Improving the Forum

I think you missed my point. I even posted a “broad” question the other day: Check in: How is everyone doing?

I am going to chalk this up to me being exhausted with my new job and apologize if I don’t see what you are trying to explain. I hope the steps I outlined above will help ease some of your concerns, and please don’t take my disagreement as me discouraging your input - by being questioned it allows us to iterate on what we have and make it better.

When we split threads it is because one or more replies verge off into a different topic than the original thread. The system always leaves links between the original and the split thread, and whenever we split threads we should also be sure that the new thread makes sense as a standalone item (i.e. re-post any missing context in the original post).

I’ve also seen the issues with notifications not linking to the new post correctly, this has been mildly annoying but personally it really hasn’t been that difficult for me to follow these. In any case fixing this behavior would be a good issue to raise with the Discourse project.

I’m fine with splitting threads less often, but I don’t agree that we should stop doing it. I would also suggest that users consider whether their reply is directly linked to the original topic of discussion, and if not, start a new thread (as you appear to have done here Tim).

Discourse is not perfect but it is where all of our users and content are. There are at least three additional criteria that should be present in any decision about switching to something else:

  1. Maturity and level of active development of the software we choose. It’s a huge mistake to assume that we can build something better than Discourse, many thousands of hours (probably on the order of 100,000) have gone into its development so far.
  2. Security and ease of hosting. The amount of confidence we can have in a software package in this area is closely tied to (1) in my experience.
  3. Inertia - amount of work involved in any potential migration (user accounts, content (or suddenly having yet another repository of old/archived discussion content to keep track of)).

Given these criteria, my judgment as Infrastructure lead is that currently we cannot justify switching our forums to another platform.

I’m all for making tweaks that improve the first-time user experience, and finding better ways to explain how to use Discourse in prominent places. One simple idea I had was to make sure we have a good description for each category, and anyone can help with that by starting a new thread here in Meta.

I agree with this. Even as just a user of our forums, there are a lot of different things being discussed here, so it’s reasonable to expect people to take some time to explore and learn how things are organized.

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Yes, this really confused me. I was following that topic ( How to make the forum better for novices?)

and about to reply when I find it has been closed.

There is a final post saying: " I am closing this thread, but please feel free to continue the discussion by using the “Reply as linked thread” "

But no sign of how to do that. If you follow the link about “reply as linked thread” it shows a curly arrow, but that is not to be seen anywhere on the thread that was suddenly closed for no apparent reason.

Really, really annoying and confusing…

I can certainly see the logic in this, presumably it would have to be one of the existing forum plugins, which are quite basic, but almost anything has to better than this!

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A case in point is the email which I received with a hyperlink to a post in the original thread. I clicked on it, and not only was the post not there, but the thread had been closed. (That’s what triggered me to start this thread.) But James has already confirmed that this happens. Unlike him, I don’t find it a mild irritant but extremely annoying.

There is no real way in Discourse to create a linked thread when the original thread has been closed. The only option is to start a new thread.

That’s a specious argument. People (including me) don’t go there because it’s not an official ClassicPress site.

What’s that to you? That sort of question sounds more like one posed by a landlord than a moderator. I have never heard of a forum where each thread needs to start out by specifying its intended objectives.

It’s also a very odd question on its own terms. The best discussions in which I’m involved (on any subject) see others take the discussion in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. The idea of setting parameters at the outset for anything other then business meetings with a specific agenda sounds quite absurd.

That’s another oddity, because earlier you said:

You can’t speak of “ideals” without some criteria.

Thank you, James. Those criteria are perfectly valid. And you have stated them before. I just don’t agree that they are the most important criteria. Many thousands of hours have gone into Gutenberg, and I still wouldn’t use it. And, interestingly, both are JavaScript based (and my guess is that’s where the issues related to the temporary “losing” of things comes from).

ClassicPress can easily handle forums — and securely too. I have one site that’s had thousands of comments in the last five weeks, for example. At the same time, it’s been under regular attack from several botnets, but it hasn’t missed a beat.

But the biggest problem with those criteria — and, indeed, it’s the reason for the division of opinion here — is that they are set from the perspective of a developer/moderator. Those who are moderators want to be able to moderate. To me, though, that’s the tail wagging the dog. And, as a dog owner, that’s a concept with which I am very familiar.

I keep coming back to the fact that, for most people, the public face of ClassicPress is … Discourse. Go figure!

