CoeGSS support component allows users with a valid portal login to authenticate the question-and-answer (Q&A) forum in order to raise questions and interact with the CoeGSS support staff. The purpose of support is to enable a common space where users may ask questions about CoeGSS pilots, the usage of HPC (i.e., applications configuration, coding, access, etc.), and other aspects related to exploiting HPC technologies by GSS community. Within this portal component, CoeGSS partners and the users are able to share their knowledge and experience by answering questions posed by other users.

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CoeGSS support is a typical Q&A website. It is based on Askbot which is a free and open source Q&A forum web application with an interface similar to websites of Stack Exchange network (Stack Overflow, Super User, Ask Ubuntu, etc), Quora, Yahoo! Answers, etc. Thus, the users of those services can quickly accommodate to CoeGSS Q&A website. Our Q&A forum offers all features common for the state-of-the-art Q&A services such as:

Finally, the design of the portal includes features for interacting and providing information about the services for both registered users and unregistered visitors of the website.

CoeGSS Q&A forum is reachable from the main menu of the CoeGSS portal. The portal includes links to the Q&A forum in those pages where access to the support system might be relevant. Q&A forum look and feel has been customized to match the general style of the CoeGSS website and portal.

Use cases

The system provides information about problems encountered by the users of the services through the CoeGSS portal. It is open to non-authenticated visitors to browse previous questions raised by the users, but it requires authentication in order to raise new questions. Users authenticate the Q&A forum via the same credentials they use to access the portal.

Non-authenticated visitors

For non-authenticated visitors, the existing questions (either answered or being discussed) can be browsed freely in order to find the solution or to follow the relevant conversation which might lead to resolving the issue.

Portal users

Authenticated users should use the general CoeGSS portal credentials to get access to the Q&A forum in order to raise a support request. The system presents an input box marked as "search or ask your question" where the user starts entering the subject of his/her request. Existing questions matching the keywords entered will appear along with the option of creating a new question. The user can optionally tag the question giving an indication of the services impacted by the problem, Support staff adds/removes tags according to the areas where the issue needs to be investigated. Afterwards, the user can come back to the portal to check the progress of his/her request and, once support staff provides an answer, the user will be able to mark the provided solution as valid or submit more information if the provided solution does not solve the problem.

Finally, the authenticated user is able to browse profiles of other users, as well as manage access to and update their own.

Support staff

Support staff identifies new questions and escalates the questions as needed to receive information from the technical staff working on the impacted services.

Support staff acts as a "first line" support and logs into the forum with "support staff" permissions. Forum provides a quick way to show the questions for which an answer has not been defined by selecting the "Unanswered" filter in the top menu. Support staff provides follow-up information and encourages the user to test the answer provided and mark the answer as correct or describe why the answer does not solve the problem in order to reach a satisfactory solution. Support staff can also escalate the issue to technical points of contact for the service the problem is related to.

Each person acting as a technical point of contact acts as a "second line" support and has the specific expertise to troubleshoot one of the specific services provided by the portal. Their task is to provide information to the first-line support staff or take directly the responsibility to deal with the user through the AskBot system until a solution is reached.

User interaction

Browsing existing answers

By default, the forum shows all posted questions sorted by posting time. Nevertheless, the user has a quick way to filter relevant information through top menu. In particular, the user can type key words for search in an input box marked as "search or ask your question".

Figure 1: Top Menu

The forum also provides a quick way to show the followed questions and questions, for which an answer has not been defined yet, by selecting corresponding filter in the top menu.

Figure 2: Browsing unanswered questions

Besides top menu, the user can filter information by tags.

Raising support request

Note that this service is available only for registered users. In order to post the new support request, the user must push the button "Ask Your Question" in top menu. Afterwards, the user will be forwarded to the question form. This form allows to specify topic of the request, add detailed description, select category, and extra tags. Formatting is supported via Markdown. The user can post question anonymously.

Figure 3: Question form

As soon as these fields are filled, the "Ask Your Question" button should be pushed, which redirects the user to the question view, where the user can edit, delete, close, retag, or mark question as offensive.

Figure 4: Question view

Posting answers and comments

In order to post the answer, the user should fill the filed "Add answer" in the question view. The answer can be accepted by the user who posted the question. Accepted answers are highlighted in green.

Figure 5: Accepted answer

The user has an opportunity to comment on posted questions and answers.

Figure 6: Comment form

Figure 7: Comment view

Forum profiles

Each authenticated user has her/his own profile. Fresh profile looks like illustrated in this figure. Authenticated user is allowed to update profile, manage login method, subscribe to other users, etc.

Figure 8: Recently created profile

It is also possible to browse profiles of the other users. Profiles of the experienced users include information about their posted questions and their answers, as well as aggregated information about tags used in their requests, their up and down votes, and their total karma.

Figure 9: Profile of the experienced user

Categories and tags

The tags allow to filter forum entries by key words without typing them into "search or ask your question" input box. In order to access all entries with some specific tag, the user can simply push on the button with the tag name.

Figure 10: Filtering by tag button

In addition, the user can filter entries by including/excluding specific tags. It can be done with the right search panel, where the user has input fields for interesting tags and for ignored tags.

Figure 11: Filtering by including/excluding tags

The categories are used to quickly tag the newly created requests, so that questions can be efficiently redirected to the appropriate person in the second-level support staff. Each category corresponds to a subset of predefined tags. The support staff can review, update, and create the categories when new services are added to the portal. Currently, CoeGSS Q&A forum has been configured with the following categories and subcategories: