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Inspiration and background

This article is inspired by a response to my improvement proposal Enable "reply to a comment" option and tree-like hierarchy of comments in SAP Community Q&A
SAP Community Blogs area provide a "replay to a comment" feature. Comments and responses to them are displayed in a tree-like hierarchy.

The proposal is to bring similar functionality to SAP Community Q&A. Currently, it's only possible to post a comment to a question or an answer. It's not possible to reply to a comment.

Often users post comments with additional questions or use comments to request additional information. The improvement would allow to post responses to such requests. That would promote structured discussions and streamlined flow of comments. The content of SAP Q&A would get more value and quality.

Also that would build a unified user experience across Blogs and Q&A areas of SAP Community.

The improvement will allow more structured commenting, promote discussions in SAP Q&A and allow more efficient knowledge sharing.

The proposal has been immediately rejected by craig.cmehil  with the comment
The design of the comments and removal of threading in those comments is actually the planned behavior. Comments we feel should be used to ask for clarifications but then the original question should be edited by the author to reflect that new information - allowing for a user later on to find the complete question with answer and avoid having to dive through multiple comments to understand how to solve the problem.

I have been taken aback at first. I have thought:

  • Why would you not want to promote discussions on SAP Questions?

  • Why can we not have comments with questions and answers organized in a neat tree-like layout?

  • Any other decent social media platform has those basic features. Why not SAP Q&A?

Call me opinionated as it took me quite a while to realize that craig.cmehil was actually right. SAP Q&A is not a discussion or bulletin board. It should be more of a solutions database. I say "it should" as it really depends on us all participating in Q&A if it is. It will be if we observe the simple rules.

Perfect question

First of all, follow common sense guidelines while posting questions e.g.

If you get an answer that you are not fully satisfied with, by all means provide comments. However, do not put additional information about the issue in the comments. Instead update, enhance and amend your original question. Actually, your comment should be like:
See my updated question

I have added requested details to my original question

The goal is to describe the problem as fully as possible, even if it takes several iterations and updates. Think of other users - when they browse SAP Q&A, they need to be able to understand the problem end-to-end just by reading the question, without scrolling through the comments and collecting bits and pieces of information.

Perfect answer

Your initial response might not bring the perfect solution at the first time. You may and will be asked for clarifications and additional details. They will come in a form of comments from the original poster, often referred to as the OP.

When comments come, respond to them with your comments. However, do not put requested information in the comments. Instead update, enhance and amend your original answer and make the OP aware of that with a comment like:
See my updated answer

I have put additional information in my original answer

Do not spread your solution over the answer and subsequent comments. Again, future readers of SAP Q&A need to understand the solution by reading the single answer, not by collecting information scattered through the comments.

Final thoughts

The rules for SAP Q&A perfect question and perfect answer are strikingly simply. Yet, they might be hard to follow as both asking and answering parties are tempted to engage in conversations through comments. Instead, both should strive to keep questions and answer concise, full, understandable and end-to-end.

A perfect thread in SAP Q&A should consist of:

  • one question that fully describes the problem

  • one accepted answer the gives entire, working solution to the problem

  • a bunch of comments announcing updates to the question and the answer.

If we all follow those straightforward rules, SAP Q&A stands a chance to really become solutions database as it is intended to be.