What categories should we have?

In the process of setting up this forum, I’ve created a few categories:

Discourse also comes preloaded with a “Site Feedback” category, which they strongly encourage you to keep. There is also an “Uncategorized” category.

This was my best effort at breaking things down, but there are certainly other possible choices! Any feedback about the breakdown here?

(My personal feeling, and the advice of the Discourse people, is that the number of categories should be small — in my opinion, not more than five or six. But a few more categories wouldn’t be the end of the world if there were additional ones with good motivation.)

Do we want to have a “Tutorials” category specifically? I can see where that would easily fall under questions, but I can also see tutorials getting lost under a mound of questions. Or maybe Tutorials could be a stickied sub-category in Questions into which we could move self and user created tutorials? Just sort of thinking out loud here (or rather quietly through text).

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Sorry, this is a long post. I’m just trying to get the lay of the land for how Discourse works, because I think I can offer more useful input if I have a better sense of how Discourse behaves, and what our vision is for the community.

How does Discourse display questions over time? I’m assuming the most recent questions are the ones that would end up at the top by default, but would new visitors also be able to sort by number of responses/views/level of activity? Or can users vote on which responses are helpful, so people can promote those to the top? (Sorry, I might be able to figure some of this out just by looking around a bit more).

For example, if this becomes a truly active, useful community, I think there will be a lot of questions that we end up seeing over and over again, and we would probably want new users to be able to easily find/read those, rather than repeating the same questions.

Also, are we intending to prepopulate the forum with information we think people might want (like known FAQs, or Tutorials, like David suggests), or are we just going to see what kinds of things people ask and go from there?

Are there ways to tag posts, so we can filter through a bigger bucket more easily? For example, “Showcase” might include tours, new data sets, or new features. It should be easy to find just one subtype of those things, if we group them all into one category.

Here are some thoughts on topics that might be helpful. I’m not wedded to any of these; just throwing ideas out there.

  • Requests (what new tours do you wish someone would make? what datasets do you wish could be viewed in WWT that are not already available?
    What features do you wish WWT had?)

  • How-tos (how do I get to that view someone showed at this workshop; how do I implement this cool thing I saw in a tour?) (I guess this would fall under questions, but “questions” somehow seems too broad to me. And maybe this is the same as tutorials, but tutorial seems a bit longer to me; and “how do I” might literally have a 1-step answer).

It might be helpful to have different categories for different types of users, but maybe this is too specific for while we are just getting started.

  • WWT in research/publications

  • WWT in visualizations (if that’s different than research/planetaria)

  • WWT in planetaria

  • WWT in education


Some quick answers before lunch:

  • Discourse basically shows the most recently-updated discussion topics by default, but you can sort by the number of views, replies, etc. Users can also “like” topics and replies. We can also “pin” topics so that they show up at the top of the list. So we could, for instance, have a pinned FAQ topic. Discourse also has a feature where if you start creating a post, it will look at previous posts with similar content and suggest you check them out, hopefully heading off redundant questions when possible.

  • We should prepopulate the forum with a few items, but I don’t think it’s worth it to try to be comprehensive in any fashion. My basic approach is to post items as they occur to me and see what emerges organically.

  • Discourse does support “sub-categories”, so we could add some finer-grained searching support. There is also a “tagging” feature, which as far as I can tell cuts kind of orthogonally to the categories. I guess my preference would be to not have both unless they felt really useful — I always feel confused about “why is X a category and not a tag, or vice versa?”, but the feature’s available.

  • I’m a bit reluctant to add a Requests category since I think that invites people to start posting “It would be super cool if WWT had feature X!!!” which, while appreciated, I feel like will lead to feelings of disappointment since we just don’t have the engineering bandwidth to add a lot of features right now.

  • I was thinking that “how-tos” would fall under either Questions (for requests) or Showcase (for tutorials), but this is definitely something to ponder.

  • Categories for different kinds of users: this could be one use of tagging, but I tend to think that it’s the kind of thing to hold off from adding until it starts feeling like it would be really helpful. I like the idea of having as few categories/tags/etc as we can get away with, to minimize the friction involved in new users making their first post.

OK, both @patudom and @astrodavid are interested in a category for how-to’s/tutorials, so this looks like a topic to think about more.

