Public Lab Research note

Progress of the Expanded Q & A Project

by ananyo2012 | July 25, 2016 20:19 25 Jul 20:19 | #13309 | #13309

ananyo2012 was awarded the Basic Barnstar by stevie for their work in this research note.

It's time for an update on the Q & A Project. The Q & A Project is almost up and running and now you can Post and answer a question from the Q & A pages. Here are all the detailed list of features that are introduced in the Q & A pages. You can now visit the link to view all the questions in website.

Listing all recent, popular and liked questions

As you can see in the main image as well as you visit the link all the questions are listed chronologically according to the date when they were posted. The Popular tab shows all questions arranged by the number of views. The Liked tab shows all questions according to the number of likes to each question.

Search questions and Ask questions


A search box has been included in the questions page where you can search similar questions that you want to ask. It is always good to see whether similar questions has been asked earlier. If there are no similar questions the search redirects to the post question link.

View questions and Like them

You can click on the link of a question to view the question. The questions view is kept same except some minor changes like Ask a question button and the number of answers is shown in the view. You can like a question from the Like button in the top right side of the page(provided you are logged in) which also shows the number of likes. All functionalities of a research note applies to a question.

Answer questions


This is how an answer looks in the question page. You can post an answer to a question in the answer editor given at the bottom of all answers. The answer editor is similar to the comment editor in notes page except that it also contains the formatting toolbar present in the post page.

You can like an answer and copy the link of the answer from the share icon. If you are the author of the question you can mention the answer as accepted if you think it solved your query, by clicking the accept answer button (log in required). Once you accept the answer a green accepted label will be shown that will be visible beside the question.

New comments interface for Q & A pages


Introducing the new comments interface for questions and answers. Now you can post comments for both questions and answers. Comments for questions and answers are aimed for better clarification related to the question or answer. Comments for question appear just below the question and comments for answer appear just below the answer. You can toggle the comments for the answers by clicking the Comments button below the answer.

Deleting and editing permissions of comments follow the same rule as earlier. More comments are listed by clicking the View more button which also shows the number of comments yet to show. Expandable comment boxes are included that increase in size as you type in.

Get email notifications for Q & As

Users will get custom email notifications for posting questions. email notifications will also be sent for each new answers posted to the question author and users who liked the question and to those who also posted an answer to the question. email notifications for question comments remain the same as before. For answer comments notification is sent to the answer author, those mentioned in the comment, those who liked the answer and others involved in the conversation.

Upcoming modifications and fixes

There are few bug fixes that need to be made like the question link in the search box dropdown that currently doesn't work properly which will be solved soon. Also some new views will be introduced like a Recently answered view for questions landing page, a new section for Asked questions in user profile and some distinct sidebar for Q & A pages.

Currently there are two formats for posting a question in the website. Soon the links for Q & A pages will be available in the dashboard and the navbar and all the relevant links for questions will be replaced with the new question links that will make the Q & A system available to all users.

Feedback and Suggestions

Any Feedback and Suggestion is welcome and will greatly help in making the Q & A pages better.


Wow! Great and friendly presentation of the new system!

I have some small comments, like that the icon by "Comments" should be fa-comment since the one shown generally means "share" not "comment" but overall this looks great. I think we can do some design work on the main /questions page, but actually I'm more interested in the short term in how the authoring interface will look, which I know is on your schedule to work on.

Also, I know you've put some thought into how Qs and As will appear on peoples' profile pages. That'll also be very interesting. @liz and @stevie -- what do you think about a tab called "Top answerers this week" or something... or more ways to explicitly prompt people to sign up to answer questions and share their expertise?

Eager to hear input from other folks too, of course!

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Oh, one question -- can askers change the answer they accept?

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stevie awards a barnstar to ananyo2012 for their awesome contribution!

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@warren Just to make you remember Jeff the icon beside comments is not for the comments but its a link to share the answer. And yes the question author can change the answer they accept. The answer can be unaccepted by simply clicking the accept button again.

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@stevie Thanks for the Barnstar! :-)

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Hi there! Great work, this looks awesome.

