Public Lab Research note

Q&A enables automated FAQ

by liz with abdul , gretchengehrke , warren |

Asking and answering questions is at the very heart of Public Lab. It's how we get started, it's how we make progress, it's how we get to know each other and our environmental concerns. Dedicated readers will recognize that some "getting started" exchanges have been repeated countless times on the mailing lists. (PS To those of you who are high volume question answerers -- everyone is endlessly grateful for your responses!) While it's critical that that questions from newcomers, however repetitive, will always be welcome, generating a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) grid will lower the barrier to exchanging information.

There are two parts to the new automated FAQ system:

1) The new Question and Answer system that @Ananyo2012 built into the plots2 codebase this summer is up and running.
See it here: And read more about it here:


2) The FAQ Grid is a variation of the Activity Grid insofar as it's also generated by a powertag, and sorted by Likes.

FAQs will be on every "top-level" research page, see it here


You can add an automated FAQ grid to any wiki page by using this code:

the title:
## Frequently Asked Questions

the button where people can ask a new question:

<a class="btn btn-primary" href="/post?tags=question:spectrometry&template=question">Ask a question about spectrometry</a>

the grid itself:



As @mathew reported back from Write The Docs, pruning an automated system of FAQs is superior to curating a manual one. Further, linking product support directly to documentation is so important that the Kits Initiative will move their knowledge base onto the Q&A, and will interact with customers using Q&A.

Early adopters on method specific mailing lists might consider subscribing to the relavant question:foo tag on the website. (pssst this is the start of a medium term plan to move all mailing list interactions onto the website). For instance, spectrometry list members might want to subscribe here:


Please write in with ideas and new suggestions! What do you think?

community blog research-culture activity-grids

with:warren with:gretchengehrke with:abdul


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