who Knows and in good tagging practice than the Ask to Answer Mechanism does (not understimating good will or wishing to discourage good tagging practice).

I believe that in most cases the The One Who Wants to Know’s will of obtaining the answer is greater than The One Who Know’s will to answer it, so (but nevetheless) giving the questioner side such a tool would increase the effectiveness for “setting up the date” (I think these two would work very well togheter as complementary aproaches).

That’s subtle, not sure if totally valid, but I feel that this feature would fill some small gaps that could make a diference in an overall not ‘digitally engaged’ community, mainly in the first contacts.

It’d be a really cool plugin. You’re still putting some burden-of-initiative on users by asking them to opt in to their interests though.


[quote=“pedro.pessoa, post:1, topic:39864”]
I predict that people wouldn’t use it in a regular basis and would only open the website when they needed an answer.
[/quote]Why then do you think anyone would go through the trouble of actually answering one of these questions? If it’s an inactive community, the social reward for answering a question is near nil.

Instead of trying to work around the problem that your community won’t be sufficiently engaged, you should try to solve that. Without engagement the point of a community is kind of moot.

Yes, it still put some burden-of-initiave on users, maybe as much as choosing to track the tags and topic, afterall. But on this perspective, both of them could be mandatory or highly recommended fields on the signing up process, as they are essential steps to achieve the very basic goals of the website for the case.

I belive most would answer if asked in the hallway, but most wouldn’t spontaneously wonder, as walking in the halway, if someone unknow needed his help. And most don’t have the tought that internet may offer good solutions to that problem. My distrust on the community engagement is more about personal behavour and profile when using the internet tools. The tool will ‘catch’ if the crowd see it responds properly to their needs, if it proves effective, if it don’t make them waste unwanted effort or make them look silly. Most are intuitive internet users.

And I don’t think it is a matter of one thing instead of other.

My thesis is that effective conditions (good designed tool) would encourage the community to explore better the full potential of web comunication, and further would end improving the overall engagement of the community. I see communication and engagement as mutual implicated phenomenas.

I’ll admit I’m not clear on your use case here, so please correct me if I’m wrong or missing something.

You have a forum with members that ask, and other members that answer. i.e. a support forum

Those that answer may sometimes miss seeing topics they could / should answer.
This may cause those that ask to have a less than desirable experience.

The first thought that comes to mind is,
Are those that answer paid or otherwise obligated to answer?

If they are “volunteers” there is no guarantee that they will
feel confident enough to answer
have the time to answer promptly if at all
be interested in answering

IMHO there is a better than good chance that though they may be knowledgeable, being “pinged” runs the risk of annoying them.

I understand that it can be disappointing to ask a question and have it languish into oblivion. That members “bump” is evidence of this.

Though much of the web is Free, and reaching a goal can be Instant, unless the forum is a paid service I think it would be better to just let some members come to the realization that sometimes they will be disappointed

I will try to clarify. Hope it helps getting the pros and cons of the resource clearer,

I whish to have, as I said, but there wouldn’t be two cleary defined types of member, as you mention. When I used the terms The One Who Knows and The One Who Wants to Know I was refering to roles, which can be fullfilled by the same member in diferent context, depending on the topic. On the sign up, this should be explicit.

As I clarified, there are not exclusive support members, so no one would get paid. The website would be a communication channel and information repository. It is an academic comunity that range people sharing the same physical space and overall interest (political or knowledge-related). It isn’t small enough that everybody knows everybody (in which case such resource of even the forum wouldn’t be needed), nor big enough to be a popular site. Si how can it work better? Everybody would be there by their will, knowing the general terms of usage on the sign up, which I don’t think are offensive at all.

Maybe he is not confident, but knows someone who knows better, and then he can ask this person to answer. Maybe he don’t have time, so they will ignore now, but try to answer later. Maybe he is just really not interested at all, he will ignore. Anyway, the chances of getting answered are greater.

Then, there is the risk of annoying the person, but that’s his choice, as he can just not answer it. When you stop someone on the street to ask him something that you think he will probably know, you take the chances of annoyng the person, as in general cases of making any question at all. Still, the member who feel annoyed could, besided ignoring, leave the site, or maybe have the option to not be prompted (as a non-default state), or by some specific people, topic or in general.

I think is better if he get disapointed after, and not before, trying all the most eficient tools avaliable. If he ask someone and the person doesn’t answer, he can’t know why, so there is no good reason to be pissed, nor in beeing annoyed, and he will have to accept that, as one have the right to ask, the other have the right to not answer (and more easly on the web than face-to-face). If you disagree with that, then I understand that you don’t validate this resource, but besided that disagreement, I think we could agree that the chances and odds would be greater with it.

I think you can do a lot of what you want by using @mentions. If the questioner @mentions another user in their post that user will get a notification. If your users sign up for groups based on their areas of knowledge, questioners could @mention those groups in their questions.

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That, and you could let the “those that know” take the initiative by making the Discourse feature
* the OP counts as “1 post”, so these are unanswered topics
For example, to see topics with no replies here