Considering a merge into discussion.fedoraproject.org

Background

As you probably know, we’ve got two Discourse sites, this one and Fedora Discussion, over at, well, https://discussion.fedoraproject.org.

Historically, this distinction exists for a simple reason: we had Ask Fedora as a Q&A site, using site software which attempted to emulate Stack Exchange. That software stack wasn’t sustainable, so we decided to migrate to Discourse. The idea was to use Discourse to basically fill the same space, so we wanted to keep the same “this is a site specifically for user Q&A”.

At the same time, as an experiment, we launched the other site for wider discussion, and in particular project/developer conversations.

Now

Two and half years in, both sites have been pretty successful, although I think terms of involvement I’d say Ask is wildly successful while Discussion… acceptably-so for the experiment. Therefore, I started a conversation about redoing Discussion’s organization using the lessons learned, plus some modern understanding of how best to use Discourse and discussion forums in general.

As part of that conversation, @aday strongly advocates for merging the these two sites:

This is a good point. On the other hand, I don’t want to break something that’s working, which this site clearly has been. It’s been successful as a community driven effort, and all of y’all have done a great job leading it and making it grow.

Previous conversation; pros and cons

Ask Fedora regulars talked about this briefly a few months ago in The Lounge (what’s that? see trust levels), because there’s another possible advantage — if we merge the two sites, we are likely to be able to move from the “Business” plan to the “Enterprise” one sooner rather than … hopefully some day.[1]

Advantages (Technical/Features)

If we had the Enterprise plan, in addition to supporting the combined traffic of the two sites (we’re at a level that we’d need it to do that), we would have access to the Translator and Mult-Lingual plugins, which would help solve some of the issues we’re already struggling with here. And we could use the Footnote plugin, so long posts I write like this could be more concise.[2] Plus, greater uptime guarantees, priority support (as I said, I use it a lot), other plugins, a “staging” site to experiment on, and possibly more help with some enhancements to badges and calendaring that we’re considering.

More Advantages (Conceptual)

With a combined site, we don’t need to have banners everywhere sending people to the other site. And if someone asks in the wrong section, it’s really trivial to move it. We can even move or branch conversations which start in one area to another, without linking across sides.

Merged sites would spread moderation tasks like handling spam accounts across more people, which is definitely nice.

Also a point from Allan — users want to discuss, not just ask, and we’ve got a lot of that here despite the name… a merged site could actually allow a more ask-and-answer format area because there’d also be separate discussion sections.

And, we’ve already got so many different places that conversation happens. If we can bring everything together to focus on one discussion site, one chat platform (with, of course, bridging), and one main website, it’ll be easier for everyone to really be connected to each other and the project.

Downsides

Of course, it comes with some possible downsides. There are still only two levels of categories. We would need to consider how to do the new layout carefully. Search would be more overwhelming, possibly with a need to choose filters more carefully.

We wouldn’t have the ability to replicate everything per-language as a top-level category. I know that’s been really important to many of you.

It might make it harder and more intimidating for new users who don’t feel comfortable exposing their newness to The Devs. And honestly, I’m also worried a little bit about the other way around, not that our contributors are prima donnas, but that everyone’s time is precious and even for people employed by Red Hat, most participation in Fedora is volunteer work — passion and fun — and “I want to help with the audio subsystem in Fedora Linux” doesn’t necessarily translate to “I have time to respond to user questions”. And as we all know here, helping people can be a lot of work, and there’s effectively an infinite amount of help needed. So, I think having “protected” spaces has some advantages for both just-users and for contributors — but I’m torn, because in general Fedora is all about breaking down that distinction as we are all one big awesome community.


Questions for you!

So, straw-poll time! As always, this is non-binding, but we take your input very seriously. Let us know what you think. I’m making multiple polls with several different questions, and I’m turning on “show who voted”, so I can do some correlation.

Should we merge the two sites?
  • +2 Absolutely yes.
  • +1 I think so, but okay if not.
  • 0 I am not sure.
  • 0 I don’t care.
  • -1 I don’t think so, but okay if so.
  • -2 Strongly Disagree

0 voters

Your current involvement (pick up to two)
  • Highly active on Ask Fedora
  • Somewhat active on Ask Fedora
  • Highly active on Fedora Discussion
  • Somewhat active on Fedora Discussion

0 voters

If the sites were merged, my participation in user help — the current Ask Fedora function — would likely…
  • Increase
  • Decrease
  • Stay about the same.

