[developers] DELPH-IN Discourse (Q&A)

Olga Zamaraeva olzama at uw.edu
Sat Nov 18 00:02:18 CET 2017

Dear developers,

In the last summit in Oslo, we discussed a possibility of having a Q&A
forum in stackexchange style.

Many people were enthusiastic, and, thanks to University of Washington
staff, we were able to set up a forum powered by Discourse:


I would like to invite each of you to create an account and try it out!

The forum was created very recently, but at this point, there should not be
too many hiccups. We need to decide a few things soon (see below), so, we
want to involve the entire community at this point, even if we are still
testing the forum.

A few notes, for those inclined to read them :).

1) *The primary purpose* of this forum is *to accumulate concrete solutions
to technical problems and make them easily discoverable*. So the primary
scenario is for one to encounter an error message, and, instead of trying
to locate the answer somewhere on the wiki or in the email archives and
ending up emailing the list for the 100th time anyway, one would query the
forum (using e.g. the text of the error message). If their question was
already answered, the assumption is they will be able to immediately find
out what the working solution is. This is, in my opinion, the most
important feature of stackexchange Q&A style, and one that other types of
support lack.**  Moreover, the forum is also a fine platform for open-ended
discussions, with a nice addition of the upvote button which makes better,
clearer posts more salient in the thread.

**(Some people *oppose this style* since, in their opinion, finding the
right solution "too easily" leads to lack of understanding of why the right
answer is the right answer. I agree  that there may be some truth to that
but I also think that this ultimately depends on the user and how much and
in what style they are willing to learn; there is also a question of
priorities: sometimes what is needed the most is to fix the problem asap.)

2) I will be the *admin* of the forum for now. This means I am the person
to whom you can complain about things if something is not working for you.
It also means I can do various things for you, such as create/merge
categories and so forth. If you would like to also be an admin or a
moderator, let me know. It will probably help to have more admins,
especially in other time zones.

3) You *do not need to monitor the forum* or anything like that, unless you
would like to. Instead, you can subscribe to categories or tags, and the
forum will email you when a new post is created in the category or with
that tag. You can choose whether you will be notified about the first post
only or each reply.

4) Some developers expressed *concern* that we are thus* fragmenting our
support platforms*. I understand this concern and would like to address it
by both making an effort to *import the email archives* into the new forum
(unless it proves too messy) and by pointing out that the email+wiki do not
and cannot really serve the purpose that I think this forum will serve. It
seems that the wiki, the email list, and the forum can very happily
coexist, just like python documentation and python-related sections of
stackoverflow (and presumably some people exchange emails about python when
they want to discuss something in a manner they don't think the general
public will necessarily benefit from). Obviously, the wiki should be linked
to from the forum (and vice versa) and instructions on the wiki can be
updated whenever it makes sense to do so.***

***(Note however that it can be rather impractical to try and incorporate
every single detail into the wiki, especially if the detail only makes
sense in the context of a concrete question. In fact, every time one adds
something to the wiki, one in a way is adding a new dimension to the space
in which people will be searching for solutions... without adding a
starting point for the search, necessarily.)

5) The forum is *hosted* by the University of Washington, so, there is no
danger of some external host interfering in our affairs. Discourse is
*open-source* software. It is also a very flexible system already, with
various plugins etc. We can customize it as we like.

If you would like to discuss any of this, we can do it here over email or
on the forum; *there is already a topic there regarding the email archives*
: https://delphinqa.ling.washington.edu/t/importing-email-archives/28/5 In
particular, that topic invites you to *participate in a poll.*

Thank you for considering,


P.S.: You will see that there are already some users and topics; I hadn't
advertised the forum here earlier because it was not yet working in a
stable fashion, but it should be now :). Note also that for now, *this is
all in the testing stage*. For example, if we do decide to import the
mailing list archives, we may need to purge the existing content.
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