Close the Discourse forum?


(David Gilman) #1

Does anyone else have any interest in shutting down this Discourse forum?

  • There isn’t a ton of conversation in Slack. Splitting conversation up between here and there harms the community by thinly spreading eyeballs.
  • We’re a Slack group (and a Meetup group?), it’s a bit bait and switchy to start pulling members around the web if they want to keep participating in the group
  • These are human/social problems, not technical problems - you’re not going to grow conversation/change people’s feelings with software fixes. I’m not a CJD historian but wasn’t there an integration enabled at some point that posted forum topics over into slack? Wasn’t it obnoxious and disabled within a week?

The damage caused by thinly spreading eyeballs is my big concern here: this whole thing smells of overengineering and poor stewardship of the community. Further technical fixes can’t fix human problems and it’s troubling that I keep being told to suggest more technical solutions.


(Josh) #2

Hi @dgilman. I think you bring up some good points, tbh.

I haven’t really discussed this in great detail with anyone else, so I can only speak for myself, not the community at large, but I don’t entirely disagree with the sentiment. I worry that the two mediums risk splitting the attention of the community. I worry that by splitting the community, rather than having an abundance and perhaps redundant conversation, we’re actually confusing our community and reducing conversation If that were true, it would indeed be a loss.

I think the MO of this group thus far is to try many things and see what sticks; in some cases, the thought is, if it doesn’t work, we can always walk it back. But I believe we are beginning to see some growing pains that are arguably a result of this slapdash approach. And I think it is partly for this reason that we are endeavoring to define some roles and bring some literal structure and organization to the group.

If I could say one thing in defense of the idea, it is that I agree that we need some sort of solution to capture a lot of the discussion that is had on Slack for posterity. I had the idea that possibly the issue is that we haven’t really set any guidelines for people to know when to post where. That it was an issue of integration. But maybe the issue is deeper? I don’t know. I think at this point it has become a foregone conclusion.

Which is why I suggested on Slack that we would be open to discussion. I don’t think anybody suggested (at least not publicly) a more technical solution. Which sort of leads me to my next point…

CLT Devs is kind of the wild west right now; it’s exciting to be apart of something that could be (and already has been) great for the community. But it’s also pretty rough around the edges. We don’t have everything figured out. Actually, we don’t have much figured out. We’re trying to fix that. You can help us.

What would the solution to the temporary nature of Slack discussions be, in your mind, if we got rid of Discourse? A Google Doc feels a bit unwieldy, and also doesn’t solve the problem that sometimes it isn’t until later that you realize what a touchstone a certain conversation was for the group. It could be gone by the time you realize (especially as we grow).

One option I thought of is having a “#discussion” channel or something on Slack. Every week or so, we set the description of the channel to a certain item of discussion related to the group, and that channel is expressly for discussing that thing. I’m still not sure how we would archive it, but it would be a lot easier to sort through, as only things related to that discussion would be set there.

Not sure if it’s a good idea or not, but it’s just an idea. Discuss!

We’re not asking you to solve our problems, but we are, after all, a group of developers; over-thinking and over-engineering things comes with the territory. If there’s a really obvious solution to this or any other problem that we simply aren’t seeing, by all means, I do think I can speak for the whole group when I say we would love to hear it.


(alan) #3

I think the main problem with having Slack exclusively is the ephemeral nature of messages on free accounts. Sometimes, people share golden nuggets with the community at large, and after a while, those golden nuggets are gone forever. Therefore “immortalizing” messages like those in a forum or a website made sense at the time.

That said, not a lot of participate neither in the forums nor in the slack channel as of lately, so I agree that we might be spreading ourselves too thin. Honestly, I have no idea what would be the best way to increase participation within the community other than attending to as many events as possible and encourage people to participate :slight_smile:


(John Mason) #4

Thanks @dgilman for bringing this up. :+1:

I guess we should try to ask ourselves what we’re trying to accomplish here.

Ultimately, “whatever is most useful to people” tends to be our guiding principle.
Here are some more that have been mentioned in the past: How can we make our huddles better?

