twistor wrote:Because we are constantly being bombarded by the same questions over and over and over and over and over again I recommend that we get together and write a physicsgre.com FAQ to address the most common questions.
Grant wrote:I think the physicsgre.com FAQ is great idea. Let me know if you want me to do anything to help. I could create a FAQ Forum if you wanted. Each topic in the FAQ Forum could be a FAQ and people could reply with answers. It would be a very useful resource. You could sticky the really common FAQs.
Nice idea overall, but I think we should try to integrate the old threads/posts into whatever FAQ database we make. If we start something new from scratch, we'll basically be repeating what we were trying to avoid... responding to the same questions yet again. But if we organize the old posts into groups based on common themes, we'll make more accessible the input we've already given and we'll salvage some important contributions from users that have long ago left the forum.
Back when I started visiting the forum the spring before crunchtime, I sat up and read all the threads back to the beginning. It took a while but I learned a lot... and therefore I've never posted redundant questions. I used to think that we should encourage users to do the same, but after this year's explosion of posts, that's not as feasible anymore, especially for busy students who come at the peak of the application process in the fall. Just reading all of twistor's posts alone can take a whole evening
So basically, we need some system to organize old posts and have it that from now on, new posts can continue to be added to the system. This would be very difficult, since again, this would have to be done post by post, not thread by thread, because threads can cover lots of topics at once and change focus many times. We'd have to go back to the beginning and read each post. This is critical, since the few of us remaining who went through the application process and would take part in this do not have wisdom to share about every imaginable FAQ (most of us regulars are domestic, not many have returned to school after 10 years of absense, or have taken the TOEFL, etc..). Also, it'd be daunting to type a FAQ from scratch. If we do something, we gotta put it together soon before this year's class starts grad school.
I don't know what kind of system we can use. An ideal system may require software additions by Grant. One idea is, let's say we first create a master list of FAQ topics (frequently discussed things). The "system" allows established users (e.g over 50 posts, or preapproved by the moderator) to manually designate a post (even their own) as pertaining to one or more of these particular topics (ex. "Old PGRE Practice Tests" or "ETS Score Reports" or "Caltech Physics"). So, when a new user wants to search for discussions pertaining to that topic, the system will bring up all the past posts that were classified accordingly, grouped by thread, and then by the date of hte most recent (relevant) post. When the user clicks on a particular thread, the thread shows up as it would normally, but all posts classified under their topic of interested are marked perhaps with a big green "X
So in the end, that system would allow old posts to be salvaged and it would to run itself as long as current users continue to "mark" posts. It may even be possible to make a system without any new software. The current "search" feature is very helpful, but certain topics are very difficult to filter with keywords (such as returning to school after absence). What we could do is keep an "FAQ" thread that lists a catalog of FAQ topics. Whenever a user decides that a particular post gives valuable information/advice/whatever about a particular FAQ topic, he simply makes a post like this:
Whoever wrote:FAQ=VerbalImportance FAQ=MathMajor LINK
This post (and hence, the included link) would show up under any FAQ search on the importance of the VGRE, and would also turn up under a search about getting a second major in math.
Whoever2 wrote:FAQ=VerbalAdvice FAQ=QuantitativeAdvice LINK
This post would show up under any FAQ search on advice for taking the VGRE or QGRE. Of course, it would still be possible to search for all posts on the VGRE in general, just by searching for all the subtopics at once. The purpose of using "FAQ=..." is so that no other posts besides the FAQ ones with links show up in the search (otherwise you'd get all the posts where people announced their verbal scores etc...)
The URL's included would link to whatever post discussed the relevant matter. Note that it is possible to link to a particular post, (I don't know how but dlenmn has pulled it off before)...
Anyway, this method would be the easiest in that it would work with the forum as it is today. It wouldn't be as organized as a more automated database, and it would take a few seconds of work to copy a link and post it on another thread on a regular basis, but if just a few users start doing it and only focus on genuinely important posts, it won't take much effort, and we'll have a coherent organization behind all the posts.