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This is true - thousands of development hours does not automatically mean that a piece of software is going to be good. However I’d argue that that kind of significant and active development is a necessary prerequisite for anything with any complexity, like a full-featured forum.

I don’t think so, it’s just that the “topic splitting” feature needs to be integrated into the rest of the system so that notifications can also follow those links.

Defending from botnets is a bare minimum in terms of security, our standards for our official sites are much higher, as they should be.

To give my perspective on this, I am not really OK with changing out the foundation of one of our most active community engagement channels, without a clear plan:

So far we’ve identified one specific thing that we all agree would be a big improvement to the forums: get the bug fixed where split threads don’t redirect properly in notifications. That seems to be the most productive avenue of investigation that we’ve identified here, the rest seems to be basically “we should build something better / make fundamental changes” which in my opinion is not justified for multiple reasons that I’ve started to explain above.

The counterpoint to this, of course, is that someone has to do the work behind any such fundamental change. And trust me, it would be a huge amount of work to do something like this and not just end up in a worse (more confusing/fragmented) place than when we started.

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Based on these stats, I have to ask, @timkaye, @MrLucky and @ozfiddler have you completed the basic user onboarding for Discourse?

I am genuinely interested in finding out, and if not:

  • Why not?
  • Was it just not clear we offered onboarding?
  • What could we do to make onboarding more obvious?

Because, I am inclined to agree with Code Potent:

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Following this discussion regarding improving the forum and new users.
I’ve just received the “Read the Guidelines” badge. Went back to my first email to find link.
BTW I am not a new user.
Out of curiosity if I want the “Certified” and “Licensed” badges where do I find the tutorials
The Read Guidelines badge has a link, but I can not see any others

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A lot of things have gone dormant this year, especially with the effects of the Coronavirus. John Overall is even considering shutting down his weekly podcasts at the end of this year, after nearly 500 weekly episodes.

Rearranging the deck chairs is probably not going to bring in a deluge of new forum members here. I think there is just not enough interest in WordPress/ClassicPress, as John is finding out himself.

Why, I don’t know. Whether it’s people using other platforms or they just don’t care enough to get involved is hard to tell.

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Thanks for your thoughts, @Aussie.

When I mentioned the classicpress.club forums being dormant, I was referring to the last post being made nearly a year ago. Your blog still remains active. I suspect there was a desire for such forums, just not an actual need for them. Nonetheless, your effort is commendable and I hope it eventually does become well-trafficked.

Re: the podcast, it’s been in decline for a long time. If you look at the viewing stats, the vast majority of the videos get fewer than 25 views and, looking at the dates, you can see that is a very longstanding pattern. I can list at least 5 possible reasons for the low viewership without putting much thought into it, however, enumerating those things is not my intent here; the effort is commendable either way and I wish him the best.

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Not that I’m aware of. Why would I? What is onboarding?

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When you joined the forum, the very first message you got in your forum inbox was from @discobot. It contained an interactive tutorial that walked you through a whole series of forum tasks.

Because it teaches you how to do a variety of basic forum tasks without having to read the manual.

The process of bringing a new person up to speed with how things work. It’s a general term, not necessarily just a forums thing. For example, when you start a new job or hire a new employee, there’s usually an onboarding process.

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@MrLucky, here’s how to access the interactive tutorials.

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!!!

For the first time in my life I’m tempted to write WTF !

Discobot?

Yes. Maybe you deleted the message. It was the first one on your box…and it was from “discobot”.

Ah. Who is discobot?

I’ve never heard of that. Is it different to induction or orientation?

It’s just an automated bot built into the forum.

Pretty much the same thing… to familiarize with.

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This last bit of discussion brings up a point. One thing I think would improve the forum is if things were more obvious.

So the home page could have a link to the Onboarding. But instead of calling it by an obscure name, call it “How to use the forum” So in order to find you don’t have to somehow magically know (or remember) to send a message to somebody called discobot.

Also a link to rules/guidelines. I found them the other day and they are really well written and useful. But I can’t remember how I found them and I can’t find them now.

In fact there seems to be quite a bit of obscure terminology such as meta and governance. Those are categories which need to have a description to tell you what those terms mean. I would be infavour of just using straightforward plain English or it just seems like jargon.

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Ah, found it in the second (mobile) menu on the home page.

@Code_Potent just put together a good tutorial, conpleting both the basic onboarding and the advanced will give you those badges :slightly_smiling_face:

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Also good points about the forum guidelines, we will include a link in the welcome message to that too :slightly_smiling_face:

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