MBT Question and Answer website

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daveh
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MBT Question and Answer website

Post by daveh »

Hi Ted and everyone,

I've read various posts and comments about creating a FAQ, which all seem to happened about 2008. I was wondering if there is still a wish/need to have a Question & Answer facility for MBT?

The problem with the youtube videos is that they do not contain searchable metadata, so I was thinking that a website devoted to Q&A could be useful. I use StackOverflow quite a bit which is very useful, and my initial thoughts are to have a similar website for MBT. Looking at open-source opportunities, I would probably choose lampCMS as the software, which you can see in operation here: http://support.lampcms.com

My thoughts are:

That the new site would be 'community driven' (ie. I won't be doing all the work) and will initially only contain Questions asked in the videos, with a reference to the specific video (URL) and a time-stamp to the place where the question was asked. (Youtube provides the feature to link directly to a specific time within a video, and the relevant video can be embedded directly within the question page, so no need to go off-site.)

Initially the site will not contain the answers to the questions. Why? First I think its important (and quicker) to catalog questions that have already been asked, with a link to them. Then, when someone has an interest in the answer, they can view the video - and hopefully transcribe the answer and add it to the website. This way, the people 'using' the answer are 'paying' for it with a little bit of transcription.

Anyway, as I'm new to the forum, I thought I'd put this out for you veterans to comment as to what has been tried, what is already in place, and whether this is useful at all. (I'm initially thinking of 'www.my-big-qna.com' but suggestions welcomed.)

Cheers,
Dave
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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by Ted Vollers »

Dave,

Having all of the videos that Tom produces referenced from the Wiki and including the subjects covered is part of the existing plan. I don't see how that type of format that you suggest would improve on the intended setup. I can see some potential for taking the audio tracks that are being produced from the total video files and then machine scanning them into text. There is voice recognition software of reasonable usefulness. I can then see potential for linking these text files, once cleaned up by a human volunteer, instead of just machine interpretation, and picking out the questions to be tabulated with links to the answers and also references to time signatures on the original Videos.

That site does not make this approach clear to me. It seems rather to be created with the purpose of having members answer the question of other members with a mechanism for voting on the quality of the answers, rather than create the kind of reference back to the videos where Tom answers those questions in the videos or transcriptions of his answers.

I don't see how it is moderated either. One thing that I have found through experience is that there must be moderation or control of input if anything on the Internet can be freely commented upon by members.

Ted
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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by Sainbury »

I have worked on trying to transcribe a few of Tom's YouTube videos off of the transcript feature. But without voice recognition software the YouTube transcription is very inaccurate so it is a very slow process.

There are undoubtedly a lot of interesting ways we can organize and catalog all the information. It is just so time consuming with trying to keep up with everything else. Quadruple for Ted who does the forum, Wiki, and all his other stuff.
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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by bette »

Hi daveh and welcome to Tom's MBT discussion forums.
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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by daveh »

Hi all, thanks for your replies.

@sainbury - I wasn't aware there was a transcribe feature on Youtube, thanks. As you say though, it's not very accurate. You and Ted both mention voice recognition, but I don't think that is a viable option because the audio is not clean enough in many cases for successful recognition. The software works fine when you can dictate directly to the computer and train it as you go, but attempting to just recognise from videos of various qualities is going to cause more effort than just manual typing IMHO.

@ted...
Having all of the videos that Tom produces referenced from the Wiki and including the subjects covered is part of the existing plan.
That's good news, I wasn't intending to step on anyones (big) toes in my suggestion. Is this plan (roadmap) in the wiki somewhere for noob's like me or others to see what the general plan of action is and where it has got to?
I can then see potential for linking these text files, once cleaned up by a human volunteer, instead of just machine interpretation, and picking out the questions to be tabulated with links to the answers and also references to time signatures on the original Videos. That site does not make this approach clear to me. It seems rather to be created with the purpose of having members answer the question of other members with a mechanism for voting on the quality of the answers, rather than create the kind of reference back to the videos where Tom answers those questions in the videos or transcriptions of his answers.
In the same way that the Wiki is not being used as a 'true' Wiki (ie. public editing of content), I see Q&A software such as the one I linked to as not being used in its 'true' sense initially (or possibly ever depending on how the fundamental process dictates) and features such as the voting on questions could be removed completely if desired when they are not relevant for our purpose.

