29

When I'm stuck on a Linux problem, the Wisdom of the Ancient Masters is normally buried in old dusty forum threads. This is great.

However, I often see the thread terminated with a user coming along later to add updated information or to say thanks (hence bumping the thread to the forum's front page), followed by a moderator scolding them for necro-bumping (or necroing; replying after the thread has "died", by some measure of "dead") and closing the thread.

Why?

I've seen the same rule enforced on various forums on different topics. It causes duplication as threads on the same topics are re-created. What's good about it?

Interestingly, StackExchange sites turn the rule inside-out by specifically encouraging bumping old questions, even with badge rewards.

  • 6
    Ultimately they discourage it because their forum software has overly simplistic rules for deciding which topics to display on the front page. If a single reply to an ancient thread didn't bump it right to the top of the front page, then they wouldn't mind. It's not your fault they're using bad software. – tobyink Sep 24 '14 at 23:09
  • yeah, I never understand this - The reason that the person is posting on that thread in the first place, is because it's the one that's showing up on google! – dwjohnston Oct 1 '14 at 21:36
23

Forums are a different beast than Stack Exchange. Forums encourage and promote discussion. Stack Exchange actively discourages discussions (see the "Ask questions, get answers, no distractions" section) and noise. Bumping old topics on a Stack Exchange site should be actively providing additional information that helps solve a problem.

On a forum, discussions flow over a period of time. People come and go and the discussion thread slowly resolves itself. Bumping a topic that has been dead for months or years is not doing anything except raising a very old discussion to the top. It is entirely possible that the people involved in said discussion have either forgotten what was going on or simply left the community.


Your question on technical problems and bumping old topics falls into the same type of category. However, this is one additional thing to consider in a technical discussion: relevance to the current version. If you are bumping a topic created years ago about a version that is years old, are you really in the right place? Your old version of the software falls into one of three categories at this point:

  • It is still the most current version of an active community

With an active community, it makes much more sense to create the new topic and ask your question. Feel free to link to previous discussions about the topic, but provide relevant updates. This cuts down on the noise that the people you are asking for help from have to read through. It is much easier to read a concise problem statement explaining what you've tried based on previous discussions than it is to re-read an old thread and all of the previous troubleshooting steps that someone else took. Additionally, by showing that you've researched the problem, it should make it clear that you are attempting to solve this by reading old threads.

I am having a problem with AwesomeApplication version 1.1.1.1.1.1.1.1.2. When I wiggle my mouse over the "Do awesome stuff" button, I get an error message that says "Awesome sauce not found. Error occurred in the Sauce() method. I've attempted to research this and found previous discussions from years ago [here] and [here]. I've attempted the solution of wiggling the mouse slower and switching to Klingon, but neither one solves my problem. Both present the same error about the Sauce() method. I would like to do awesome stuff. What additional troubleshooting steps can I take to solve this issue?"

  • It is an old version of software

If you are bumping an old thread, chances are that either the old topic is about a version you are not utilizing or you are running an old piece of software that isn't supported any longer. In either case, the first question you are likely to see is:

Why are you asking about an old version? Try upgrading and check if it is resolved.

Did that help anyone here? No. An old question about a previous version of software is possibly irrelevant at this point. Especially the longer ago the question was posted and the greater the difference in versions.

If you are running old software and it does still have support from the developer, the next question to ask yourself is whether or not you are on the right community. Should a random internet community be able to provide help for a version of software that is years old or should you be going to the vendor/developer for help?

  • It is an abandoned piece of software

If you are using a piece of software that has been abandoned by the developer and the community, you are adding noise to a dead or dying community (or sub community).


It all boils down to reducing noise and relevance to the original topic. Bumping an old topic forces a couple things to occur for users of the community. First they have to re-read a least a portion of the discussion to get context. This is especially true if you are adding a comment like:

HI! I am having this problem too. Did you ever solve this?

Second, they need to determine your ability to help them help you. The above comment provides no context on your ability to help. The first example I provided does, as you have provided your current version, your error message and solutions you have already tried. Now they can skip a couple rounds of questions since they have this information. In the first example, you've also reduced the noise of previous discussions to a couple links. The community can go reread those at their leisure, and don't need to scroll through pages of old discussion to get to your question.

7

Often the biggest deal is if it is adding something or not. Bumping a topic is often seen as ok if there is something significantly meaningful to add, however generally on a forum, the topic is discussed to completion and satisfaction of the community and a record is then kept of the discussion. Barring any major new information to add to the discussion, bumping it simply brings up a topic that was already discussed and moved on from.

You mentioned that StackExchange turns this on it's head, but I would challenge that that isn't the case. Community will bump up old questions, but it only does it under specific conditions, primarily that things are quiet enough on the site and that the question being bumped has not yet gotten an answer that has been upvoted. This mechanism exists because the reason for not wanting bumps has not yet been met. The question may be old, but it isn't yet resolved. Since SE looks for answers and not discussion, it is possible an answer may not be readily available. Once a question has a good answer that has been upvoted, the question is no longer bumped to the top as it then fits the same criteria for a "dead" thread in a forum.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.