One of the most distinctive uses for a forum is that of a 'knowledge community', where users visit in order to get help with a problem or question. Our own Pre-sales forum uses this model, but we also have many customers who run forums that are almost exclusively knowledge-based (such as Roxio and Evernote).
IP.Board 3.x introduced the concept of a "Best Answer" flag, allowing topic creators and staff the ability to highlight the reply to a topic that they deem best answers the question. This shows a snippet of the post in green at the top of the topic. Many sites now use this feature, but for IPS4 we wanted to expand the functionality offered for these types of forums.
Question & Answer Forums
Forums in IPS4 will enable you to set a forum as a "Q&A Forum". This adjusts the forum to be specifically designed for knowledge sharing. Instead of topics and posts, it has questions and answers.
On the forum index, the forum will be shown as a Q&A forum with its forum icon (unless you've set a custom forum icon for that forum):
When you enter the forum, instead of the normal topic listing, you see a list of questions:
You'll see here that questions that have a best answer are indicated with a green checkbox. You'll also notice that one of the stats on the right hand side is 'votes'. In Q&A forums, questions can be voted up or down by users, in order to give them more visibility. More popular questions will bubble to the top (depending on the age of the question). You can of course still order by more traditional methods, if you wish.
Popular questions from the past 30 days are also highlighted at the top of the forum, providing an up-to-date 'knowledgebase' that other users can see. Using our own presales forum as an example, if someone asked a question about an important feature and it was voted highly, other users visiting the forum would see it right at the top, which is great for content visibility and helping users get the answers they're looking for with minimal fuss.
Clicking into a question shows an adjusted topic view:
The question (i.e. the first post) is shown at the top of the page on all pages, with answers listed below. You'll see that replies can also be voted up and down - in fact, this determines the order in which answers are shown inside the question. Popular answers, as determined by the community, will appear at the top, with worse or incorrect answers being pushed down. This is great for quickly finding the best information for the question at hand; in IP.Board 3.x, all too often a high-quality answer will appear in the middle of a topic and unfortunately go unnoticed by the topic creator or others looking for an answer. You can still sort answers by date, if you prefer.
In the screenshot above you can also see the first post is marked as the best answer. "Best Answer" always appears at the top, regardless of its vote count.
Question/answer ratings are separate from reputation, so you can of course still "Like" posts even if you don't think they're a good answer to the question.
So that's the new Q&A feature for IP.Board. We think it'll a big step forward for knowledge-driven communities using IP.Board, or even individual forums in other communities (like our pre-sales forum), helping users find answers to their questions more efficiently, and ultimately making your communities more useful.
As always, screenshots are from pre-release software and are subject to change before release.
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[IP.Services] 4.0 - Q&A Forums
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