My thoughts are that initially the website could be closed to public posting of questions (although I don't know that this is strictly necessary). Authenticated users would be able to post questions. The question(s) posted would be transcribed (or edited down) from the question asked in a video.

When posting a question, the website could require a link to the video (or audio file) in which the question was asked. It could also require the timestamp at which point the question was asked. It could also require a timestamp at which point the answer was given.

In order for a question to be identified as 'official' (ie. it has a direct answer from Tom) it must have the above information provided (video url, timestamps) and also possibly be given an 'official' tag (all questions can be 'tagged' with keywords to help identify them - these keywords will generally be the 'index' words from the work already done in the Wiki). Possibly only moderators will have the ability to mark a question as 'official'. (The normal approach is that once a user has amassed enough 'credit' they will reach a point where they can mark questions as 'official'.)

I assume (I haven't run any Q&A software myself personally) that moderation is very similar to moderation of any forum. I know StackOverflow is heavily moderated with questions being closed or removed if they do not meet the requirements of valid questions. Some forums and Q&A software grant different permissions to users as they amass trust in their postings.

Any further thoughts appreciated, even ones thinking this is not necessary. I can quite easily throw up a demo website for us to test.

PS. On further investigation, I wouldn't use the software I linked to initially (it's web requirements are too high for most web hosts at the moment). I would instead suggest the similar question2answer software (http://www.question2answer.org/sites.php)

Cheers,
Dave
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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by Ted Vollers »

Dave,

I don't have any objection to that kind of functionality as you further describe it. The software would just be serving as an interface to the videos as a means to find answers to your specific questions rather than have to create one on the Wiki. Tom already pays for the hosting of these systems except that the Wiki server space is being donated and the initial setup was made by that same volunteer. I cannot commit Tom to any expense as he already bears so much. He does not make money from his book publishing. There is a net loss. The only other problem would be the requirement for moderation and members willing and able to put in the time as on the present Wiki. We have very few involved in the Wiki presently and no one is stepping forward to volunteer. And I am finding no time for it at all lately while there is much I need to do.

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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by daveh »

Ted Vollers wrote:I don't have any objection to that kind of functionality as you further describe it. The software would just be serving as an interface to the videos as a means to find answers to your specific questions rather than have to create one on the Wiki.
Yes, that is correct, and I believe it suits the purpose more fully than a wiki as it separates the elements (questions, answers, tags) within the database allowing more flexible retrieval - it should be fairly easy to pull out all questions/answers for a certain tag and reproduce it for a different purpose (say you wanted to create a wiki page with all Q&A related to a specific tag keyword).

In regard to costs and moderation, if it is acceptable to you and Tom, then I will have my company (http://harpanet.com) 'sponsor' the website. Sponsorship in this case means I would provide the webspace, install the software and moderate it as long as I can in return for me displaying a small 'sponsored by' message on the website. There will be a copyright message on the website saying that all content is the copyright of Tom Campbell (or whoever) and I agree for you to move the system at any time over to a web server 'owned' by you or Tom. You, or anyone you nominate will have full admin rights to the software.

This project is not intended for personal (ie. financial) gain, but to say thanks to Tom and in response to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQS0e6fXOCA&t=73m28s

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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by Ted Vollers »

Let me run it past Tom. This is not a decision that I would make by myself.

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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by bette »

I had been talking to a friend of mine, a programmer for 50 years now, about the feasibility of writing code like this, but was missing the question/answer part. It was more of a function to help organize the information on the board.
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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by daveh »

You're right Bette, the use of the full-blown Q&A package is much more than what is actually required at this time - we could get away with a more basic custom-written website.

But no point reinventing the digital donkey when we can have a stallion, so if Tom is on-board then we'll see how we can meld it to our needs :-)

Of course, there's other alternatives to the Q&A software. MediaWiki has extensions that allow forms to be used within pages (https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:Semantic_Forms). I don't personally think that a wiki is the best fit for Q&A's though - but a wiki is also not the best tool for blogging either, which is what I'm using my wiki for :-)
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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by William12 »

Having what seems a lifetime in IT and SW I have seen/used almost all of the blogs engines and portals over years. A couple truths seems to appear.
1) Don't code. It has all been done already and more. Do not need to reinvent the wheel and better ways to spend energy.
2) Use the same thing to do other things, be composable (e.g. fractal). Avoid domain specific directions when ever possible. Don't use a wiki for this, a blog for this, custom code for that. It is confusing and tedious for the users and admins. There is enough ability in the modern day free blog stuff to cover almost any use case. Once user is used to a format and display, the user wants to stay there and not be redirected to another toolset or UI.

