New people drift into ham.stackexchange.com all the time. Many are familiar with chat-style forum sites, and are surprised by the question-and-answer format and the rules that go with it. Many don't stick around. It might be helpful to have a list of the advantages of the format that we can refer new users to. For the sake of fairness and balance, we might discuss the disadvantages also.


3 Answers 3


Forums are (or should be) a much different use case. Posts in fora such as /r/hamradio or QRZ are low Q where there might be value in responses that are tangential to a given OPs post. In fact, a post may not have a question at all. High serendipity potential in each post at the cost of low organization... which is fine!

The SE format strives for each post to be very high Q... a specifically designed question that hopefully solicits a correct response that is eventually promoted above all others as accepted.

Neither one is better than the other, they simply service different use cases.

So I think rather than framing as "advantages of each," there is value in pointing out the use cases of each.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say something like, "show off your projects and such at insert forum name here and ask your questions here"

Chat-rooms are a 3rd use case, with even less organization than forums.

Edited to Add

Check out this post by an individual who seems interested in forum style conversation/help. I feel this is a great example of what @rclocher3 is referring to.

I'd love for our community to settle on a particular forum to which we can send folks like this. Their experience is likely jarring: "Hrm, I've casually posted a thing in a place that nuked me with out much explanation, I shall go away now." Right now, it's just Dead Ended.

We might even fire up a subreddit of our own, or simply adopt an existing one.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not certain what you mean in the last paragraph; did you mean our little-used Ham Shack chat room? Like Scott said, "If only we could get people to use the rooms more". $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ I suspect a reason the chat room is so lightly used is that it's so hard to find. But no, the chat room is a very different use case than forums like reddit or QRZ or whatever. Edited answer to remove conflation between forums and chat! $\endgroup$
    – webmarc
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ That post is indeed a good example of what I'm talking about. $\endgroup$
    – rclocher3
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 0:01
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    $\begingroup$ I am with you on that closed question. Although I have probably been guilty of that myself, it absolutely should have had an explanatory and friendly comment. I could open closed posts long enough for someone to do that. $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2021 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ @webmarc I have noticed that you do very well on comments, and helping to moderate this site! You must have read my posts about that in Ham Shack. :-) $\endgroup$ Commented May 17, 2021 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ To grow this community, I think in addition to explanatory close, we need to point to an appropriate outlet, AKA be appropriately helpful (for ex, "here's a place to get help, and we'd love if you'd add the results to the collective store of information here"). Otherwise, a budding relationship with the site is just snuffed IMO. $\endgroup$
    – webmarc
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your compliment on comments @MikeWaters! I haven't read your posts in Ham Shack, probably due to chat's ephemeral nature (since it's sole organization principle is "time"). $\endgroup$
    – webmarc
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ Here's a good place to start: $\endgroup$ Commented May 18, 2021 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/56905184#56905184 $\endgroup$ Commented May 18, 2021 at 17:56

From your question, it sounds like the main disadvantage is that it’s different to what people may be expecting to see.

But also bear in mind that there are other Q&A sites (such as Quora) that exist and seem to be doing OK. Stackoverflow itself is extremely popular, and is a very important resource if you’re a programmer. I use it almost daily (actually, I use Google, because it searches better) to find out how to something non-obvious.

I mean, if you want to get into it, I’d say the main advantage is that if I’m having any problems, I ask Google and it will find a similar question that someone has already asked before, along with answers to how to get around the problem.

The only disadvantage (which you mention) is that people (especially hams!) seem to want to talk about their problems, and that doesn’t work well in a Q&A format. But that’s why we have chat rooms!

So I think that we are in the best of both worlds - a Q&A site that also has chat rooms.

If only we could get people to use the chat rooms more ...

  • $\begingroup$ Should we add the featured tag to Rob's question? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 2:05

To me, the best benefit of the question-and-answer format is that the "signal-to-noise ratio" is much better than it is in chat-style forum sites. In other words there is more useful content, which is also organized far better, and less bloviation.

Chat-style forum sites seem to be dominated by the people that post the most, whether or not they are experts on the subject being discussed. This opens the door for people who just like to talk. Not that there's anything wrong with talking, if that's what you're after, but sometimes your goal is to solve a problem, to get an answer to a complicated question, or to learn something. Sometimes the person who knows the most gets drowned out in page after page of back-and-forth posts. We've all seen forums like this.

Here, if a quiet person posts a good answer, it will get recognized as such, and it will bubble up near the top. Quality trumps quantity. People's good qualities get recognized. One doesn't need to be an all-around expert to thrive here; it's enough to be able to share useful information about a few things.

There are no trolls here! Would-be trolls get downvoted fast, and they never get enough privilege to do much damage. The moderation is excellent here.

We have a wonderful chat room that is a great place for chatting and less-specific questions. As Scott says, we do have the best of both worlds.

To me, the biggest disadvantage of the site's format is that it's hard on newbies. Newbies can ask questions and post answers, period. They would like to comment, but they aren't allowed, so they often post answers that aren't answers because that's the only box they're allowed to type in for an existing "thread" (question), and then they're put off when they're told they shouldn't do that. To get those 50 reputation points that allow one to comment anywhere and be a full member of the site, many must lurk a long while. Many newbies must surely feel like very junior members of the community, which is unfortunate.

Let me use this space for advice to newbies.


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