Another thing that occurs to me: hopefully, we’ll have topics where someone posts a question along the lines of “how do I …?” and then someone like @astrodavid swoops in and replies with a really nice answer. So while the thread might start out as a question, it would end as a nice tutorial on some feature. So perhaps we should ponder what kind of category name would cover both sides of that equation.

Again thinking out loud, I like sub-categories because it provides some nice structure, but the downside is a bit more navigation to get to content (every click adds up, and we don’t want to put people off).

Tagging keeps everything accessible, but I often feel as though tags can be difficult because you have to read the mind of the tagger in order to find what you are looking for. If I am looking for a tour about galaxies, but someone tagged it video or presentation, then I won’t find it. If we can create a few tags instead (and have them easily accessible, without the ability of just anyone to create a new one) this may be the better way to go than the sub-categories.

I really like @patudom’s idea of the How-To’s and maybe Questions could be just that: How-To’s / Tutorials.

I agree that tags for things like “research” “planetarium” “education” could cut across all the categories (rather than using sub-categories), and might work if we keep the tags few and simple.

Would anyone be able to create tags (which would get unwieldy), or can only admins create new tags?

I hear you on feature requests, so maybe we can be explicit that we don’t have the bandwidth to honor those. Tour requests, however, would be helpful to the WWT community, because oftentimes, a new tour-maker doesn’t know what’s already out there, and will start making yet another Solar System tour. But if there’s a list of tour requests, someone can say, “hey, I’ve already made this. here you go.” Or, “wow, that’s a great idea and someone should go make that right now.”

I don’t have as clear a sense of where “data” sits in terms of being something that can be driven by the community vs something that would need a lot of developer cycles to move forward.

Let’s see … it looks like users above a certain trust threshold are allowed to create tags. (Discourse quantifies trust between 0 and 5 and we can choose where to set the threshold.)

Hmmm, OK, how about this for the main categories?

  • News
  • Dev/Tech
  • Setup
  • Exploration
  • Tours
  • Community

These kind of mirror the menu items in the program. I’m also building off of my examination of some prior art:

Other sites seem to favor topical categories, not post-type categories such as “Showcase” or “Questions”. Although the forums that I’ve looked at generally have a category along the lines of “Help” / “Support” / etc.

What do you think?

Can you clarify what types of posts we would expect to go into “setup,” “exploration,” and “community,” please?

OK, here’s what I was envisioning, although if the topics weren’t very clear that’s probably a sign that further iteration is needed …

  • “Setup” would be things like, “I tried to install the Windows client and XXX happened” or “It doesn’t work in my web browser.”
  • “Exploration” would be things like “Can I look at YYY in WWT?” or “Here’s how to look at my cool dataset”
  • “Community” would be more meta-topics like “Let’s form a mailing list for WWT-using planetarium people!” or “Anyone use WWT in Cleveland?”

Could “Getting started” work in place of “Setup”? That would make more sense to me as a place where I would want to try asking those kinds of questions.

Does Discourse offer some way to give a hover over or additional context for what the short category names mean? If so, I think Exploration is ok with the extra examples.

Community sounds good.

Oh I agree with all of this @patudom!

Thanks for the input! The categories are indeed shown with short explanatory text, so we can try to clarify things.

I feel like there remains room for improvement here, but in the interests of keeping up momentum, I’ll do my best with revising the categories, then invite the next round of people.

Do we want Dev/Tech to function like an “Issues” page on GitHub? In its first few posts, it seems like that’s what it’s started as, but I don’t know if it’s a more or less effective method of getting things changed in WWT.

Also, any opinions on renaming “Getting started” to something more general, like “Help?” Or are all immediate and advanced questions about WWT supposed to go straight to “Dev/Tech?”

I was envisioning that Dev/Tech would be less like GitHub issues, and more of a place for open-ended discussions. But that being said, in my experience, people will report bugs in any forum you give them. Here I’d hope that things could be triaged as one of:

  • Topic closed with link to pre-existing thread or GitHub issue on the topic (since you’ll always get folks posting FAQs)
  • Topic closed with conversion into GitHub issue if open-ended discussion is not really called for
  • Topic stays open if open-ended discussion is called for

As for “Getting Started”, I like the idea of encouraging people to categorize their not-so-beginner questions under one of the other relevant topics … Dev/Tech if it’s an under-the-hood question, but I’d hope for questions in most of the other categories too.