0 voters

If the sites were merged, my participation in project conversations — the current Fedora Discussion function — would likely…
  • Increase
  • Decrease
  • Stay about the same.

0 voters

What are the top factors which lead you to support merging? (Multiple Choice, and you can vote even if your overall feeling is against the idea.)
  • Difficult to understand where to go for what.
  • Difficult to explain the difference.
  • Despite split, sites already overlap and cause duplication
  • Possible access to Multilingual and Translations plugins
  • Footnotes plugin!!!
  • Possible easier implementation of Matthew’s crazy ideas for badges and calendars
  • Ease of moderation
  • Blur lines between “contributors” and “users” into one Fedora
  • Fewer sites overall is good
  • I just think the sites — or, the site functions — are more likely to succeed together
  • Other (I will explain below)
  • None (I don’t care)
  • None (I am opposed)

0 voters

What are the top factors which lead you to oppose (or be concerned about) merging? (Multiple Choice, and you can vote even if your overall feeling is support.)
  • Separate Ask is easier for users who don’t yet feel like they’re part of the project.
  • Separate Project Discussion keeps developers from being overwhelmed.
  • Despite split, sites already overlap and cause duplication
  • Won’t be able to nest categories as neatly
  • I really like the top-level language categories
  • Prefer different site design and theming
  • I just think the sites are more likely to succeed separately
  • Possible easier implementation of Matthew’s crazy ideas for badges and calendars
  • Other (I will explain below)
  • None (I don’t care)
  • None (I am in favor)

0 voters

Was this too many questions?
  • Yes
  • No

0 voters


  1. Discourse is entirely open source, but we consume it as SaaS from its creators, using funding from Red Hat. This helps us support them, keeps us from needing to do low-level infrastructure tasks that aren’t related to actually making Fedora Linux or growing and supporting the community, and also helps support the software makers. Also, I ask them a lot of support questions, so we’re getting our money’s worth. Also, thank you Red Hat for your sponsorship of this! ↩︎

  2. Wait, look! In the last few days they added footnotes at this level. I’m so excited! (This does not change my mind, though.) ↩︎

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Oops, I know I put “Despite split, sites already overlap and cause duplication” in both “support” and “oppose” reasons. That was only supposed to be in “support” and I had something else for “oppose”. One can’t edit polls after five minutes and I don’t want to delete and restart everything, so, there it is. I’ll just ignore those votes in “oppose”. Sorry about that!

The irony of duplicating a line about duplication is not lost on me, but it wasn’t meant to be a joke. The other duplicate, however, is on purpose. :slight_smile:

2 Likes

I read on Discussion the floating idea to host the CentOS community folks on that forum for project conversations. I think that it would be great and personally I really like the idea to have something like Ask CentOS in the same place as Ask Fedora. Does merging the two forums facilitate this eventuality?

2 Likes

Yes, definitely. I think we’ll start by having CentOS top-level category with their own subcategories and tags as they see fit, but I’d really like to see more collaboration between the two projects overall, so we could end up with a unified discussion site someday.

A lot of tech questions are similar between the distros, and will be even more so once CentOS Stream 9 comes out.

2 Likes

I think this is a great idea. I think the biggest potential benefit of this would be the possibility of “cross-pollination” where people from Ask may be exposed to and become interested in other aspects of the Fedora Project. Additionally people from Discussion may be able to help with Ask issues and being able to @ people who may be more knowledgeable about a subject.

@bennyisaiah So far you’re the only person who has voted as strongly opposed. (You’re probably not alone in that, just the first to say so!)

It’s easy for me to get caught up in the excitement of doing things, so I’d really like to make sure that your opposing view is heard (even if we end up going in a direction you don’t prefer in the end).

I don’t mean to put you on the spot and if you don’t feel like elaborating, that’s fine. But if you would like to explain more, that would also be cool. Thanks!

