How [much] the support forum could improve

Of course, there are some things to appreciate about Nextcloud – the price and its respect for user privacy. However, being a member of the Nextcloud community for more than two months, having reviewed 77 topics, and with the hope for a better support community, I have found quite often that topics crucial to the reliability of the software often do not have adequate responses.

Although I consider myself to be very patient, I have been appalled by the inadequate attention paid to what seems to be software bugs that drastically affects the reputation of the software itself, bugs that in fact, have not been resolved between software updates. The list of topics I have reviewed under this account, pertinent to a relatively simple installation, highlights the need to address these issues; to those who have the ability to do so, now may be the time to resolve at least some of those issues.

In the meantime, it seems to me that the community forum favors replies to certain topics at a cost to usability and organization: (1) topics with simple, generic, titles seem to receive more attention than those with a more specific title (2) those topics that have provide essential information for troubleshooting oftentimes do not have replies, i.e. topics that include in the original post the software environment of an installation in question, excerpts from error logs, a redacted configuration file

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These are issues with any large online project. The main devs only have so much time to contribute to the community, the rest of us are effectively donating time.

As to unresolved bugs I tend to see them in three major categories

  • Not enough detail is given by the user and no-one is able to replicate the issue.
  • The user is attempting a custom install well outside the documentation, this makes it practically impossible to debug where they have gone wrong vs what is actually a bug.
  • The bug is low priority/only occurs in specific circumstances and unless a community member can donate time to fix it will be triaged as such

When I peruse the forum seeing where I can add my 2c I personally tend to pass on these posts primarily because they often are a wall of text logs with poor formatting. The user has failed to narrow down the issue so you often end up looking for a needle in a haystack.

You also have the issue of if we haven’t seen the issue before, either personally or second hand, we might not actually be able to assist in any way.

All in all I’m very impressed with the Nextcloud community. After struggling to use owncloud back in the day when I didn’t know much I can tell you it’s far more welcoming and helpful than most communities.

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Although poor formatting and the lack of specificity often appears in topics that I’ve reviewed, I happen to share several errors reported by other members of the community, errors that have persisted for several months, almost all of them without a resolution. Admittedly, there were some cases where I have wanted to help, but the lack of specificity provided by many members on a topic made me uncomfortable to budge in, especially, when it seems that their issues are close to being resolved. As someone who is rather shy to talk about technical issues online, it is disappointing to see that the unresolved issues – many of them shared by other members of the community – have not been addressed:

Nextcloud errors : Bad signature, 500 and 403 Errors
Files could not load after being restored from trash

I’m definitely NOT in the Nextcloud cheerleaders’ society, but this is getting ridiculous!

Here is a much simpler explanation to most of the ills of this forum - and not based on being a member here for 11 days and having read 77 topics - ATTITUDE!

To clarify: NOT the attitude of the developers, but the users’!!

Is it really so hard to grasp a simple axiom of open source: NOBODY OWES YOU ANYTHING…?!

For starters, can you learn to ask a question?
You forget to mention that you are using docker (snap, RasPI, Univention server, virtual machines, database, Apache/NGINX, you name it) - you should be grateful anybody is talking to you at all!

You can’t make Nextcloud work to your satisfaction, you have few options:

  • try to improve it
  • find a more satisfying substitute
  • don’t use it, aka get lost
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@rhua

Apparently it can’t be told often enough… This forum is meant to be primarily for home/community-users of Nextcloud, the software. Driven by volounteers. They get no pay for it at all…

As @dugite-code already put out dev’s are here every now and then and try to help. But it’s - as well - volounteer-work for them, not part of their contract with Nextcloud GmbH (which lives by selling support to paying clients).

So if you think you’d found a bug or if it turned out to be a real bug then please go and file an issue on github. That’s the place for bugs.

For me, personally, the quality of the forum heavily depends upon it’s members. I think that roundabout 85% of all threads here are coming with not enough information given about the probematic systems/apps/softwares/etc. And very much of all threadstarters here are too lazy to just search the forum for already existing solutions or just RTFM.

So as long as everyone is just posting stuff here without taking too much care about both, the nc-guidelines and the nc code-of-conduct it won’t get much better… meaning: improving the quality of forum’s support depends on each individual and how much they’d like to keep the forum clean.

