We've all seen the posts, where can I download the drivers for...
about 10% of these are actually valid, i.e. the manufacturer doesn't host, has gone out of business, only provides updates and not originals (i'm looking at you canon)
the remaining 90% are all first time posters, they never come back, they may not even look at the answer, so why do they jump through the hoops to find toms, join toms, wait for the reg email, and then post. What is simpler about that than using google, in almost every case i've been able to find the area to download drivers in 12 or less keystrokes, 10 or less seconds, they are invariably in the top 5 listing on google, so why?
Now I know that they contribute to subscriber numbers at least the first time they visit and there's no point with stickies they won't read them.
How about when registering we ask what is the nature of their first enquiry, if they select drivers then we ask for the manufacturer (perhaps a drop down list + other) and we build a google query for them and ask them to follow the link, meanwhile carry on with the registration so that they are members. Email them a link to the forum post asking the question did the query solve your problem, if they say no, then the forum post goes live, if they say yes then it doesn't.
In a way we are trying to automate the really simple requests, and give them instant solutions for these requests, without them having to do anything, also teaches them that googling for driver + manufacturer gets the answer that they want, perhaps they might be able to find more things out like this.
A quick filter search for pogo might help if they can adjust the word filter to pop up a message to the user when they use a word or link that is on the list and direct them accordingly. Could be used to deter or at least slow down spam too.
I had the exact same line of thinking in these days.
One possible new feature which would ease the situation until better facility is built, and would be fairly easy to implement would be this:
check if the message is
- shorter than X character -> ask the poster to write more details
- has the same content as the subject
- has "Hello," as a content
Ok, here's the link to the drawing (1000's of apologies for how it looks, googloe docs drawing capabailies are nothing compared to visio, i'm almost embarassed by this, and i'd never give it to a client).
The benefits are many fold
1. it provides instant solutions to some who would otherwise post and disappear,
2. it minimises these 'dead/trivial' threads so that real threads can be on the live feed
3. it encourages disclosure of full information for problem solving, having an escape route out of that would be useful for users who have very low skill levels
4. if written correctly the pogo and driver options, could be expanded by mod's
5. the 'hello' test posts could be a third category alongside drivers and pogo
Its a unique point for toms, even those one-off users (lets face it 90% of the driver and pogo posters never post again (does make me wonder if something else is going on here)) as those one off users will get resolution for their problems. They still join the user base, still count as a unique visitor, but actually walk away with a solved problem. if they can't figure out how to google the answer for themselves they may even tell others that toms fixed their problem during the sign in process.
Going to the ultimate implementation of this: imagine a fault finding expert system wheer during sign in, you get to enter your system details, or run speccy and submit the results, maybe even categorising results. you get to pick a selection of fault types (including other), you get asked to run hwmon, so that temps etc. are provided. Then when the community see that fault they have everything, there will still be people who don't provide it, but thats ok, we'll cope with those one-on-one. But if you have provided it, then imagine the first response you get being, 'looking at all of your system stats, your gpu is too hot' as opposed to more questions that you don't know the answer to. Imagine even further implemtations of this where a download from HWmon is combined with information from speccy and max temps are looked up and compared, extremepsu is used to compared system pull with PSU specs.
OK i've gone a bit far at the end here, but the first parts of this excluding the optional elements should be easy enough to do, with the optional elements (of only selecting the right location) should be easy enough to do. But if you want toms to stand out from the community led support crowd, then the latter stages will do that for you.
Edit: As an addition to the driver question, should they say 'no it didn't answer my question' then we could ask why, and provide that information in the post, its a reasonable expectation that they'd have to provide it anyway, it also may put people off who are creating threads for thread creation sake (not sure why) (following on from the 'wheres the beef' post http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/forum/34258-45-where-beef as some users seem to be changing driver mid thread, it might help to pin down what they want first.).
We're actually experimenting a bit with technical solutions systems in a Q&A style format for our upcoming Tech Support feature that functions somewhat similarly. It doesn't have as many catch-and-stop or redirections as the system you outline above, but it does attempt to resolve and archive solutions to common questions users have in a more rational approach than thread-and-response style.