Rewarding humour in online help forums
Posted by Sarah Maddox
One of the contributors in our online question-and-answer forum, Daniel Stevens, has a quirky and amusing style of writing. His entries are always relevant, but he nevertheless manages to inject some humour that makes for easy reading and invites quick responses from other forum users.
My first aim in writing this post was to share the fun of reading Daniel’s forum entries. Then I thought about the bigger picture. The idea of humour in an online help forum is an interesting phenomenon, especially for technical communicators.
First, the fun. Here’s a screenshot of one of Daniel’s posts, called Is there a flood control function on the “Like” button?
And here’s another, Why can’t I upload icons for new priority, issue and workflow step entries?
Have you encountered similar witty posts in user forums? What do you think about the idea of rewarding such entries? This particular forum, Atlassian Answers, is clever about awarding badges and points for popular questions and good answers. Each contributor to the forum builds up a “karma score”, which encourages people to keep contributing. So, should there be a specific score category for funny entries?
As one of my colleagues pointed out, the social review site Yelp invites readers to click a button saying whether a review is “useful”, “funny”, or “cool”. Should a user forum do the same?
If the forum starts rewarding humour entries, might that lead to irrelevant and silly content? My opinion is that there may be some of that, but on the whole people are in the forum to get a question answered, or to help other people with their questions. A touch of humour just makes the posts flow better, and most people will recognise that fact. People who don’t have a bent for humour won’t bother to spend the time trying to be funny. Or is that a naive assumption?