Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ's --- ?RonGoldman 13 Feb 2002

. . . all GroupDiscussions that try to NurtureCommunity face the problem of orienting new members to the group.

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Because of the tremendous growth on the internet and the consequent constant influx of new people to it, for most large group discussions the newcomers almost always end up outnumbering the prior inhabitants.

Newcomers by their very definition have newly come to the topic under discussion. They may be just learning about it and they probably do not know many of the more established community members. As a result they ask questions that the old-timers have seen again and again before. They have a very real need for information, but it is often information that everyone else has no desire to see again. In fact the bulk of the messages posted to the group could easily be repetitions of previous posts.

Too little repetition and the newcomers can never advance, while too much and the old-timers will be driven away.

Since the questions from newcomers are so often the same, an early solution on many Usenet newsgroups was to collect these "frequently asked questions" (FAQ's) along with answers to them and to periodically post the FAQ to the newsgroup. This ensured that newcomers could get their basic questions answered without bogging down the general discussion. It also let old-timers reply to common questions that were still posted with the terse answer of "read the FAQ".

Web-based communities have pages with answers to FAQ's so both newcomers and old-timers can quickly find information they need. On the web FAQ's have grown to include pages with background material and links to supporting documents.


Provide support for the creation and distribution of FAQ's. Recognize that community members need help in writing up a FAQ and in keeping the answer up-to-date. Newsgroups and mailing lists should periodically post FAQ's or include a pointer to where they can be found in the footer of each message.

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Being able to search the Archives (KeepArchives) of a group discussion is another way that new and old alike can quickly get answers to previously asked questions without bothering the rest of the group.


Last edited December 24, 2002
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