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@mattdm we have footnote enable on the site.[1]

:+1::tada:


  1. Here’s the reference GitHub - discourse/discourse-footnote: footnotes for posts in Discourse ↩︎

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I know, I’m ridiculously excited.[1]


  1. like, way more than it is reasonable for me to be about such a silly thing. ↩︎

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As someone involved in a CentOS SIG, as well as in Fedora, it’d definitely be nice to have a friendly place for SIG discussions, that’s more persistent than IRC

2 Likes

Hi @mattdm, Sorry for delay.

I was afraid of that, :slight_smile:

I really think the seperate area for a contributor is an important distinction from a business point of view, I feel they are most certainly not related (or perhaps I am missing something).

Even though volunteers contribute to fixing bugs and helping users of all levels in “Ask Fedora” they are not the same as contributors who actually work on the kernel and engineer drivers develop new technology like btrfs filesystem and incredible things like silverblue! thats so cool.

So they could clash

My strong objections are also related to concerns how this could have some undesirable side effects. As someone who spends a great deal in the custom android roms space especially with the team over at CalyxOS, I have seen first hand this happening with their arch rival Graphene OS.

Graphene OS did what you are proposing sometime ago and it was quite awful what happened. The progression and speed of developing and solving bugs are two seperate matters.

Secondly, from what I see (I Could be wrong) the business side, marketing, innovation and research and development of Fedora is more prevalent over there at discussion.fedoraproject.org
and someone who develops small sites marketing and development need to be as far away from each other as possible as they require different kind of people, different thinking and shouldn’t really coalesce in my humble opinion.

Thirdly, “off topic discussions” are more important to allow for dialogue and gain new contributors and that is something that the “discussion.fedoraproject.org

I am just concerned that marketing, tech support (patching and fixing bugs etc) and innovation should be separated.

I can understand it’s not always ideal to fragment the community though and understand your reasons to hamonise the entire project into one large hub.

However please note the structure of Fedora in this inset below and you will the different parts above “Ask Fedora” which would perhaps clash, ie marketing discussions etc.

Specifically, “Ask fedora” is from what I gather a place for people to contribute to helping all levels of computing skill-sets and backgrounds. Conversely, fedora discussion has moved into more business which is of equal importance.

Marketing and strategy produces growth and is the oxygen of business and should be discussed away from the inner workings of support is all I’m, trying to say.

As an idea. perhaps integrating the technical elements of discussion.fedoraproject,org to “Ask Fedora” to reduce fragmentation and keep the business development and marketing over in the discussion area, (since they both run on the same forum software dont they?)

5 Likes

Thanks Benny! That’s useful experience and insight and a lot to think about. I’ll take some time to digest it, and look at your examples!

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Most welcome. and thanks again for the stickers. we have converted many to the Fedora faith and may need some more soon. Also just 4 weeks ago Lenovo Australia finally starting selling the Thinkpads with Fedora, we had to wait almost 2 years after the UK and US Lenovo. We get everything last in down under. :slight_smile:

Can’t say I’m well versed in the black arts of Discourse, but shouldn’t it be possible to limit ability to post in certain subforums/categories for users without a certain trust level / badge?
Then we could have a “Support” / “Ask” category which is open for everyone, and “Development”, “Marketing” etc. categories where users must perform an action before being allowed to post for the first time.
An example could be that users must agree that only posts relevant to the “Development” category may be posted there.

As a reference, I came to Fedora from Manjaro, and I enjoy Manjaro’s Discourse layout a lot. Manjaro Forum

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Yes, that’s easily done. I’d like to get old-school Fedora contributors who are active on the mailing lists won over to participating here, though, so I think if we did this we’d need to link it to something other than Discourse trust levels. I think that’s probably something to save as a recourse if it becomes a problem, though.

Wow, they sure went all-in on adding subcategories to the support section!

How about automatically granting the “Dev” badge or “Mailing List” badge to discourse users registered with a reputable email address from the mailing lists?
This badge could grant them access to features from higher trust levels, or quickly raise their trust level.
[By reputable, I mean mailing list participants with a certain number of contributions over a certain time period]

Yea, it worked pretty well when I was active there. Might be a tad bit cluttered though, so some subcategories could probably be tags instead.