FAQs and Crowd-Sourcing

In the last two days I’ve observed both the positive and the negative ends of crowd-sourcing.  The positive end was observed when one of my connections lost a set of earrings and went on Twitter to vent about it.  The immediate result was that she received the advice necessary to recover the earrings from the trap underneath her sink.

This morning, I was having trouble with something on a website and went to try and find out what might be causing the problem.  My first attempt was to visit the FAQs (frequently asked questions).  Immediately though I ran into the problem that most FAQ sections create.That problem is, how do I word the question in such a way to get the answer I’m looking for.  This is, to my mind the most common problem in trying to get answers. If you type in a general phrase, you get back too many potential answers, and usually a high percentage of them have little or no bearing on the answer you seek.  On the other hand, when you get too specific, the tendency is to either come up with the same set of answers or to get no answer.

Part of the problem, to my mind, is the whole crowd sourcing aspect.  FAQ sections are increasingly becoming open forums where everybody asks the same questions over and over but with slightly different variations. For Example:

Why didn’t my document print? Why didn’t document printing? Why is document printing? Document isn’t printing? etc, etc, ad nauseam.  With hundreds of thousands, in some cases millions of users, it becomes virtually impossible to find the specific answer you are using.  Perhaps these companies need to go back to offer more limited FAQs that offer a broader base of directions, i.e. all the questions I posited at the top of this paragraph leading to the same answer.  Or, perhaps they could place more options under one category.  For example, a database of printer types where the questioner can click, company, model, o/s, and be directed to answer that is more specific.

I’d like to hear your views on FAQs.


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