As a professional game developer using Unity, the super low cost of entry for becoming a developer, and the community it brings along with it, is interesting to me.
Also, the fact that the Unity developers themselves use this site and provide in-depth technical knowledge that isn't readily available or in an obvious location makes this website valuable.
However, other than a few nuggets of information here and there, there is a lot of cruft and not a lot of useful information or interesting discussion to keep the professionals and advanced users really engaged in this community.
Just looking at the questions that often come up, it's pretty easy to see that this website is probably not living up to what it could be. There are lots of issues that are more prevalent here than on some of the "better" stack exchange sites:
Joel Spolsky had a very good point about what makes a good community:
Now personally I don't have all the answers. This is more of an open ended question itself. But here are some of my suggestions:
The TL;DR version -
(tl;dr = too long; didn't read - usually how someone replies to a wall of text :)
If you've ever hung out at StackOverflow, you'll notice that Questions frequently get answered within minutes, and that the average user rep seems to be 2K+. In fact, I one posted a fairly minor Question (actually on meta-SO), and got eight upvotes - in less than a day. Sigh...
But If you were to look at SO's user statistics (which I just counted, for your convenience :) , they have 184K users - of which 83K have only 1 rep point. That is, SO has (nearly) the same percentages as UnityAnswers - we have 750/1450 users with 1 rep. They have almost as many bozo users as we do :) And if you look at the Questions, there are some constantly being closed for being poor questions, or off-topic, or duplicated.
Why is StackOverflow different? They have critical mass. Sheer numbers. They have the same steady stream of bad Questions on their site, that we do - but theirs are: a) closed/deleted almost instantly, and b) overshadowed by the number of good Questions.
UnityAnswers needs more people
Part of the reason that SO deals so quickly with bad Questions, is they have 600+ people with 10K rep (yes, I counted that also :) that can delete Questions, and I don't know how many can close Questions. We currently have two people that can delete Questions (not counting Admins). And while @Duck and @Eric5h5 are certainly good, even they have to sleep sometimes. I think... :)
More users would mean more people voting, more reputation gain, more power-users (10K+). If we could get even 10% of the Unity-users to join, then we'd go from 1,400 users to 14,000. Which would (eventually) also multiply the number of power-users by 10, maybe more.
Yeah, I realize there would be short periods of chaos and madness, while the new users got used to the system. But it would eventually settle down, and we'd have more competent people using the site.
Only Unity Technologies can boost UA users
One easy thing that UT could do, is send an email notification to all of the thousand of people who downloaded the free version. And also mention the site to buyers of the Pro version, when they get their licensing email. I recently bit the bullet ;) and got the Pro version - and the email UT sent had a link to the forums - but not a word about UnityAnswers. That email licensing letter really needs to be updated, UT - any admins reading this? :)
Basically, UT needs to get the word out to every potential developer. They're the only ones who can, since they know who downloaded what, after all...
Not that this isn't a fun thread, but the solution - is really up to UT.
answered Jun 05 '10 at 03:24 PM
I have to say, all of your suggestions are already part of the FAQ - they're the whole point of the site.
And I'm not sure if you are aware, but this is - not quite a duplicate - but very close to another Question:
Update: Just FYI, I had posted in the Forums, a list of UnityAnswers Statistics. So you can see, for instance, that half of the users (700/1400) have 1 rep - meaning they posted a Question, and never again responded to the site (even checkmarking an Answers gives you some rep).
One other thing, is we only have a little over 200 users who can even comment on Answers, much less downvote. We simply do not have anywhere near the numbers of StackOverflow. So it could be that the only way to change things, is to increase the numbers.
This is such a forum-like answer, I'd probably downvote myself.
The topic of a "walled off" section has been brought up before. Unity will not implement it, and I can't say I blame them - not only would they be seen as alienating their newcomers, hardly a move they'd like to make, but for them there is a lot of value in more experienced users mingling with the new ones. Even if they get only one Duck or Eric5h5, who replies to a ton of basic questions, that's an advantage for them.
There are two possible assumptions on the Path that UnityAnswers can take:
Regarding #1... yeah. It's not like they don't have enough stuff to do, with the summer launch of 3.0, all this feedback, the next Unite, 3.1, and who knows what else. I'd much rather see them focus on the game engine than have to become webmonkeys.
Which leaves us with #2, and us working within the confines of the StackExchange platform. The tools at most people's disposal are:
A few people her get to also ask that questions be closed, but so far I don't see a reply to this topic by anyone with enough rep to do it (maybe they're just happy with the site as is - something to consider).
My personal approach is:
In the end, UnityAnswers is a functional democracy, and majority will rule. The most every user can do is nudge it towards the type of site they'd rather end up with.
The newbies are clearly having a detrimental impact on the quality of this resource and are clearly ignorant of the rules. Whether the blame entirely lies with them is another question. In my opinion stronger moderation would be treating the symptom not the cause. There are things beyond moderation, which we can do to help them help themselves.
Firstly: stop enabling them. I am at times guilty of this myself, but helping people who haven't put in enough effort is rewarding laziness and encouraging them to continue in this way. A subtle nudge in the right direction is often better than a complete answer. It will also help to develop a culture in the community to reinforce this.
Secondly: more accessible resources. I personally feel that learning from documentation can get tiresome pretty quick. For people with little to no background in game development, it can be very difficult to extract the required information from written documentation. Personally, I find written documentation makes a good reference but a poor teacher.
By comparison video tutorials allow one to absorb information far easier. Not only do they convey required information to perform the task, but also show best practices such as naming conventions and game architecture at the same time.
Generally video tutorials are used for teaching the user interface but I've seen many very successful programming and math theory videos. It sounds boring but it can actually work!
And one of the best source of video tutorials is How can I learn Unity fast?
Peronally, being brand new to Unity I find that the documentation is sadly lacking in many places, and that I just can't find the information that I need. As an example, the car tutorial and documentation on WheelColliders: There's nowhere near enough guidelines on how to set the friction, suspension, damping, terrain, mass, engine force settings, etc. I've done trial and error for DAYS and I still can't get anywhere near the desired behaviour. There's also repeated mentions that it's best to build graphical wheels separate from the WheelColliders - but no mention of how you actually map the movement of the graphic objects to the suspension. Only deep inside the car tutorial can you find ONE method, and it may not be one that people actually want to use for various reasons. I still don't know if there's any way to get the current rate of compression for a spring (or WheelCollider, other than using a groundHit).
What I'd like to see, is the manual to be somehow wiki-fied, so that you can actually add to the manual when you figure something out, and thus eliminating the need to ask questions in the first place. It would also mean you could add smaller tutorials and examples in more specific areas, so you don't have to go through massive projects like the car tutorial in search of an answer to a simple query, an answer that may not be in there in the first place.
answered Jul 04 '10 at 11:00 AM