We spend a lot of our time in the Drupal.org issue queues, working on bug fixes and adding new features. It’s an okay tool for organizing development, and we’ve grown used to its quirks by now.
Users also try to use the issue queues to receive support, with more or less luck (typically, the bigger the module is, the less luck they have).
And while it’s great to have the support request category to reclassify confused bug reports or already implemented feature requests, as an actual tool for support the issue queue is terrible and it hurts the community.
The main problem lies in its name: it’s a queue, not a knowledge base.
Support requests get in, they get answered, they get out.
People rarely search for existing support requests, preferring to ask new questions (and to be honest, the advanced search interface is not among the friendliest), and maintainers often just repeat the answer. If a question is common enough, a documentation page will be created and referenced as the reply each time.
Of course, drupal.org users can only edit their own posts, so an answered question in the issue queue cannot be updated or expanded by others, allowing it to grow stale or incomplete over time.
The issue can also be hard to scan because of other replies (frequently unrelated to the main problem). Those replies are often filled with bad advice (“Sure, no need to use i18n, just add a t() around that variable!”), but there is no way to separate good answers from the bad ones.
Finally, each issue queue is a silo; there is no way to view support requests across all projects, which frequently puts support solely on the shoulders of the maintainers.
All this causes frustration in the users who have a hard time getting support, while still spending valuable maintainer time which could have been spent on bugfixes instead.
Q&A style support
A Q&A site such as Drupal Answers provides obvious benefits:
- Powerful and easy to use search.
- Questions have clear tags, allowing them to be found more easily
- Answers can be voted up and down, allowing bad answers to be buried and good answers to be singled out. The best answer can then be accepted by the user.
- Questions and answers can be edited by the community, allowing them to be expanded and kept up to date.
- The karma system motivates users to increase their activity in order to gain recognition, and later trade that karma in for faster support (“featured questions”) if needed.
All this together provides a superior support environment with many different people providing support for the same topics and projects.
Still, not every kind of support is fit for a Q&A format, which is why Drupal.org forums still have a place in the world, allowing such topics that are explicitly marked as offtopic by Drupal Answers:
- Comparison between Drupal and other CMS’s, blog software, or similar software
- Requests for tutorials, and other online resources
- Requests for writing code from scratch*
- Building a site from scratch
- Implementing a functionality, or a layout seen in a site, for which only a screenshot or a site URL is provided
Of course, encouraging (and contributing to) clear module documentation on Drupal.org is still essential and prevents many support requests from occurring in the first place.
Implementing the idea
This is why we’ve stopped providing support for Drupal Commerce and Commerce Kickstart in the Drupal issue queues , instead pointing users to the Q&A section on drupalcommerce.org.
I believe other modules and their users can also benefit from explicitly pointing their users to a Q&A site such as Drupal Answers.