  • will this encourage maximum participation?
  • are we operating with maximum openness and transparency?
  • will this help future volunteers/organizers if/when we are no longer around?
  • will our actions be helpful for devs in Charlotte?

Sounds like this is a marketing problem, imo. I didn’t know we’re sending the message that we’re just a slack group. We actually started on meetup and things took off from there.

Perhaps we can work on clearing up our messaging? @dgilman any specific copy you’ve read that might be sending mixed signals?

Anyone with marketing savvy, please chime in. Pinging @victoriapinson :muscle:


(Victoria Pinson) #5

@john Unless we’re going to start a community blog, we need the forum. Posterity is very, very important. Records of what we’ve done as a community creates credibility for our mission.

But we have to remember that adoption takes time and consistency. We have not given it enough time.

Regarding the message, I’m not sure that people know why and when they should be using the forum, but you guys have done a good job of catching important conversations and encouraging people to post it to the forum for posterity.

We’re a grassroots organization that does a lot by word of mouth in general. That’s what it’s going to take for people to really use this forum - the community championing it consistently over time.

A quick actionable thing we can do is add the link EVERYWHERE in Slack - in all the channel descriptions, with reminders that say something like: “when a really helpful conversation happens in Slack, copy and paste it to the forum so we don’t lose it! An a-ha moment for you will be an a-ha for someone else down the line, and this makes those conversations accessible to everyone.”


(Victoria Pinson) #6

Also, to all organizers and volunteers, we really should be putting all pertinent planning information here and TAGGING other members. That way, when you run into issues with an event (say, funding or sponsorship) we’ll know and will be able to jump in with solutions.

Since the conversation will stay here, we can also use feedback and solutions to prior problems as a reference for new organizers. It’s a public record of how things run, all our planning problems, and all of our solutions.


(Josh) #7

Regarding the message, I’m not sure that people know why and when they should be using the forum

I think this might be the main problem right here. And we haven’t done a great job of integrating the two. My recollection is, we said “let’s try this and see if we like it” and then we kind of adopted it and assumed everyone was on board, but I’m not sure we ever officially said “Hey, we’re using Discourse!” And we definitely haven’t given folks a lot of clarity. Maybe we should come up with some guidelines and post them somewhere?


(John R Epperson) #8

@dgilman I think you’ve put your finger on something that’s been difficult for this group since it’s inception. One of the struggles we have is that there are a couple different tempos playing out in our community as in almost every community - a tempo that wants to change and a tempo that desires things to stay the same or at least consistent.

Marrying those two things is hard and requires commitment from both sides just like any marriage. Also, like any marriage, communication is key. I think this is where we’ve fallen down here and in other places before. Unlike before, I think we’ve developed a core group that is trying to get together and find a way to make that communication happen regularly and with some order. Please do reach out if you’d like to be even a small part of that process. We do want more people that care.

Regarding your question directly. I’ve actually had your opinion since the beginning. I saw this move was a result of trying to solve a problem (disappearing chat in slack), but, as noted above, due to a lack of a communication pipeline, it was done without the community’s buy-in. Now we have a different problem to solve - how to integrate the two.

My opinion has always been that the immediate nature of Slack is too important to give up. I think that discourse gives us value, but as @dgilman has pointed out, I think it’s way too high of a cost. There are other solutions that we could have pitched to the community that just haven’t even been explored well like using our Google Drive. If we actually create a formal organization, we can apply to slack for a significant discount on the premium product (they don’t tell you how much it is, but there are examples of people getting it for free).


(John Mason) #9

Took a look at the Slack Greeting Bot that we have (kudos @iamtheluckyest :muscle:). The channel directory in the message was a little out of date, so I took the opportunity to update it to this:

Hi there! :wave: :nerd_face:

Welcome to our Slack team! We keep a directory of our Slack channels on our forum to help get you started:
Slack Channel Directory

BTW, we use Slack as our main form of chatting with each other. Conversations can move fast sometimes here, so if we ever want to talk about something that
we don’t want to get buried, we move it to our forums on forum.charlottedevs.com. Feel free to post topics there as well!

Does this messaging seem clearer? Anything to change or add? Happy to iterate on this.