A few specific thoughts:
1) Use thread Tags to categorize and organize.
2) Videos. A video is then just another blog post with a discussion thread under it. The embedded video can be a url or a download link. Tag each video post with a "Video" tag (for example). A user can then just click a tag to see them all. The system does the heavy lifting with tags.
3) Post ratings. Users rate replies or posts with 1-5 stars. The community determines what is good or worth taking another read on. Feature in many blog engines already.
4) QA. A Question is really just another blog topic tagged with "Question". Answers flow below it as normal and can be rated (or not). In all cases, inappropriate comments can be reported with a click. Let the community police it. I am not a fan of moderator caching of posts. It works well with the community and probably better. Clicking on Questions Tag takes you to all the questions, etc.
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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by Ted Vollers »

William,

Could you please restate this into some more direct recommendations? You are now bringing up a new category of software as blogs. Are you suggesting that we use a blog instead of this Q&A type software? Are you suggesting that we use the Wiki which we already have, and which was my plan to begin with? My experience is that if you depend upon users and members to organize data, you get no organization, witness this BB. If you allow public posting of data, you are constantly chasing out spammers and those on ego trips. If you have specific information to present, you best stick with those who either know that information well enough to generate it themselves or who are prepared to work within a specific source for data mining. Thus we have what we are doing here on the BB and the Wiki, whether we are using it according to the Wiki model of public posting or not.

So if we seek a better method for organizing the data represented by Tom's Videos than the chaos that is Youtube and its design operation which seems to be aimed at deliberate diversion from grouping and organizing videos, what would be the best such software in your opinion? Creating a still further web site as this Q&A software or place that data in tables on the Wiki. We really have more of a problem to begin with that we do not have the data organized as to a tabulation of questions and transcription of the videos or noting of time signatures to make use of a Q&A format. We have only Sainbury dedicating any real time to this task. Thus my thought to machine translate extracted audio from the video and then clean it up. We do not have volunteers eager to do the hard work of mining this video data. Watch and possibly comment or ask questions, yes. Transcribe out the questions covered in a video and set up links to the location of answers, no. The same has been the case with the Wiki: lack of dedicated data miners. We are however making some progress on the Wiki of mining for the data hidden here on the Board in Tom's posts and other discussions.

So with your experience in IT, have you any suggestion of the best way to do this reliably and accurately?

Ted
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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by daveh »

Having had a lifetime (at least since age 10) in IT and SW and having coded blog engines and portals over the years, I'll pick up on some of William's comments, which is a stretch to class them as 'truths'.
William12 wrote:1) Don't code. It has all been done already and more. Do not need to reinvent the wheel and better ways to spend energy.
If no-one coded, there would be no software for us to use, no plugins/tools/addons to existing packages in order to allow 'front-end' users like yourself to add the specific features that you require. The Fundamental Process dictates that we will always re-invent the wheel somewhat - but thankfully we are as a species learning from our mistakes, hence the plethora of Frameworks available to ensure we now start from a consistent foundation.
William12 wrote:2) Use the same thing to do other things, be composable (e.g. fractal). Avoid domain specific directions when ever possible. Don't use a wiki for this, a blog for this, custom code for that. It is confusing and tedious for the users and admins. There is enough ability in the modern day free blog stuff to cover almost any use case. Once user is used to a format and display, the user wants to stay there and not be redirected to another toolset or UI.
I agree to a certain degree. But there comes a point where your one-fits-all package is no longer suitable as a delivery mechanism for the results you wish to achieve. A blog is certainly useful as a blog, and they have many, many (coded) plugins to add functionality. But few blog packages were written with the foresight for todays flexibility needs, and they are a mish-mash of fixes to try and meet the changing demands. Thankfully the current wave of blog engines are built upon the foundations of the recent forward-thinking Frameworks.
William12 wrote:2) Videos. A video is then just another blog post with a discussion thread under it.
Unfortunately this isn't the case. A video will contain a number of questions and answers, which certainly can be discussed in the comments (as is already done on YouTube), but it does not pull the data out in a suitable format. For someone to find comments related to a particular question would very quickly become tedious. Even forums like this one are tedious when having to read through various off-topic discussions after clicking on a thread title. What is currently needed is the separation of questions where the same video will appear in the content of each question related to it.
William12 wrote:3) Post ratings. Users rate replies or posts with 1-5 stars. The community determines what is good or worth taking another read on. Feature in many blog engines already.
In blogs this is a desirable feature but not for current MBT data-mining. What is needed initially is the 'official' answers not community popularity, hence Ted's earlier comment in regard to removing the voting of comments. (Some voting can be useful, such as Spam voting to remove a comment from the thread without the need for individual moderation, but this feature also gets abused where users will down-vote comments they disagree with.)
William12 wrote:4) QA. A Question is really just another blog topic tagged with "Question". Answers flow below it as normal and can be rated (or not).
Again, this is not the case. Ultimately the Question, the Answer(s) and the community Discussion need to appear on screen to be a seamless page related to the question, but to allow the greatest flexibility when we do not know the best approach to take we initially need to separate the Q's, A's, D's and Tags in the back-end database.