Here are a couple thoughts::

  • Clicking on a tag on this page could go to the questions_search for that tag
  • The text at the top of the page currently says :: "All Questions Listing all recent questions" Thinking about other text that might be helpful in introducing the feature. Drafting up some ideas, what do you think of this::

Title: Questions and Answers Subtitle: Public Lab's growing knowledge base Body text: Here you can ask a question to the Public Lab community to help you in your environmental exploration. This is a great space to ask whether a method exists for identifying a possible pollutant, or ask about details of a specific technique for identifying a pollutant. Have knowledge on a specific topic? You can also signup to answer questions in a particular area to support the growing knowledge base on low-cost environmental research methods.

Could there be a tab for "Help" as well? This could be useful for someone using this space for the first time. For example: Asking a question on this forum posts to the Public Lab "Questions" page. Asking a question requires having a login (here is where you can get a login.)

  • Why ask or answer questions? By asking or answering questions on Public Lab we build the collective knowledge base!

  • Asking a question: Anyone who has Public Lab account can ask a question on Public Lab. Questions will be posted on the page in chronological order, but can also sorted by "most popular" and "liked" questions. Anyone with a Public Lab account can respond to questions. As the author of a question, you will be sent an email notification when someone responds. You are also able to put the "approved" label on any answers people provide. The responses to your question will be sorted by "most liked" (is this correct?)

  • Answering questions: Anyone with a Public Lab account can answer a question. A particularly helpful answer can be acknowledged by users with the "approved" label or the up/vote (Is it an up-vote or a like?)

Other things that might need explanation in a help section are: liking, tagging and up-voting, searching for questions

  • It might be helpful to outline a what a good answer might have in it? For example, clear and precise language, resources for people to look for more information etc.

Other ideas and things to think about::

  • At footer of a question you're looking to answer, it could prompt you to sign up answer related questions
  • Use sidebar to invite "answering" and "sign up/subscribe to answer questions on this topic" -- to get people to sign up, vs. main area being "asking"- "share your knowledge" call to action text at top
  • By "popular tags" , which might or might not be equivalent to "Research Area" So with over all questions, we might want to curate meta-tags like "pollutant" or "technique" -- let's think about how to bring tagging into the broader culture

Thanks for posting!

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Great work Ananyo!
Is there such a thing as up-voting in the Q&A system you created? I feel unsure that upvoting would be a good direction to go in. But, to explore this, how would upvoting an answer relate to the Accepted answer?

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@warren, thanks for your ping on "top answerers" -- can we think about if it might be possible to relate this with other ideas of groups of people helping review across research areas?

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@stevie Thanks for your ideas on this topic I will try to implement some of those if not all.

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@liz Well there is an upvoting system for question and answer as you can see in a question show page. See this link

You can like an answer. Liking an answer also gives email notifications for the discussions in that answer. Liking an answer just supports the goodness of the answer and reflects how many people actually think that the answer is a correct answer to the question. It is in no way related to accepting an answer.

An answer can only be accepted by the question author. Accepting an answer shows whether the answer is the correct response to the question according to the one who posted the question.

So likes to an answer basically shows what other people think about the answer whereas accepting the answer shows whether the answer is the right one for the one who posted the question.

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@stevie I have implemented a Sort by tags Feature that will sort the question based on tags as ou can see here in this comment: of plots2 Pull request #628. I will add up some lines below it explaining it. This will greatly help users to find specific questions based on tags. I will also add some of the documentation as you mentioned.

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@warren Should I write the documentation on posting a question on a wiki page and link it to the question page? Another alternative may be to add a Help button that pops up a modal on which the instructions and a Post button can be given. What do you suggest? I can add this to Pull Request #628

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re: sort by tags-- Awesome! That's great!

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Hey @stevie! I have made a wiki page on Q & A and added some documentation on Posting and answering Question following your suggestions. Here it is: Please have a look at it and feel free to make any changes in the documentation. Look out for the format as I have written it in html to use the bootstrap grid system and responsive classes. I have added Some documentation in the Question page itself too and linked the wiki page to the Question page.It will be coming soon after @warren makes some revision in the PR #666

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I will be writing another wiki shortly on how to write good question and answers which can be further modified.

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This is really exciting, thanks @ananyo2012!

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