|Aug23-04, 07:08 PM||#18|
Suggestion for new forum
Based on Les' perspective, it seems it's not so much an FAQ forum that's needed (afterall, how would someone know their question is an FAQ if they are new and haven't had time to scour thousands of old threads?), but more just a place for those who are beginners to ask their basic questions. I guess what this brings to my mind is something like the homework help topics, but where you can't assume someone has the benefit of a teacher and a homework assignment as a starting place. For example, it would be a good place for someone who is attempting to teach themselves to ask questions. I don't think this is limited to just the physics topics, but to others as well. While we don't get as much traffic in the biology topic, certainly there are people who may just be reading along who aren't biologists and who don't plan to be biologists, and who may not even have taken a biology class, who just need to ask about defining terminology, or clarifying basic concepts. Maybe a subtopic of something like "Beginner Questions" within each of the major topics would be helpful to address this? Or maybe a better way of phrasing it would be something like, "Basic Physics" "Basic Biology"..."Basic (whatever topic)" This is different from General topics, which can be catch-alls for things that don't fit into specialized areas but are not necessarily more basic in what they cover.
The potential problem, however, is that it may put a lot of additional burden on the mentors moving posts back and forth into and out of these topics. For example, someone might have a very thoughtful question that merits serious discussion, but because they are intimidated about their level of knowledge, may put it into the beginner topic. Or, someone who thinks they know more than they do, may continue to post really basic questions in the main forum for a topic. I guess the main function such a topic would serve might be to get some people who are otherwise intimidated to jump in and ask questions when they aren't sure of their own level of knowledge in the subject. The other benefit is it might tell the more expert reader to beware when they enter those threads that these are beginners asking questions, to please have extra patience in addressing potential misconceptions and misinterpretations, and to break down their explanations into clearer thoughts than they might answer if they assumed the person posting should have more knowledge on the topic. And of course someone with generally more experience may also realize a question is better suited to the beginner topic even if they aren't a beginner if they are just asking for some minor clarification of something, or maybe inquiring about something more peripheral to their area of expertise, in which they have somewhat less experience.
On the other hand, I don't think such a thing would address PMB_PHY's request. To some extent, maybe, but a question that has been asked and answered too many times is likely to continue to be asked and answered many times once it scrolls past the first screen or two of the new subtopic as well. In my experience, the answers to most frequently asked questions in science are usually contained in textbooks. I don't think we need to replace the use of textbooks, but rather provide a place where someone can say, "I read ___ in this book, and don't completely understand the concept." Or, "I found ___ on the internet. Is this correct?" Or, as in PMB_PHY's example above, this would serve as a good place to ask, "I've seen this term/equation/constant/etc. used in two different ways by people here. Are these both generally accepted uses? Is there a convention that determines which of these definitions I should use?"
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