For this reason I believe that the use of dedicated Q&A software at this time provides the most flexibility. The Form plugins for MediaWiki would provide the ability to enter data in a consistent format, but the data is then coded within the body of the wiki page, which makes it more difficult to extract individual elements at a later date - it would be a manual process to a large degree rather than an automated one. For the same reason a Blog is not IMHO the best storage system for the Q&As.

Presentation of the individual systems (Wiki, Forum, Q&A, etc.) for users to feel confident in using the website(s) comes down to front-end design, single-sign-on, consistency of terminology, consistency of links, consistency of layout, etc. I completely agree that each time you add a new system you are also adding the overhead of creating this consistency, but therein lies the balance that must be found between usability and suitability.
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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by Ted Vollers »

Dave,

Thank you for that additional commentary and some clarification. This still does not make it fully clear to me that we should create a third or fourth center for MBT activity. I always have seen that we need something better that the chaos by design that is Youtube. It just lacked my having the time to complete it using the Wiki framework. For being retired, I have a hell of a lot to do. Tom clearly stays even busier. The only thing that someone has to join and log onto is the Bulletin Board. Otherwise you just jump via the links from the BB to the Wiki to MBT Events to GoogleBooks in a relatively seamless manner. What we can so set up has a relatively uniform appearance. And I still wait for Tom's input.

Ted
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Re: MBT Question and Answer website

Post by daveh »

Ted Vollers wrote:This still does not make it fully clear to me that we should create a third or fourth center for MBT activity.
I'll have to let you thrash that one out with Tom. Here's some options...

1. phpBB Forum:
No 'form' plugin easily available, but it is possible to create custom entry forms for new posts in a specific category (but would require 'coding').

Drawbacks:
a) all content is simply entered into a post, albeit in a consistent format, so harder to re-purpose later.
b) the 'form' relates to all entries within that category, so not sure if it's possible to create 'answers'

2. MediaWiki:
Form plugin certainly available (as previously linked) but needs additional plugins as well as itself installed into MW.

Drawbacks:
As per phpBB.

Those are the two 'satellite' sites you currently have hanging off my-big-toe.com and therefore the only options you currently have for addressing Q&A entries.

Additional software (such as question2answer) doesn't have to be a separate website - it can just as easily sit at: qa.my-big-toe.com (as the wiki does) or my-big-toe.com/qa (as this forum does). The drawback being that you'd either need to give me access to your domain or do the install work yourself.
Ted Vollers wrote:For being retired, I have a hell of a lot to do. Tom clearly stays even busier.
Oh I hear you, loud and clear. Lifelong learning is a great thing.
Ted Vollers wrote:The only thing that someone has to join and log onto is the Bulletin Board. Otherwise you just jump via the links from the BB to the Wiki to MBT Events to GoogleBooks in a relatively seamless manner.
Q&A software (most certainly question2answer) has various levels of permissions, down to allowing posting of questions anonymously, so there wouldn't be a requirement to log in other than what you deem necessary. It can go the other way too, and lock down everything from anonymous users.

Thinking aloud, it would be possible to create the Q&A site as a closed system used only by people creating the data entry. With some, ahem coding, this data could then be pushed out into wiki pages. The wiki pages themselves would never be updated directly, just regenerated as new content is placed in the Q&A software. In this way you're using the Q&A software as a backend data management system and not somewhere that 'normal' users need to go.
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