Reorganising & improving our forum

Today @3wc and myself have hand a handson working session to improve the forum. The full notes are in here.

In sum what we have done today:

  • reorganise top level categories in the order they are presented on the frontpage
  • thinking from the PoV of new and less regular users, we moved and renamed this as the first category. Support & Feedback. here is where we expect the most pressing issues o be handled, like queries about how things work, what doesn’t work or could be improved, user documentation, user reports (which we should our members ask to make and post here, but some kind pushing might be useful)
  • the onboarding of new users: new users are now subscribed automatically to a new announcement category called “Announcements & Service Updates”. Here only ops members can post to distribute important news, meetcoop events and service updates. All current and future members are now subscribed to this and thus will receive email notification (unless they switch that off). So we should be responsible and treat this category with the utmost care.
  • we have cleaned up some stuff
  • we have had a first look at our usage stats and consider to make some custom metrics that should help guide our work when bringing this community space to fruition.

In short: we have a wonderful space and 174 signed up people, but are not making too much use of it right now. While we started in 2020 spring/summer with an active community focus, the last 15 months have been less engaging, i.e. we have focused primarily on Ops members and have somewhat abandoned our forum and our community. We expect #commons.hour to bring new live to our community, and help put it really in the centre. There’s lots of things we can still do to improve the forum. We brainstormed a short list of topics that we’d like to work on:

  • define some goals, and metrics for success
  • regular engagement
  • review specific activities:
    • voting
    • signup for all hands meetings
    • use of banners & pinned messages: do with care; if too much, it can be a nuisance
    • asking for feedback / discussing towards a decision inside threads
  • gamification, trust levels, reputation → spam? We didn’t have much of that problem so far. We could devise a rule that automatically adds people to a group of “active users” enabling them to participate in certain types of voting (part of larger Governance discussion, take to commons.hour)
    Designate which tools to use in which situations (more clearly):
    • use of forum vs matrix chat channels vs email
    • “wiki” content on the forum
    • vs gitbook?
    • vs nextcloud documentation?
  • add some links in top bar
    • greenlight CA / DE?
    • gitbook handbook?
    • gitlab repos
    • demo server
  • theme the forum similarly to the site
    a members-only category?
  • build more of a community among members?
  • could be helpful to have for discussions / decisions? broader than ops members but not entirely public.
  • relationship with governance question
  • events category: currently unused, maybe reboot?

Thanks so much @wouter, great working with you, and I think we made a decent start.

Main changes I can remember here are that we un-pinned the commons.hour topic, and a default “welcome to Discourse” thread that nobody had ever replied to :sweat_smile:

To highlight this to all @operational_members (sorry for the mass-ping :flushed: ): any posts or replies you make in #announcements-updates will be sent by email to everyone on the forum, unless they specifically opt out. Please use this… sparingly! :smiley:

:green_heart: D’you have next steps? Great list :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes: Thank you :pray:

Feels like we’re deepening our investment in Discourse, as our Forum platform? Can you recommend a good critical review of Discourse and its capabilities, not too long but identifying the important things?

Originally I felt Discourse was popular bcos it offers admins so many config options. I begin to see now how it can be tooled to help participants - but am still not sure how far it works for contributors rather than admins. Is it just me that has this nagging scepticism?