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I’d second your description, but I’d actually also like experts/developers to be on the forum and there are! I’ve had a couple of complex questions in the past and some didn’t receive answers, but few received extremely helpful input from people who’ve been working on exactly the same problem. I really like that these in-depth technical discussions can co-exist with support or first-time-user questions here.

However, we might need to incentivize experts more to actually come to the forum and ask and respond. I was the most active on the forum (and that wasn’t very active at all, compared to many others) when my company tasked me to develop a specific app for Nextcloud. So, if your company wants you to work with Open Source, make sure to mention that discussing and sharing knowledge on the forum is part of the job. That will bring more developers to the forum and therefore a higher chance that a difficult technical discussion will actually receive some hands-on input. Because once you’re on the forum waiting for your own question to be answered you might as well chime in on some other topic that gets your attention. :slightly_smiling_face:

As to bugs, I agree there’s a common misconception that bugs are best reported in the forum. They are not. When bugs are reported on GitHub, it’s a lot easier to categorize, assign, discuss and even close them. I think using the forum is more like having a conversation, it’s maybe suited to mention or discuss a bug, but posting here should never replace opening an issue on GitHub.

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Referenced this topic at a similar discussion on GitHub: https://github.com/nextcloud/server/issues/21926. Could be a interesting read for some of you.

It seems hard for non developers to understand what a bug is.

This error seems to happen because most people just enable utf8mb4 temporary. After mariadb/mysql restart the configuration is gone and the next Nextcloud update fails. From a development point there is not much we can do (we cannot modify my.cnf usually).

Another example. If something is a bug or not depends if you are a developer or not :wink: Any ideas how to make it easier to distinguish between a configuration issue and a bug?

I’d argue that configuration issues are exactly the sort of topic we can discuss on the forums. If a configuration issue is opened as a bug on GitHub, it’ll be closed quickly and hopefully the closing message will include a pointer to the forums and admin documentation. Then the discussion can continue here. But that’s just my two cents… :wink:

One could start with a decent forum software that supported no-nonsense categorization and not this … icky thing

To filter these issues out is rather difficult. On the forum, we try to identify if the issue is related to configuration issues or a real bug. In case of a bug, we try to gather enough information to push the issue on the bug tracker. For the configuration stuff, we ideally review and improve the documentation. For some special environment (in general on hosting systems), you can’t get enough information and debugging is nearly impossible.

We certainly miss a lot of thing. It’s a pity that we don’t help people who correctly submit all information and rather help others. You can try to answer mostly “good” requests but if you have other ideas how to improve that, let us know.

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As some users prefer to paste a rather lengthy piece of an error log instead of using Pastebin.com, how do I make the error logs posted by users on the forum more readable by, for example, changing the width of the element containing the content of a topic and/or expanding a long snippet of code as a popup on the same browser tab?

As someone that always tries to solve my own issues, I can say that nextcloud community help forum is on of the least helpful. Both in submitting for help and previous forum replies. When trying to google my problems, Nextcloud’s forum results consistently produce single post threads. With any other software I can usually find my particular issue being discussed once or twice in a good amount. But with Nextcloud I often result to complete deleting my install to restart because how little help there is and has been that I can refer to.
I certainly understand why. I am just stating the facts, not making a judgement.
I would love to see more investment into community support. Users should feel empowered to install Nextcloud not despair at a single error because it’s likely to have no solution, or then get berated not “RTFM” (an immensely off-putting phrase) or not have the clairvoyance to intuit the issue and hence it’s documentation.

I get that Nextcloud is focusing on corporate clients as that’s where the money is, but it would be great if the forums/help got a bit of love (and investment)

So you suggest that the company is putting more resources to it? The forum itself is community driven, so people do that in their free time.

From professional support, you can expect that they handle this better. For community supporters, it can be frustrating to answer the same question over and over again. I see the point, it’s not very polite, for a beginner things might not be so clear and obvious.

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Curious question: is the user forum seen within the Nextcloud company as an asset or rather kindness/concession towards the user base?

Well, the community is certainly an asset. There is a lot of development and feedback coming from the community and it made Nextcloud so popular. They provide the forum as a tool for the community, they are less active here. The problem is that they earn money with customized support… so you have to understand that they can’t give away free support on the forum either. And they can’t explain to each home user, how they set up their port forwarding in their router…

I’d rather expect that they provide a better documentation, add new features from the start, etc.

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Coming from a philosophy background, I have come to believe that the current business model may have complicated the code review process.